Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Hayes-Custer Stove Company of Bloomington, Illinois

A couple weeks ago I learned about a stove manufacturing company that I'd never heard of before.  This doesn't happen to me very often anymore, and it certainly piques my interest when it does.

In today's world, you could walk into an appliance store in Maine, Florida, Iowa, California, or Washington and pretty much count on the fact that the brands of ranges represented in each area of the country will all be the same.  You will see General Electric, Whirlpool, Maytag, Kenmore, LG, and Frigidaire pretty much everywhere.  However, in earlier days, the brands of stoves available for retail sale varied by the different geographic areas of the country.

Of course, mail order houses such as Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward, as well as Kalamazoo, whose motto was "A Kalamazoo - Direct to You," shipped their stoves all over the nation.  The Glenwoods, Clarions, and Crawfords that are so popular in the New England states only migrated west in later years and are still almost unheard of here.

Woodburning cookstoves found most frequently in our area of the country include Majestic, Copper Clad, Monarch, Riverside, and Home Comfort.  The Majestic Manufacturing Company was located in St. Louis, Missouri, which was also home to the Wrought Iron Range Company, who made Home Comfort cookstoves.  Riverside stoves were made by the Rock Island Stove Company of Rock Island, Illinois.

After much research, I would like someone smarter than I to clarify whether the Copper Clad and Monarch cookstoves were made by the same company.  I know that Monarch ranges were made by the Malleable Iron Range Company in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.  Further, from what I have been able to learn, the Copper Clad ranges were made by the Malleable Range Company, but some sources indicate that the two companies were the same.  Can anyone tell me whether that is true?  The stoves seem radically different to me, so I'm having difficulty believing that the two stove manufacturers were really the same.

At any rate, I had never heard of the Hayes-Custer Stove Company of Bloomington, Illinois, until finding their name on the firebox door of the cookstove that I had gone to look at from a Craigslist ad.  This prompted me to do a little research.

I have been unable to determine exactly when the Hayes-Custer Stove Company came into being.  It was in business for sure in 1928 when a March 6th issue of The Pantograph spoke about the company's assets being raised from $100,000 to $150,000.  At that time the president of the company was John W. Hayes, the vice-president was Charles Custer, and the Hayes family rounded out the company's officers with Paul W. Hayes and Louis A. Hayes serving as secretary and treasurer respectively.

Unfortunately, the company did not make it through the Great Depression, closing its doors in 1937 and being auctioned off in 1940.

Hunting for images of the Hayes-Custer Stove Company yielded the following photographs.

Men working on assembling heating stoves at the Hayes-Custer
Stove Company in 1933.  Photo courtesy of the McClean County
Museum of History.

This photograph is also from the McLean County Museum's Facebook page.  You can visit it here.  This photograph is dated February 1936.

This picture got me to thinking about another wood cookstove that I have written about on this blog.  It was one we saw in Seymour, Iowa, while on vacation near there on a visit to my sister-in-law.  At the time I wrote that post, I said that I had looked this stove all over for a brand name.  I'd say that mystery is solved!

The Hayes-Custer cookstove with a high oven that I saw in
Seymour, Iowa.
I am still completely fascinated by this cookstove design with the high oven.  I hope someday I will get the chance to try cooking on one of them.  I wonder if this stove is still in existence somewhere.  For now, I'm extremely glad to have figured out the brand name for the stove above and am looking forward to getting the Hayes-Custer that I now have up and running.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Latest Cookstove Acquisition: A Hayes-Custer

Okay.  I spend WAY too much time trolling about eBay and Craigslist looking at the wood/coal cookstoves that are for sale on those sites.  But I learn a lot, and sometimes I run across some real finds.

The woodburning range you see in the pictures below was advertised on Craigslist.  Very little was said in the description except that it needed to be moved ASAP as the owners were remodeling their basement, and the contact telephone number shared our area code, so I thought there was a chance that it was fairly near us.

I contacted the person who placed the ad.  The stove was fairly near, so I scheduled a time to go and investigate.

