12.10-3: Time-O-Stat 1928 Room Temperature Control
|HHCC Accession No. 2006.091||HHCC Classification Code: 12.10-3|
An eye appealing, early automatic room temperature control device, using a helical by-metal spring temperature sensor, with mercury bulb, line voltage switching. Temperature control devices of this genre, would introduce automation into the Canadian household, set new standards of winter comfort and convenience for Canadians, and in so doing become markers of a new technology-based consumerism and thus of profound, Canadian, social and cultural change; Cat. No 135, Time-O-Stat, Circa 1928 [See also ID# 218]
12.10 Pressure Atomizing Oil Burner Equipment and Systems - Room Temperature Thermostats
Time-O-Stat Controls, Elkhart, Ind.
Cat No. 135
3 x 4 x 5’h
Exhibit, education, and research quality, illustrating the engineering design of automatic oil heating, thermostatic controls in the early years of the 20th century
From York County (York Region) Ontario, once a rich agricultural hinterlands, attracting early settlement in the last years of the 18th century. Located on the north slopes of the Oak Ridges Moraine, within 20 miles of Toronto, the County would also attract early ex-urban development, to be come a wealthy market place for the emerging household and consumer technologies of the early and mid 20th century.
This artifact was discovered in the 1950’s in the used stock of T. H. Oliver, Refrigeration and Electric Sales and Service, Aurora, Ontario, an early worker in the field of agricultural, industrial and consumer technology.
This thermostat was used in a household in York County [York Region] north of Toronto in the 1920’s and 30’s.
Type and Design:
Helical by-metal spring actuated, line voltage, mercury bulb switching
Control and Regulation:
Targeted Market Segment:
The competing thermostat technologies of the day were helical bimetal spring, shown here, and hydraulic bellows designs, [See ID 214]. Much smaller and more finely sculptured than its competitors [Penn and Mercoid] the Time-O-Stat would have greater eye appeal and potential sales appeal, as a result. Actuated by a hefty, eight turn, 3/8”, 1 13/16” OD, helical bimetal, this control can be expected perform only modestly well. With substantial inertia, and with out heat anticipation features of future generations of such devices, the home owner will experience significant over and under run and slow system response. The good news is that, with a 2 degree operating differential, it will provide comfort home conditions unparalleled for its times.
In an astonishingly simple configuration, a 3/8” dia. x 1 3/4-mercury bulb is attached to the floating, rear centre point of the bimetal, to which a delicately shaped brass adjustment lever is also attached. This allowing the householder to set the desired home temperature by tipping the switch bulb manually to the desired temperature.
An elegant room thermostat that would be seen on the walls of the drawing rooms of the Canadian well-to-do in the 1920’s. Tastefully and delicately proportioned, in a modest, brown, molded Bakelite case, it was a masterpiece of industrial design, instantly attracting homeowners of the period to a new, modern lifestyle of comfort and convenience. With patent numbers shown in the manufacturers catalogue from 1918 to 1928, Time-O-Stat must surely be accorded the position of HVACR market leader in the development of electric, room thermostatic controls for automatic, oil-fired heating systems found in Canadian homes. Time-O-Stat would quickly become the market leader in the new Canadian consumer culture of the 20th century, where the company would find that appearance was everything. Time-O-Stat products would soon appear in the catalogues of a new industry leader, Minneapolis Regulator Co. under that company’s name.
The competing thermostat designs of the 1920’s and early 30’s [See ID #213, 214, 215] amply demonstrate the immense inventiveness of the period in which a range of technologies were being experimented with for automating home heating systems. Simple devices, by 21st century standards, they were non-the-less products of great engineering ingenuity for their times. They required materials and manufacturing techniques and expertise, which challenged the best engineering minds of the day. The attention given by Time-O-Stat to the market place and to the consumer’s appetite for the new, novel, attractive and prestigious was seen in their portable ‘Thermoswitch’. It was configured in the form of a minature, classic mantel clock of the period. It was inteded to stand out in the living rooms of the well-to-do, as a conversation piece and object of desire [See cat F.277-15.429, Page 12] Time-O-Stat’s pension for innovation was also marked a nigh-time clock operated temperature set back control, likely the first of its kind [See cat F.277-15.429, Page 11], and an early forerunner of the classic Minneapolis Honeywell Chronotherm [See ID # 216.
