A Brief History of the Woodstove

Learn a Few Fun Facts About the Wood-Burning Stove

Wood 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 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!

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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.