Mayville Cast Iron Parlor Stove

The parlor stove that established an iron ore industry for Mayville

On special loan from the Wisconsin State Historical Society since May 2012

Few people would believe that a parlor stove could create the desire to establish an iron industry which would last here in the Mayville area for 80 years (1848–1928).

See the stove cast in 1846, at the St. Joseph Iron Works near Mishawaka, Indiana, from Dodge County iron ore dug by Chester May and his son Eli, about five miles south of May’s settlement (called Mayville). This was the first object to be made from Dodge County’s iron ore.

Eli May
Chester May

When the Mays returned home, they were eager to show off their magnificent new stove to all the settlers in Mayville, and even displayed it in other neighbor-ing towns, hoping to get people to invest in a Wisconsin Iron Company that would work the iron deposits in Dodge County.

When the aging Chester May moved back to his home in Fort Atkinson, he most likely took the “Mayville Stove” with him.  Upon his death, early in 1849, the stove became a prominent feature in the Fort Atkinson home of his youngest son, Eli P. May.  Upon Eli’s death in 1909, the family donated the stove to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin.

The rectangular stove is described as Victorian Gothic in style, and was designed to burn wood or coal. The stove’s door is on one end, rather than on the front side, which made it easier to fill with large pieces of wood. The fire box is 31.5” wide, 17.25” deep, and is 27.5” high, and with its four ornate legs and its ornamental top grating the complete unit stands 48” high.

1: At the loading dock of the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison. Paul G. Bourcier Cheif Curator of Wisconsin Historical Society. 2-6: Museum members Don Bauer, George Frederick, Paul Lehman, Dewey Crist, and John Bauer move the 250 lb. iron stove from Madison to MLSM.