02 May, 2010

Vintage Sunday: An Antique Portable Oven

About 20 years ago, I was driving through Stafford CT when a big galvanized box caught my eye.  It was a small cast-iron wood stove enclosed in a double-walled square structure. The outside wall was galvanized steel and the inside walls were tin.  There were three cast-iron racks spaced a foot apart on the inside, and it was obvious how a stove pipe would rise along the back inside of the box to emerge at the top.  The smaller galvanized vent at the top of the box had a damper in it before leading into the big stovepipe.

At the time, I I figured it for a camp oven (there are handles on either side of the box to facilitate lifting, but when I need to move it I always have just tipped it onto a hand truck - two guys lifting from the side have all they can do to move this beast around) but I also considered the possibility that it was a small smokehouse, hot smoker, or similar device.  Whatever it was, I liked it for it's oddity and it ended up coming home with me.

The inside tin was very rusty when I first brought this oven home.  I thought I might clean it up and use it as an outdoor oven - or convert it to a big smoker - but other projects and chores always seemed to get in the way.  Eventually, the stove took it's place right next to the barbecue/smokehouse area where it serves as a convenient and weather-tight way of storing outdoor cooking equipment when not in use - things like my big outdoor propane burner, fire starters, ash shovels, the little Weber Smoky Joe grill, and so on.  The rusty tin inner wall has, sometime in the past five years or so, started completely rusting out from the bottom up, so I reckon I'll never bother restoring it now.

And that's kind of a shame, because I've finally managed to figure out exactly what I've got here, and it's kind of cool.  From the faint traces of stenciled paint remaining on the front doors, my outdoor barbecue storage unit is a Blodgett & Sweet No. 4 Galvanized Iron Oven, made by G. S. Blodgett & Co. in Burlington VT, around 1889.

In 1848, a Vermonter by the name of Gardner Spring Blodgett invented and patented a portable galvanized oven, very much like the one you see in the photo above.  It became wildly popular around the globe ("in use throughout almost the entire civilized world," according to one source) and the company he founded - G. S. Blodgett & Co. - is still in business as Blodgett Corporation, a leading manufacturer of commercial ovens even today, after more than 150 years.


1 comment:

tree ocean said...

well that is super cool! I have worked with commercial Blodgetts in the past. Wood fired ovens are temperamental beasts at best, but I like the idea of the bottom heat and not the side one like my little woodcookstove..(turkeys tend to get burned first on one side and then the other at Thanksgiving around here..but boy, are they tasty!)