The Stove Industry in 1874: A Statistical Portrait

 

In 1874 Wiley’s American Iron Trade, John Dunlap, ed., was published.  Amongst other things, it contained a detailed report on the American stove industry, reporting for every firm its name, location(s), annual average capacity expressed in tons and/or units of production (stoves – approximately ten per ton[1]), and for some companies the value of their product and the size of their labor force too. 

 

How did the compilers succeed in persuading hundreds of proprietary, competitive enterprises to share this information?  Answers must be largely speculative – no explanation about data sources was provided – but it seems likely that the report was a by-product of the stove industry’s attempts to form a national organization for the purpose of controlling competition.  The leaders of this organizing process, notably John Perry of Albany and Giles Filley of St. Louis, believed firmly in the value of statistical information as a basis for intelligent common action.  Filley, the largest stove foundryman in the country, with wide connections and a formidable reputation among his peers, employed a statistician, at his own expense, to gather data.  It is my guess that he or more probably Perry passed this information on (the report contains a long and laudatory report on Perry and his firm, while all of his competitors are dealt with in a standard brief reporting format.  It is reasonable to assume that this ‘puff’ was Perry’s reward for his generosity with Filley’s data).  A reason why companies may not have been reluctant to share this information is that it was not commercially sensitive, and it wasn’t very private either: firms reported their annual average capacity, not their actual production or sales, which would have been much more problematical; and, given that stove founders all relied on the same labor-intensive production process, it was easy for companies or their rivals to produce good estimates for capacity simply by counting the number of ‘floors’ – individual molders’ workspaces – in a plant.  This was public knowledge.

 

Whatever the accuracy of this guess, the result of the process of data-collection and publication is that we have a unusually revealing snapshot of the industry at the end of the post-Civil War boom, and at almost its peak of development.  Alternative fuels which would soon cut into its market – gas, manufactured and natural, and petroleum (kerosene) – were only beginning to make their impact.  And the movement of markets, followed by production, into the midwest and then the South, had not yet eliminated the dominant position of the east-coast manufacturing centers where the industry had emerged between the 1830s and 1850s.  (In the early 1870s, pioneering inventors and business-founding entrepreneurs were still alive to tell the tale.)

 

* * *

 

First of all, what was the size-distribution of firms and output within the industry?

 

Average Annual Capacity, Tons

Firms

Tonnage

Share

Cumulative

5,000-6,000

4

21,000

8.3%

 

2,500-4,999

10

31,350

12.4%

20.6%

2,000-2,499

16

34,950

13.8%

34.4%

1,500-1,999

25

44,500

17.5%

52.0%

1,000-1,499

29

38,500

15.2%

67.1%

500-999

87

66,976

26.4%

93.6%

Less than 500

41

16,342

6.4%

100.0%

Total

210

253,618

 

 

 

As we can see, the industry was not simply characterized by many firms, it was also one where the larger players – rarely other than single-plant manufacturing operations themselves, though the larger ones also maintained ‘branch houses’ (showrooms and warehouses) in major urban market and distribution centers, particularly New York and Chicago – did not possess a dominant market share. This was an industry with low barriers to entry and, if we can extrapolate early 1920s data backwards, no clear or strong economies of scale.  Companies producing less than a thousand tons of stoves a year could compete in national markets alongside those several times larger than themselves; companies producing less than 500 tons could compete in local markets, or via specialization.

 

The competitive structure of the industry depended, not just on low barriers to entry, weak and uncertain returns to scale, and many players, with none dominant.  It was reinforced by the regional dispersion of the industry.  By 1874, all of the northern and border states, as far west as Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, and Kansas, and two southern states, Virginia and Georgia, had stove foundries within them.  (There were probably many other local general foundries that turned out some stoves for nearby customers; these data are for companies specializing in stove manufacture.)  There was a considerable amount of geographical concentration – New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, the states where the industry had emerged in the 1830s, had almost two-thirds of production capacity – but this early-1870s snapshot disguises the fact that the industry, like its markets, was moving west, and that midwestern river and lake cities (particularly Detroit and St. Louis) were home to well-established, comparatively large firms, which were already major regional and even national players. 

 

There was thus no simple or static picture of geographical concentration of production, or relatively stable, isolated markets.  Stove producers sold very vigorously into national markets from at least the 1850s, and invaded one another’s home territories with impunity.  The weight of their products does not seem to have stood in the way of long-distance selling, given the efficiency of the American transportation system.  Well into the post-Civil War period, stove manufacturers depended on cheap water transportation for their non-perishable goods rather than the railroads, if possible; hence the locational advantage of Albany and Troy, at the head of tidal navigation on the Hudson, and the start of the Erie and Champlain canals, with the Delaware & Hudson to bring pig iron and coal from Pennsylvania’s mines and furnaces; hence, too, the prominence of river and lake ports among the rising Midwestern manufacturing centers.

