History speaks often of cooking with lamp stoves, and you can indeed cook over an oil lamp provided you have the right contrivance to do so, but more often what the writer is speaking of is a lampstove, which is very similar to an oil lamp, but constructed more for heat than light. It’s too bad these little gizmos still weren’t available as they’d make an ideal survival and preparedness stove. Just like our oil lamps, kerosene was used as a fuel. You could also get little stove tops to put on top of a glass lamp chimney, and place a pot on top for heating, as shown to the left here. Sears and Roebucks sold them for .35 cents a dozen! Ain’t that a bargain? Maybe some industrious prepper will glean onto the idea and resurrect it, bringing a bit of the past to life in these times. Any ways, here’s a story from 1887 which describes one woman’s use of these old, which were then new, lampstoves. If you are interested in learning more of these devices, you can go to The Lampworks for a good piece on their history.


One That Rivaled Aladdin’s.

So successful was the summer’s campaign over the fire of the small lamp-stove that Abbie planned to bring home a larger one the next year. During the winter she examined the circulars of all the rival lamp-stove manufacturers, and was utterly bewildered by their diversity and the merits of each and consequent demerits off all other kinds as described therein. In despair,—but as she afterward thought, under the direction of her guardian angel,—one day she walked into a store and proceeded to buy something entirely different from what she had planned; instead of one large stove with four wicks she selected two small ones having two wicks each. These cost two dollars and fifty cents each. An oven at one dollar and fifty cents and an extension top at seventy-five cents completed her purchase.

With the oven on one lamp and the extension top on the other nearly as much work could be done as on the large stoves costing twice as much as she had spent. This arrangement had the advantage of being easily moved from room to room and one could be used in one place, the other in another.

At wholesale rates, (not counting the cost of the barrel, which was to be returned) a barrel of best kerosene costs a trifle less than five dollars. This lasted through the summer season, about three months, providing both fuel and lights. An equal value of wood or coal would have been exhausted in about half the time.

Sometimes the two stoves were used in the wash-room, supplying all the fire needed for a small washing. They were set upon the floor, one under each end of a flat-bottomed wash boiler, thus plenty of water could be heated for the preliminary steps and later the clothes were boiled there.

Ironing day was robbed of half its terrors, for the small stoves would keep five flatirons ready, two heating on each, while the fifth was in use. Sometimes three irons would be sufficient, and then one stove would do this work while the other with the oven prepared the dinner of baked potatoes and roast meat, or a kettle of jelly or preserves could be easily watched while the ironing was in progress. Since the stove and irons could be placed on or near the table it became an easy matter to sit down to iron, as there would be no wearisome getting up and down to go to the stove. A high stool or chair is best for this work.

As these small stoves cost less than the large one Miss Fletcher had intended buying, she invested the surplus in various utensils, selected with reference to the lamp-stoves but also useful with a range. Among these was an eight quart kettle of granite ware which proved exceedingly useful.

The advantage of granite ware over iron and tin is that it heats quickly and if watched there is little danger of burning, and it gives no disagreeable taste to its contents, however long they may remain in it.

Sometimes this kettle was used for frying doughnuts or fish, either of which were easily done over the little stove though it gave hardly enough heat to deep fat for croquettes or fish-balls. A few slices of raw potato were always put in the fat while frying doughnuts to absorb the disagreeable odor and clarify the fat.

After the frying was over the fat was strained into a basin or pail to cool and the kettle was wiped with soft paper which absorbed most of the remaining grease and washing was then an easy task.

When a steamed pudding was on the dinner bill of fare the mixture was put in a small lard pail which was set on a trivet or iron ring in this kettle half filled with boiling water. Potatoes or other vegetables could be put in around the pudding pail, and a piece of fish on a plate in a steamer set on top of the kettle; thus one lamp would cook the dinner. When the vegetables had to be put in after the pudding had begun to cook, that it might not settle, they were put in one by one, that the water need not stop boiling.

A steam cooker is a great convenience for a range and is ‘still more useful with an oil stove. Of these there are many varieties and nearly all are good.

The other utensils most frequently used were the small frying-pan and double boiler mentioned before and one or two sauce-pans of different sizes.

While it requires some head work to do all the cooking for a family over these small stoves, it can be done easily and ! with much less discomfort than over the kitchen range. It is a great convenience to have an oven that can be hot for baking five minutes after the fire is lighted.

Raised bread, which in summer time too often suffers from standing over night because it must be baked by the morning fire, in this household was now mixed in the morning and baked either at noon or night.

If a specially slow oven was required for anything, but one wick was lighted. Small pans for cake and bread were found best for convenience in moving about in the small oven.

Milk toast was a favorite supper dish with the Fletcher family and at first Abbie was doubtful of the possibility of toasting bread over her lamps, but she found that it could be done satisfactorily. First the milk was scalded in a pail set in a sauce-pan of hot water, then the water was emptied, the sauce-pan wiped dry and one tablespoonful of butter for each pint of milk (or two if part water was to be used) put in. When the butter was melted and hot, one tablespoonful of flour for each cupful of liquid was added and allowed to cook in the hot butter, but not to brown. Then the milk was gradually added and the gravy beaten smooth.

One evening a small child in the family expressed a desire for some popcorn. At first it was denied as there was no fire and plenty of coals were thought essential for its preparation. But someone doubtfully said, “We might try the lamp stove.” So it was lighted and by moving the popper over the lamp precisely as if it were a bed of glowing coals the corn was successfully popped. A few trials showed just the right distance from the blaze and the steady heat produced a superior article in less time than is required for popping over coals. If corn-balls are desired one stove can be used for popping the corn while the molasses is boiling on the other.

The best work over a lamp-stove will always be done when it is full of oil; as it burns low the wicks char rapidly and the draught is not as good.

It is not advisable to let a lamp burn too long or the whole framework will become heated; then there is more danger of accidents and greater inconvenience in handling.

Occasionally carelessness in turning up the wicks, or a sudden current of air would result in a heavy coating of lamp black over the outside of kettles or the inside of the oven. The latter is rather a terrible occurrence and should be carefully guarded against. But only once or twice in the whole season did Mis; Fletcher have trouble in this direction, then the oven was cleaned with a stiff brush first and afterward with soft paper before washing.

Naturally an oven above the fire as this is gives a more thorough bake on the bottom than the top of any article. On this account earthen plates are preferable to tin for pies, and cake tins should be lined with one or more thicknesses of paper.

In the early fall, before stoves are set up or furnace fires lighted, if one of these stoves is left burning in a room for an hour it will banish the chilly atmosphere which often brings colds and sickness.

Many house plants might be saved if this were left burning near them through a cold winter night, and water pipes and vegetables in the cellar can in like manner be saved from freezing.

For camp life in a small cottage an oil-stove is much better than an ordinary stove. Where hot water is required in sudden sickness and in the thousand and one emergencies of everyday life the little lamp-stoves, if well treated, will be found to be faithful friends.


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