Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1744: XXX: AN ACCOUNT OF THE NEW-INVENTED PENNSYLVANIAN FIRE-PLACES 1 ; - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753
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1744: XXX: AN ACCOUNT OF THE NEW-INVENTED PENNSYLVANIAN FIRE-PLACES 1 ; - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. II (Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753).
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AN ACCOUNT OF THE NEW-INVENTED PENNSYLVANIAN FIRE-PLACES1 ;
their construction and manner of operation is particularly explained; their advantages above every other method of warming rooms demonstrated; and all objections that have been raised against the use of them answered and obviated. with directions for putting them up, and for using them to the best advantage. and a copper-plate in which the several parts of the machine are exactly laid down, from a scale of equal parts.
printed and sold by b. franklin, 1744.
In these northern colonies the inhabitants keep fires to sit by generally seven months in the year; that is, from the beginning of October to the end of April, and, in some winters, near eight months, by taking in part of September and May.
Wood, our common fuel, which within these hundred years might be had at any man’s door, must now be fetched near one hundred miles to some towns, and makes a very considerable article in the expense of families.
As therefore so much of the comfort and conveniency of our lives, for so great a part of the year, depends on the article of fire; since fuel is become so expensive, and, as the country is more cleared and settled, will of course grow scarcer and dearer, any new proposal for saving the wood, and for lessening the charge and augmenting the benefit of fire, by some particular method of making and managing it, may at least be thought worth consideration.
The new fire-places are a late invention to that purpose, of which this paper is intended to give a particular account.
That the reader may the better judge, whether this method of managing fire has any advantage over those heretofore in use, it may be proper to consider both the old and new methods, separately and particularly, and afterwards make the comparison.
In order to do this it is necessary to understand well some few of the properties of air and fire, viz.:
1. Air is rarefied by heat, and condensed by cold; that is, the same quantity of air takes up more space when warm than when cold. This may be shown by several very easy experiments. Take any clear glass bottle (a Florence flask stript of the straw is best), place it before the fire, and, as the air within is warmed and rarefied, part of it will be driven out of the bottle; turn it up, place its mouth in a vessel of water, and remove it from the fire; then, as the air within cools and contracts, you will see the water rise in the neck of the bottle, supplying the place of just so much air as was driven out. Hold a large hot coal near the side of the bottle, and, as the air within feels the heat, it will again distend and force out the water. Or, fill a bladder not quite full of air, tie the neck tight, and lay it before a fire as near as may be without scorching the bladder; as the air within heats, you will perceive it to swell and fill the bladder, till it becomes tight, as if full blown; remove it to a cool place, and you will see it fall gradually, till it becomes as lank as at first.
2. Air rarefied and distended by heat is specifically1 lighter than it was before, and will rise in other air of greater density. As wood, oil, or any other matter specifically lighter than water, if placed at the bottom of a vessel of water, will rise till it comes to the top, so rarefied air will rise in common air, till it either comes to air of equal weight or is by cold reduced to its former density.
A fire, then, being made in any chimney, the air over the fire is rarefied by the heat, becomes lighter, and therefore immediately rises in the funnel, and goes out; the other air in the room (flowing towards the chimney) supplies its place, is rarefied in its turn, and rises likewise; the place of the air thus carried out of the room is supplied by fresh air coming in through doors and windows, or, if they be shut, through every crevice with violence, as may be seen by holding a candle to a key-hole. If the room be so tight as that all the crevices together will not supply so much air as is continually carried off, then, in a little time, the current up the funnel must flag, and the smoke, being no longer driven up, must come into the room.
1. Fire (that is, common fire) throws out light, heat, and smoke (or fume). The two first move in right lines, and with great swiftness; the latter is but just separated from the fuel, and then moves only as it is carried by the stream of rarefied air, and without a continual accession and recession of air to carry off the smoky fumes, they would remain crowded about the fire and stifle it.
2. Heat may be separated from the smoke, as well as from the light, by means of a plate of iron, which will suffer heat to pass through it without the others.
3. Fire sends out its rays of heat, as well as rays of light, equally every way; but the greatest sensible heat is over the fire, where there is, besides the rays of heat shot upwards, a continual rising stream of hot air, heated by the rays shot round on every side.
These things being understood, we proceed to consider the fire-places heretofore in use, viz.:
1. The large open fire-places used in the days of our fathers, and still generally in the country, and in kitchens.
2. The newer-fashioned fire-places, with low breasts and narrow hearths.
3. Fire-places with hollow backs, hearths and jambs of iron (described by M. Gauger in his tract entitled La Méchanique de Feu), for warming the air as it comes into the room.
4. The Holland stoves, with iron doors opening into the room.
5. The German stoves, which have no opening in the room where they are used, but the fire is put in from some other room, or from without.
