Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Learn All About Antique Pot Belly Stoves


Antique and Vintage Potbelly Stoves

Stoveblack Richardson and a classic potbelly stove
Hmmm. Can’t you just smell the aroma as the coffee pot simmers on the cook-lid on top of the antique potbelly stove?

I’m ready to pull up a chair and pour myself a cup. It’s time to rest for a spell and reminisce.

Would you like to join me as I travel back in time to visit one of the most beloved and recognizable heirlooms in the country - the vintage potbelly stove?


This article contains the following sections:

1. Good Time Stove Co.
Potbelly Inventory

2. Potbelly points
3. Potbelly Stoves in Setting
General Stores
School Houses
Trains and Stations
Frontier Establishments
American Art
Hollywood Movies
4. Happy Customers

5. Old Stove Catalogs

6. Vintage Trade Cards

7. Factory information

8. Founder information

9. General Stores


The Skinny On The Portly

All of our potbelly stoves are antique, vintage, functional pieces of art.

Antique potbelly stoves are made entirely from solid cast iron.

Their shape of a potbelly stove resembles the midriff of an aging fellow, gaining the stove, which was once referred to as a Cannon Stove, the affectionate name, potbelly.

Potbelly stoves are tremendous heaters. These vintage stoves burn both wood or coal and can be converted to gas.

Potbelly stoves come in three sizes:LARGE, MEDIUM and SMALL with burn times ranging from 6 to 8 hours for the small, up to 8 to 14 hours in a large potbelly stove.

A LARGE potbelly stove could comfortably warm a dance hall in Tombstone from dusk til dawn.

A MEDIUM stove could keep the conversation cozy in a general store starting with lunch and going through dinner.

A SMALL potbelly stove kept a station agent snugly in his railroad office for an entire work day, plus overtime.

Many potbelly stoves feature cooktops for simmering coffee, scrambling eggs, or making chili.
The ring around the middle of a potbelly stove was designed to prevent folks from bumping into the bulge of the stove and burning themselves.
Other features found on potbelly stoves include: swing feed doors, large ash pits, cast iron foot rails, and draft controls.
classic potbelly stove

An antique potbelly stove in an “old west” hotel

Although the function of a potbelly stove has made it a popular heater, it is the aesthetics that have made the stove legendary.

Potbelly stoves embody history and tradition. They are superbly crafted American artifacts that warm both the body and the spirit.

A potbelly stove beckons you to come and warm yourself by it. To share stories and a hot cup of coffee. To listen for the whistle of the train, or a boisterous tune on the upright piano in the saloon.


Potbelly stoves have been serving as centerpieces for America’s social activities for well over a hundred years.

The portly stove has warmed many historic places including: general stores, schoolhouses, railroad stations, frontier establishments and have been featured in paintings, Americana art and Hollywood westerns.


“Come and sit for a spell,” the potbelly stove beckoned. And folks did. Potbelly stoves were the hearth and heart of not only the general store, but the community as well.

Sitting by the potbelly stove, sharing a cup of coffee and the news and gossip of the town was how information was gathered and shared throughout the community.

Politics, gossip, the weather. Standard conversational topics shared and debated about, all around the potbelly stove in the general store. Imagine the stories these welcome warmers could share.

Walking to school, sometimes for miles, like our grandfolks often told us, could be a tad chilly and wintery

Thankfully, the youngin’s had a potbelly stove waiting in the schoolhouse ready to keep them warm during their studies.

As they wrote about the three R’s on their small chalkboards, the good ole potbelly stove blanketed the room with warmth.

At lunchtime, the teacher would often cook soups and stews on the potbelly stove providing nourishing lunches for the students. After lunch, schoolboys would split wood for the stove.

If the teacher was more charm and less “marm” the boys would give an extra hearty effort in their wood duties.


Travelers found warmth and comfort sitting by the potbelly stove waiting for a train to arrive to take them to new and exciting places or for a loved one to return home. Potbelly stoves warmed railroad stations, depots, and station agent offices all around the country.

Relaxing at the end of the day by the potbelly stove.


Vintage potbelly stove in watch and clock maker’s shop
Antique potbelly stove in an old west Newspaper Office

Daydreaming in a bookstore by a warm potbelly stove
Antique potbelly stove warming a vintage mercantile store


Original Frank and Johnnie drawing by Thomas Benton

Frankie and Johnnie Were Sweethearts
“Frankie went to the Dance Hall, she rang the Dance Hall bell,
She said, “Clear out, you people, I’m going to blow this man to hell: He was my man - and he done me wrong.”

“Frankie shot Johnnie the first time, Frankie shot Johnnie twice; Frankie shot Johnnie the third time, and she took that gambler’s life. He was her man - but he done her wrong.”

Line drawing by D. Marga of a general store
A vintage potbelly stove keeping a calendar girl cozy

Grooving by a potbelly stove in a custom-made hippy van, Hot Rod Magazine 1974


Norman Rockwell Post cover

Norman Rockwell is about as American as apple pie, baseball, Sears Roebuck and a potbelly stove.

He illustrated numerous scenes that featured a potbelly stove, with many of those illustrations gracing the cover of the Saturday Evening Post.

