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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Igor Stravinsky


Igor Fyodorovich Stravinsky was born on June 17, 1882, in Oranienbaum, near St. Petersburg, Russia, the son of Fyodor Stravinsky a singer with a fine bass voice at the Russian Imperial Opera.

Photoportrait of Igor Stravinsky, Russian composer.

Igor was the third of four children, all boys. As a child he spent the winter months in St Petersburg and the summers in the country where several of his relatives on his mother’s side had large estates.

Igor often went to the operas that his father sang in. He also went to ballets and even heard Tchaikovsky conduct in 1893, at the end of his life.

Although he was taught piano and composition as a boy, Igor's family determined that he would have a career in law, and he graduated from St. Petersburg University in 1905.

However, Stravinsky was far more interested in music; between 1903-06 he studied composition privately under Nikolai Rimsky-Korsokov and became a member of that composer's circle.


Through the influence of RimskY-Korsakov, Stravinsky's early works including "Symphony in E Flat", "Fireworks", and "Scherzo Fantastique" received performances.

Igor Stravinsky, 1903

In 1908 Rimsky-Korsakov died and Stravinsky met Sergei Diaghilev, the Russian ballet impresario. Diaghilev invited Stravinsky to orchestrate various pieces of ballet music for the 1909 season of his Ballets Russes in Paris

The following year, the Ballets Russes danced Stravinsky's first major work, The Firebird, and for the next 20 years he was closely associated with Diaghilev's company.

Stravinsky became an overnight sensation following the success of the Firebird's premiere in Paris on June 25, 1910 and the work made him world famous.

In his early years with the Ballets Russes, Stravinsky and his family lived in Russia during the summer months and spent each winter in Switzerland. During this period, Stravinsky composed two further works for the Ballets Russes: Petrushka (1911), and The Rite of Spring (1913).

The premiere of Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps ("The Rite of Spring") on May 29, 1913 caused a tremendous commotion. the music resulted in such booing from the audience that the Diaghilev dancers could not even hear the orchestra. The New York Times reported the sensational Rite premiere, nine days after the premiere (see below). 

With the advent of World War I Stravinsky moved permanently to Switzerland. During this time he produced the original stage work Renard (1916), "a burlesque in song and dance."

When the Russian Revolution broke out in February 1917 Stravinsky originally thought it would be a good thing, but when the Bolshevik Revolution followed it became obvious that he would never be able to go back to Russia. Arising from this, he wrote in 1918 L’histoire du soldat ("The Soldier’s Tale"). a theatrical work "to be read, played, and danced" by three actors and one or several dancers.

When the war ended Stravinsky decided to move to France, where he developed subsidiary careers as a concert pianist and conductor

The French years marked a major change in Stravinsky's style--from basically Russian influences to the music of the Classical period, as well as exploring themes from the ancient Classical world, such as Greek mythology. Important works in this "neo-classical" period include "the Octet" (1923), the "Concerto for Piano and Winds" (1924), the "Serenade in A" (1925) and the opera-oratorio Oedipus Rex (1927). 

Stravinsky in 1921

Throughout the rise of his career Stravinsky was estranged from Christianity. However, in his early forties he befriended a Russian Orthodox priest, Father Nicholas in France and reconnected with his Russian Orthodox faith. This deep religious experience affected his music and he produced a number of religious pieces, the best of which is the "Symphony of Psalms" (1930), written for the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 50th birthday celebrations.

Stravinsky was invited to lecture at Harvard University in 1939, and when World War II started he made his home in Hollywood, California. The war years produced the "Symphony in C Major", the summation of neoclassical principles in symphonic form, and "Symphony in Three Movements", which combines features of the concerto with the symphony.

From 1948 to 1951 Stravinsky worked on his neoclassical opera, The Rake's Progress, conducting its first performance in Venice, Italy.

Stravinsky engaged the young American musician Robert Craft to help him in Hollywood. Craft was surprised to find that Stravinsky never visited his fellow composer Arnold Schoenberg, who only lived a few streets away. After Schoenberg died in 1951 Craft encouraged Stravinsky to listen to Schoenberg’s serial music. 

