In ancient times humans gathered around the communal fire for survival and comfort. The hearth (or open fire) remained central to the great hall in medieval manors serving as a source of heat and light, as well as being used to cook meals for the household. By the 15
th century stoves of stone or ceramic were being made in many European countries. Some were used to heat rooms while others were developed to accommodate cooking needs. In 1642 the first cast-iron stove was manufactured in Lynn, MA. In approximately 1740 Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia invented a heating stove whose small size allowed it to be used in the middle of a room or inside an existing fireplace. Its design allowed for control of airflow and enabled the stove to retain and radiate heat efficiently in all directions leading to its popularity in homes across the growing nation.
From these ancient beginnings stove design would be developed and refined to create more efficient products and, eventually changing from wood burning to coal-fired, to gas and electric. Kitchen stoves began to include ovens, warming compartments and cookplates. Stoves for heating and cooking were replicated in miniature for use in dollhouses and small-scale working stoves were sold as educational children’s toys. Today these miniature appliances can lend themselves wonderfully to doll and doll house displays.
The communal fire was central to human habitation right through medieval times. An illustration from a German cookbook of 1507 shows the progression to a raised hearth used in the kitchen for cooking. On the right is the great hall at Penshurst Place, built in 1341, with its central hearth.
The Franklin stove allowed for more efficient heating and was used in homes throughout the emerging USA. (image from the Library of Congress) Many of the principles of Franklin’s design would lead to further refinements in later parlor stoves. In the 1970s Shackman Co. of New York sold wooden dollhouse furnishings in a 1″ to 1″ scale including their “Franklin stove.” Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane shop Kathy’s Dolls Galore
1811 Christoph Gottfried Rock and his brother-in-law Gottfried Johann Wilhelm Graner took over the family business in Biberach, Germany. They began making painted, lacquered tin toys in 1813. This company exhibited at The Great Exhibition of 1851 in Britain where they won 2 medals. The company continued to make miniatures until 1904. Two Rock and Graner dollhouse parlor stoves are seen here, on left is a 4.5″ tall painted, lacquered example (photo courtesy of Ruby Lane dealer Dr. Christian Gramatzki ), center is the Rock and Graner Trademark, on right is a 4.3″ tall pewter example from the 1890s (photo courtesy of Ruby Lane dealer Jean-Marc Calvo).
Numerous companies made cast iron toys including stoves. Left: The Kenton Hardware Co of Kenton Ohio was established in the 1890s producing cast iron home hardware. By 1894 they were also making cast iron toys including toy stoves, eventually becoming one of the leaders in the cast iron toy business. The company closed in the 1950s. This model is 7.5″ tall and would be perfect in a 1″ to 1′ scale dollhouse. Photo courtesy Morphy auctions. Center: Hubley Manufacturing Co. of Lancaster, Pennsylvania was founded in 1894 to make cast iron toys. By 1909 stoves were included in their line, Butler Brothers sold Hubley dollhouse stoves bearing the Eagle name as late as 1929. Hubley was sold to Gabriel Industries in 1965. Photo courtesy of Ruby Lane shop Choses Necessaires Antiques. Right: Arcade Manufacturing Co. was founded in Freeport, Illinois in 1894 making cast iron toys. Their product line included cast iron dollhouse pieces from 1925 until their closing in 1936. These were of a 1.5″ to 1′ scale (some 1″ to 1″ pieces were also made). Their rendition of a Roper range is shown here, photo courtesy of Ruby Lane shop Jackie Everett Antiques & Miniatures. Other makers of cast iron stoves include Kilgore Manufacturing Co. of Westerville, Ohio and J E Stevens of Cromwell, Connecticut.
Play stoves were obviously a popular toy as they were advertised by most wholesalers and retail catalogs of the day. Shown here left to right are pages from the 1892 Marshall Field’s catalog, the 1895 Butler Brothers catalog and the 1902 Montgomery Ward catalog.
The 1919 Sears & Roebuck catalog included toy stoves in sizes ranging from 16.5″ tall play stoves that worked to 7.5″ models suitable for use in the dollhouse.
Dowst Manufacturing of Chicago, Illinois was founded in the 1890s. They manufactured dollhouse stoves as part of their Tootsietoy line which was introduced in 1922. Tootsietoy was named in honor of the owner’s granddaughter who was called Toots. The company was purchased by Stombeck-Becker in 1961. The scale of these miniatures is .5″ to 1′ allowing these miniatures to fit not only in the cardboard houses sold by Dowst but also into a variety of other smaller scale dollhouses of the era. Two styles of Tootsietoy stoves are seen here along with an image from their 1925 catalog.
A. Schoenhut & Co. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, well known for its dolls and circus figures also made dollhouses and furnishings from 1928 to 1934. These were simple wooden pieces with impressed details and were in a .75″ to 1′ scale.
Märklin of Göppingen, Württemberg, Germany was founded in 1859 making sheet-metal pieces for doll kitchens. Though perhaps best known for their model railroads, the company made a wide range of metal toys including play stoves that really worked. Pages from the company’s 1936 catalog show both electric and alcohol sprit heated models. The 16″ tall example (including stove pipe) in the center shows the lovely details, including pressed designs, used in making these toys (photo courtesy of Ruby Lane shop Cadeaux). Märklin is still in business today.
Although the idea sends a shiver down the spine of 21 st century parents, many play stoves from the 19 th century through the 1930s could really provide cooking experiences using wood or alcohol as fuel. The pink stove shown here is a 20 th century “spirit” powered stove, the glass bottle on the side would have held alcohol. These stoves were the ancestors of Kenner’s Easy Bake Oven of the 1960s which were powered by 100-watt light bulbs.
Author – Linda Edward
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