6. Iron pots, with open charcoal fires, placed in the middle of a room.
1. The first of these methods has generally the conveniency of two warm seats, one in each corner; but they are sometimes too hot to abide in, and, at other times, incommoded with the smoke; there is likewise good room for the cook to move, to hang on pots, &c. Their inconveniences are that they almost always smoke, if the door be not left open; that they require a large funnel, and a large funnel carries off a great quantity of air, which occasions what is called a strong draft to the chimney, without which strong draft the smoke would come out of some part or other of so large an opening, so that the door can seldom be shut; and the cold air so nips the backs and heels of those that sit before the fire, that they have no comfort till either screens or settles are provided (at a considerable expense) to keep it off, which both cumber the room and darken the fireside. A moderate quantity of wood on the fire in so large a hearth seems but little, and in so strong and cold a draft warms but little; so that people are continually laying on more. In short, it is next to impossible to warm a room with such a fire-place; and I suppose our ancestors never thought of warming rooms to sit in; all they purposed was to have a place to make a fire in, by which they might warm themselves when cold.
2. Most of these old-fashioned chimneys in towns and cities have been, of late years, reduced to the second sort mentioned, by building jambs within them, narrowing the hearth, and making a low arch or breast. It is strange, methinks, that though chimneys have been so long in use, their construction should be so little understood till lately, that no workman pretended to make one which should always carry off all smoke, but a chimney-cloth was looked upon as essential to a chimney. This improvement, however, by small openings and low breasts, has been made in our days; and success in the first experiments has brought it into general use in cities, so that almost all new chimneys are now made of that sort, and much fewer bricks will make a stack of chimneys now than formerly. An improvement so lately made may give us room to believe that still farther improvements may be found to remedy the inconveniences yet remaining. For these new chimneys, though they keep rooms generally free from smoke, and, the opening being contracted, will allow the door to be shut, yet, the funnel still requiring a considerable quantity of air, it rushes in at every crevice so strongly as to make a continual whistling or howling; and it is very uncomfortable, as well as dangerous, to sit against any such crevice. Many colds are caught from this cause only, it being safer to sit in the open street; for then the pores do all close together, and the air does not strike so sharply against any particular part of the body.
The Spaniards have a proverbial saying:
Women particularly, from this cause, as they sit much in the house, get colds in the head, rheums, and defluctions, which fall into their jaws and gums and have destroyed early many a fine set of teeth in these northern colonies. Great and bright fires do also very much contribute to damage the eyes, dry and shrivel the skin, and bring on early the appearances of old age. In short, many of the diseases proceeding from colds, as fevers, pleurisies, &c., fatal to very great numbers of people, may be ascribed to strong-drawing chimneys, whereby, in severe weather, a man is scorched before, while he is froze behind.1 In the mean time very little is done by these chimneys towards warming the room; for the air round the fire-place, which is warmed by the direct rays from the fire, does not continue in the room, but is continually crowded and gathered into the chimney by the current of cold air coming behind it, and so is presently carried off.
In both these sorts of fire-places, the greatest part of the heat from the fire is lost; for, as fire naturally darts heat every way, the back, the two jambs, and the hearth drink up almost all that is given them, very little being reflected from bodies so dark, porous, and unpolished; and the upright heat, which is by far the greatest, flies directly up the chimney. Thus five sixths at least of the heat (and consequently of the fuel) is wasted, and contributes nothing towards warming the room.
3. To remedy this the Sieur Gauger gives, in his book entitled La Méchanique de Feu, published in 1709, seven different constructions of the third sort of chimneys mentioned above, in which there are hollow cavities, made by iron plates in the back, jambs, and hearths, through which plates the heat passing warms the air in those cavities, which is continually coming into the room fresh and warm. The invention was very ingenious, and had many conveniences; the room was warmed in all parts, by the air flowing through the heated cavities; cold air was prevented rushing through the crevices, the funnel being sufficiently supplied by those cavities; much less fuel would serve, &c. But the first expense, which was very great, the intricacy of the design, and the difficulty of execution, especially in old chimneys, discouraged the propagation of the invention; so that there are, I suppose, very few such chimneys now in use. The upright heat, too, was almost all lost in these, as in the common chimneys.