Soon Stravinsky started to use serialism in his own compositions. His Canticum Sacrum for voices and orchestra (1955) and ballet Agon contain 12-tone elements and were followed by the fully serial works Threni (1958), Movements (1959) and Requiem Canticles (1966).


From approximately 1890 until 1914 Stranvinsky frequently visited Ustilug, a town in the modern Volyn Oblast, Ukraine. He spent most of his summers there, where he also met his cousin, Katherine Gavrylivna Nosenko (called "Katya"), whom he married on January 23, 1906.

In 1907, Stravinsky designed and built his own house in Ustilug, which he called "my heavenly place". In this house, Stravinsky worked on seventeen of his early compositions, among them The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring

Igor Stravinsky's house-museum in Ustilug,By Viacheslav Galievskyi 

Katya and Stravinsky's fourth and last child, Marie Milène was born in Lausanne in January 1914. After her delivery, Katya was discovered to have tuberculosis and was confined to the sanatorium at Leysin, high in the Alps

In February 1921 Stravinsky met the sophisticated intellectual and urbane Vera de Bosset in Paris, while she was married to the stage designer Serge Sudeikin. The worldly Vera was a stark contrast to the increasingly pious Katya and they began an affair that led to Vera leaving her husband. Vera and Stravinsky saw one another as much as possible for the next 18 years.

In March 1939 Katerina died from tuberculosis. Vera joined Stravinsky in America in January 1940; they were married in Bedford, Massachusetts on March 9th.  

In 1962 Stravinsky returned to Russia for a visit – his first trip to his homeland for nearly half a century. During his stay in the USSR, he met several leading Soviet composers, including Dmitri Shostakovich and Aram Khachaturian.


Ill health slowed Stravinsky in his final years, and he died in New York City on April 6, 1971.

He was buried in Venice on the island of San Michele near Diaghilev’s grave.

Sources Compton's Encyclopedia, Europress Encyclopedia

Monday, 21 May 2018

Richard Strauss

Richard Strauss was born in Munich, Germany, on June 11, 1864. He is not related to the Austrian Johann Strauss family, famous for their waltzes.

Portrait of Strauss by Max Liebermann (1918)

His father, Franz Straussm was the principal horn player at the Court Opera in Munich. He was considered one of the greatest horn players of Germany.

Young Richard showed early signs of musical talent. When he was 4 years old he played the piano well. At the age of 6 he was composing, and at 10 he was studying music seriously.

Young Richard heard his first Richard Wagner operas, Lohengrin and Tannhäuser when he was 10-years-old. The influence of Wagner's music on Strauss's style was to be profound as he combined the great German composer's mastery of orchestration with a strong sense of realism. However, at first Richard's musically conservative father forbade him to study Wagner's work. Indeed, in the Strauss household, the music of the revolutionary German was viewed with deep suspicion, and it was not until the age of 16 that Richard was able to obtain a score of Tristan und Isolde.

Strauss aged 22

Strauss was a very good conductor and often conducted his own music, which up to the last decade of the 19th century were not unusual. Indeed, he was known chiefly as conductor of the Munich opera. However, in 1885, he met Alexander Ritter, a noted composer and violinist, and the husband of one of Richard Wagner's nieces. It was Ritter who persuaded Strauss to abandon the conservative style of his youth and begin writing tone poems. 

The new influences from Ritter resulted in what is widely regarded as Strauss's first piece to show his mature personality, the tone poem "Don Juan" (1888), which displays a new kind of virtuosity in its bravura orchestral manner.

Strauss' symphonic poems, including "Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks" (1894-95) and "Thus Spake Zarathustra" (1895-96), have grown increasingly popular. Many of his songs, with their melodic beauty, are today universal favorites.

"Thus Spake Zarathustra" is based on the works of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who once claimed "We have art in order that we may not die."

Although he could write beautiful melodies, and often did, in many of his compositions for orchestra, Strauss seemed less interested in melody and more interested in injecting unusual realism into his music. 

Strauss introduced radical innovations, often employing discordant tone combinations and asking the orchestra to produce extraordinary effects. The hissing of steam was reproduced by rubbing a drumhead with brushes, and the trampling of horses' feet by means of a wooden drum beaten with tubular sticks. 

Storms of criticism followed the appearance of each new work. Strauss won a place, however, among the foremost composers of the day and such effects, novel in his day, have been widely used by numerous later composers.

