Origins of ordinary things: Gas cooker

Before the advent of gas, cooking stoves relied on solid fuels such as coal or wood. The first gas stove, according to Wikipedia, an encyclopaedia, was developed by Zachäus Winzler in the 1820s. This new cooking technology had the advantage of being easily adjustable and could be turned off when not in use. 

The gas stove, however, along with other attempts remained isolated experiments. James Sharp patented a gas stove in Northampton, England in 1826 and opened a gas stove factory in 1836. His invention was marketed by the firm ‘Smith & Philips’ from 1828. An important figure in the early acceptance of this new technology was Alexis Soyer, the renowned chef at the Reform Club in London. From 1841, he converted his kitchen to consume piped gas, arguing that gas was cheaper overall because the supply could be turned off when the stove was not in use.

Several gas cookers, according to the National Gas Museum, were displayed at the Great Exhibition of 1851, after which they became more popular, but their use was mainly restricted to wealthier households, until some gas companies began to offer appliances such as cookers to rent, paid for with the gas via pre-payment (slot) metres.

Early gas stoves were rather unwieldy, but soon, the oven was integrated into the base and the size was reduced to fit in better with the rest of the kitchen furniture. In the 1910s, producers started to enamel their gas stoves for easier cleaning.

The popularity of gas cookers received a major boost when the oven thermostat was invented in 1923. According to Old House Online, an American magazine that specialises in information about the restoration of old houses, by the 1910s, the design of a gas stove had arrived at the iconic look of the cabinet range—a burner top at left or right of a baking oven with a broiler below. Ranges were usually constructed of sheet metal and cast iron with a baked enamel finish. By the end of the decade, the built-in look had arrived, and gas and electric ranges alike suddenly stopped trying to masquerade as freestanding cabinets.

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