Sunday, August 2, 2020

Cooking Stoves in the 1910s

So, following up on this item:
Lex Anteinternet: Blog Mirror/ A Hundred Years Ago: 1920 Direction...: Nice coal burning stove.  This highly modern AGA stove wasn't introduced until 1922 and they're still being made. This is just ...
In the 1910-1920 time frame what would have been the most common fuel for cooking stoves?

My guess is wood, but until the other day, I hadn't contemplated coal fire cook stoves even existing.

Looking into this, I found an interesting article on this on a site called On Line Old House.  Another interesting one appears here, in an article called Foodways in 1910.  Both articles make similiar points, but this one noted:

Coal became more and more popular through the 19th century as railroads brought it from distant mines and as forests near cities were cut down. By 1900 it had replaced wood as the main source of home energy. More and more, the household was becoming dependent on spending money in the market rather than upon family members’ labor. People switched to coal because it took less work than wood. It was a more concentrated energy source, so less of it needed to be hauled. Also, it burned longer and more evenly. Cooking was easier and tending the fire took less time.

Yet another interesting article appears here, noting how technologically advanced stoves were actually becoming, and some were supposedly capable of burning gas, coal or wood.  And, by that time, electric stoves had appeared.  On the same site, another article appears, that notes:

The typical cookstove in the 1880s was cast iron or steel and “was a wood- or coal-burning monstrosity” (Cohen, 1982, p. 19). The typical urban house in the 1880s used a coal-burning stove, although it might have had a gas range if it was very modern (Cohen, 1982, p. 5). In the 1890s, housewives across America most likely continued to cook on a coal or wood-burning stove (Cowan, 1983, p. 155). Cooks brought in wood or coal, fed the fuel into the stove by hand, and had to carry ashes away, which made it hard to keep the kitchen clean. Temperatures were hard to regulate (Cohen, 1982, pp. 19-21). During the nineteenth century, coal became more popular than wood because of availability and price, and the fact that coal was a more concentrated fuel that burned longer (Strasser, 1983, pp. 40-41).

All of this is really a surprise to me as I've simply never thought of coal as being a primary cooking fuel.  Apparently in urban areas it was.

Yet I still feel like I'm missing part of the picture here for some reason.

So, if a person lived in the Rocky Mountain West in 1910-20, would they have been firing their stoves with wood, or coal, to heat up that pot of coffee in the morning.


Rich said...

I don't know if it is relevant to your question, but there used to be a one-room schoolhouse on the farm until that time period of 1910-20 (I least I think so).

All that's left of the site is the foundations of the school, the outhouses and a coal shed. The coal shed had a concrete floor and still has a layer of coal an inch or so deep, so I'd guess that coal was the main heating source for the school.

I've also heard stories that there wasn't a tree on that quarter during the 1930's and very few on most of the rest of the farm, so there might have been no other option but to burn coal instead of wood.

Sheryl said...

This is really interesting. I'd never really thought about how people were becoming more reliant on a market economy by 1900 - and how some people who once may have used wood that the family cut to heat their homes were shifting to the use of coal that they bought because it was easier.