Conquering winter has been more than a pastime in this region throughout all of its human history.
One Hoosier made it his passion.
The Cast Iron Stove
Many of us lick our lips at the thought of waking up to a farm-style breakfast made on a cast-iron kitchen stove. After the 1850s, stove manufacturers produced large models upon which a farmwife might cook bacon, eggs, ‘taters, and corn beef hash, with cinnamon rolls rising in the stove, below. The position of the burners on these stoves dictated their temperature, so an experienced cook knew the best burner for simmering the coffee, and which one would fry the eggs. There was no such thing as a thermostat. A cook learned to regulate temperature based on the look and feel of the fire (wood or coal, depending on the model).
Cast iron stoves were also used to keep rooms warm. Fireplaces were a notoriously inefficient means of heating the home. By 1860, most families were boarding up their fireplaces to install stoves upon their hearths — venting the smoke through existing chimneys. The parlor stove became popular at the height of cast iron technology. Many of these appliances featured intricate designs reflective of the Victorian era to complement a home’s formal living area. Not only were stoves of the day beautiful, they allowed one to keep the “parlor” warm for entertaining during harsh Hoosier winters.
Enter George Johann Alig (1852 – 1941), an enterprising young man who came to Indianapolis in 1871 from Switzerland. Alig had no specific skills when he arrived, but being an industrious sort, he found work right away at D. Root & Co. By 1875, Alig was one of the well-heeled incorporators of the Indianapolis Stove Company, but he sold his interest in that business to build Home Stove Company in 1893.
Business was good, and Alig was granted several patents for both cooking and heating stove design. His company eventually grew to employ over 250 men, expanding to multiple sites and selling its products in every state in the Union.
The Alig family resided at 1608 Park Avenue in a beautiful, Swiss-inspired mansion. After the Aligs moved on, the residence was used as a VVW Post. Sadly, the home was demolished and replaced by a Kroger in 1962. An HI Mailbag article about the opening of the grocery store can be read here.
Not much exists of the once vibrant manufacturer except some advertising ephemera and a few beautiful antique stoves, now in private collections. George Alig Sr. and his family are buried in Crown Hill Cemetery.
Check those barns and basements! Do you have an Indianapolis Stove Co. or Home Stove Co. appliance hidden away?
Do you have memories or family stories of sitting around such a stove to keep warm?
Share them with us in the comment box below.
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