Whether it was a couple registering to get married or a grandpa playing checkers with his grandson, Norman Rockwell knew that the potbelly stove was an important and sentimental part of American life.
Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell
To learn more about Norman Rockwell, please visit the Norman Rockwell Museum, www.nrm.org


Potbelly stoves have often appeared in Hollywood movies warming up jailhouses, saloons or simmering Tom Selleck’s coffee in a Louis L’Amour remake, or his own personal bunkhouse.

In this scene, from the John Ford classic, Cheyenne Autumn, Richard Widmark whispers sweet nothings to Carrorl Baker in her classroom.

In the 1968 movie Bandolero, starring Jimmy Stewart, Dean Martin, and Raquel Welch, Raquel “plows beautifully backwards into a potbelly stove.” It’s a classic scene where the potbelly stove often gets credit in the movie reviews.

Below is a scene from the 1936 20th Century Fox film,
“The Country Doctor”.
“Wash your own clothes, doc, the water’s on the potbelly stove.”


Satisfied Good Time Stove Co. customers proudly displaying their antique potbelly stove

Our classic potbelly stove keeps this lighthouse warm


Potbelly stoves were featured in various stove manufacturer’s catalogs as well as other consumer catalogs including Montgomery Ward, Henry Clark’s General Supply Catalog, Glenwood, Crawford and by far the most popular, the Sears and Roebuck catalog.
Sears catalog cover

The catalogs provided images of the potbelly stoves and descriptions that highlighted the function, operation and aesthetics of the stove.


“Potbelly stoves are ruggedly built heating stoves with a solid cast iron body that is closely fitted, braced and bolted making the stove incredibly strong, sturdy, reliable and durable.”

The anatomy of the potbelly stove
Floy Wellspring Co. catalog


Trade cards were used like business cards in selling products. Enchanting, romantic, humorous, nostalgic and pleasing images appeared on the front of the card with sales and contact information found on the flip side.
Victorian trade card
Trade card for local stove store


Potbelly stoves were manufactured by a wide variety of companies including Glenwood, Crawford, Jewel, Kalamazoo, Red Cross, Winter, Acme and Sears.
Old B & M station
The Boston and Maine Railroad Company crafted their own potbelly stoves and used them to warm their railroad stations, train depots, box cars and even in the caboose.
The ACME Stove Company was one of the premiere manufacturers of potbelly stoves. They sold their stoves in the Sears Roebuck mail order catalogs.

The Sears Roebuck Company sold a variety of potbelly stoves in their catalogs, which they referred to as Cannon Stoves.

In addition to the regular Sears Roebuck catalogs that sold everything from clothes to farm equipment, Sears Roebuck distributed catalogs dedicated entirely to heating stoves and kitchen ranges.

Sears catalog cover

Sears also sold their own stoves, the Wehrle stoves, as well as the Acme stoves.

Sears Roebuck purchased, what they claimed to be, “the largest stove factory in the world,” in Newark, Ohio.

The mammoth stove foundry was operated by the Wehrle brothers, William and August. The Wehrle brothers had an exemplary reputation for crafting quality heating stoves and ranges.

Sears and Roebuck firmly believed that every home in the country should have a heating stove and kitchen range and they were just the company to accomplish it.

Sears, which in the early 1900’s was strictly a mail order company, distributed their stove catalogs to every community in the country that had access to the postal system or railroad.

They had a distribution of product system unrivaled by any other that could get the stoves to the consumer in a timely fashion.

In addition to the Wehrle stoves, the Sears and Roebuck Company highlighted a couple of potbelly stoves in their catalogs, the Acme Cannon Heating Stove and the Acme Giant.

Both potbelly stoves lived up to their name, Acme, which means “the peak or top of something.”

Acme was a generic brand name used for a wide variety of products back in the first half of the 1900’s. The word was used like a proper name much like “American” and “National” are used today.

© Warner Bros.
Perhaps the most famous consumer of Acme products was Wile E. Coyote. He tirelessly purchased Acme products to use in his deadly pursuit of the Road Runner. Maybe if he had purchased an Acme Cannon Heating Stove his goals would have been realized.


Richard Warren Sears was the founder of the Sears Roebuck Company and served as president from 1886 to 1908.
Richard Warren Sears

Born in Stewartville, Minnesota in 1863, Richard Warren Sears’ first job was as a station agent for the railroad in North Redwood, Minnesota.

His station agent’s office was kept cozy and warm on bitter cold Minnesota days by a potbelly stove.

Vintage potbelly stove in Richard W. Sears’ railroad office
At the tender age of 26, in the late 1800’s, Richard Sears became the president of the Sears Roebuck company, a company that he nurtured into the most popular and enduring mail order catalog company in the history of the country.

As president, Sears made it his mission to provide the American public with just about every product they could possibly need or want.

He turned his focus on stoves, knowing full well, that every home and every business in the growing nation needed a stove to keep warm and cook food.

He created catalogs dedicated to selling heating stoves and kitchen ranges, astutely purchased his own stove manufacturing foundry and proudly marketed his stoves…

including the beloved potbelly stove which had once kept him warm during the blustery Minnesota winters when he was a station agent.

Thank you for traveling back in time with us and visiting the potbelly stove – a true American icon.
We hope you’ll continue to explore our site and get to know the diverse, vintage and exquisitely crafted stoves we have in our collection.
Like the potbelly stoves, they’re all gems, functional pieces of art that will warm and enhance any room.

My beautiful daughter, Sara, the stove princess, will be delighted to assist you in any way.

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