History of the Perfection Stove Company

More than just a heater, Perfection was a Way of Life for many people.

Site Index for all things Perfection

(Above, original window sign from the 1930's, used in neighborhood Perfection stores.)

Links

Perfection 500 Owner's Manual
Perfection Wicks
Perfection 300-400 Heaters
Perfection 441X Wicks


In 1888, Henry Parsons Crowell was approached by Frank Drury to build, and market, a 'lamp stove'. The two men discussed the practicability of such an item. A patent was applied for; the Cleveland Foundry Company began building and then selling the stove. The 'Perfection Stove Company' was born.

In 1888 the Cleveland Foundry Company was formed. They manufactured a line of oil lamp stoves, along with many lamp companies such as Bradley & Hubbard and Miller. In 1894, the plant started producing portable heaters.  These heaters used the "store lamp" wick that had been standardized by Rochester in 1884. In 1901 Francis Drury approached John D. Rockefeller of Cleveland owner of Standard Oil Company. At the time Standard Oil was delivering kerosene to homes and businesses for use in kerosene lamps. Rockefeller knew that with use of the Drury Stove the demand for this kerosene would increase substantially and it did. Rockerfeller selected the company to design, develop and manufacture for it a complete line of stoves which were to be sold under the name "Perfection" to dealers by a group of 300 Standard Oil salesmen. This arrangement was continued by other oil companies. 

The Perfection product lineup was extremely important to the growth of American civilization.  By 1918, over 5,000,000 heaters were in use.  By 1922, over 3,000,000 Perfection kitchen stoves and ranges were in use in American homes!  A sizeable percentage of households used a Perfection product on a daily basis.

Perfection 500 wicks available here

 

1932 Ford Delivery Van

Before WW I, oil companies had horse drawn carts with large tanks of kerosene that would go through the larger cities of America. Fasten to the sides of these tankers were Perfection stoves and heaters that the deliverymen would sell off the cart. Following Standard Oil's breakup in 1916, the oil companies decided to concentrate on the gasoline business and gave up marketing stoves.  (After WW I, dealers had trucks which would deliver stoves, wicks, kerosene and other products within a licensed delivery area, and there were small neighborhood shops as well (See the sign at the top of this page.)  The Perfection Stove Company sold so many stoves and ranges they also had their own line of cook book!)

 

Following the merger with Cleveland Metal Products Co. in 1917, Cleveland Foundry assumed the name of Cleveland Metal Products Co. In 1925 the name was changed again to Perfection Stove Company. In the years from 1920 to 1940 the company expanded its line of kerosene burning appliances to include water heaters, space heaters, power burners, furnaces and absorption refrigerators.

<<< At left, a Perfection Hot Water Heater.  The one gallon glass jar on the right fed a 331X wick (in bottom brass burner) below the burner a special catalytic converter (middle, white), which heated a ribbed cast iron section (top) in which water was circulated.  A cap (front) covered the top to keep everything clean, and a vent on the cap allowed a small chimney to vent any fumes to the outside.


The "Cleveland Foundry" began to offer stoves, first single burner "Ivanhoe" models, then graduating to multiple burners and finally complete kitchen ranges.  These used the 331X wick.  Later, as the Perfection Stove Company, they offered hot water heaters, refrigerators, etc.  The smaller units used the 331X wick while the largest units used the 441 "Giant Superfex" wick.  (Perfection also sold their ranges to Wards for sale under the Montgomery Ward's label.  Click here for the owner's manual for a 1927 Ward's "Windsor" range.  Thanks to New England Gardener of SeedforSecurity.com for this manual.)   Perfection 331X wicks available here.

(The primary Perfection patent was their 1913 patent on a moveable flame spreader, shown in profile at left.  Because flame spreaders had existed since the Jan. 15, 1884 patent by Leonard Henkle (which was purchased by Charles Upton for his Rochester lamps), even that patent was shaky.  The primary change made by Perfection was using a wick sleeve to make changing wicks faster and easier.  They could not patent the heater or wicks because heaters made by B&H and Miller using the same wick (without the wick sleeve) had been in use since the late 1880's.  As a result, clones of the Perfection heater (and wick) were made and sold with the trade names Barler, Boss, New Process, Nesco, Tropical #015 Oil Heater, United States Stove Co. US-89A, Valor, Savoil D-81 and "Old Antique".)

During the Second World War, production of civilian products was stopped. A line of military heating equipment for operations in the Artic was developed and manufactured, and contracts were obtained for the production of other military goods such as aircraft parts and army field ranges. After the war, production of kerosene-burning appliances was resumed and augmented over the years by the addition of gas space heaters, furnaces, gas and electric ranges, gas fired infrared heating equipment, and air conditioners.


The "Golden Age" of the Perfection Stove Co. lasted from 1916 until the middle 1950's.  While FDR's rural electrification program was announced in the late 1930's, it was not until well after WW II that electric power lines were finally strung throughout rural areas.  And by the 1950's, the cost of electricity in cities had been reduced significantly.  Combined with the post-War economic boom, this spelled the end of easy, virtually automatic sales of kerosene powered stoves, ranges, hot water heaters and other appliances sold by the Perfection Stove Company.


In 1954, the company opened a plant in Georgia, taking over an existing 156,000 sq ft factory near Waynesboro. In 1955, it changed it's name to Perfection Industries, Inc. and was purchased by Hupp Corporation. n 1967 White Consolidated Industries, a major appliance manufacturer, bought Hupp Corporation and operated it until 1981 when it was sold to Bernd Schwank of Cologne, Germany. Scwank's father developed the infrared heating system and special ceramic tiles that convert gas-fuel flame to usable infrared rays. Perfection began to manufacture Schwank's products in 1955 under license of the German company. A quarter of a century later, Bernd Schwank would purchase the Waynesboro plant and Perfection would mark it's 100th anniversary.  Production of Perfection Oil Stoves and parts apparently ceased in 1981.



In 1988, The company name was changed to Perfection-Schwank, Inc. In addition to retail space heaters and wall furnaces that are fueled with either LP gas, oil, or natural gas, the company produces infrared heaters for commercial and industrial use.


During most of the production run of Perfection heaters, their only competition came from clones of their own heaters and from the Aladdin Blue Flame heaters made in England (left).  In the late 1970's, Toyotomi of Japan began to export their heaters to the US under the brand name KeroSun.  The first KeroSun heater was the Moonlighter, which was a flame spreader heater - essentially a miniaturized and restyled version of the Perfection 500 (shown at right).   By 1980 the importation of Japanese kerosene space heaters using the improved catalytic converter burner system, long-lasting fiberglass wicks and employing a safety tip-over switch combined to virtually doom sales of the almost century-old Perfection heater design, and production of Perfection flame spreader heaters ended soon thereafter.  In the 1980's there were some heaters sold by "Perfection," but they appear to have been made by Toyokuni of Japan and re-branded to sell using the Perfection name brand.

Pages on this web site:

  Complete Site Index

More information on Perfection heaters:

Perfection Heater Wick Installation
Perfection 441X Appliances
Perfection Heater Wicks
History of the Perfection Stove Company
Flame Spreader Heaters
Regular Maintenance

 

Information on Kerosene Heaters and Wicks