4. The Holland iron stove, which has a flue proceeding from the top, and a small iron door opening into the room, comes next to be considered. Its conveniences are, that it makes a room all over warm; for, the chimney being wholly closed except the flue of the stove, very little air is required to supply that, and therefore not much rushes in at crevices, or at the door when it is opened. Little fuel serves, the heat being almost all saved; for it rays out almost equally from the four sides, the bottom, and the top, into the room, and presently warms the air around it, which, being rarefied, rises to the ceiling, and its place is supplied by the lower air of the room, which flows gradually towards the stove, and is there warmed, and rises in its turn, so that there is a continual circulation till all the air in the room is warmed. The air, too, is gradually changed by the stove-door’s being in the room, through which part of it is continually passing, and that makes these stoves wholesomer or at least pleasanter than the German stoves, next to be spoken of. But they have these inconveniences. There is no sight of the fire, which is in itself a pleasant thing. One cannot conveniently make any other use of the fire but that of warming the room. When the room is warm, people, not seeing the fire, are apt to forget supplying it with fuel till it is almost out, then, growing cold, a great deal of wood is put in, which soon makes it too hot. The change of air is not carried on quite quick enough; so that, if any smoke or ill smell happens in the room, it is a long time before it is discharged. For these reasons the Holland stove has not obtained much among the English (who love the sight of the fire) unless in some workshops, where people are obliged to sit near windows for the light, and in such places they have been found of good use.
5. The German stove is like a box, one side wanting. It is composed of five iron plates, screwed together, and fixed so as that you may put the fuel into it from another room, or from the outside of the house. It is a kind of oven reversed, its mouth being without, and body within, the room that is to be warmed by it. This invention certainly warms a room very speedily and thoroughly with little fuel; no quantity of cold air comes in at any crevice, because there is no discharge of air which it might supply, there being no passage into the stove from the room. These are its conveniences. Its inconveniences are, that people have not even so much sight or use of the fire as in the Holland stoves, and are, moreover, obliged to breathe the same unchanged air continually, mixed with the breath and perspiration from one another’s bodies, which is very disagreeable to those who have not been accustomed to it.
6. Charcoal fires in pots are used chiefly in the shops of handicraftsmen. They warm a room (that is kept close, and has no chimney to carry off the warmed air) very speedily and uniformly; but, there being no draft to change the air, the sulphurous fumes from the coals (be they ever so well kindled before they are brought in, there will be some) mix with it, render it disagreeable, hurtful to some constitutions, and sometimes, when the door is long kept shut, produce fatal consequences.
To avoid the several inconveniences, and at the same time retain all the advantages of other fire-places, was contrived the Pennsylvanian Fire-place, now to be described.
This machine consists of:
A bottom plate (i.). (See Plate I.)
A back plate (ii.).
Two side plates (iii., iii.).
Two middle plates (iv., iv.), which, joined together, form a tight box with winding passages in it for warming the air.
A front plate (v.).
A top plate (vi.).
These are all cast of iron, with mouldings or ledges where the plates come together, to hold them fast and retain the mortar used for pointing to make tight joints. When the plates are all in their places a pair of slender rods, with screws, are sufficient to bind the whole very firmly together, as it appears in Figure 2.
There are, moreover, two thin plates of wrought iron, viz., the shutter (vii.), and the register (viii.), besides the screw-rods, O, P, all which we shall explain in their order.
(i.) The bottom plate or hearth-piece is round before, with a rising moulding that serves as a fender to keep coals and ashes from coming to the floor, &c. It has two ears F, G, perforated to receive the screw-rods O, P; a long air-hole a a, through which the fresh outward air passes up into the air-box; and three smoke-holes B, C, through which the smoke descends and passes away, all represented by dark squares. It has also double ledges to receive between them the bottom edges of the back plate, the two side plates, and the two middle plates. These ledges are about an inch asunder and about half an inch high; a profile of two of them, joined to a fragment of plate, appears in Figure 3.
(ii.) The back plate is without holes, having only a pair of ledges on each side to receive the back edges of the two
(iii., iii.) Side plates; these have each a pair of ledges to receive the side edges of the front plate, and a little shoulder for it to rest on; also two pair of ledges to receive the side edges of the two middle plates, which form the air-box; and an oblong air-hole near the top through which is discharged into the room the air warmed in the air-box. Each has also a wing or bracket, H and I, to keep in falling brands, coals, &c., and a small hole, Q and R, for the axis of the register to turn in.
(iv., iv.) The air-box is composed of the two middle plates D, E and F, G. The first have five thin ledges or partitions cast on it two inches deep, the edges of which are received in so many pair of ledges cast in the other. The tops of all the cavities formed by these thin, deep ledges are also covered by a ledge of the same form and depth cast with them, so that when the plates are put together and the joints luted there is no communication between the air-box and the smoke. In the winding passages of this box fresh air is warmed as it passes into the room.
(v.) The front plate is arched on the under side, and ornamented with foliages, &c.; it has no ledges.
(vi.) The top plate has a pair of ears, M, N, answerable to those in the bottom plate, and perforated for the same purpose; it has also a pair of ledges running round the under side to receive the top edges of the front, back, and side plates. The air-box does not reach up to the top plate by two inches and a half.