Time-O-Stat would be unique in its times, bringing to the market a systems approach, providing a comprehensive, integrated set of controls for residential and commercial heating applications. ‘Lockswitch’ safety combustion control engineering by Time-O-Stat would be the standard of the industry throughout the 1920’s and early 30’s [ See series 12.8 artifacts]
With its own, self-contained, showy, glass-stem mercury thermometer, it was a natural eye catcher for show-and-tell, by the proud homeowner. The inclusion of the thermometer, absent from other manufacturers early offerings to the public [See ID # 214 and 215], would be a powerful selling aid. It reinforced the expectation that the homeowner could now set the house temperature at any desired point, with the expectation that it would stay there. This was a totally new experience for Canadians in the 1920’s [See also ID# 223].
Such temperature actuated, automated devices marketed with great success for the Canadian home in the early 1930’s would change forever the expectations of Canadians for winter comfort and convenience. An industry promotion in the National Geographic in 1928 promised the householder “June comfort on every zero morning”. The marketing of automatic oil heating had become part of the main stream of the new consumerism in North America, now the subject of national advertising campaigns.
But it was still the first quarter of the 20th century and technology in the home was as yet not a common experience. There was, in fact, still much public concern about the presence of electricity in the home, and electrical appliances of any type, especially heating ones which would operate automatically, coming on and off without the touch of human hands. They were a source of suspicion, often fear and mistrust, while at the same time being objects of intrigue, especially for the well-off who could afford to be intrigued. But it was a period, too, were there was a new desire for the comforts of home all that could be afforded in a period of wide spread economic depression.
Manufacturers of the new technologies for the home would take full advantage of the public mood, as a consequence 20th century marketing was born and along with it the use of often shameless hyperbola on a level not here-to-for found in the market place [see Williams-Oil-0-Matic advertisement in April 1926 national Geographic]. For many Canadians the words ‘oil heat’ and ‘automatic’ highly promoted, where to become synonymous with a new lifestyle, comfort and convenience, and a new popular wisdom of what 20th century life was all about, Such words would herald the promise of a new future for those that could afford it. Such terms would be part of an advance guard that would quickly follow, with the advance of ever more intrusive mechanical, electric, electronic and digital technologies. These technologies would serve to reshape every aspect of human and community life. They would be the building blocks, part of a new, manufactured 20th century reality, bring with it new encoded information, ideas, myths, beliefs, traditions expectations and wisdom’s that would multiply and dominate North American life through into the 21st century. The study of culturally induced meanings and cultural significance inherent in the vast array of three dimensional objects, with which Canadians would increasingly surround themselves, starting in the early years of the 20th century, would become the subject of scholarly study well before the end of the century. For Canadians, the interest would be in coming to recognize and comprehend the messages encoded in Canada’s rich material culture, learning to read what has been called the new cultural ‘hieroglyphics’, understanding their meanings and significance for our times. The educational outcomes would be tied to helping peoples to make sense out of the overcrowded conceptual field of encoded information, ideas, myths, beliefs, assumptions, traditions expectations and wisdom’s that crowd in on them from every hand in the culturally complex societies which now exist largely throughout the Western world .
G. Leslie Oliver, The T. H. Oliver HVACR Collection
HHCC Storage Location:
Automatic Controls for Oil Burners’.., Time-O-Stat Controls Company, Cat. F227-15.429, 1929
Reference manual for Installer and service Man, Minneapolis Regulator Company, 1932-33 Also See foot notes