Webster’s Patent Model of a Hot-Air Furnace - ca 1866

This model was filed with the application to the U.S. Patent Office for Patent Number 55,564 issued to Edward W. Webster of Hartford, Connecticut on June 12, 1866. Webster’s patent was for improvements in efficiency and the ability to provide adjustable amounts of heated air to various apartments of a building. The furnace was cylindrical in shape and consisted of an inner cylinder which was surrounded by a slightly larger cylinder. The outer cylinder was intended to reduce radiation of heat inside the furnace room. Cold air entered into a compartment which was the diameter of the outer cylinder and located at the base of the furnace. A damper was provided to allow mixing of outside air and return air from the rooms being heated. This cold air was allowed to pass upward through the space between the cylinders as well as through a series of air-tubes around the circumference of the inner cylinder. These ran between the top of the cold air compartment up and through a plate near the top of the furnace (just below where the furnace tapers to a smaller volume as shown in the image of the model). The fire-pot, grate, and ash pit were located just above the cold air compartment. The combustion chamber was closed at the top by the plate through which passed the air-tubes. Thus, the air-tubes were surrounded by the hot combustion gases. The entire inner cylinder was also exposed to the combustion gas. Outside and return air was thus heated and rose upwards into the conical shaped plenum at the top of the furnace and then to the heated rooms via the ductwork. Webster claimed as new or improved in his patent a means for adding humidity to the heated air via an “evaporating dish” filled with water and located at the top of the plenum. He also claimed as new or improved a means of providing for the exhaust of the combustion chamber to be downwards via a funnel in the bottom of the furnace and then to the flue. He claimed this provided for more complete and even heating of the air-tubes and inner cylinder. A review of available advertisements and trade literature of the period did not provide any information on the commercial development of Webster’s patent. However, he was active in additional patents until at least the 1880s.
The patent model is constructed of painted tin plate and is highly detailed in terms of modeling the key elements of the patent. These include the air tubes, humidifier pot, ductwork carrying heated air to registers, return air ductwork, the several mixing dampers, the fire-pot and grate, and the down draft mechanism. In the image of the model the white colored box at the top of the ductwork is intended to represent a single air return register and two separate heat registers.
Currently not on view
Object Name
patent model, furnace, hot air
date made
ca 1866
patent date
Webster, Edward
overall: 11 1/8 in x 8 in x 9 1/2 in; 28.2575 cm x 20.32 cm x 24.13 cm
associated place
United States: Connecticut, Hartford
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
patent number
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Work and Industry: Mechanical and Civil Engineering
Patent Models
Engineering, Building, and Architecture
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Transfer from Department of the Interior

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