The history of the Godin stove is foundational to the history of French stove making, and indeed to the history of domestic stove manufacturing as a whole. Before the era of cast iron, domestic fuel took on many forms from the open hearth fire to the clay or stone kiln.
Cast iron, a mixture of silica and carbon brought together by a process of heating and oxidation, can withstand heats of over 600 degrees Fahrenheit making it ideal for domestic fuel consumption. The work of Jean Baptiste Andre Godin (1817-1888), maker of the Godin stove, became the standard in nineteenth century stove making.
Godin’s factory has produced domestic cast iron stoves since 1846. Godin figured out how to mass produce quality stoves using high quality molds and strong raw materials. Early stoves reflect the box stove design of the mid nineteenth century. The slim cylindrical design of Godin’s later stoves is symbolic of the brand. Godin’s stoves were frequently copied flooding the market with low quality replicas. The Godin stove is heavily patented.
In France Godin’s cast iron stoves are only one part of his legacy. Because of his business strategies, Godin became a figure to know in French industrial relations. Godin offered his employees living wages or higher at a time of economic downturn, hired from a small pool of people in one geographical area reducing turn over and improving employee reliability.
Godin allowed employees to become invested in the product by involving them in both the design and creation processes. After constructing a worker’s area that included the factory floor, recreation area and living quarters on his property, Godin gave the completed complex to his employees. This degree of personal investment is reflected in the quality and detail of the finished stove; more an art piece than a heat provider. Although the antique Godin stove remains popular because of its efficiency as well as its aesthetic appeal.
The hard work and creativity of Godin and his employees is the story behind the decorative yet functional Godin stoves that have been a part of the consumer market for over 150 years. The trademark Petite Godin stove has been produced consistently since 1889, a year after Godin’s death. Stoves that can be dated to before 1888 are more scarce and obviously more valuable.
Basic design and features of the Godin stove brand include cast iron molded fronts with the addition of enamel on some models. A highly ornate and decorative aesthetic in the early art nouveau style is common. The mica window is a later edition. As manufacturing practices improved, thus improving the quality of the design aesthetic quality of raw material and general fuel consumption practices, so did the look and variety of Godin cast iron stoves.
What began as a small enterprise of a few people in 1837 became a company of two thousand employees by 1908. This speaks for the endurance and popularity of Godin’s product. The Godin stove remains a part of the domestic household collectibles market due to its longevity and quality.
Today, there are a number of Godin stoves on the market, the majority produced after Godin’s passing. In America, the “Oval Godin” stove, a gas fired model, remains popular. The “Petite Godin” was an economically priced and sized model that worked well in both the kitchen and the parlor. Antique Godin stoves and their modern counterparts are quite similar in appearance. The main difference seems to be the overall condition and age of the piece.
Godin set the standard and in many ways continues to set the standard today in the realm of decorative yet utilitarian domestic stoves. The “Petite Godin,” both the original and modern version, remains popular among collectors and homeowners.