Iron Fireman T-214 Thermostat

The Iron Fireman Manufacturing Company of Portland, Oregon produced this thermostat in the late 1930s. Iron Fireman began their company by producing coal furnaces that used an automatic coal-feeding system. The thermostat could be set to a desired temperature and time, which would fire up the furnace and be automatically fed from a coal bin through a screw feed “ring drive” which delivered the coal to the bottom of the furnace. Delivering the coal below the furnace instead of dumping it on top generated more heat and used the coal more efficiently. This system allowed for coal to be used as an automatic fuel similar to gas or oil, keeping coal production economically viable in a time when it was losing market share to gas.
The ubiquity of thermostats in 21st century homes shrouds the decades of innovation, industrial design, and engineering that went into making them an everyday object in almost every home. In the early 20th century, a majority of American households still heated their homes with manually operated furnaces that required a trip down to the basement and stoking the coal fired furnace. Albert Butz’s “damper-flapper” system was patented in 1886 and allowed home owner to set the thermostat to a certain temperature which would open a damper to the furnace, increasing the fire and heating the house. Progressive innovations allowed for the thermostats to use gas lines, incorporate electricity, turn on at a set time, include heating and cooling in one mechanism, and even connect to the internet.
overall: 4 3/4 in x 2 1/4 in x 1 1/2 in; 12.065 cm x 5.715 cm x 3.81 cm
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Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Domestic Furnishings
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Object Project
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


I have an Iron Fireman Furnace in my basement. It is one of the pot belly natural gas furnaces. Once a month I go into the basement and drip oil into the oilers for the blower. NICOR comes once a year to clean it and change the thermocouple. Every year they tell me how inefficient it is. It works, Its quiet, It is reliable. Please don't slam the door on your way out.
We had a home in Salem, Oregon, built in 1922, that had an Iron Fireman coal furnace. The system had not been used in years when I bought the home in 1983. The firebox was cast iron, cast in about seven pieces, bolted together, and the joints covered with asbestos. Galvanized sheet metal surrounded the firebox. It was a forced air system, no boiler. Sorry, no photos. Thermostat was similar to the one pictured, but only one adjustment.

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