 

 

AverageAnnualCapacity:
Tons

Stoves

Share

Cumul.

New York

75,247

743,615

29.6%

 

Pennsylvania

44,360

439,165

17.5%

47.0%

Ohio

43,480

431,512

17.2%

64.2%

Massachusetts

14,650

145,035

5.8%

70.0%

Missouri

13,731

127,335

5.1%

75.0%

Illinois

12,161

123,485

4.9%

79.9%

Rhode Island

7,255

71,825

2.9%

82.8%

Kentucky

7,050

69,795

2.8%

85.6%

West Virginia

5,475

54,203

2.2%

87.7%

Michigan

5,350

52,965

2.1%

89.8%

New Hampshire

4,750

47,025

1.9%

91.7%

Wisconsin

4,595

54,987

2.2%

93.9%

Indiana

4,550

45,195

1.8%

95.7%

Connecticut

2,250

22,275

0.9%

96.6%

New Jersey

1,850

18,315

0.7%

97.3%

Maryland

1,800

17,820

0.7%

98.0%

Virginia

1,300

12,870

0.5%

98.5%

Georgia

900

8,910

0.4%

98.9%

Iowa

900

8,910

0.4%

99.2%

Maine

725

7,178

0.3%

99.5%

Delaware

480

4,752

0.2%

99.7%

Kansas

480

4,752

0.2%

99.9%

Vermont

280

2,772

0.1%

100.0%

Total

253,618

2,514,693

 

 

 

Looking a little more closely, we can see that stove production was still concentrated, within these states, in a few major and some minor (Troy, Albany) cities.

 

 

AVAC

STOVES

%

Cumul

Troy

26,580

259,512

10.3%

 

Philadelphia

21,150

209,385

8.3%

18.6%

Albany

19,772

198,042

7.9%

26.5%

Cincinnati

18,700

185,130

7.4%

33.9%

New York

13,525

133,898

5.3%

39.2%

St Louis

13,731

127,335

5.1%

44.3%

Pittsburg

12,150

120,285

4.8%

49.1%

Boston

8,550

84,645

3.4%

52.4%

Cleveland

8,350

82,665

3.3%

55.7%

TOTAL

253,618

2,514,693

 

 

 

Troy and Albany, together with other smaller (Buffalo, Utica, Peekskill) cities along the Hudson-Mohawk corridor, remained the industry’s largest production center.  This strong position, which had been established as the industry came into being in the 1830s-1850s, was about to collapse, as their first-mover and locational advantages were eroded by changes in transportation (from waterborne to railroad), movement west in the center of gravity of the rural population, the establishment of new, larger Midwestern competitors, and, crucially, the crippling burden of high labor costs imposed by their strongly-unionized iron molders.

 

* * *


Reports on Individual Firms

 

NAME

CITY

STATE

Tonnage

STOVES

G. A. Abert.

Milwaukee

WI

650

6,435

American Stove & Hollow Ware Co.

Philadelphia

PA

1,800

17,820

American Stove Works.

Peekskill & New York

NY

1,450

14,355

Anshultz & Co.

Pittsburg

PA

1,400

13,860

Armstrong & Co.

Port Deposit

MD

900

8,910

N. Austin & Co.

Norwalk

CT

650

6,435

Backus, Button & Co.

Albany

NY

450

4,455

A. N. Bain & Co.

Charleston

IL

700

6,930

H. Bakewell & Son.

St Louis

MO

81

800

R. L. Ball.

Terre Haute

IN

500

4,950

Barstow Stove Co.

Providence

RI

2,800

27,720

Baxter, Kyle & Co.

Louisville

KY

975

9,653

J. Bell & Co.

Wheeling

WV

875

8,663

Beyer & McMaster.

Dayton

OH

500

4,950

Bissel & Co.

Pittsburg

PA

1,800

17,820

Blackwells & Burr.

New York

NY

475

4,703

Bloomington Stove Mfg. Co.

Bloomington

IL

700

6,930

Bonnett & Duffy.

Quincy

IL

1,000

9,900

Boston & Maine Foundry Co.

Boston

MA

1,800

17,820

A. Bradley & Co.

Pittsburg

PA

1,900

18,810

Brand & Corsen.

Milwaukee

WI

680

6,732

N. Brayer (Co-operative Foundry Co.).

Rochester

NY

920

9,108

Bridge, Beach & Co.

