Dating from 1885, this advertisement for Wright & Butler petroleum stoves describes them as ‘A BOON TO HOUSEWIVES’ and ‘a miracle of convenience’ – strong evidence that the stoves were intended for middle-class homes. If a middle-class Victorian husband was head of the family, his wife was head of the household. She was expected to manage all domestic arrangements from cooking, to cleaning, to laundry. Hence the appeal of the many apparently ‘labour saving’ domestic appliances that began to appear from the mid-century onwards, and the fact that most of the advertising was aimed at women.
Petroleum stoves first became available in the 1860s, but were not immediately popular. The coal-fuelled cast-iron ranges they would eventually supersede had a single significant advantage: they gave off external heat and warmed the room they were in. As this advert is keen to point out, this was not so convenient in summer. With the rise of central and storage heating in the early 20th century, stoves such as this one became standard in middle-class homes.