Pilot No. 55
This is the Pilot No. 55, just restored after about 127 years! Lookin’ pretty good, huh?
We couldn’t find anything about it, except what it said on the stove itself: “Penna Stove & Range Co., Spring City, PA. “ So, what’s it doing here in N. Carolina? And, why does it have a railroad spike for a door handle?
Ok, it is a large potbelly stove, standing 52″ high, and with a big 19″ fire pot – the type you would expect to have seen in a general store, back in the 1920′s? That’s what we thought at first glance, but, this stove has more history to it, even than that. Just a matter of finding it!
Well, here is what the Pilot looked like when we got it this past September at auction:
- Pilot – unrestored
The unusual mica windows had been painted over, and it was missing part of the vent door slider at the bottom, (which had a little daisy flower patterned into the cast iron). But, it did have all its other parts, including its bootrails.
We later found out from its original advertisement, that nickel plating for the bootrails would cost the buyer an extra 75 cents…! These days it is way different, as nickel itself has become rather expensive, and preparing the cast iron for plating is a very specialized art.
We also found, from the Historical Society of Royersford and Spring City, PA, that the maker of the Pilot was the Yeager Hunter Stove Company of Spring City. The original stove foundry was built in 1843, and after several different owner/manufacturers, was then destroyed by fire in 1856. The people of the town of Spring City got together and rebuilt the stove factory in 1860, on the same site.
The foundry changed ownership a few more times, until finally Oliver Keeley owned it completely by the Spring of 1881. Unfortuately, once again the foundry was destroyed by fire in July of the same year. So, Mr. Keeley continued operations across the river in Royersford. But, in January 1882, he was killed in a train accident at age 36. The towns of Spring City and Royersford, had both the Pennsylvania RR and the Reading RR serving their locale.
After that, the people of the town got together once again, formed the Spring City Iron Association, and rebuilt the Spring City plant that had burned, on the same site. In 1883, they built a large 4 story warehouse and foundry with a machine shop and offices. Yeager and Hunter leased the plant for the next seven years, from 1883 – 1890. In 1890, they bought it and incorporated it as Yeager & Hunter, Spring City Stove Works. Today, it is known as “The Spring City Electrical Manufacturing Company”. They make cast iron lamp posts and use electrical power for the furnaces.
Many thanks to Bill at the Spring-Ford Area Historical Society for the historical records about the Pilot. Their website is: http://springcitypa.net/sfahs/ Bill Brunner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We thought it might have been used to heat a railroad depot in Spring City. Bill sent us the picture of the Spring City railroad station:
Spring City Station
The interior pictures didn’t show a stove such as this. But, maybe someone from there would remember it.And, in its restoration, we kept the railroad spike that was made to be a handle for the main door – for a couple reasons – it is smaller than a normal railroad spike, so we think someone at the foundry made it special. And, it is a railroad town, and that is part of its history. Also, it was put on with a rivet, which had the same amount of original rust as anything else on the stove, and lastly, it fits perfectly to open and close the main door. So, it will stay, as someone intended a long while ago!
Bill also sends the original catalog page of the Pilot:
Pilot Catalog Page
It is slightly different in a few little ways, but, it is definitely the Pilot.
Great to see it, as it was originally displayed for sale.
As it says, the Pilot was originally offered for sale for $26.00. And,
75 cents extra for nickel on the bootrails…!
And, the stove also has a little extra door, just for poking the coals.
That door was completely gone, but Russ, who restores all our stoves at Ginger Creek Stoves, was able to make a new one, which functions perfectly. Yay!
Thank you to Dave Petricka, who helps us exponentially with our research on antique stoves, and also to Brian Spandl, who does all our nickel plating and whose beautifully restored stoves are represented on our site along with our own.
Well, now we have another stove mystery to solve – because recently acquired a smaller pot belly stove, also with mica windows, and made in PA, by the Keeley Stove Co. — one of the owners of the original Penna. Stove Co, which was later -Yeager Hunter… so – this one is even older. Would have to be 1881 or 1882 , as that is the only time it was called The Keeley Stove Co., – before it burned…. Here we go again!
We don’t know of a link between The Keeley Stove Co. in Spring City, PA (1882), and The Keeley Stove Co. in Columbia, PA, which we know was operating in 1909- 1910. Columbia is about 70 miles west of Spring City. If anyone knows what the connection is, please leave a comment.