The house was built in the 1950s, and the stove has probably been in the basement from the beginning.  Kevin, the owner, lived in the house during part of his youth, and he remembered a particularly bad winter storm that put their electricity out for a period of about a week.  During that time, the stove was put back into service, but even though it was connected to a chimney until just before the basement remodel began, it had not been used since then.  

Since the stove had spent all of this time in a dry basement, it was in remarkable shape.  After a thorough examination, the most major problem I could find was that the lid-lifter notch in the "T" over the firebox had rusted, burned, or worn through; and one of the cast iron tabs which cover the holes where water pipes would pass through the wall of the firebox was broken, but everything else was in great shape.

The other picture of the Hayes-Custer cookstove  from the Craigslist ad.

You can see from the picture above, that there is no brand identification on the front of the stove, and even the oven thermometer merely indicated that the stove was American.  Furthermore, the design of the stove didn't immediately give away its brand either.  Kalamazoo ranges, for example, never had a brand insignia visible on the front of the stove either, but their familiar appearance gave away their identity at first glance.  It wasn't until I opened the left door that I saw on the interior cast iron firebox door the words "Hayes-Custer, Bloomington."  I'd never heard of the Hayes-Custer Stove Company, and it is rare that I run across a brand of stove that I'm unfamiliar with!  More on the Hayes-Custer Company will be coming in a later post.

Kevin said that he'd had other people who were interested in the stove, but no one wanted to tackle the project of getting the stove up out of the basement.

"That's why I'm giving it away," he added.

Wow!  The price was right!

I wasn't too excited about getting it removed from the basement either, but my dad and I had hauled a Kenmore cookstove out of a neighbor's basement when I was in high school, so I had an idea about how it could be done.  The price tag caused me to be suddenly motivated, too!

I knew that my family members wouldn't be too excited about helping to haul a stove out of a basement, but my advantage is that I know some really strong high school boys, and the stove was located much closer to them than my relatives.  I told Kevin that I would see what I could do about lining up a removal crew and get back to him.

Well, Kevin was anxious to get the stove out of his basement.  He made sure that the other most interested party was not coming for the stove, and then he called me back on the same day that I had convinced a junior boy to round up some of his friends to help me out.

On Monday of this week, I returned to Kevin's and disassembled the stove.  Everything came apart easily except the bolts that held the two shelf brackets to the stovetop.  In my experience, these bolts are often problematic for three reasons: a) access to them is often difficult because you can't get a straight shot at them from the top, b) food splatters have often landed on them, making them sticky, and c) they have been exposed to a lot of expansion and contraction due to temperature fluctuation.  We ended up having to sacrifice those two bolts, which had to be done quite carefully so as not to damage anything else.

Then, Tuesday evening the high school boys came, and we carried the stove up the stairs, out of the house, and into the pickup.  The main body of the stove was heavy, but not too bad really, and everything traveled very easily.

The disassembled stove in the back of the pickup in our driveway.

So now the question Nancy asks is what I will do with this stove.  It's a good question, too.

This stove is in better condition than the green and cream Riverside Bakewell out in our summer kitchen, especially since its oven door hinge broke.

The broken oven hinge on the Riverside Bakewell.

Thus, at this moment, I'm considering selling the Riverside Bakewell and using this stove in its place.  The only hang-up is that the Riverside has a warming oven, and the Hayes-Custer only has a high shelf.  Other than that, the two stoves are very similar.  Oven size, firebox size, and reservoir capacity are nearly identical.  Both stovetops have just two eyes over the firebox, but one thing that I consider an advantage about the Hayes-Custer is that the rest of the stovetop consists of just one French plate to the right of the firebox rather than two like the Riverside has.  This is an advantage because the joint between the two plates on the Riverside is not perfectly even, causing larger kettles to not heat as evenly as they might.

Even so, the warming oven is a big plus.

What do any of you readers think you'd do?  Anyone interested in purchasing a green and cream Riverside Bakewell?