by David Baldwin [1]

The Baldwin stove story starts with William W. Baldwin [25]. He was born 13 February 1833 in Bridport, VT. At present, I do not have information on his parents.

The census of 1860 finds him married with two children living in xxxx, NY working as a telegraph operator. Also living with him is (apparently) a younger Brother, xxxx [], who is also a telegraph operator.

In the late 1860ís, William moved to Cleveland where he organized the Cleveland Co-operative Stove Company. He was Secretary and Superintendent of the company until his death in 1900. In the 1800ís, there were a great many stove foundries. Almost every large city had several. However, the Cleveland Co-operative Stove Company seems to have been one of the more successful with branches in many cities. It also expanded into many other metal products such as metal beds, sinks, etc. The following show some of the letterheads and catalogs of the company.

Post card. (Harry announcing birth of Russell to his brother Charles and Fannie).
Company letterhead.
Advertising Tray and Trade Card.
Bed catalog.
1920 Photo of Cleveland Co-operative Stove Co. (1)
1920 Photo of Cleveland Co-operative Stove Co. (2)

Wm. W. Baldwin died August 3, 1900 in an elevator accident at the factory (see newspaper article). William probably did not have much ownership in the Cleveland Co-operative Stove Company although he did manage it until his death. He died without a will. I have obtained the probate papers and they donít indicate any ownership although there were stock certificates for the Chattanooga Stove Company and the Springfield Stove Company. I believe that the immediate family agreed on how to divide up the inheritance outside of probate. There was no mention in the probate records of The Cleveland and Aurora Mining Company which was thought to be quite valuable at the time.

All of William W. Baldwinís sons were involved in the stove business.

Williamís eldest son, Charles Henry Baldwin [75], entered the stove business as soon as he was old enough. He basically set out to start stove foundries in various cities. In 1881, he founded the Chattanooga Stove Company ( biography). This is undoubtedly where he met his wife, Fannie Reichard [72], as her family was from the section of Georgia near Chattanooga. They were married October 26, 1890.

Charles was also involved with a stove startup in Detroit where he worked with Adelbert (Albert) Richard Plotnik whom he had known from Cleveland. The Plotnik family has letters indicating the two were good friends. Albertís daughter, Alberta May Pomnitz, attended school with Fannie in Detroit.

In the late 1800ís, Charles and Fannie settled in Springfield, Missouri where they raised their family. Charles was superintendent at the Springfield Stove Co in 1900 but later became Vice President and Treasurer of the Springfield Paper Company.

The 1880 Census placed William W. Baldwin Jr. [82] and his wife, Lizzie [83], at a boarding house in Kansas City, Missouri, occupation stove merchant. At the time, he was 21 years old. Another older stove merchant was also present so this could have been a training trip. William Jr died early (age 29) so I havenít been able to find out much about his life.

Harry James Baldwin [4], my Grandfather, was also involved in the stove business. I have several Cleveland Co-operative Stove Company letters from the 1896 period purchased on Ebay. The letters all have the initials, HJB, on them and are concerned with collecting funds owed to company.

I also have some of Harryís early letters (1892 Ė 1903) which were written on stationary of the Specialty Manufacturing Company. This company apparently was involved in stove related business and was located near or at the Cleveland Co-operative Stove Company.

Specialty Manufacturing Co. Letterheads

Later, Harry managed the Baldwin Stove Company. Itís not clear whether the Baldwin Stove Co ever manufactured stoves or if it was strictly retail although in later years it was a retail store. At some point in the late 1920ís or early 1930ís, Harry Baldwin lost control of the Baldwin Stove Company and his Brother-in-law, Harry Eaken [132] became manager. Cora [5], my GrandMother, was so upset by this ďcrookedĒ deal she never spoke to her Brother again. My impression is that there was probably a good reason Harry lost control of the company as Russell [2], my Father, and Bill [44], my Uncle, never spoke ill of Harry Eaken.

The Baldwin Stove Company then became the City Stove and Repair Company. As children, Larry [19] and I often visited the store as Dad had his American Contract Bridge League office there. Dad owned some stock in the stove company but I donít think he participated in the stove business in any way, just using the secretarial staff to assist with letter writing.

City Stove Letterhead

The City Stove and Repair Company was located on Huron Road in downtown Cleveland. The main floor was a stove showroom (gas stoves then) with a few refrigerators (new items at that time) and rolls of linoleum. There was a loft upstairs where a couple of employees had desks and my Dad had his desk. There was also a filthy basement with cockroaches. The basement extended under the sidewalk and had a few glass blocks above which let in a feeble amount of light.

Larry and I used to set the timers on all the stoves so they would go off at the same time. This didnít seem to bother anyone. I canít remember ever seeing a customer in the store.

Harry Baldwin died April 4, 1937. His death certificate shows him as Secretary Treasurer of American Fire Clay Products a company I never heard of until I saw the death certificate.