After 1900 Strauss spent most of his time writing operas. He began this portion of his career by fashioning two powerful and shocking works. Salome (1905) and Elektra (1909) which drew on Strauss's skills as a master orchestrator of tone poems and as a composer of songs. Both works push tonality to its limits, paint lurid characters, and treat the voice with great virtuosity. 

After these works, though, Strauss's career grew more conservative in such works as Der Rosenkavalier (1911), which is today his most liked opera, Die Frau Ohne Schatten (1919), and Arabella (1933)

Strauss married soprano Pauline de Ahna on September 10, 1894. She was famous for being irascible, garrulous, shrewish, eccentric and outspoken, but to all appearances their relationship was essentially happy, and she was a great source of inspiration to him.

The Strausses had one son, Franz, who was born in 1897. 

Strauss with his wife and son, 1910

Though Strauss was immensely wealthy, he was notoriously mean. His wife Pauline ruled his life with a rod of iron, she gave her husband a small allowance to live on. He would supplement this by insisting that members of the orchestra played a card game, Skat, with him. They could hardly refuse and invariably lost. Though most could ill afford the amounts of money involved, Strauss always insisted on being paid.

When American soldiers came to the house of Richard Strauss in 1945, the famous German composer identified himself: "I am Richard Strauss, the composer of Rosenkavalier and Salome." One of the soldiers was a musician, and placed a sign at the home so others would not bother him.

Soon after the Munich celebrations of the composer's 85th birthday, Strauss began to suffer from heart failure. He died at the age of 85 on September 8, 1949.

Sources Compton's Encyclopedia, Classic FM magazine

Johann Strauss the Younger

Johann Strauss the Younger (also known as Johann Strauss II) was born in Vienna, Austria, on October 25, 1825. He was the eldest son of Johann Strauss the Elder (March 14, 1804 – September 25, 1849) who was popular in Europe as a conductor and composer.

Johann Strauss II

Young Johann wanted to be a musician from an early age and wrote his first waltz at the age of 6. The elder Strauss insisted, however, that his sons follow other careers and Johann became a bank clerk.

Encouraged by his mother, Johann secretly studied the violin with the first violinist of his father's orchestra, Franz Amon. He was given a severe beating by his father when he found him playing the violin, even those Strauss Snr was a successful composer. He wanted his son to pursue banking as a career.

When Johann was 17, his parents separated. He then openly devoted himself to music. At 19 he formed his own orchestra and gave his own concert which included six of his own waltzes and some of his father’s. It was deemed a great success.

His father died when Johann Strauss was 23 and the young Austrian composer combined their orchestras and gave concerts throughout Europe.

Johann Strauss in his younger years

For nearly 100 years the Strauss family, father and sons, dominated the world of European ballroom dance with their music. After Johann Strauss the Elder popularized the waltz, his two younger sons, Josef (1827-70) and Eduard (1835-1916), also became noted composers. However it was Johann the Younger, who won world fame as the "waltz king."

Johann Strauss the Younger wrote over 400 waltzes, notably "An der schönen blauen Donau" (1867, trans "The Blue Danube") and "Geschichten aus dem Wienerwald" (1868, "Tales from the Vienna Woods").

The German composer Johannes Brahms was a personal friend of Strauss. Perhaps the greatest tribute that Brahms could pay to his pal was his remark that he would have given anything to have written "The Blue Danube" waltz.

An anecdote dating around the time Brahms became acquainted with Strauss is that the former cheekily inscribed the words "alas, not by Brahms!" on the autograph score of the "Blue Danube" waltz.

Strauss and Johannes Brahms photographed in Vienna

In addition to his waltzes, Johann Strauss the Younger also wrote polkas, marches, sixteen operettas, including "Die Fledermaus" (1874, "The Bat"), and a favorite concert piece, "Perpetuum Mobile."

Strauss had applied for the KK Hofballmusikdirektor Music Director of the Royal Court Balls position, but was denied several times before for his frequent brushes with the local authorities. He eventually attained the position in 1863, after which Johann relinquished leadership of his orchestra to his brothers.

