1853 First gas stoves in Australia

Victorian era gas stoves

The first U.S. patent on a gas stove was granted in 1825 and the first English patent in 1826 but gas cooking did not become common until the late 19th century. Gas was manufactured by burning coal. There were small gas plants in Sydney as early as the 1820s and the first reticulated supply for street lighting in Sydney began in 1841. Gas stoves were being advertised as early as 1853; however, it seems they were little used until the early 1870s.

An article in the Hobart Courier in 1856 extolled the virtues of gas in private houses. While gas lighting was the main focus of the article, its author J.O.N. Rutter, F.R.C.S., had this to say about gas cooking:

Many improvements have recently been made for applying gas to a variety of purposes connected with the comforts and the luxuries of domestic life.

By means of a simply constructed apparatus, gas performs the respective processes of roasting, baking, frying, boiling, steaming, and broiling, and with a precision which cannot be attained by a common fire. Two or three days’ experience is sufficient to enable servants to conduct any of the above-mentioned operations with success and certainty; whilst the trouble and attention required are less than by the ordinary method. Roasting by gas is the very perfection of the culinary art; the meat being cooked uniformly, and its juices (on which the nutritious qualities and delicacy of flavour so much depend) being retained until brought to table. 

Gas cooking stoves are made in sizes adapted to the wants of small and large families, and for schools, hotels, and other public establishments. As boiling, roasting, and baking, can be conducted simultaneously, as well as separately, an ordinary fire in many families will, in summer, be but seldom required. For preserving fruits and for other domestic processes in which a steady heat, easy controlled, is of importance, a gas fire is superior to every other. Let it be noticed that, in using gas as fuel, there is no waste of time or materials – no noise, or dirt, or smoke. The full effect of the heat is obtained and can be applied in an instant just where it is needed, and when it has done its duty, it can be as quickly removed.

That being said, it took some time – and the general availability of a reliable reticulated gas supply – for gas cooking to catch on.

In 1873 the Sydney Morning Herald reported that “Gas cooking stoves have to some extent been erected in this city during the past two years. In England they have been adopted in private houses, and in hospitals and other public institutions”.

In that year the Australian Gaslight Company imported gas stoves and sold them to customers for £4. The company ran cooking classes to teach women how to use the new fuel. Among the early Australian manufacturers of gas stoves was Messrs. W. Davies & Co. who also organised demonstrations of their wares around the country.

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