Cast Iron Cook Stoves

Advances in the manufacture of cast iron made possible the invention of the cook stove in 1820, women’s first labor saving device. Small by later standards, this stove put the cooking surface at waist height for the first time, eliminating the need to stoop and bend and pivot while lifting and moving heavy pots inside an open hearth…and the need to always hold her skirts back from the open flames. One popular model from 1820 – 1860 was the step-top design, looking somewhat like a tiered cake on legs. Some California-bound pioneers loaded these in their covered wagons, only to abandon them along the trail when their weight proved exhausting to draft animals. After the 1848 gold discovery and subsequent rush for riches, these stoves were shipped around Cape Horn, arriving in San Francisco as early as December 1849. Quite likely they were very expensive, as was everything else imported from “the states” that year.

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