Portable iron cooking stove

A square portable iron cooking stove made of black iron plate from the 1845 Northwest Passage Expedition led by Sir John Franklin. The hinged door at the front admitted the burner. The top is a removable lid with short chimney.

The provenance of this stove is not absolute, but it appears to have been recovered by the US expedition under Lieutenant Frederick Schwatka between 1878-1880. If it is correct then it is described as 'Item 34. Cooking stove found at Irving Bay' in the 1881 catalogue of items that he sent back to Britain in 1881 [TNA, ADM 1/6600]. In the same catalogue it states 'Item 33. Stove and kettle found at Irving Bay', so it may be this one.

Schwatka's expedition arrived at Irving Bay (their name for the bay just below Victory Point) on the north west coast of King William Island on 25 June 1879 where they discovered Lt. Irving's grave. Schwatka described the surrounding scene 'About twenty feet from the high water mark was found a lot of half-rotten navy clothing, blankets, canvas, blubber stoves, ships blocks and tackles, rope and cordage' [Schwatka, page 82]. This is the area known as 'Crozier's Camp' where the crews from Erebus and Terror landed after deserting the ships in April 1848. Gilder also refers to 'several cooking stoves' [Gilder, page 124].

The stove has 'BOATS COOKING APPARATUS (3) in white paint on the front, indicating that it was displayed at the Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, in 'Case 10, No.1-3. Parts of cooking apparatus'.

While the stove has no clear provenance, other than it came to the National Maritime Museum from the old Royal Naval Museum, Greenwich, there is a sketch that has very similar features in the 'Scribner Magazine', volume XXII, May-October 1881, page 88. The sketch, while partially obscured by other Franklin relics recovered by Schwatka's expedition, shows some unique features found on the actual stove, appearing to confirm that it was recovered from the Schwatka expedition in 1881. For instance:
- The overall construction of the stove mirrors (in general terms) the sketch. You can clearly see how the artist has tried to depict the composite construction at the top even though they miss out the three rivets along the top.
- The two square-headed bolts on the left side of the door are the same orientation in the sketch as on the original stove.
- The hole in the top centre of the door matches that in the sketch.
- While no other bolts or rivets are indicated in the sketch the backing plate for the door surround is correctly sketched to go the full width of the front and to extend beyond the door itself.

Object Details

ID: AAA4275
Collection: Polar Equipment and Relics
Type: Cooking Apparatus
Display location: Not on display
Date made: Circa 1845
Credit: National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London
Measurements: Overall: 520 mm x 350 mm x 510 mm x 29 kg

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