(vii.) The shutter is of thin wrought iron and light, of such a length and breadth as to close well the opening of the fire-place. It is used to blow up the fire, and to shut up and secure it at nights. It has two brass knobs for handles, d, d, and commonly slides up and down in a groove left, in putting up the fire-place, between the foremost ledge of the side plates and the face of the front plate; but some choose to set it aside when it is not in use, and apply it on occasion.
(viii.) The register is also of thin wrought iron. It is placed between the back plate and air-box, and can, by means of the key S, be turned on its axis so as to lie in any position between level and upright.
The screw-rods, O, P, are of wrought iron, about a third of an inch thick, with a button at bottom, and a screw and nut at top, and may be ornamented with two small brasses screwed on above the nuts.
To put this machine to work:
1. A false back of four-inch (or, in shallow small chimneys two-inch) brick work is to be made in the chimney, four inches or more from the true back; from the top of this false back a closing is to be made over to the breast of the chimney, that no air may pass into the chimney but what goes under the false back and up behind it.
2. Some bricks of the hearth are to be taken up, to form a hollow under the bottom plate; across which hollow runs a thin, tight partition, to keep apart the air entering the hollow and the smoke; and is therefore placed between the air-hole and smoke-holes.
3. A passage is made, communicating with the outward air, to introduce that air into the fore part of the hollow under the bottom plate, whence it may rise through the air-hole into the air-box.
4. A passage is made from the back part of the hollow, communicating with the flue behind the false back; through this passage the smoke is to pass.
The fire-place is to be erected upon these hollows, by putting all the plates in their places, and screwing them together.
Its operation may be conceived by observing the plate entitled, Profile of the Chimney and Fire-place. (See Plate II.)
M The mantel-piece, or breast of the chimney.
C The funnel.
B The false back and closing.
E True back of the chimney.
T Top of the fire-place.
F The front of it.
A The place where the fire is made.
D The air-box.
K The hole in the side plate, through which the warmed air is discharged out of the air-box into the room.
H The hollow filled with fresh air, entering at the passage I, and ascending into the air-box through the air-hole in the bottom-plate, near
G The partition in the hollow to keep the air and smoke apart.
P The passage under the false back and part of the hearth for the smoke.
The arrows show the course of the smoke.
The fire being made at A, the flame and smoke will ascend and strike the top T, which will thereby receive a considerable heat. The smoke, finding no passage upwards, turns over the top of the air-box, and descends between it and the back plate to the holes in the bottom plate, heating, as it passes, both plates of the air-box, and the said back plate; the front, bottom, and side plates are also all heated at the same time. The smoke proceeds in the passage that leads it under and behind the false back, and so rises into the chimney. The air of the room, warmed behind the back plate, and by the sides, front, and top plates, becoming specifically lighter than the other air in the room, is obliged to rise; but the closure over the fire-place hindering it from going up the chimney, it is forced out into the room, rises by the mantel-piece to the ceiling, and spreads all over the top of the room, whence being crowded down gradually by the stream of newly-warmed air that follows and rises above it, the whole room becomes in a short time equally warmed.
At the same time the air, warmed under the bottom plate and in the air-box, rises and comes out of the holes in the side plates very swiftly if the door of the room be shut, and joins its current with the stream before mentioned, rising from the side, back, and top plates.
The air that enters the room through the air-box is fresh, though warm; and, computing the swiftness of its motion with the areas of the holes, it is found that near ten barrels of fresh air are hourly introduced by the air-box; and by this means the air in the room is continually changed, and kept at the same time sweet and warm.
It is to be observed that the entering air will not be warm at first lighting the fire, but heats gradually as the fire increases.
A square opening for a trap-door should be left in the closing of the chimney, for the sweeper to go up; the door may be made of slate or tin, and commonly kept close shut, but so placed as that, turning up against the back of the chimney when open, it closes the vacancy behind the false back, and shoots the soot that falls in sweeping, out upon the hearth. This trap-door is a very convenient thing.
In rooms where much smoking of tobacco is used, it is also convenient to have a small hole about five or six inches square, cut near the ceiling through into the funnel; this hole must have a shutter, by which it may be closed or operated at pleasure. When open there will be a strong draft of air through it into the chimney, which will presently carry off a cloud of smoke and keep the room clear; if the room be too hot likewise, it will carry off as much of the warm air as you please, and then you may stop it entirely or in part as you think fit. By this means it is that the tobacco smoke does not descend among the heads of the company near the fire, as it must do before it can get into common chimneys.