St Louis

MO

2,200

21,780

Bridgeford & Co.

Louisville

KY

1,900

18,810

Brown & Irwin.

Dayton

OH

950

9,405

Browneller, Grayville & Co.

Evansville

IN

600

5,940

Buck & Wright.

St Louis

MO

2,350

23,265

G. B. Bull.

Buffalo

NY

1,400

13,860

Burtis & Graff.

New York

NY

700

6,930

G. B. Burton.

Cleveland

OH

450

4,455

Bussey, McLeod & Co.

Troy & Chicago

NY

2,300

22,770

Carbon Stove Co.

Burlington

NJ

900

8,910

Chamberlain & Co.

Cincinnati

OH

900

8,910

Chicago Stove Works

Chicago

IL

2,000

19,800

H. & H. S. Church.

Troy

NY

900

8,910

Cleveland Co-operative Stove Co.

Cleveland

OH

1,800

17,820

Cleveland Stove Co.

Cleveland

OH

1,800

17,820

Cochran, Bozeman & Co.

McConnellsville

OH

480

4,752

Cole, Bugbee & Co.

Lebanon

NH

450

4,455

B. J. Cole & Co.

Lakeville

NH

425

4,208

Collins & Burgie.

Chicago

IL

900

12,000

Comstock Bros. & Co.

Keokuk

IA

900

8,910

Comstock Foundry Co.

Providence

RI

1,300

12,870

Continental Stove & Variety Works

Royer's Ford

PA

1,200

11,880

Co-operative Foundry Co.

Troy

NY

900

8,910

Co-operative Stove Co.

Beaver Falls

PA

200

1,980

Coulter & Proctor.

Peoria

IL

975

9,653

Cove Foundry

Providence

RI

700

6,930

Cox, Whiteman & Cox.

Philadelphia

PA

2,000

19,800

Culbertson & Fisher.

Wheeling

WV

900

8,910

Curtis Stove Mfg. Co.

St Louis

MO

900

8,910

W. C. Davis & Co.

Cincinnati

OH

1,400

13,860

Geo. Davis & Co.

Charleston

WV

600

5,940

Dayton Stove & Hollow Ware Foundry

Dayton

OH

400

3,960

De Haven & Son.

Pittsburg

PA

1,400

13,860

Defiance Stove Co.

Defiance

OH

450

4,455

O. S. Despard & Co.

Parkersburg

WV

600

5,940

Detroit Stove Works

Detroit

MI

3,000

29,700

Dighton Furnace Co.

Dighton & Boston

MA

1,450

14,355

Wm. Doyle.

Albany

NY

1,400

13,860

J. Droge & Co.

Covington

KY

950

9,405

Dutcher, Vose & Adams.

Milwaukee

WI

1,800

17,820

Economy Stove Works

Beaver Falls

PA

900

8,910

G. W. Eddy.

Troy

NY

1,900

18,810

Ely & Ramsay.

New York

NY

250

2,475

H. Everhart & Co.

Portsmouth

OH

675

6,683

Excelsior Mfg. Co. (Filley)

St Louis

MO

6,000

50,000

Excelsior Stove Works (Sheppard) [picture, 1900]

Philadelphia

PA

5,000

49,500

Excelsior Stove Works.

Quincy

IL

900

8,910

Filley & Lyman.

Troy & New York

NY

900

8,910

Fischer, LTa & Co. (?)

Louisville

KY

875

8,663

W. P. Ford & Co.

Concord

NH

600

5,940

Fuller, Warren & Co.

Troy, Cleveland, Chicago & NYC

NY

3,000

29,700

Chas. Gage & Co.

St Louis

MO

900

8,910

Norman H. Galusha.

Rochester

NY

700

6,930

Galway, Semple & Co.

Cincinnati

OH

2,400

23,760

Gardner Chilson.

Boston

MA

1,200

11,880

Garhart & Co.

Tunckhannock

PA

200

1,980

Geauga Stove Co.

Painesville

OH

675

6,683

S. W. Gibbs & Co.

Albany & New York

NY

900

8,910

G. W. Gill.

Columbus

OH

600

7,000

John A. Goewey.

Albany

NY

192

1,900

Graff, Hughes & Co.

Pittsburg

PA

1,800

17,820

J. W. Gray & Co.

Martin's Ferry

OH

400

3,960

Great Western Mfg. Co.

Leavenworth

KS

480

4,752

Greenwood Stove Co.

Cincinnati

OH

1,750

17,325

Greer & King.

