The method of using wood for heating homes and offices is almost as old as
dirt. Dating back to the 1700s, Abraham Darby used methods of smelting
where iron was discovered to provide a cost efficient way of producing heat.
However, it was during the Victorian era when fireplaces started gaining
popularity. During that time, people felt that in addition to the
production of heat, fireplaces added a touch of class, providing homes a
cozy, quaint environment. Over the years, as the style of housing changed,
so did the style of fireplaces along with the technology. Fireplaces
became more sophisticated, providing sand casting techniques, thus
providing an opportunity for manufacturers to create even better designs.
Even with all the changes and advancements, the basic fireplace technology
remains the same, consisting of two elements - the surround and the insert.
The surround portions of the fireplace is the mantle and sides and is
usually constructed of wood, marble, granite, and sometimes iron. The
insert is the portion of the fireplace where the fire is burned. This part
is constructed of cast iron and often decorated with gorgeous tile of
various color or design.
Benjamin Franklin also played an important role in the invention of
fireplaces. He discovered that fireplaces lost a tremendous amount of
heat through the wall. This inspired him to create the first freestanding
firebox, which became to be known as the Franklin stove. Trying to find
ways to best heat a room, he placed the first stove in the center of the
room. The result was that the entire room was heated thoroughly and
evenly. His other discovery was that by using heavy cast iron, even when
the flames went out, the heat continued being produced.
Even with all his great discoveries, Benjamin Franklin's first attempt had
a flaw. Because smoke was vented from the bottom, air could not be drawn
in. A man living in Philadelphia by the name of David Rittenhouse decided
to use Benjamin's creation but now add an L-shaped stovepipe as a way of
moving the air through the fire and then vent the smoke out through a
chimney. This addition proved quite successful and by the late 1700s,
these freestanding stoves were being used throughout the country. Although
David Rittenhouse made the stove a success, the name Franklin stove is what