The Father of the Fireplace Insert – Ben Franklin
Benjamin Franklin, one of our nation’s Founding Fathers, was concerned because fireplaces during his day and time were very dangerous and frequently caused house fires and fatalities. He also knew that something needed to be done to ease the wood shortage that was also creating challenges at that time, and he took action.
Born on January 17, 1706, Benjamin Franklin was the tenth son of Josiah Franklin, a soap maker, and Abiah Folger, Josiah’s second wife. Josiah was the father of 17 children. From his childhood, Benjamin made significant contributions to society. In 1742, Benjamin designed a freestanding cast-iron fireplace that was inserted into an existing fireplace; and the invention addressed each of his concerns, though the design needed much improvement. Ben’s invention, which saved countless lives, was originally called the Pennsylvania Fireplace but later became known as the Franklin Stove.
As designed, smoke came out from the bottom of the new invention. Because smoke rises, the stove couldn’t work properly. In spite of the major flaw, it was a safer and more efficient method of heating homes than what existed previously. The benefits of the stove were widely recognized, in spite of the flaws, and Franklin was offered a patent so that he could solely produce them. Franklin declined because he wanted his invention to serve others, which he considered better than any financial reward.
Part of Benjamin’s design included a u-shaped duct between the fireplace and the chimney. He referred to it as an “aerial syphon;” its purpose was to extract as much heat as possible from the combustion gases. The earliest known inverted siphon from which Franklin got this inspiration was invented by Franz Kessler in 1618. Both men used a baffle, which forced the fumes to descend behind it prior to exiting through the chimney.
Benjamin’s use of cast iron for the Franklin Stove was inspired by Frenchman Jean Desaguiliers. He read about Desaguliers’ experiments related to using cast iron instead of masonry in a fireplace. Among the benefits he discovered was that the metal provided an enhanced yet comfortable heat.
The Franklin Stove that we are all most familiar with is a culmination of improvements made on Benjamin’s original design. As the stove evolved, even at the hands of other inventors, the name “Franklin Stove” endured; and people across the world still use these stoves today.
While the stoves are currently in use, over the past two centuries many more remarkable advancements have been made so that fireplaces, wood burning stoves, and fireplace inserts are more efficient than ever. In fact, modern efficiency ratings can hardly be compared to the stoves commonly used in households as recently as 40 years ago.
Benjamin Franklin epitomized what it is to be a truly astounding individual; and the invention of the Franklin Stove is just one of his many, many outstanding achievements that changed the world for the better. Of all his astounding accomplishments and inventions, we can’t help but be partial to his invention of the Franklin Stove, used in American homes for over 250 years and counting.
Northeastern Chimney, Inc.
formerly Nayaug Chimney Services, LLC
37 Cody Street, West Hartford, CT 06110