The Manner of Using this Fire-place
Your cord-wood must be cut into three lengths; or else a short piece fit for the fire-place, cut off, and the longer left for the kitchen or other fires. Dry hickory or ash, or any woods that burn with a clear flame, are rather to be chosen, because such are less apt to foul the smoke passages with soot; and flame communicates with its light, as well as by contact, greater heat to the plates and room. But, where more ordinary wood is used, half a dry fagot of brushwood, burnt at the first making the fire in the morning, is very advantageous, as it immediately, by its sudden blaze, heats the plates and warms the room (which with bad wood slowly kindling would not be done so soon), and at the same time by the length of its flame, turning in the passages, consumes and cleanses away the soot that such bad, smoky wood had produced therein the preceding day, and so keeps them always free and clean. When you have laid a little back log, and placed your billets on small dogs, as in common chimneys, and put some fire to them, then slide down your shutter as low as the dogs, and the opening being by that means contracted, the air rushes in briskly and presently blows up the flames. When the fire is sufficiently kindled, slide it up again.1 In some of these fire-places there is a little six inch square trap-door of thin wrought iron or brass, covering a hole of like dimensions near the fore part of the bottom plate, which being by a ring lifted up towards the fire, about an inch, where it will be retained by two springing sides fixed to it perpendicularly (see Plate I., Fig. 4), the air rushes in from the hollow under the bottom plate, and blows the fire. Where this is used, the shutter serves only to close the fire at nights. The more forward you can make your fire on the hearth-plate, not to be incommoded by the smoke, the sooner and more will the room be warmed. At night, when you go to bed, cover the coals or brands with ashes as usual; then take away the dogs, and slide down the shutter close to the bottom plate, sweeping a little ashes against it that no air may pass under it; then turn the register so as very near to stop the flue behind. If no smoke then comes out at crevices into the room, it is right; if any smoke is perceived to come out, move the register, so as to give a little draft, and it will go the right way. Thus the room will be kept warm all night; for, the chimney being almost entirely stopt, very little cold air, if any, will enter the room at any crevice. When you come to rekindle the fire in the morning, turn open the register before you lift up the slider, otherwise, if there be any smoke in the fire-place, it will come out into the room. By the same use of the shutter and register, a blazing fire may be presently stifled, as well as secured, when you have occasion to leave it for any time; and at your return you will find the brands warm, and ready for a speedy rekindling. The shutter alone will not stifle a fire, for it cannot well be made to fit so exactly but that air will enter, and that in a violent stream, so as to blow up and keep alive the flames and consume the wood, if the draft be not checked by turning the register to shut the flue behind. The register has also two other uses. If you observe the draft of air into your fire-place to be stronger than is necessary (as in extreme cold weather it often is), so that the wood is consumed faster than usual; in that case, a quarter, half, or two-thirds turn of the register will check the violence of the draft and let your fire burn with the moderation you desire; and at the same time both the fire-place and the room will be the warmer, because less cold air will enter and pass through them. And, if the chimney should happen to take fire (which indeed there is very little danger of, if the preceding direction be observed in making fires, and it be well swept once a year; for, much less wood being burnt, less soot is proportionably made; and, the fuel being soon blown into flame by the shutter, or the trap-door bellows, there is consequently less smoke from the fuel to make soot; then, though the funnel should be foul, yet the sparks have such a crooked, up and down, roundabout way to go, that they are out before they get at it); I say, if ever it should be on fire, a turn of the register shuts all close and prevents any air going into the chimney, and so the fire may be easily stifled and mastered.
The Advantages of this Fire-place
Its advantages above the common fire-places are:
1. That your whole room is equally warmed, so that people need not crowd so close round the fire, but may sit near the window, and have the benefit of the light for reading, writing, needlework, &c. They may sit with comfort in any part of the room, which is a very considerable advantage in a large family, where there must often be two fires kept, because all cannot conveniently come at one.
2. If you sit near the fire you have not that cold draft of uncomfortable air nipping your back and heels as when before common fires, by which many catch cold, being scorched before and, as it were, froze behind.
3. If you sit against a crevice there is not that sharp draft of cold air playing on you as in rooms where there are fires in the common way, by which many catch cold, whence proceed coughs,1 catarrhs, toothaches, fevers, pleurisies, and many other diseases.
4. In case of sickness they make most excellent nursing-rooms, as they constantly supply a sufficiency of fresh air, so warmed at the same time as to be no way inconvenient or dangerous. A small one does well in a chamber, and, the chimneys being fitted for it, it may be removed from one room to another, as occasion requires, and fixed in half an hour. The equal temper, too, and warmth of the air of the room, is thought to be particularly advantageous in some distempers; for it was observed in the winters of 1730 and 1736, when the small-pox spread in Pennsylvania, that very few children of the Germans died of that distemper in proportion to those of the English, which was ascribed by some to the warmth and equal temper of air in their stove-rooms, which made the disease as favorable as it commonly is in the West Indies. But this conjecture we submit to the judgment of physicians.
