Recent Research: Early Stoves, Floorplans, plus research tips

I read thru my time travel story while I was sick, performing research and finishing up scenes that depended on the outcome of the research. One such scene involved the type of stove in the house where Mike and Adele live. This is very much a fish-out-of-water story, and my first impulse was to make it a coal stove. However, I knew gas was available at the turn of the century so I wondered if coal was still reasonable.

Part of this research involved an interview with my husband. As late as the 70s, his grandparents lived in a farmhouse with no appliances. The only electric thing they had was lights. If it required heat, it went on the wood-burning stove. Irons, toasters, kettles to warm up water–you name it.

But she lived in a farm in Kentucky. St. Augustine was electrified after the fire in 1914. Mike and Adele live in a rental near the center of town.The rental is an older house. It has electricity, but it also still has a gas supply for the lights installed in the walls, which are still operative.The rental is not a thoroughly modern house.

So I started researching early gas stoves. I found this adorable stove, but it would have been way too modern. So I dug around for stoves from the previous decade, and I found this awesome one on eBay. I almost wrote it into the story. The pilot light had to be lit each time–maybe they can have a close call with burning the house down!

But then, I kept encountering places where I already wove the coal stove into the story, so I ultimately decided to keep it. I also asked my husband if he thought they should have a gas or coal stove, and he said “coal” without hesitation. Since it went along with my instincts, I kept it. Some articles I found about rural electrification convinced me that the occasional house with an outdated stove is certainly plausible. So sometimes, you need to research to confirm you are right, rather than to look things up.

I did decide to be merciful and give them a hot water heater. You had to light it before you wanted hot water, and you’d better turn it off when you are finished. Because the tank could explode, yanno. So the opportunity for a mishap is still there.

Later in the week, I realized I was not being consistent with the placement of my bathroom (upstairs, or down?) and other details in the house so I decided to create a floorplan using Visio. I spent entirely too much time on it:


But hey! I was sick and it kept my mind occupied, and I have actually referred to it. Plus, I didn’t know Mike had a study until I sketched this out (I didn’t think there would be room for one). So I recommend floorplans of all your major settings.

One final bit of advice–keep links to or a log of all your research! While editing THE MAGIC MIRROR AND THE SEVENTH DWARF, I had to re-research a lot of my German language research in order to justify certain antiquated words (Spielmann, among others) to the copyeditor. If I had kept links, it would have saved a lot of time.

Got any experience with antiquated kitchen technology that you could share?

13 Thoughts to “Recent Research: Early Stoves, Floorplans, plus research tips”

  1. Anonymous

    I don’t have any experience with antiquated kitchens, but last time our electric went out, mom heated up soup on top of the wood stove we use for heat. It’s amazing how multipurpose they can be.

  2. When we used to go primitive camping, we cooked some delicious meals over an open fire, including pancakes!

  3. Chicory

    That sounds delicious. Sorry- I thought I’d signed in for my previous comment, but apparently not.

    1. Tia Nevitt

      So you were Anonymous? Mystery solved! I have reverted to my previous comment system.

      1. Chicory

        The problem isn’t your system (sorry if I put you through extra work) it’s my computer. I messed something up last time I updated a program and now I can’t get blogger to work. I have to use the family computer, which doesn’t know me.

        1. Chicory

          Oops, looks like I should have read the rest of the comments before commenting. 🙂

  4. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    I hope that coal stoves were safer than wood-burning stoves. Dad still remembers visiting his grandmother, who lived in an old house with a wood-burning stove. He found a whole pile of ashes under the stove, so he carefully cleaned them out to help his grandmother. She was not at all happy. Those ashes were there to keep the stove from setting the house on fire with all the heat it gave off. {wry look}

    I think that setting it on stone or tile does the same thing, maybe more safely. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    1. Tia Nevitt

      So unless the coal stove or woodburning stove is installed on something like brick, you have to keep some insulating ashes down there. Which is conveniently provided by the stove itself. Not something I would have thought of–thanks!

      1. Yes. Dad says that would be even more important with a coal stove, since coal burns hotter than wood. So you definitely need the ashes or the bricks. He thinks that ashes should still work, especially with a home stove. They don’t use forced air to make the fire burn even hotter like in coal smelting. {Smile}

        I’ve long thought that ashes seemed particularly convenient. Like you said, the stove produces them anyway. {Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

  5. Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    That’s odd. It looks like I can successfully leave a comment only if I leave the website blank. I guess it’s good that I was lazier this morning than I was yesterday. {Smile}

    Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

    1. Tia Nevitt

      Anne, you were not the first one to email me about problems with the JetPack comment system, so I deactivated it. Now it should work the way it used to work. I apologize for the trouble and thanks for trying so hard to post your comment!

      1. Thank you! It is frustrating to get “Error 404: page not found” whenever I tried to post and include my website. {Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

      2. It works now, even when the website line is filled in. So deactivating the upgrade fixed the problem. They need to fix their upgrade before folks use it. {SMILE}

        Oh, and thanks for fixing it so quickly. Reading a blog I can’t comment on can be frustrating. {Smile}

        Anne Elizabeth Baldwin

Comments are closed.