How Did Folks Stay Warm in the 19th Century? 10 Ways They Kept Cozy in Winter

With our central air and affordable space heaters most of us these days don’t often have to worry about how to best keep warm in winter. But, for our ancestors staying warm was down to some strategic planning and resource management that we don’t often get a peek of. Here are 10 ways they kept warm in the 19th century!

Via/ Library of Congress

10) Stay Where It’s Warm

Families would congregate near ovens, stoves, fireplaces. If it wasn’t a warmed room they might even not spend time in those rooms during the cold months.

Staying warm by the fire in the 19th century. Via/ Flickr

9) Use Portable Heating Devices

They took a foot warmer or portable stove with them to a cold room of the house. This was a luxury that many families could not afford, but for those who could it was a welcome treat on cold winter nights. There were even ceramic versions of hot water bottles, not as convenient as rubber ones, but oh so useful! Soapstones heated in the fire were also used, as were bedwarmers which were made of metal and held hot coals (though the latter were far more expensive).

Box shaped hot coal bed warmer. Via/ Wellcome Collection

8) Planning in Architecture

Ever notice how the kitchen is still the place where everyone congregates at a party? While food is certainly a great motivating factor, many families (if they had a proper kitchen) would have spent some time there because the fire was always burning there. Ceilings in kitchens were often lower to trap heat in larger homes. Obviously those living in cabins and cottages often did not have this particular advantage.

Via/ Library of Congress

7) Never Let the Fire Go Out

Even at night a slow burn of coals and would be kept in the fireplace or stove to make starting the morning routine and heating easier. Sometimes the coals in a fireplace would be covered with a curfew, a metal device to keep wind from destroying the fire.

Plenty of bedclothes helped to keep folks warm. Via/ Flickr

6) Bundle Up

Scarves, woolen stockings, shawls, slippers, hats, sleeping caps, and gloves were worn inside during the coldest days. The many layers that they wore were also a help. Men wore long johns or union suits and the ladies had an abundance of long skirts, petticoats, and bloomers to keep them warm.

Plenty of bedclothes helped to keep folks warm. Via/ Flickr

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