In 1872 Strauss and his orchestra toured the United States, where, at the invitation of bandmaster Patrick Gilmore he was the lead conductor in The World's Peace Jubilee and International Musical Festival in Boston, Massachusetts. The jubilee, which consisted of over 1000 singers and musicians, honored the ending of the Franco-Prussian War. On June 29, 1872 Strauss performed his "Blue Danube" waltz, amongst other pieces, to great acclaim. 

World's Peace Jubilee coliseum, Back Bay, Boston, 1872

In 1878, following the death of his first wife, singer Henriette Treffz, Strauss married another singer, Angelika Dittrich.

Strauss was diagnosed with pleuropneumonia, and on June 3, 1899 he died in Vienna, at the age of 73. At the time of his death, he was still composing his ballet Aschenbrödel.

He was buried in the Zentralfriedhof (The Vienna Central Cemetery).

Sources Europress Family Encyclopaedia, Compton's Encyclopaedia

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Antonio Stradivari

Antonio Stradivari was born in Cremona, Italy in 1644. The violin-making tradition was already more than 100 years old when he was born.

A romanticized print of Antonio Stradivari examining an instrument

No city was more renowned for its musical instruments than Cremona. It was also the home of the Amati family, whose crafting of string instruments from the mid-16th century had set the international standard for beauty of sound.

Stradivari served as an apprentice to Nicolo Amati from about the age of 12. In his early years Stradivari probably worked more on such plucked instruments as guitars, harps and lutes.

In 1666 Stradivari began putting his own label, with his Latin name, Stradivarius, on the violins he made. His early instruments were in the style of his teacher, Nicolo Amati, small and with a yellowish varnish.

Stradivari purchased a house now known as No. 1 Piazza Roma (formerly No. 2 Piazza San Domenico) around 1680 for the sum of 7000 lire. The residence was just doors away from those of several other violin-making families of Cremona, including the Amatis . Stradivari probably worked in the loft and attic, and he stayed in this house for the rest of his life.

Antonio Stradivari's second house, at No. 2 Piazza San Domenico

By 1682, Stradivari had acquired at least a small, yet growing, reputation and that year, a Venetian banker ordered a complete set of instruments, which he planned to present to King James II of England.

After Nicolo Amati's death in 1684, Stradivari began a pronounced departure from this earlier style of instrument-making, changing two key elements of his instruments. By 1690 he'd developed the 'long' version of his violins, which became known for their darker tone, deeper color, and stronger arches on the front and back. After 1698, he abandoned the Long Strad model and returned to a slightly shorter model, which he used until his death.

The period from 1700 until the 1720s is often termed the "golden period" of Stradivari's production when his best instruments were made.

The violins of Stradivari's "golden period" feature an amber color, flamed maple back, and world-famous tone and ease of response. During this period Stradivari also made smaller cellos with extraordinary sound, of which only about 20 survive.

Antonio Stradivari, by Edgar Bundy, 1893:

In his later life two of Stradivari's 11 children - Francesco and Omobono - helped him in his shop.
Stradivari died in Cremona on December 18, 1737, aged 93.  It is estimated that he made about 1,000 instruments in his life, with about 500 of these being violins that are still in use.
STRADIVARIUS INSTRUMENTS Stradivari spent his entire life producing instruments,. It is  estimated that he made 1,116 instruments between 1666 and his death, of which 960 were violins; about 650 of these still exist. Many of these are in museums and private collections, and many are used by the world's leading string players.

A Stradivarius violin from the Palacio Real, Madrid, Spain. By Håkan Svensson (Xauxa)

The density of the wood used is what's thought to give Stradivarius violins their uniquely sweet sound. Tests were carried out on violins made by Stradivarius and another renowned Italian violin maker, Guarneri del Gesu, along with eight contemporary violins. Experts discovered that variations in wood growth density, determined by tree growth cycles, were considerably larger in the modern violins.

The varnish on the Stradivarius violins was made from Arabic gum, honey and egg white.

Despite modern understanding of the science of varnishes and the thickness of the wood that Stradivarius used, his work has never been matched.

In Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, Sherlock Holmes plays a Stradivarius violin. 

A well-preserved Stradivarius violin was sold on June 20, 2011 in an online auction for £9.8m ($15.9m) to raise money for the Nippon Foundation's Northeastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund. The price was more than four times the previous record for a Stradivarius. The violin was made in 1721 and is known as the Lady Blunt after Lord Byron's granddaughter Lady Anne Blunt who owned it for 30 years. 