Dayton

OH

1,400

13,860

Hackett Mfg. Co.

Louisville

KY

900

8,910

D. Harris.

Columbus

GA

450

4,455

Harrison Eaton.

Amherst

NH

275

2,723

J. B. Herron & Co.

Pittsburg

PA

2,000

19,800

Hicks & Wolfe.

Troy & Chicago

NY

3,500

34,650

Hinkley & Rollins.

Bangor

ME

450

4,455

Hitchcock & Carter.

Cleveland

OH

1,400

13,860

Hubbell Bros.

Buffalo

NY

900

8,910

Hunt & Miller.

Hudson

NY

900

8,910

Jewett & Root.

Buffalo & Chicago

NY

5,000

49,500

Johnson, Black & Co.

Erie

PA

1,300

12,870

Jones & Abbott.

Zanesville

OH

650

6,435

Kellenger & Co.

Massillon

OH

680

6,732

J. H. Keyser & Co.

New York

NY

650

6,435

M. G. Knox & Co.

(?) larmar

OH

400

3,960

Lehigh Stove Co.

Lehiton (sic)

PA

700

6,930

Leibrandt & McDowell Stove Co.

Philadelphia

PA

2,750

27,225

L. M. Leonard.

Taunton

MA

700

6,930

Liberty Stove Works

Philadelphia

PA

2,400

23,760

J. S. Lithgow & Co.

Louisville

KY

1,450

14,355

Littlefield Stove Mfg. Co.

Albany

NY

1,500

14,850

Low, CrowELl & Co.

Cleveland

OH

1,400

13,860

D. Lynn & Co.

Wheeling

WV

900

8,910

Magee Furnace Co.

Boston

MA

1,750

17,325

March, Sisler & Co.

Limerick Bridge

PA

475

4,703

Martin, Henderson & Co.

Hanging Rock

OH

950

9,405

Matt, Ellis & Co.

South Carver

MA

850

8,415

B. McCoy.

Albany

NY

1,350

13,365

J. B. McDavidson & Co.

Albany

NY

500

4,950

Meeres, Olhaber & Co.

Cincinnati

OH

3,800

37,620

Miami Stove Works

Cincinnati

OH

1,800

17,820

Michigan Stove Co.'s Works

Detroit

MI

1,900

18,810

Miles, Pratt & Co.

Boston

MA

2,000

19,800

J.O. Miller.

New Cumberland

WV

650

6,435

J. D. Miller, Agent.

Wyandotte

MI

450

4,455

Mitchell, Stevenson & Co.

Pittsburg

PA

1,850

18,315

Montrose, Lent & Co.

Peekskill & New York

NY

950

9,405

William N. Moore.

Joliet

IL

680

6,732

Mothershead & Morris.

Indianapolis

IN

1,500

15,000

J. L. Mott Iron Works.

New York

NY

2,700

26,730

Munsell & Thompson.

New York

NY

2,250

22,275

Myers, Rouse & Co.

Cleveland

OH

1,500

14,850

National Stove & Hollow Ware Foundry

New Albany

IN

500

4,950

Neenah Stove Works

Neenah

WI

505

5,000

A. T. Nye & Son.

Marietta

OH

450

4,455

Ohio Stove Co.

Tiffin

OH

850

8,415

Oriental & American Stove Works (Perry)

Albany

NY

5,000

49,500

Orr, Painter & Co.

Reading

PA

1,400

13,860

Palmer & Hicks.

Troy

NY

900

8,910

D. E. Paris & Co.

Troy

NY

1,450

14,355

J. S. & I. Peckham.

Utica

NY

1,800

17,820

Peckham & Kruger.

Neenah

WI

455

4,500

Perry Stove Co.

Salem

OH

680

6,732

Stuart Peterson & Co.

Philadelphia

PA

1,900

18,810

G. H. Phillips & Co.

Troy

NY

1,450

14,355

Phillipsburg Stove Works.

Phillipsburg

NJ

950

9,405

Phoenix Stove Works

Quincy

IL

2,000

19,800

H.F. Pickles

Wilmington

DE

480

4,752

Plymouth Iron Foundry Co.

Plymouth

MA

700

6,930

I. H. Poelker & Co.

Evansville

IN

500

4,950

Pomeroy, Peckover & Co.

Cincinnati

OH

1,900

18,810

Potter & Co.

Troy

NY

700

6,930

Pratt & Wentworth.

Boston

MA

1,800

17,820

John H. Quackenbush.

Troy

NY

950

9,405

Quakertown Stove Works

Philadelphia

PA

1,200

11,880

H. Ransom & Co.

Albany & Chicago

NY

2,800

27,720

Rathbone Stove Works

Albany, Detroit, & Chicago

NY

4,000

40,000

Redway & Burton.

