Coming in May: From Fireplace to Cookstove

From Fireplace to Cookstove in Rural New England


Join us Wednesday, May 22, at 6:30pm as Acton-Shapleigh Historical Society’s own David Mann explains how the cast iron stove replaced the fireplace, altered New England architecture, and became America’s first mass-marketed consumer durable.

Of the many 19th century technologies that transformed life for rural New Englanders (hand pumps, manufactured cloth, the sewing machine), arguably, none was more significant than the cast-iron stove. Yet, New Englanders were slow to adopt the new technology as they were stubbornly attached to the fireplace and open-hearth cooking. A major life-event for a generation of Maine farmers was the purchase of a cookstove (1820 – 1850).

By 1850, 90% of Maine homes had a stove but kitchens still required a separate set kettle for heating water and a brick bake oven. However, the latter two technologies became obsolete by the 1880’s when stoves came equipped with a water heater and a reliable oven.

In the latter half of the 19th century, competition between stove designers and manufacturers became so intense that new models were introduced every year. Many of these yearly changes were superficial and by the early 20th century stove designs moved away from the rococo styles of the 1880’s and 90’s to the more streamlined and practical designs of the early 20th century.

This program is at Acton-Shapleigh Historical Society headquarters at 122 Emery Mills Road (Rt. 109) in Shapleigh. It is free and open to the public. There is also ample off-street parking. For more information, please contact Tracey Levasseur at (207) 206-5947 or