5. In common chimneys the strongest heat from the fire, which is upwards, goes directly up the chimney and is lost, and there is such a strong draft into the chimney that not only the upright heat but also the back, sides, and downward heats are carried up the chimney by that draft of air, and the warmth given before the fire by the rays that strike out towards the room is continually driven back, crowded into the chimney, and carried up by the same draft of air. But here the upright heat strikes and heats the top plate, which warms the air above it, and that comes into the room. The heat likewise which the fire communicates to the sides, back, bottom, and air-box, is all brought into the room; for you will find a constant current of warm air coming out of the chimney corner into the room. Hold a candle just under the mantel-piece or breast of your chimney, and you will see the flame bent outwards; by laying a piece of smoking paper on the hearth, on either side, you may see how the current of air moves and where it tends, for it will turn and carry the smoke with it.
6. Thus, as very little of the heat is lost when this fire-place is used, much less wood1 will serve you, which is a considerable advantage where wood is dear.
7. When you burn candles near this fire-place, you will find that the flame burns quite upright, and does not blare and run the tallow down by drawing towards the chimney, as against common fires.
8. This fire-place cures most smoky chimneys, and thereby preserves both the eyes and furniture.
9. It prevents the fouling of chimneys; much of the lint and dust that contributes to foul a chimney being, by the low arch, obliged to pass through the flame, where it is consumed. Then, less wood being burnt, there is less smoke made. Again, the shutter, or trap-bellows, soon blowing the wood into a flame, the same wood does not yield so much smoke as if burnt in a common chimney; for, as soon as flame begins, smoke in proportion ceases.
10. And if a chimney should be foul, it is much less likely to take fire. If it should take fire, it is easily stifled and extinguished.
11. A fire may be very speedily made in this fire-place by the help of the shutter or trap-bellows, as aforesaid.
12. A fire may be soon extinguished by closing it with the shutter before, and turning the register behind, which will stifle it, and the brands will remain ready to rekindle.
13. The room being once warm, the warmth may be retained in it all night.
14. And, lastly, the fire is so secured at night that not one spark can fly out into the room to do damage.
With all these conveniences, you do not lose the pleasing sight nor use of the fire, as in the Dutch stoves, but may boil the tea-kettle, warm the flat-irons, heat heaters, keep warm a dish of victuals by setting it on the top, &c.
There are some objections commonly made by people that are unacquainted with these fire-places which it may not be amiss to endeavour to remove, as they arise from prejudices which might otherwise obstruct, in some degree, the general use of this beneficial machine. We frequently hear it said, They are of the nature of Dutch stoves; stoves have an unpleasant smell; stoves are unwholesome; and warm rooms make people tender and apt to catch cold. As to the first, that they are of the nature of Dutch stoves, the description of those stoves, in the beginning of this paper, compared with that of these machines, shows that there is a most material difference, and that these have vastly the advantage, if it were only in the single article of the admission and circulation of the fresh air. But it must be allowed there may have been some cause to complain of the offensive smell of iron stoves. This smell, however, never proceeded from the iron itself, which, in its nature, whether hot or cold, is one of the sweetest of metals, but from the general uncleanly manner of using those stoves. If they are kept clean they are as sweet as an ironing-box, which, though ever so hot, never offends the smell of the nicest lady; but it is common to let them be greased, by setting candlesticks on them or otherwise; to rub greasy hands on them; and, above all, to spit upon them, to try how hot they are, which is an inconsiderate, filthy, unmannerly custom; for the slimy matter of spittle, drying on, burns and fumes when the stove is hot, as well as the grease, and smells most nauseously, which makes such close stove-rooms, where there is no draft to carry off those filthy vapors, almost intolerable to those that are not from their infancy accustomed to them. At the same time nothing is more easy than to keep them clean; for, when by any accident they happen to be fouled, a lie made of ashes and water, with a brush, will scour them perfectly, as will also a little strong soft soap and water.
That hot iron of itself gives no offensive smell, those know very well who have (as the writer of this had) been present at a furnace when the workmen were pouring out the flowing metal to cast large plates, and not the least smell of it to be perceived. That hot iron does not, like lead, brass, and some other metals, give out unwholesome vapors, is plain from the general health and strength of those who constantly work in iron, as furnace-men, forge-men, and smiths; that it is in its nature a metal perfectly wholesome to the body of man, is known from the beneficial use of chalybeate or iron-mine waters, from the good done by taking steel filings in several disorders, and that even the smithy water in which hot irons are quenched is found advantageous to the human constitution. The ingenious and learned Dr. Desaguliers, to whose instructive writings the contriver of this machine acknowledges himself much indebted, relates an experiment he made to try whether heated iron would yield unwholesome vapors. He took a cube of iron, and, having given it a very great heat, he fixed it so to a receiver, exhausted by the air-pump, that all the air rushing in to fill the receiver should first pass through a hole in the hot iron. He then put a small bird into the receiver, who breathed that air without any inconvenience or suffering the least disorder. But the same experiment being made with a cube of hot brass, a bird put into that air died in a few minutes. Brass, indeed, stinks even when cold, and much more when hot; lead, too, when hot, yields a very unwholesome steam; but iron is always sweet, and every way taken is wholesome and friendly to the human body, except in weapons.
