A Brief History of the Woodstove

Learn a Few Fun Facts About the Wood-Burning Stove

November 30, 2017
Wood Stove

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 did not become more common until 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 did a fireplace and could raise the room temperature higher in a shorter amount of 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 end up gaining much popularity. Many subsequent wood stove designs did derive inspiration from Franklin’s stove, however.

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 really romantics who preferred the dreamy glow of a crackling fire?

Robert Bailey Thomas, 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 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. It was then that a new generation realized the truth behind the old country saying, “Wood warms you thrice—when you chop it, when you stack it, and when you 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!

Reader Comments

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Wood stoves

I’ve used wood stoves in my farm in New Hampshire and my home in Colorado .

Very big wood-burning stove

Hi! How big could a wood-burning oven get? I'm doing research for a mystery novel I'm writing, and I'm wondering if there are any wood-burning stoves that might be big enough to fit a tall thin person inside without much trouble. Does anyone know if that exists? Thank you!

wood-burning oven

The Editors's picture

Now that’s an unusual question! We’ve visited English manor homes and an entire animal could be cooked inside. So, it depends on the house and the context. If you’re talking about a typical American house, you’ll need to look at some online stores which sell wood-burning ovens.

Wood stoves

I've used a wood stove for heat and cooking for more than forty years. They give good heat and while baking is a little trickier I've baked countless pies and loaves of bread in them. Love the radiant heat and enjoy chopping wood!

22 years only wood heat

Have not burned one drip of oil to heat my house for 22 years...aprox 4 cord per year...the first 20 all the wood was free...or I got paid an hourly rate to cut and haul my firewood...I am currently running an Old mill woodstove . These stoves were made in valley forge Pennsylvania from 1978 to 1984.

Love our Country Hearth wood burner

As part of our prep for Y2K we knew we needed to get a wood burning stove. Our first one was a Yodel that we removed from a customer's home. It smoked too much so we eventually replaced it with a Country hearth from the U.S. Stove company. Love the window in the front so we can watch the fire burn (except when the glass gets dirty). The unit is still a little bigger than we need because our house is odd shaped so we usually end up having to crack a window or open doors to areas we have closed off. We get all of our wood for free and my husband invested in a chainsaw and loves cutting his own wood. The wood burner really comes in handy on those days when the temperature is at zero or below. We live in Northeast Indiana.

Antique wood burning stove (cast iron)

I have a old wood burning stove. Number 116. Certainly able to burn wood again

Wood stoves

Really great article, love the post. Thanks a lot.

“Ole Bill” wood stove

Hi! We bought a house a couple of years ago. A selling point was a big wood burning stove. The fan blower has gone out and we can not find the brand or model number on it. Is there anyone that can help? It has double doors on the front. 2 vents above the doors.

Love my wood stoves!

A Country wood stove came with my house which I bought in 1987. It became primary heat source as baseboard heaters died and power bills skyrocketed. The shop in my garage also has a (smaller) Country stove. I had loaned that little stove to my twin brother, who installed it in his trailer, cooked and stayed warm for 9 yrs. Got it back after he died.

At my parents' place, I had their old smoky hog of a fireplace replaced a few years ago with a Kuma fireplace insert. As baseboard heaters died there, too, wood became my primary heat.

Winter power outages are very comfortable, and all three stoves have cook tops. Am blessed to have help splitting wood. Best heat and ambiance available!!

freestanding gas fires

Thanks for sharing the best information and suggestions, I love your content, and they are very nice and very useful to us.

Wood Stoves

Very informational article! After reading this information I get to know all the history of wood stoves. Keep sharing such posts with us.

The wood stove in the cover, the main picture

I have that exact same stove from the cover, any information on it would be great!


I grew up with a big Vermont Casting Defiant stove as our primary source of heat in the house. My parents never used the oil other than for hot water. It heated a 2000+ sq ft house without a problem and nobody wants ever cold. I now have an old Victorian cottage from 1869 and enclosed a patio to make a sunroom in the back. I added a Crane wood/coal stove I got at a consignment shop for $100 to heat the room in the winter if I wanted to sit out there. It gets up to 80+ if I want it even if it’s 2° outside with -20 windchill. Love these things. Lotta work but it’s worth it and keeps you in shape.

