Antique Stoves for Heating: Box Stoves for Wood and Coal

Useful Information

Fuel: Wood/Coal
Gas & Electric Conversions
Available On All Models
Circa: 1830 - 1920
Burn Time: 6 - 12 Hours
Price Range: $1850 - $2850.00

Among the first stoves developed in America, the box stove was initially seen during the revolutionary war and used to heat the colonist soldiers. Heating school, churches and meetinghouses, the box stove also found significant residential use in utility rooms and workshops, kitchens and bathrooms.   

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Early box stoves feature a Federal motif depicting stripes, stripes and other patriotic images. Victorian styled stoves have floral designs featuring birds and scroll work and what not. And they were often placed in bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, and other areas the people often occupied. More recent box stoves come in modern styles in their square and simple design. All box stoves load from the side and are based on a six-plate design meaning that there are four pieces that construct the sides and two on the top and bottom that makes six.

This medium-sized box stove looks like an ancient treasure chest. Buckle straps are pulled tightly across the belly of this stove. Standing on raised legs, the Medallion can load wood chunks from a front door. Cook lids on top can be used to make an evening coffee in the study or boil water to humidify dry air in a basement or workshop.

Ships set sail for warm weather on the side plates of this early box stove. A pointed lid, a rare feature, can be removed to make sure of the small cook lid underneath. The rough castings are indicative of its early origins, before casting techniques became highly refined. The great masted boats on the side of the stove also remind us of patriotic themes of the Federal era from which this stove came.

Box stoves are small stoves valued for their compact design and efficient burn. They come in three sizes with varying degrees of decoration. Early box stoves feature a Federal motif depicting stripes, stripes and other patriotic images. They were first seen during the Revolutionary war where they were particularly valued because they were very portable, their small size and efficient burn. More Victorian ones like the one that we are looking at here, which is made by the Ransom & Rathbone Company in Albany, NY, have floral designs featuring birds and scrollwork and what not. And they were often placed in bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms, and other areas the people often occupied. More recent box stoves come in modern styles in their square and simple design. All box stoves load from the side and are based on a six-plate design meaning that there are four pieces that construct the sides and two on the top and bottom that makes six. This lip extends to prevent any ash from rolling out into your room. As you can see it loads from the side and has a small clean out area in front.


History of the Box Stove taken from Fire on the Hearth: The Evolution and Romance of the Heating Stove by Josephine H. Pierce.

Box stoves are just what the name implies – heating apparatus in the form of a box.

The earliest were jamb stoves, cast-iron boxes with five sides, whose open end fitted into a hole in the wall. Fuel was places in the stove from another room, from a corridor, hall or the outside of a house.

Usually the stove was in a living or “settin’ room” and the open end was built into a fireplace in the kitchen, so that the same fire served for cooking and warming.

As the wood in the fireplace burned down, the hot embers were shoveled through the jamb or hole in the wall into the stove. While the stove warmed the room in which it was located, the smoke escaped back into the chimney that served the fireplace.

One of the early Schwenkfelder immigrants, David Seibt, from Silesia wrote an informative letter to his brother in the homeland, died at Germantown, Pennsylvania, December 20, 1734. In case the brother should decide to come to America, he gives him some useful advice as to what to bring with him:

“If you should come,” he writes, “bring with you an iron stove. They are dear here, and are better than tile stoves that do not last so long, and are very high priced. I do not know where to tell you to buy it, but you can find out by inquiry; the people of the Palatinate generally bring theirs with them and I think they buy them in Rotterdam. Or they bring them out of their own country. I cannot tell certainly. A whole stove consists of five plates, which can be taken apart, if desired, and the cost lessened.” Note: Original letter in Schwenkfield Historical Library Pennsburg, Pennsylvania

Other box stoves had six plates, with a fuel and draft door in the front one. These were set away from the wall and had a flue going directly to the chimney.

Many of the box stoves were of cast iron made in separate plates fastened together by loose, gutter-shaped rims set against the corners of the stove and bolted against the corners of the stove bolted by short bolts. Others had a firebox cast in one piece that sat on a base extending beyond the box to form a hearth.

During the 1830s a sunken pit for ashes was made and the hearth plate had a section that could be removed to take out the ashes or partially pulled out to cause a draft.

While sometimes boxes were piled on boxes in imitation of tile stoves, and stoves pipes went up then down and sometimes repeated the proceeding before entering the chimney, there was little change in the general appearance until someone conceived of having two vertical flues instead of one, connect by a horizontal member from which a pipe led to the chimney. These were known and advertised as two column stoves and were first made for burning wood or charcoal.

