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Home Fires

Paperback
, 200 pages

10 halftones, 2 maps

ISBN:
9781421413570
March 2014
Subject:
History
$22.95

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Home Fires

How Americans Kept Warm in the Nineteenth Century

Home Fires tells the fascinating story of how changes in home heating over the nineteenth century spurred the growth of networks that helped remake American society. Sean Patrick Adams reconstructs the ways in which the "industrial hearth" appeared in American cities, the methods that entrepreneurs in home heating markets used to convince consumers that their product designs and fuel choices were superior, and how elite, middle-class, and poor Americans responded to these overtures.

Adams depicts the problem of dwindling supplies of firewood and the search for alternatives; the hazards of cutting, digging, and drilling in the name of home heating; the trouble and expense of moving materials from place to place; the rise of steam power; the growth of an industrial economy; and questions of economic efficiency, at both the individual household and the regional level. Home Fires makes it clear that debates over energy sources, energy policy, and company profit margins have been around a long time.

The challenge of staying warm in the industrializing North becomes a window into the complex world of energy transitions, economic change, and emerging consumerism. Readers will understand the struggles of urban families as they sought to adapt to the ever-changing nineteenth-century industrial landscape. This perspective allows a unique view of the development of an industrial society not just from the ground up but from the hearth up.

Sean Patrick Adams is an associate professor of history at the University of Florida and author of Old Dominion, Industrial Commonwealth: Coal, Politics, and Economy in Antebellum America, published by Johns Hopkins.

"This smartly written and well-informed book focuses on a subject that very few people think about - the history of home heating in America... The writing flows well, making it an enjoyable read. The scholarship is sound."

"Sean Patrick Adams's slim study touches lightly on this hot topic... The stove does not just heat; it allows us to see the 'connections we all have to wider networks of production, distribution, and consumption."

" Home Fires is easily the most thorough and best-grounded account of the coal-based system of heating in the nineteenth-century United States. On the matters it considers, the book is authoritative. Adams, in addition, writes engagingly, constantly illustrating his general points with striking details and vignettes gleaned from extensive research, chiefly in printed primary and secondary sources."

"Adams's Home Fires does, indeed, tell a fascinating story in the well-researched methodology of a trained and experienced historian, with a keen interest in using history to learn how to deal with the pressing issues of the future."

"Adams’s Home Fires does, indeed, tell a fascinating story in the well-researched methodology of a trained and experienced historian, with a keen interest in using history to learn how to deal with the pressing issues of the future."

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