That warmed rooms make people tender and apt to catch cold, is a mistake as great as it is (among the English) general. We have seen in the preceding pages how the common rooms are apt to give colds; but the writer of this paper may affirm from his own experience and that of his family and friends, who have used warm rooms for these four winters past, that by the use of such rooms people are rendered less liable to take cold, and, indeed, actually hardened. If sitting warm in a room made one subject to take cold on going out, lying warm in bed should, by a parity of reason, produce the same effect when we rise. Yet we find we can leap out of the warmest bed naked in the coldest morning without any such danger; and in the same manner out of warm clothes into a cold bed. The reason is that in these cases the pores all close at once, the cold is shut out, and the heat within augmented, as we soon after feel by the glowing of the flesh and skin. Thus no one was ever known to catch cold by the use of the cold bath; and are not cold baths allowed to harden the bodies of those that use them? Are they not therefore frequently prescribed to the tenderest constitutions? Now every time you go out of a warm room into the cold, freezing air, you do, as it were, plunge into a cold bath, and the effect is in proportion the same; for (though perhaps you may feel somewhat chilly at first) you find in a little time your bodies hardened and strengthened, your blood is driven round with a brisker circulation, and a comfortable, steady, uniform, inward warmth succeeds that equal outward warmth you first received in the room. Farther to confirm this assertion, we instance the Swedes, the Danes, and the Russians. These nations are said to live in rooms, compared to ours, as hot as ovens1 ; yet where are the hardy soldiers, though bred in their boasted cool houses, that can, like these people, bear the fatigues of a winter campaign in so severe a climate, march whole days to the neck in snow, and at night intrench in ice as they do?
The mentioning of those northern nations puts me in mind of a considerable public advantage that may arise from the general use of these fire-places. It is observable that, though those countries have been well inhabited for many ages, wood is still their fuel, and yet at no very great price; which could not have been, if they had not universally used stoves, but consumed it as we do in great quantities, by open fires. By the help of this saving invention our wood may grow as fast as we consume it, and our posterity may warm themselves at a moderate rate, without being obliged to fetch their fuel over the Atlantic; as, if pit-coal should not be here discovered (which is an uncertainty) they must necessarily do.
We leave it to the political arithmetician to compute how much money will be saved to a country, by its spending two thirds less of fuel; how much labor saved in cutting and carriage of it; how much more land may be cleared by cultivation; how great the profit by the additional quantity of work done, in those trades particularly that do not exercise the body so much, but that the workfolks are obliged to run frequently to the fire to warm themselves; and to physicians to say how much healthier thick-built towns and cities will be, now half suffocated with sulphury smoke, when so much less of that smoke shall be made, and the air breathed by the inhabitants be consequently so much purer. These things it will suffice just to have mentioned; let us proceed to give some necessary directions to the workman who is to fix or set up these fire-places.
Directions to the Bricklayer
The chimney being first well swept and cleansed from soot, &c., lay the bottom plate down on the hearth, in the place where the fire-place is to stand, which may be as forward as the hearth will allow. Chalk a line from one of its back corners round the plate to the other corner, that you may afterwards know its place when you come to fix it; and from those corners, two parallel lines to the back of the chimney; make marks also on each side, that you may know where the partition is to stand, which is to prevent any communication between the air and smoke. Then, removing the plate, make a hollow under it and beyond it, by taking up as many of the bricks or tiles as you can, within your chalked lines, quite to the chimney-back. Dig out six or eight inches deep of the earth or rubbish, all the breadth and length of your hollow; then make a passage of four inches square (if the place will allow so much) leading from the hollow to some place communicating with the outer air; by outer air we mean air without the room you intend to warm. This passage may be made to enter your hollow on either side, or in the fore part, just as you find most convenient, the circumstances of your chimney considered. If the fire-place is to be put up in a chamber, you may have this communication of outer air from the staircase; or sometimes more easily from between the chamber floor and the ceiling of the lower room, making only a small hole in the wall of the house entering the space betwixt those two joists with which your air-passage in the hearth communicates. If this air-passage be so situated as that mice may enter it, and nestle in the hollow, a little grate of wire will keep them out. This passage being made, and, if it runs under any part of the hearth, tiled over securely, you may proceed to raise your false back. This may be of four inches or two inches thickness, as you have room; but let it stand at least four inches from the true chimney back. In narrow chimneys this false back runs from jamb to jamb; but in large, old-fashioned chimneys, you need not make it wider than the back of the fire-place. To begin it, you may form an arch nearly flat, of three bricks end to end, over the hollow, to leave a passage the breadth of the iron fire-place and five or six inches deep, rounding at bottom, for the smoke to turn and pass under the false back, and so behind it up the chimney. The false back is to rise till it is as high as the breast of the chimney, and then to close over to the breast1 ; always observing, if there is a wooden mantel-tree, to close above it. If there is no wood in the breast, you may arch over and close even with the lower part of the breast. By this closing the chimney is made tight, that no air or smoke may pass up it, without going under the false back. Then from side to side of your hollow, against the marks you made with chalk, raise a tight partition, brick-on-edge, to separate the air from the smoke, bevelling away to half an inch the brick that comes just under the air-hole, that the air may have a free passage up into the air-box. Lastly, close the hearth over that part of the hollow that is between the false back and the place of the bottom plate, coming about half an inch under the plate, which piece of hollow hearth may be supported by a bit or two of old iron hoop; then is your chimney fitted to receive the fire-place.