Cincinnati

OH

2,400

23,760

Wm. Resor & Co.

Cincinnati

OH

2,350

23,265

Rhode Island Stove Works.

Pawtucket

RI

680

6,732

Richardson, Boynton & Co.

New York

NY

800

7,920

Richmond Architectural Works.

Richmond

VA

1,300

12,870

Richmond Stove Company.

Norwich

CT

700

6,930

W PF. Robertson & Co.

Beverly

OH

480

4,752

Rock Island Stove Co.

Rock Island

IL

606

6,000

John J. Roeper.

Philadelphia

PA

800

7,920

P. Ro11haus & Co.

New York

NY

600

5,940

Rome Mfg. Co.

Rome

GA

450

4,455

Delos Root & Co.

Indianapolis

IN

950

9,405

Rosenbeyer, Light & Co.

Lebanon

PA

480

4,752

Salem Stove Works

Salem

OH

680

6,732

Sampson, Perkins & Co.

Taunton

MA

450

4,455

Sanford & Shute.

Schenectady

NY

450

4,455

J. Savery's Sons.

New York

NY

1,400

13,860

Scranton Stove Mfg. Co.

Scranton

PA

505

5,000

Sharp & Son.

Steubenville

OH

450

4,455

Sheldon & Greene.

Troy

NY

280

2,772

Isaac A. Sheppard & Co.

Baltimore

MD

900

8,910

O. E. Sheridan.

Highgate

VT

280

2,772

Shinnick, Woodside & Gibbons.

Zanesville

OH

500

4,950

Shuntz & Keeley.

Philadelphia

PA

1,300

12,870

H. O. Silr man.

Providence

PA

400

3,960

Silver Lake Foundry Co.

Olneyville

RI

900

8,910

Solar Stove Works

Neenah

WI

505

5,000

Somerset Co-operative Foundry.

Somerset

MA

450

4,455

Somerset Machine Co.

Great Falls

NH

3,000

29,700

South Erie Iron Works.

Erie

PA

450

4,455

Southard, Robertson & Co.

New York

NY

1,400

13,860

James Spear & Co.

Philadelphia

PA

2,000

19,800

Spicer & Peckham.

Providence

RI

875

8,663

Stamford Foundry Co.

Stamford

CT

900

8,910

Susquehanna Iron Works

Middletown

PA

400

3,960

Sweeneys & Co.

Wheeling

WV

950

9,405

Swett, Quimby & Perry.

Troy

NY

1,900

18,810

Taplin, Rice & Co.

Akron

OH

950

9,405

Taunton Iron Works Co.

Taunton

MA

800

7,920

Tibbals, Shirk & Whitehed.

Erie & Chicago

PA

2,000

19,800

Treadwell Stove Co.

Albany

NY

480

4,752

Troy Stove Works

Troy, Chicago, & Boston

NY

1,500

15,000

Union Furnace Co.

Taunton

MA

700

6,930

Union Stove Works.

New York

NY

2,300

22,770

Union Stove anufacturing Co.

Pittston

PA

450

4,455

Vail Avenue Foundry

Troy

NY

1,000

6,000

Van Wermer & McGarvey.

Albany

NY

1,200

11,880

Victor Foundry

Troy

NY

1,200

12,000

Victor Stove Co.

Salem

OH

650

6,435

James Wager.

Troy

NY

1,850

18,315

J. E. Wall & Co.

Barnesville

OH

400

3,960

H. Wells & Bro.

Martin's Ferry

OH

680

6,732

Western Stove Mfg. Co.

St Louis

MO

1,300

12,870

Russell Wheeler.

Utica

NY

900

8,910

Thomas White.

Quincy

IL

900

8,910

W. H. Whitehead.

Chicago

IL

800

7,920

Wood, Bishop & Co.

Bangor

ME

275

2,723

Woodcock & Bros.

Bridgeport

OH

450

4,455

 

 

 

 



[1] In the original data, for some companies the tonnage figure is missing, and for others the number of stoves.  These gaps have been filled by using the average figure for stoves per ton provided by companies supplying both pieces of data.  There were not enough reports on output value and employment, and the range of results was too wide, to make the same procedure safe for gap-filling in those cases.  But ‘10 to the ton’ was the industry’s rule of thumb as well as the message in the data it provided.  The term “stoves” covers everything from small, light room heaters to enormous hotel kitchen ranges – thus a company’s product mix would obviously affect the average number of units of output per ton, in its case.