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This Old Stove: 1940

July 1940. Door County, Wisconsin. "Wife of Farm Security Administration rehabilitation borrower in her kitchen." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon. View full size.

July 1940. Door County, Wisconsin. "Wife of Farm Security Administration rehabilitation borrower in her kitchen." Medium format acetate negative by John Vachon. View full size.


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No Sleeves Required

I'm guessing even if this wasn't summer, she could still get by with short sleeves once this thing got heated up.

Gas is better

I had family in the anthracite coal region of Pennsylvania. In addition to cooking, the coal stove heated water for the whole house, and was also the primary source of heat in the winter. It was lit every day of the year, and needed attention keep going. A weekend away meant the ordeal of relighting it. Then there was carrying coal up from the basement, the ashes out to the can near the street, etc. This went on into the early 1970s.

Corny Cookin'

My Great Aunt Nettie made some wonderful meals on a very similar stove on a farm just outside Sidney Ohio. She fired her stove with dried corncobs. Nothing went to waste on the farm!

Safety First

Nothing says responsible home safety practice like having a leaky can of motor oil leaning against your blazing hot cast iron stove. Extra points for the straw broom fallen over and coming very close or touching the stovepipe, and tub full of flammable rags immediately adjacent.

Decoration and maker's pride

I'm always amazed about the extra work they put into decorating items even like that stove. After all, all those leafs, scrollwork and other reliefs did not serve any other purpose that being pretty (as seen at the time).

And somebody still had to design that decoration, some workers had to model them, and they may have taken some extra metal. Not much when compared to the whole product, but somebody had to be paid for it.

And it added up with mass production. I guess those stovs were sand-molded cast iron? Imagine the engine block of your typical V8 being embellished with scrolls and leaves.

Green Bright Motor Oil

Makes for smooth eating, helps keeps you regular!


This looks like an instructional 'Do Not Do This' photo. The can of motor oil and loose newspapers next to the stove and the rags/cloths hanging above are a fire disaster waiting to happen.

A Special Gourmet Touch

French fries cooked in motor oil.

Hot Oil?

Storing a possibly leaking gallon can of motor oil next to a hot stove doesn't seem like a good idea.

Love Door County

Growing up in Chicago in the 1970s, a camping trip to Door County was a treat. The skinny "thumb" of the state that projects into Lake Michigan, Door County is/was staggeringly beautiful, and very remote. But that was 30 years ago so maybe it's all strip malls now?

To many combustibles nearby

Newspapers and a motor oil can. Coal in the washtub I imagine. Oil on the floor Oh Boy. Looks downright dangerous.

I'll bet

It was real sense of accomplishment after mastering how to cook a whole meal on a wood stove like this one. There are so many different cooking areas, dampers and vents. I can imagine each area effecting the one next to it so it would be constant adjusting of the vents.

I have trouble with an electric stove.

[Although you could burn anything you wanted in them, most of these stoves (this particular model is a Ringen "Quick Meal" range) were fired by coal. - Dave]

This Old Everything

The stove isn't the only old thing. Everything, including the house looks old and well worn. This was back in the day when things were used in perpetuum and not discarded because they looked old or out-of-fashion. Today's generation would cringe seeing how their not-too-distant ancestors lived. I'd wager to bet, though, that great Aunt Myrt lived a happier life.

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