Sources Daily MailCompton's Encyclopaedia

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Harriet Beecher Stowe


She was born Harriet Elisabeth Beecher in Litchfield, Connecticut, on June 14, 1811.

Harriet was the seventh child of an Evangelical Protestant clergyman, Lyman Beecher. She grew up in an Connecticut Rectory.

Portrait of Stowe by Alanson Fisher, 1853 

By the age of 6, Harriet could read well and had memorized two long chapters of the Bible.

An avid reader when younger, Harriet especially liked Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron, but was forbidden to read profane literature by her father.

Harriet began writing aged 12 as a hobby, mainly tales and sketches. One of her first works was a prize essay on the subject "Can the Immortality of the Soul be Proved by the Light of Nature."


Harriet's father, Lyman Beecher (October 12, 1775 – January 10, 1863) the most powerful puritan preacher of his generation in the USA. He devoted his later life to preaching to the pioneers in Cincinnati, where he held revival meetings preaching against drunkenness, Catholicism and religious tolerance.

Portrait of Lyman Beecher by James Henry Beard, 1842

Her mother Roxana (Foote) died when Harriet was only five years old. A deeply religious woman, Roxana's last prayer was that her six sons should be called into the ministry.

Harriet's twelve brothers and sisters were all high achievers including Catharine who was a pioneering educator and Henry Ward Beecher who developed into a revered preacher and a stern denouncer of vice and sin.


Harriet enrolled in the Hartford Female Seminary run by her older sister Catharine, then later taught students Latin there herself.

At the age of 21 in 1832 Harriet moved with her father to the rough border town of Cincinnati, Ohio where he had become the president of Lane Theological Seminary. She opened up a school there and also began writing on women issues for female magazines.

A 5,000 square foot house was constructed specifically in 1833 to house the president of the Lane Seminary. Harriet lived there from 1833 until her marriage to Calvin Ellis Stowe in 1836.

It was there she wrote her first book The Mayflower: Sketches of Scenes and Character Among the Descendants of the Pilgrims, which was published in 1834. 

Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati, Ohio. By Photo by Greg Hume 

Due to her husband’s poor health there was little money to pay the bills so Stowe began to write for a weekly anti-slavery journal, The National Era.

The National Era published on June 5, 1851, the first installment of Uncle Tom's Cabin, which became the work for which Harriet Beecher Stowe became known.

It wasn’t until Stowe made a journey to Europe in 1853 after the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin that she realized the length of her new-found fame. In England she met Charles Dickens, Charles Kingsley and John Ruskin in addition to other famous literary figures.

During her tour of Europe, Harriet's husband Calvin Stowe gave public readings of Uncle Tom's Cabin, as part of the abolitionist debate.

In 1868, Stowe became one of the first editors of Hearth and Home magazine, one of several new publications appealing to women; she departed after a year.

Stowe wrote 30 books in total, including novels, three travel memoirs, and collections of articles and letters, but none of her other works proved as successful.


On March 9, 1850, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote to Gamaliel Bailey, editor of The National Era, that she planned to write a story about the problem of slavery. The result was Uncle Tom's Cabin, a story about a devout black slave, who generously saves the life of a white man only to be sold to a sadistic slave owner. The tale  graphically depicts the horrors of slavery.

The original inspiration for Uncle Tom's Cabin came from reading a pamphlet written by the runaway slave, Josiah Henson, describing the ignominy of a runaway slave's life. When kneeling at communion Stowe conceived the idea of Uncle Tom and soon afterwards, the Fugitive Slave bill persuaded her to put pen to paper. (This controversial bill granted Southerners the right to pursue fugitive slaves into free states and bring them back.)

Harriet gripped a pencil between her teeth whilst kneading dough so that in between times she could write Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

She earned $300 dollars when Uncle Tom was serialized in The National Era. When it was published in book form early the following year, Harriet started earning five figure sums.


Harriet's brother Henry Ward Beecher wrote to his sister about her masterpiece "If you write such another book, I will kill you. It has taken more out of me than a years preaching."

