Keeping Warm

Some winter seasons were colder than others, no matter where your ancestors may have lived. So with without the central air and heat of today, how did your ancestors manage to stay warm especially in the 1800s and early 1900s?

Designs for many homes had the ceiling lower in the kitchen area where there was always a fire going. This kept the warm air down where people would be. Where ever a fireplace was located, the fire there was always kept going. The wood or coals might have a cover, a metal device known as a curfew to keep the fire going. So a good functional fireplace was very necessary.

With more modern items there were later portable heating devices. These could be as simple as a portable small stove that could be used in other rooms. Some were made of ceramic materials. Generally, those more wealthy families had portable stoves.

Our ancestors’ beds were much high up from the floor then we think today. This was because cold drafts were close to the floor and the warmer air towards the ceiling. In the bed, bed warmers were used to warm the sheets and bed. There were made of metal and held hot coals that would be placed under the sheets to warm the bed. Using bed curtains that enclosed the bed and the sleeper helped trap heat around the bed and the person. Near the beds were also chamber pots or bedpans, so on a cold night one did not have to go outside to the privy or outhouse.

By the mid to late 1800s, cast iron stoves became affordable and very useful. Such a stove kept food cooked and the family warm. The stove could also be moved to another room.

Wearing warm clothes was needed, including stockings, hats, sleeping caps, gloves, shawls, jackets along with men having long johns and women with long shirts and petticoats under their dresses. There would be many layers of clothing by men and women.

If a family could afford additional candles or lamp oil, they would burn those items to provide some additional warmth at night.

Having warm hot meals was a help also. This included soups and stews.

So some of these early methods of keeping warm are still used and others were strictly for our ancestors.

Photos: Fireplace; bed warmer pan; portable stove; warm clothing and candles.

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