… I should ask the favor of you to select for me in Philadelphia 3. of the handsomest stoves, of the kind called Open stoves, or Rittenhouse stoves, which are in fact nothing more than the Franklin stove … the Rittenhouse stove is the one commonly used in Philadelphia … the taste is left to yourself … debit me with them in their account.
To Benjamin Henry Latrobe, November 3, 1804
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
All leaders have to stay warm!
Latrobe (1764-1820), America’s first professional working architect, emigrated from England in 1796. He quickly gained a following and was appointed by President Jefferson as Surveyor of Public Buildings in 1803. He also served as superintendent for the construction of the U.S. Capitol.
Jefferson wanted to improve the efficiency of the fireplaces at Monticello. Well-familiar with Latrobe and his design sense, he asked the architect to secure for him “3. of the handsomest stoves” in Philadelphia. They were to be Rittenhouse stoves, an improved design of the one created decades before by Benjamin Franklin. Both stoves brought in cold air for combustion, returned heated air to the room and slowed the exhaust of fumes and smoke.
Rittenhouse (1732-1796), noted mathematician, inventor, and astronomer, was the second president of the American Philosophical Society, the nation’s premier intellectual organization of scientists. Benjamin Franklin was one of APS’s founders in 1743, the year of Jefferson’s birth, and its first president. The third APS president, following Rittenhouse’s death, was Thomas Jefferson, an office he would hold and chererish for 20 years.
True to form, when Jefferson wanted something, he just bought it. He did not inquire the price of the three stoves, only directing the bill be sent to his agent.