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.
Object Name
overall: 5 in x 2 1/4 in x 1 3/4 in; 12.7 cm x 5.715 cm x 4.445 cm
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
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Domestic Furnishings
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
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Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Object Project
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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