Wood stove heating

Bought an old servants quarters house in 1983, redid the inside in 6 months, 800square ft, center of the house chimney, it needed a stove!!! Bought a Consolidated Dutchwest small Federal wood and coal. It heated the house fantastically. On one day, 10 degrees outside, i wanted to put it to a test, in 4 to 5 hours the house was over 90 degrees. Wanted to go for a swim. Stillhave the stove in a 2200 sq ft home. Got a Vermont Casting fireplace insert in 2002 use it to heat the whole house. Will not give in to the oil companies.

Wood burning stove

We found a beautiful wood burning stove in a church built in 1837. We are going to set it back up to its original location. I cannot post a picture, but would love to know more about it.

Wood stoves

Love my wood stove. Got rid of our electric heat and strictly rely on our airtight. So much better.

Virginia winters have gotten colder...

...and, the oil companies have gotten richer. We retired back to our little farm in Southside, Virginia, installing a home-made wood stove for a two story house. It just breaks my heart to not pay 3-5,000 dollars a season for heating oil. When friends come in, they often mention how warm and inviting our house is. They may have conventional oil furnaces, blown hot air, or the worst--the "Heat Pump". With the right sized log, we stoke it at night, and wake up to coals. We were advised by an old grandmother in Pennsylvania--''Be sure to burn it hot, once a day!'' We find it a little dirty, with sawdust and bark on the tile floor, but the resulting warmth makes that a small thing, indeed. When the power goes off, my bride and I find a seat near the stove, and read our books or drink our coffee there. We took a giant step backward, and love wood heat.

Wood stove

I have been heating with a Vermont Casting wood stove for 12 years since moving to Pennsylvania. A tri-axel load of logs, about 100, equals 7 cords. 2 years of heat for $700 dollars. Love it.


I purchased and installed a Lopi brand model “the Endeavor “ about 15 years ago to offset my heating bills and for the winter charm of fire dancing thru its glass door. Well my home furnace cracked it’s heat exchanger almost the same month I finished installing the stove. To my surprise this stove easily heats my 2200 sq ft home in Denver CO and I’m saving electricity too because I cook on it for many dinner meals. My Xcell energy bill, gas and electric, is about $60 a month during the coldest months. I will say it’s a pain when we have consecutive days of below zero degrees Fahrenheit, I need to wake up around 3 in the morning and add a few chunks of seasoned wood. It’s worth it.
I also enjoy the exercise of cutting and splitting my fuel. It does take up some yard space but like I said earlier, my furnace died 15 years ago and I still haven’t replaced it. I did break down and buy a 35 ton wood splitter this fall, what a time saver!

Wood Stoves

I have a Black Bart wood stove built into the fireplace. Here in coastal SC we do not have severe winters, but nothing takes the chill out as quickly and as comforting as a wood fire in the stove. When the box reaches a certain temp, it blows warm air and heats much of the downstairs, aND rhe cat loves to lie where the warm air first hits the floor! Keeps heating bills low, is peaceful and comforting, and beautiful! Love wood stoves!

wood stoves

Here in Azalea, Oregon, we lose our electricity ALOT in the Winter and I wouldn't be without my wood burning stove - in the house and in the shop! Not only do we still stay warm even with no electricity, but I can make a pot of soup on the stop and put bread underneath and make homemade bread to go with it!

Wood Stoves

My grandparents had a wood stove right in the middle of their kitchen and the in winter it was the focal point of winter living. My grandfather would fire it up in the early morning and put in a log or two when he thought it needed it. It would go all day only dying out late at night. During the big white porcelain clad box would have everyone around it at one point in time. There were two kitchen stools on both sides and a rocker and recliner a short distance from the front. The best spot was on one of the stools as the heat radiated right at you. Especially coveted after a cold time outdoors in the snow. It held function beyond heating as my grandmother would us it for cooking as well having 6 square feet of cook top and a big oven it's use saw many pie and keeping food warm while the main stove cooked away on the meals. Best thing was reheating her chocolate donuts to prepare them for confectioners sugar. As I initially said it became a social magnet as many a conversion was heard around the stove. I remember many neighbors and family sitting for hours and learning more about their lives and thoughts. Very much the social point of the house.

Wood Stoves

While I was in the Army in the late 1970's, I built my own home around a wood burning stove. I now live in a 450sf with loft old log cain. I also heat with wood when below 40degress. The best wood to burn is whatever you can get for free. I cut storm damged trees to get most of my wood. I try toseason it at least 6 months, and oak and hickory are the best heat producers.