Duchess Outlet is located in the historic Pittston Stove building (pictured, circa 1880s). Many treasures of the stove company are on display, here in our store! Want to learn more about Pittston Stove? See the article below.
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Pittston Stove Works: American Ingenuity and Legacy
1. A Local Landmark with International Significance
The Pittston Stove Works building on 75 William Street is one of the Wyoming Valley’s oldest and most storied landmarks. At one time, the structure was over four times the size that it is today and extended an entire city block from William Street on the north side to Broad Street on the south. It was within these walls that innovators of a young Pittston City produced one of the most internationally acclaimed products of the Gilded Age. This article will show how the Pittston Stove grew from the vision of a Scottish emigrant and Civil War Colonel, traveled as far as Peking China, and even contributed to the development of a hospital. The characters discussed here are major players within the story of American ingenuity.
2. William Monies: Decorated Soldier, Politician, Forty-Niner and Baker
Our story begins on what is now Foundry Street, in Pittston. In the early 1860’s, William Lister owned a foundry business, casting metal and iron products, known as Lister’s Foundry. The tiny structure had succumbed to fire and the property was sold by the sheriff in 1868 to a group of industrialists who formed a joint-stock company to conduct a larger foundry business. A charter was procured for The Union Stove and Manufacturing Company, in 1869. One of the principal organizers and subsequent president was Colonel William N. Monies.
William Monies emigrated from Scotland twenty years earlier in 1849, when he was just 22 years old. He worked as a baker and eventually opened his own bakery. However, Monies desire for adventure and profit soon left him wanting more. Around the year 1850, he collected 12 oxen, two wagons, and a small group of companions and headed west on the overland route to the golden hills of California. Unsuccessful in his attempt to strike it rich, he returned to his adopted home-town of Carbondale, Pennsylvania.
Monies resumed business as a baker until 1862, when he was one of the first in the surrounding counties to answer President Lincoln’s call to arms. He organized a small company and dashed to Harrisburg where he was appointed Captain of Company B136th Pennsylvania. Throughout his eleven month enlistment, he commanded men into battle during some of the bloodiest campaigns of the Civil War, including Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. He returned home a decorated soldier. But, finding the life of the Republic still endangered he enlisted once again, attaining the rank of Colonel after leading a fierce group that came to be known as “Monies Tigers.”
After the war, Colonel Monies returned to the Wyoming Valley and entered politics. When Lackawanna County was carved from Luzerne, he became its first Treasurer, and was elected as Scranton’s second mayor in 1869, the same year that he was instrumental in organizing the Union Stove and Manufacturing Company.
3. Union Stoves: Revolutionizing Industry
Whether it conjures up images of fresh baked cookies, bread and biscuits, holiday meals, or simmering home-made pasta sauce, everyone nowadays has some common association with stoves. For generations before us, the memory could be one of gathering around a 600 pound iron behemoth for warmth. The Pittston stove is truly an American icon. Its history is as rich as the Anthracite coal that radiated heat throughout crowded kitchens.
For Colonel Monies and his bakery partner, Lewis Pugh, stoves were instruments that required improvement. In 1868, the two associates raised a hefty cash capital of $40,000, aspiring to supplant the ungainly and cumbersome stoves of the day. They purchased the Foundry Street property where Lister’s Foundry once stood and began production on twenty different styles of coal and wood burning ranges, the most popular dubbed, The Enterprise. The venture was fruitful. Within a few years, an immense four-story brick and stone building was erected that was touted as a modern fireproof structure.
The innovative company developed many stove patterns that were adopted universally, such as the Triangular and Prismatic grates. In 1873, Samuel Smythe, an engineering pioneer hired by the company, conceived a design for the Duplex Grate, a creation that would revolutionize the stove business and become an industry standard. The design was copied by many leading manufacturers throughout the United States and Canada. The inventor, Mr. Smythe would go on to secure at least twenty-five patents in varying industries, including one in 1898 for a new sanitary cuspidor. The cuspidor, or spittoon, was made of disposable water-proof paper and deemed especially valuable for hospital and sick-room use.
By 1879, Union Stove and Manufacturing had sold over 4,000 ranges and stoves. After all, they had the stamp of approval from two bakers. But it would be under a new brand that the company would propel into international prominence, and take with it the city whose name it adorned for the next sixty-eight years.
4. Pittston Stove Works: A Game Changer
William Monies lived until 1881, when he passed away of Bright’s disease of the kidney’s. Following his death in 1882, Union Stove was renamed Pittston Stove Works. The newly branded company continued in the Monies and Pugh tradition, and some of the most notable stoves ever manufactured were introduced in the following decades.
The popular Pittston Cabinet warmed its way into countless households, while hotels and restaurants employed the Twin Pittston Range. The stoves were cast iron, uniquely crafted, easily cleaned, thoroughly ventilated and guaranteed to bake properly. They came complete with an oven-thermometer, large fire chamber and ash pan, and superior grate installation –a masterful blend of artistry and innovation. As the name suggests, the Twin Pittston Range was essentially two ovens in one. Separate fire boxes allowed for use together or separately, if desired. Many leading hotels enjoyed its versatility and functionality.
The most celebrated of the Pittston ranges was the Happy Thought Parlor Stove. It included all the amenities of the previous casts, but was constructed in double –heater form which enabled rooms above to be heated. Eventually the Happy Thought would be equipped with an attachment for gas so that in hot weather or emergencies a quick fire could be had, while coal could be used in winter.