After writing Uncle Tom's Cabin, Stowe was bombarded with hate male from the pro slavery south. One package she received contained the bloody ear of a slave pinned to a scrap of cardboard.

In the northern part of USA, Uncle Tom's Cabin did much to stir up anti slavery feelings and hatred for the way of life in the South. The differing reactions to Uncle Tom's Cabin between the North and South helping to polarize the two halves and it was one of the sparks which ignited the Civil War. When Stowe met Abraham Lincoln in 1862, he reportedly greeted her, "So this is the little lady who started this big war."

Three million copies of Uncle Tom's Cabin were sold before the start of the American Civil War and twenty years after its publication the book was still selling prodigious amounts. One and a half million pirated copies were sold in Britain alone and it has been translated into over 20 languages.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was steeped in Biblical values, which reflected her Christian faith. A woman came up to Stowe and asked if she could clasp the hand of the woman who had written the great work. "I did not write it" said the author, "God wrote it, I merely did the dictation."


After moving to Cincinnati, Harriet joined the Semi-Colon Club, a literary salon and social club. It was there she met the fragile Calvin Stowe, a leading authority on the Bible. She became close friends in Cincinnati with the professor and his wife Eliza.

Eliza died in 1834 and Harriet Beecher married the widowed Calvin Stowe on January 6, 1836. The couple were devoted to each other and supported their partners in their work.

Calvin Stowe had poor health and spent time in a sanatorium, which left him depressed.

Calvin Ellis Stowe, circa 1850

They had seven children, including twin daughters. Tragedy struck when Harriet lost her favorite son, at the age of one and a half to cholera. The other six survived childhood but their eldest son Harry drowned at the close of his freshman year at Dartmouth and their third son Fred was wounded at Gettysburg and was left mentally impaired afterwards.


The demure Harriet Beecher Stowe had a bright mind with a remarkable memory.

Portrait of Harriet Beecher Stowe by Francis Holl, 1853

Harriet's basic faith was firm but she had many conflicts between faith and doubt after the deaths of two of her children and dealing with her husband’s illness.

Early in her adolescence Harriet experienced a calling to the church but for much of her life she was an uneasy Calvinist until much later in her life when she converted to the Episcopalian church.

While living in Cincinnati in the 1830s, Stowe traveled to Maysville, Kentucky, where she witnessed a slave auction. The distress she felt was one of several experiences that inspired Uncle Tom's Cabin years later.


Harriet wrote hymns including "Still, Still With Thee" after her son Charles died of cholera.

Harriet owned a stray cat called "Calvin" who took over the house and sat on the author's shoulders while she wrote.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Hartford, Connecticut, was Stowe's home for the last 23 years of her life. In 1872 fellow author Mark Twain moved next door.


Stowe's last years she was confined at home, an invalid. Many historians believe the last ten years of her life, she suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

Harriet Beecher-Stowe,

After two decades of retirement and a gradual decline to an invalid, Stowe died on July 1, 1896 at her Hartford home. on July 1, 1896.

Harriet Beecher Stowe is buried in the historic cemetery at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.


A stove is an enclosed space in which fuel is burned to provide heating. 

Types of stove include the kitchen stove which is an appliance designed for cooking food and the wood-burning stove or a coal stove which is typically used for heating a dwelling.

Daruma stove, a traditional Japanese wood-burning stove

Early clay closed stoves used for cooking were known from the Chinese Qin Dynasty (221 BC–206/207 BC), and a similar design known as kamado appeared in the Kofun period (3rd–6th century) in Japan. These stoves were fired by wood or charcoal through a hole in the front. Such Far Eastern closed stoves did not spread to European countries until the end of the Middle Ages.

One of the first European closed stoves was built in Alsace, France in the late 15th century. It was made entirely of brick with porcelain tiles on the outside. They contained a small firebox at the bottom where wood was burned and a series of winding flue passages through which the smoke moved to the chimney.

The first rudimentary cast-iron stove, which further improved heat transfer from the fuel, was produced at Lynn, Massachusetts in 1642. This stove had no grates and was little more than a cast-iron box.

By the 1720s, such cast iron stoves were beginning to be made in quantity in North America and EuropeThey were called Five-plate stoves and were fed by wood, charcoal, or coal. Used both for heating and cooking, they had an oven below and pot holes on top. However, because they gave off a large amount of heat, they made the kitchen an uncomfortable place in the summer.

