This is the time of the year when I am grateful to prepare a meal around the wood stove that sits in the dining room of the 1900 farm house. As I write this, the first snow I have seen all season is swirling around outside the window, but the house is warm, thanks to our wood burning stove. Some modern houses still use wood stoves for heat in the winter time, especially as you get further north. I thought I would take a minute to tell you about our stove, and it’s many uses here at the 1900 farm.
First of all, our stove is a stove. First and foremost it cooks and bakes delicious things to eat. You have to pay attention when you use this stove though, because it can get too hot or too cold quickly. When you cook over the firebox, you cook on high and as you move your pan away from the heat, you cook slower. It is not difficult to cook on a stove like this, you just have to be more aware. When you bake, you have to be sure and rotate your pan because the oven does not always heat evenly. The stove does have a water reservoir that helps regulate the heat, but you have to know where the hot and cold spots are in your oven. If you have a stove and want to try cooking on it, check out our recipes.
Second of all, our stove is a furnace. It is the most energy efficient model on the market if you consider it takes no gas or electricity to heat the house to a comfortable level. The house averages about 60° in the winter time – a livable temperature. The stove is located in the center of the house for the purpose of heating the house. By using the stove, and creatively opening and closing certain doors, the family could heat the areas of the house they were using at a particular time. We use fallen trees as fuel, though a stove like this could burn coal if needed. Thomas Terrill, in Grand Junction, IA, reports in his diaries buying coal once or twice a month. But coal would require a monetary investment, whereas wood was free in the timber. The process isn’t completely energy efficient, someone does have to split the wood to burn in the stove. But splitting wood could keep a person warm as well.
Lastly, our stove is a hot water heater. When this stove was purchased from Rathbone, Sard, and Company, it was purchased with a hot water reservoir. Below is a catalog page that shows the different options available and the prices for the time period. As you can see, the reservoir was an option, as were warming ovens (which ours does not have). The reservoir heats water as the stove is used for cooking. That water could then be used for washing (through there is only 3-4 gallons.) Having the reservoir would also help regulate the stove a little better. The reservoir does not make this stove fancy, though the size of the stove does indicate a more expensive model.
The Acorn brand stove was advertised by it’s maker, Rathbone, Sard, and Company, but was not sold in the Montgomery Ward or Sears Roebuck Catalog. The company was based in Albany, NY, though they also had manufacturing plants in Detroit and Aurora, IL. An advertisement for this particular brand of stove can be found in the special collection of the Miami University library in Ohio or digitally here.
In the collection of Living History Farms we have a copy of the catalog page showing versions of our stove. On the left you can see a stove without warming ovens or a water reservoir. On the right you see a stove with both. Our stove has the reservoir, but no warming ovens. If you look closely you can see that our stove runs in the $69-$75 dollar range.
This particular stove came to the 1900 farm house in 1989 after a box social/barn dance celebration raised the money to purchase it. The cost was around $3200 – a lot more than the original sale price. It was brought in from a heating supplier located in Pennsylvania where it had been restored and was on display when it was found by a Living History Farms employee.
Though I don’t always like using the stove in the middle of July, I find it rather warm and cozy at this time of year. Occasionally people will come through who still use a stove for heating purposes and I ask them why they don’t fry up a steak on it! We have a heating stove as well, a Burr Oak that sits in the parlor, which I will tell you about that one some other time.
For now, if you want to come and see how cozy the 1900 farm house is, even in the dead of winter, join us for a historic dinner. We’ll keep the fire burning for you.