Antique Cast-Iron Steam Radiators
In the early 1900s, many American households were equipped with custom-made steam radiators. These were manufactured by three major companies and sold through industrial supply companies. A homeowner could choose between cast iron or steel pressed units, how many sections were included, whether it was fueled by steam or water, and several other options.
The three companies that produced the most popular radiators were American Radiator Company of Chicago, Hecla Iron Works of Brooklyn, New York and Pressed Radiator Company of America, with headquarters in Pittsburgh.
American Radiator Company of Chicago
This company was founded in 1899 and manufactured two popular cast iron brands: Rococo and Peerless.These were configured in one-column, two-column, three-column or four-column styles, with each having anywhere from one to 32 separate sections.The largest of these, a four-column unit with 32 sections, took up eight feet (96”) of floor space and had a 320-square foot-heating surface.
These sold for approximately $3 to $6 per section in the first decade of the 20th century, so that largest unit would cost the homeowner around $150; a large investment when a loaf of bread cost about three cents and a college graduate started his career with a salary of $750 per year.
Hecla Iron Works of Brooklyn, New York
Founded in 1872, this company produced a two-column steam-or-water radiator that could be mounted on the wall or placed on the floor.In addition, they offered a similar single-column model called the Beaver.Both these could have up to 20 sections and took up only 30” of floor space.They were priced at fifty cents per square foot of heating surface, so the 20-section double-column version (the largest one) would have cost around $40.
Pressed Radiator Company of America, from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
This is the company that produced most of the non-cast-iron radiators of the day.Their three most popular models were the Eureka, the Duquesne and the Kinnear.The Eureka was a squatty little three-column unit that only stood 14” tall unless custom-ordered, then it could be as much as 32” tall.The Duquesne was a wall-mounted unit of similar size but with only one column.The Kinnear came in four models ranging from 14” to 38” in height.Prices for these pressed steel radiators ranged from $10 to $48.