A later cast iron wood stove in Massachusetts. By Victorgrigas 

On June 11, 1742 Benjamin Franklin, laid the foundations of modern stove design with his 'Pennsylvania Fireplace', which stood in the fireplace. It incorporated a grate and sliding doors that controlled the flow of air through the stove. 

The grate of Franklin's stove extended out into the room, where it cast warmth in all directions, providing considerably more heat than the drafty open fireplace. It also enabled people to use less wood. 

However Franklin's 'Pennsylvania Fireplace' was finicky and achieved few sales until it was improved by David Rittenhouse. Despite never catching on, many stoves continue to be referred to as "Franklin" stoves.

A Franklin stove

Jordan Mott invented the first practical coal stove in 1833. Mott's stove, which was called the baseburner, had ventilation to burn the coal efficiently.

In the USA by the 1850s, coal-burning stoves were replacing fireplaces.

The first gas stoves were developed as early as the 1820s, but it was only in the 1880s that the technology started becoming a commercial success in the Western World.

Early gas stoves produced by Windsor in 1851. From Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management,.

In America William Hadaway was issued the first patent for an electric stove in 1897. He was granted US patent # 574537 for an "Automatically Controlled Electric Oven".

In the 1920s gas stoves were found in most Western European and American households with top burners and interior ovens.  However, by the end of the decade, electric stoves were beginning to compete with gas stoves.

A high-end gas stove called the AGA cooker was invented in 1922 by Swedish Nobel prize winner Gustaf Dalén. It was the first energy efficient stove that requires no adjustment during cooking and has an oven that is constantly hot.

During the energy crisis of the early 1970s, wood stoves regained their popularity in some United States homes, especially in the North, where firewood was cheap. However, the dangers of fire, carbon monoxide poisoning from poorly working stoves or leaking flue pipes, air pollution, and the increasing cost of wood have since limited their use.

Friday, 18 May 2018


Storks are a family of large, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long, stout bills. There are 19 different species of stork, in six genera.

White stork Pixiebay

Chinese lore connects the stork to longevity, as they've been known to live anywhere from 20 to 30 years old.

In Christianity, storks represent purity as they'd keep snakes and serpents, long synonymous with evil, at bay.

The legend of storks delivering babies goes back several hundred years. During the Victorian era in Germany, parents would tell this tale to children who were deemed too young to be told anything different. Hans Christian Andersen popularized the fable in The Storks, a short story he wrote in the 19th century about a family of storks and their life's work: delivering babies

Many species of stork are migratory and the origin of the association of storks delivering babies is likely derived from the bird's nine month migration which timed perfectly with the human female gestation period. 

Europeans first realized that storks migrate to Africa during winter in 1822 because they found a stork that still had an arrow from a Central African tribe in it.


Storks are generally considered to be monogamous creatures, but are very social — feeding and nesting in large flocks.

While females lay the eggs, both sexes divide the responsibility of incubating.

Storks usually live near shallow bodies of water where they wade through the water, and catch small animals, like crabs, frogs or small fish.

Stork nests are often very large and may be used for many years. Some nests have been known to grow to over two metres (six feet) in diameter and about three metres (ten feet) in depth.

The White Stork is known to build large nests in high places, like on chimneys

Several bird species often nest within the large nests of the white stork. Regular occupants are sparrows and common starlings.

Beforehand, people believed storks were monogamous, that they only had one partner in life. More recent research has shown though, that they may change partners. They are attached to a nest almost as much as to a partner.

Storks are large to very large waterbirds. They range in size from the Marabou Stork, which lives in Africa, which stands 152 cm (60 in) tall and can weigh 8.9 kg (20 lb), to the Abdim's stork, also from Africa, which is only 75 cm (30 in) high and only weighs 1.3 kg (2.9 lb).

The Marabou Stork has a wingspan of up to 320 cm. This makes one of the largest birds still alive, together with the Andean Condor and the largest albatrosses and pelicans.

Marabouu stork. Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. Wikpedia

The black stork population has been declining for many years in Western Europe and the bird is no longer a summer visitor to Scandinavia. 

Source Alexandani