An ornamental wheel or register was made in the hearth plate so that the air supply for combustion could be taken in at that point. On top of the fire chamber between the two columns was a boiling hole with a cover that could be removed so that the indispensable teakettle could simmer, or cooking could be done.

The products of combustion passed up the two columns to the flue space in the horizontal member where division plates were arranged at the back was an oval collar where the smoke pipe could be attached.

This new style opened an entirely new field for designers, who made ornamental columns and top pieces, and hundreds of design patents were taken out between 1843 and 1853. Many of these were by Ezra Ripley, who assigned them to several manufacturers in Troy, New York.

Addison Low of Alban was another important designer. Samuel D. Vose designed the stoves he manufactured. Jordan L. Mott, John F. Rathbone, James Wager and John B. Clute of New York state, William B. Cresson of Philadelphia and Gardner Chilson of Boston were all designers whose names are found I many styles of stoves still extant.

One of the big selling points of the box stove was the economy of fuel; in fact that has been the feature of every new idea in stove construction, even to the present day. As recent as December, 1941 the Federal Trade Commission issued a cease and desist order to a company that advertised that users of their wood-burning stoves would effect an economy on heating costs, and that it would not cause any smoke or soot.

Another feature of the two column stoves was that they were made with doors that could be opened after the fire was well started, and give the appearance of a fireplace. Many times these were advertised as a fireplace.

There was a great variety in the details of the designs in the castings. Some were absolutely covered with flower and fruit motifs, natural or conventional; others were pure baroque; and many were of the Greek Revival, which was at the height of its vogue.


Plate 47 - Thomas Maybury Ten-plate stove with baking oven

Mr. Lawrence B. Romaine of Middleboro, Mass. is the owner of the stove shown in Plate 48. He believes it was made about 1750. The firebox is crudely cast in one piece, and is simply laid on the bottom casting. Hinge pinlets are riveted into place, as are the wrought iron feet. The door is cast, but the cover for the draft, latch and striker are carefully wrought. It is very similar to the Shaker stoves made thirty years later.


The Shaking Quakers came from England in 1774, and settled eastern New York and northern New England and the Western Reserve. Like their furniture, their stoves (Plate 49) were plain and simple. Similar in shape to the six-plate stoves, but the firebox was cast in one piece and set on a bottom that extended to form a hearth. The legs, nicely wrought, were riveted to the base.



Plate 48 - box stove owned by Lawrence Romaine of Middleboro, Mass.



Plate 49 - Shaker Stove circa 1870



Plate 50 - Shaker Stove frp, West Albany, NY.



Plate 51 - Shaker Stove circa 1870with three-pass smoke pipe and side rack for shovel and tongs


One stove was often superimposed on another, and several funnels were combined to add more heat before passing to the chimney.



Plate 52 - Ten-plate stove made at the Elizabeth Furnace c. 1800.



Plate 53 - A wood-burning stove designed by Dr. Eliphalet Nott.

Plate #53 shows a wood-burning stove designed by Dr. Eliphalet Nott before he worked on the problem of burning anthracite coal. The hearth is cast in one piece with the bottom of the stove, the box is separately cast, and the top with an outlet for smoke is another casting cemented to the box.

The legs that rest on balls are unique, and seem to copy the legs on andirons.

The number “4” cast in each leg probably refers to the size.

One of the wrought iron hinges remains. The other hinges, draft and latch are missing.


Plate 54 - A three-legged box stove made at Plymouth, Vermont

Plate 54. A three-legged box stove made at Plymouth, Vermont, and very possibly other places in 1839. Was a very popular design, and because of the ships shown on the sides, sometimes in recent years has been referred to as a “Mayflower” stove. It was common to advertise this type of stove by the name of the design in the casting – Rising Sun, Tropic (when the motif was palm trees), Forest Rose, and so on.

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Plate 55 - Three-legged six-plate box stove made in 1840

Plate 55. Three-legged six-plate box stove made in 1840 at Worcester, Mass by Newcombe and Bowen who advertised them in the Worcester Palladium. The simple geometric design is unusual, for ships, cabbage roses, palm trees, cherubs and whatnot were used to fill in what here is a blank space. Latch and hinges are nicely wrought, and castings fit very closely. Tie-rods at the corners of the firebox hold stove together. The three legs slide into grooves.

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Plate 56 - Three-legged six-plate box stove of the 1840s

Plate 56. Three-legged six-plate box stove of the 1840s owned by Newport Historical Society. Design, beautifully clear in detail, includes elements of the designs found on stenciled furniture and tin-ware.



Plate 57 - Four-legged box stove of the 1840s

Plate 57. While hearth with sliding draft, and sunken ash pit remains the same as in preceding stoves, extra height has been given and fuel door raised. The grape design was used on many types of stoves, and is very similar to that found on pressed glass, particularly goblets.