5. International Success
By 1894, Pittston Stove Works received its third “Happy Thought” order from Peking China. The order was facilitated by Presbyterian missionary, and West Pittston resident, Courtenay Hughes Fenn. C.H. Fenn was a gifted lecturer and respected missionary. But, he would gain notoriety for compiling a widely used, basic Chinese/English pocket reference, entitled The Five Thousand Dictionary. Fenn was also nationally recognized for his photographs, manuscript and first-hand accounts of the Boxer Rebellion.
The Chinese shipment took over six months to reach its destination. When it arrived, Fenn reported that the stove design was quite a novelty to the people of that country.
By the dawn of the twentieth century, Pittston Stove Works had sold over 175,000 units. It was now an international industrial superpower. This was a direct result of the ingenuity and entrepreneurship of Monies and Pugh, Smyth, and Fenn. But, despite the company’s success, it had consistently retained strong ties to the local community.
6. Modern Company & Pillar of the Local Community
By the 1890’s Pittston was a bustling city that harbored over thirty factories and manufacturing plants. But, it was the Pittston Stove Company that took a leading role in modernization and logistics. The building was updated to include well-ventilated work rooms and state-of-the-art machinery. A first class nickel-plating plant was constructed adjacent to the main structure. It would also be one of the first in the city to install an electric elevator, replacing the donkeys that were employed to hoist the products.
To keep up with orders, electric lamps were furnished allowing production to continue into the evening. Demand became so great for Pittston’s product, that the Erie Railroad granted a spur to cross Broad Street entering the factory’s courtyard. Ranges could now be lifted directly from the completion point aboard a waiting train, rendering rhythmic transportation.
In 1892, two ranges were charitably furnished to a new hospital whose purpose would be for the benefit of miners and railroad employees. The company’s board of directors publicly urged others to contribute to the worthy institution. Pittston Hospital opened the following year.
1n 1903, sixty-two employees generously pledged a total of $177.50 for a proposed new building for the Young Men’s Christian Association.
The company presented the Scranton Poultry Association with a handsome silver cup valued at $75. It was sixteen inches in height, gold lined with three genuine boar tusk handles. The cup was offered for the best female at the Quality Poultry show held on January 21, 1910.
On Memorial Day, 1911 Pittston Stove supplied dozens of uniquely crafted iron markers to Eagle Hose Company. The markers were placed at local cemeteries, on individual graves of fireman who had served the Greater Pittston area. Emblematic of the fireman’s life, a fireplug decorated one side, while a ladder graced the other.
Educational tours of the building were regularly conducted, especially for the benefit of children.
Throughout the 1920’s operations were suspended for a time each summer, giving the entire workforce a two-week vacation. Employees of the Stove Company formed baseball and bowling teams and competed against other businesses and manufacturing plants. They were affectionately known as the “Happy Thought Boys.”
Pittston Stove Works enjoyed monumental success throughout the first half of the twentieth century. But, a cataclysmic event would extinguish the industrial giant in one single night.
7. The Fireproof Structure Succumbs to Flame, but its Legacy Ignites
Our story enters its next chapter more than eighty years after William Monies and Lewis Pugh first conceived the visionary company that employed hundreds, encouraged the triumph of young engineers, and reached international success with its leading innovations. On February 20, 1950, the building was ravaged by one of the largest fires in the history of Greater Pittston. Fueled by oil and wooden patterns, three floors of the foundry and molding section were gutted. Flames rose to nearly 100 feet and a crowd of onlookers were forced to scatter as collapsing walls showered bricks over Broad Street. The fire chief and a twelve year old boy sustained minor injuries, and three neighboring houses were ignited by sparks.
This tragedy marked the end of Pittston Stove Works. However, the remaining portion of the structure would be revitalized and new businesses and commerce would thrive within its walls.
In 1956, Samuel Caprari and his wife, Theresa purchased the historic Pittston Stove Works building and created a manufacturing company that would employ nearly 200 citizens, and become a major player in the once-thriving garment industry of the Wyoming Valley. As Pittston City emerged as a national center for clothing and manufacturing, the company grew to include a high-end discount retail outlet. The new owners carried on the Monies and Pugh passion for leadership and innovation.
Six other businesses concurrently occupied the old building, when in 1973, disaster struck again. An explosion of unknown origin shook the residential neighborhood and brought people into the streets. Fortunately, the section containing the retail outlet was salvaged and the business is still operated by the Caprari family to this day. Sam Caprari was a modern entrepreneur, whose ingenuity reached epic proportions. Theresa Caprari stood out as an inspiration in business when women in leadership were still a rarity. But that is another story.
The Pittston Stove Works once acclaimed to be a modern fire-proof structure has proven that it is not impervious to flame. But, it has demonstrated a propensity to produce products and people that embody the essence of true American entrepreneurship.
Author, Julio P. Caprari
Newspapers, Original Documents, Manuscripts, Letters, Official Records, Artifacts.
Bradsby, H. C, History of Luzerne County Pennsylvania, 1893
Hitchcock, Frederick Lyman, History of Scranton and Its People, Volume 1, 1914
Hollister, Horace, History of the Lackawanna Valley, 1885
Munsell, W. W. and Company, History of Luzerne, Lackawanna, and Wyoming Counties, Pa: With Illustrations, 1880
Wenzel, David J, Scranton's Mayors, 2006