The Wonder Heater

One of several 1943/1944 newspaper advertisements for the Caloric Conservator coal stove.

I think it appropriate that on this Memorial Day I introduce a find that I made in the basement of the Mason Lodge. What I first believed was a 55-gallon drum turned out the be a vintage 1943 coal burning stove. It had the appearance of a 55-gallon metal drum because the stove components were actually bolted inside a metal drum. I didn’t identify it as a stove until I turned it around and noticed wording stamped on the cast iron components that were sitting inside the drum. The stamped words include the stove’s brand name: Caloric Conservator. Research revealed that this little stove was manufactured during the Second World War, by all appearances quite cheaply, as a means of conserving coal during a period when practically everything was rationed in the United States in order to support the war effort.

One 1943 newspaper ad for this stove started with the following warning: “It’s going to be Cold; Coal is going to be Scarce”. This same ad then disclosed all of the wonders of this stove-in-a-drum: “Will heat as many as eight rooms because of a revolutionary new principle”; “the average home can be heated all winter with a mere 4 tons [of coal]”; “In a normal winter this Caloric will hold coal for several days without refilling”; “needs no restoking”; “Any man can set it up in a few minutes”; and, “And miracle of miracles – ashes are no problem.”

Sounds great! To get one all anyone needed was $60 in cash ($834 in today’s dollars) and a WWII stove rationing certificate.  I don’t have a stove rationing certificate, but apparently a former owner of the Neebor Lee did.  As a result, I now own a used Caloric Conservator.  Now, if I only knew what to do with it.

(My wife suggested that we actually hook it up; considering its condition, that would not be a good thing to do.)

The 1943 vintage Caloric Conservator coal stove that presumably once heated the Mason Lodge.



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