Williams Oil-O-Matic Thermostat

Description
The Williams Oil-O-Matic heating company of Bloomington, Illinois manufactured this thermostat during the 1930s. Walter W. Williams patented his oil burner control mechanism on March 11, 1925. The Oil-O-Matic was an attempt to make oil heating automatic “without work or worry.” The home owner could set a temperature with the thermostat and the Oil-O-Matic would parcel out the right amount of oil, atomize the oil for combustion, keep the flame alive with a fan, and increase the heat in the combustion chamber, heating the whole house. Advertisements for the Oil-O-Matic touted the way it could save its owner money—fuel costs, upkeep costs, cleaning bills, doctors’ bills, and time due to the labor of refilling a coal furnace. This dark brown plastic thermostat was used in conjunction with the Oil-O-Matic, it contains a thermometer and could be set between 55 and 85 degrees.
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
thermostat
Measurements
overall: 5 in x 2 in x 1 3/4 in; 12.7 cm x 5.08 cm x 4.445 cm
overall: 7 in x 3 in x 3 in; 17.78 cm x 7.62 cm x 7.62 cm
ID Number
2008.0011.11
accession number
2008.0011
catalog number
2008.0011.11
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Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Thermostats
Domestic Furnishings
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Exhibition
Object Project
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center

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