To set it, lay first a little bed of mortar all round the edges of the hollow, and over the top of the partition; then lay down your bottom plate in its place (with the rods in it) and tread it till it lies firm. Then put a little fine mortar (made of loam and lime, with a little hair) into its joints, and set in your back plate, leaning it for the present against the false back; then set in your air-box, with a little mortar in its joints; then put in the two sides, closing them up against the air-box, with mortar in their grooves, and fixing at the same time your register; then bring up your back to its place, with mortar in its grooves, and that will bind the sides together. Then put in your front plate, placing it as far back in the groove as you can, to leave room for the sliding plate; then lay on your top plate, with mortar in its grooves also, screwing the whole firmly together by means of the rods. The capital letters, A, B, D, E, &c. in the cut [Plate II.], show the corresponding parts of the several plates. Lastly, the joints being pointed all round on the outside, the fire-place is fit for use.
When you make your first fire in it, perhaps, if the chimney be thoroughly cold, it may not draw, the work too being all cold and damp. In such case, put first a few shovels of hot coals in the fire-place, then lift up the chimney sweeper’s trap-door, and putting in a sheet or two of flaming paper, shut it again, which will set the chimney a drawing immediately, and when once it is filled with a column of warm air it will draw strongly and continually.
The drying of the mortar and work by the first fire may smell unpleasantly, but that will soon be over.
In some shallow chimneys, to make more room for the false back and its flue, four inches or more of the chimney-back may be picked away.
Let the room be made as tight as conveniently it may be; so will the outer air that must come in to supply the room and draft of the fire be all obliged to enter through the passage under the bottom plate, and up through the air-box, by which means it will not come cold to your backs, but be warmed as it comes in, and mixed with the warm air round the fire-place before it spreads into the room.
But as a great quantity of cold air, in extreme cold weather especially, will presently enter a room if the door be carelessly left open, it is good to have some contrivance to shut it, either by means of screw hinges, a spring, or a pulley.
When the pointing in the joints is all dry and hard, get some powder of black lead (broken bits of black lead crucibles from the silversmiths, pounded fine, will do), and mixing it with a little rum and water, lay it on, when the plates are warm, with a hard brush, over the top and front plates, part of the side and bottom plates, and over all the pointing; and as it dries, rub it to a gloss with the same brush, so the joints will not be discerned, but it will look all of a piece, and shine like new iron. And, the false back being plastered and whitewashed, and the hearth reddened, the whole will make a pretty appearance. Before the black lead is laid on, it would not be amiss to wash the plates with strong lie and a brush, or soap and water, to cleanse them from any spots of grease or filth that may be on them. If any grease should afterwards come on them, a little wet ashes will get it out.
If it be well set up, and in a tolerably good chimney, smoke will draw in from as far as the fore part of the bottom plate, as you may try by a bit of burning paper.
People are at first apt to make their rooms too warm, not imagining how little a fire will be sufficient. When the plates are no hotter than that one may just bear the hand on them, the room will generally be as warm as you desire it.1
TO THE HON. CADWALLADER COLDEN
New York, 5 April, 1744.
Happening to be in this city about some particular affairs, I have the pleasure of receiving yours of the 28th past, here; and can now acquaint you that the Society,1 as far as it relates to Philadelphia, is actually formed, and has had several meetings to mutual satisfaction. As soon as I get home I shall send you a short account of what has been done and proposed at these meetings. The members are:
To whom the following members have since been added, viz.: Mr. Alexander, of New York; Mr. Morris, Chief Justice of the Jerseys; Mr. Home, Secretary of do.; Mr. John Coxe, of Trenton; and Mr. Martyn, of the same place. Mr. Nicholls tells me of several other gentlemen of this city that incline to encourage the thing; and there are a number of others, in Virginia, Maryland, and the New England colonies, we expect to join us as soon as they are acquainted that the Society has begun to form itself.
I am, Sir, with much respect,