A Brief History of the Woodstove

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Learn a Few Fun Facts About the Wood-Burning Stove

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A woodstove could once be found in nearly every American home, but today, more efficient means of heating have taken over. Here’s a brief history of a centuries-old device, the wood-burning stove!

The first metal wood-burning stove is said to have been invented in 16th-century Europe, but the stove became more common nearly 200 years later, during the Industrial Revolution.

In the 1740s, a wood shortage in Philadelphia inspired Benjamin Franklin to improve upon the existing open hearth. His three-sided iron box, aptly named the Franklin stove, used only one-quarter as much fuel as a fireplace and could raise the room temperature higher in a shorter time.

Franklin stove, ca. 1795. Photo courtesy of the MET.
A Franklin stove, circa 1795. 
Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


Unfortunately, Franklin’s design was not as iron-clad as the product itself, and it did not gain much popularity. However, many subsequent wood stove designs did derive inspiration from Franklin’s stove.

Despite the wood stove’s superiority, people resisted the switch from the inefficient, wood-gobbling, smoky open hearth to the hotter, more efficient fire contained by a wood stove. Were those rock-ribbed early settlers romantics who preferred the dreamy glow of a crackling fire?

Robert Bailey Thomas, the founder of The Old Farmer’s Almanac, wrote in 1823:

“So then, you have a cooking stove! This is economical, saving much wood and labour. I know it by experience. But many people are so prejudiced against them that they will scarcely look at one. Wood has become a cash article nowadays in my neighborhood. I have procured me one of Rich’s cooking stoves and think I save half my wood by it nearly.”

Wood stove in church building, Tarrytown, NY. Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.
A simple wood stove used to heat a church building in Tarrytown, NY, circa the early 1900s. 
Photo courtesy of the National Parks Service.

Practicality won out in the end, and by the beginning of the 20th century, 40 million American homes were heated with wood stoves, often a behemoth, nickel-plated Home Comfort or Queen Atlantic.

But, as people found other ways to heat their houses, the popularity of wood stoves waned, only to come around again in the 1970s. Then, a new generation realized the truth behind the old country saying, “Wood warms you thrice—when you chop it, stack it, and burn it.”

Do you still use a wood stove in your home? Let us know in the comments!

Wondering which wood burns best? See our list of best-burning firewood to use. Also, be sure to read our tips for keeping warm in winter!

About The Author

Catherine Boeckmann

Catherine Boeckmann loves nature, stargazing, and gardening so it’s not surprising that she and The Old Farmer’s Almanac found each other. She leads digital content for the Almanac website, and is also a certified master gardener in the state of Indiana. Read More from Catherine Boeckmann

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