Warmth with flair

johnson geer cox cast iron stove Albany Institute

Historical object gawking: We came across this photo of a 19th century stove in the Albany Institute collection. It was made by a Troy company -- Johnson, Geer & Cox -- based on a design by Troy resident Ezra Ripley, probably around 1844. At the time it was advertised as as a "cheap and beautiful article for offices and parlors."

It's a gorgeous object -- as a stove, or even as art. The Google Cultural Institute viewer allows some very close closeups of the details.

From the Albany Institute description:

Cast-iron stovemaking reached its highest level of artistic achievement and technological advances between 1840 and 1870. Stove designers borrowed from architectural and cabinetmakers's design books, bringing Greek, Roman, Gothic, Egyptian, and Rococo revival motifs, along with patriotic symbols and lavish floral designs, in stoves. The technical design of this column parlor stove included a small rectangular firebox to which were connected four vertical flues (or columns). All were connected at the top by a horizontal pipe or second chamber. The increased surface area and greater air circulation of this design enhanced the amount of radiated heat.

Troy and Albany were prominent centers of the stovemaking industry during the 19th century, with hundreds of stove manufacturers trying to stake out a spot in the marketplace over the century.

Sometimes it's easy to romanticize the past and look past its negatives. Sure, there were gorgeous parlor stoves -- but they were often manufactured by people working in terrible conditions. And there are so many things -- in terms of people's rights, technology, and so on -- that are so much better now compared to then (even if there's still room to improve). But objects like this stove were made with a certain flair.

photo: "Four-Column Parlor Stove" via Albany Institute collection


As one who grew up in a home that used a boring square wood stove as an alternate form of heat during the winter months, there is a beauty in this that takes your breath away. Strange, but true.

There was beauty in a lot of things in the past, despite what the author is babbling about the slaves that made this stove. Americans used to take pride in their manufactured products from stoves, to homes, to government buildings, to cities and parks. Now we just cater to the inner id of slam bam thank you mam with just about all that we build. Please name one object or building built within the last 50-60 years that is in anyway better than what was built in the past. Please avoid the advances in science for air conditioning, heating and the like as they were not available in the past. Please list a building or a park that has better beauty or a piece of décor that is made better now than compared in the past. I can't even find a pair of pants or gloves that are made better now as a drive up and down the endless crap that is known as Wolf Road....or Albany 2014!

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