Robert Grace

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Robert Grace
Born (1709-04-25)April 25, 1709
Died 1766 (aged 56–57)
Occupation stove manufacturer

Robert Grace (April 25, 1709 – 1766) was an American manufacturer of stoves and furnaces. He is especially known for producing the first Franklin stoves.

Ancestral genealogy

Grace coat of arms

Grace was a descendant of the seventeenth-century Richard Grace, whose father, also named Robert Grace, was a feudal Baron of Courtstown. His ancestors had accompanied the Earl of Pembroke in an invasion of Ireland in the later part of the 12th century. They acquired extensive lands in Kilkenny County of Ireland and the family flourished there for more than 500 years. They then lost their lands in the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Some of the Grace families followed the exiled James II of England to France and others became soldiers of fortune. Grace's father was one of the latter and eventually ended up on an estate in Barbados. In 1707 he came to Philadelphia to live for a while. During this time, Grace was born in the city on April 25, 1709. His mother died while he was a baby and his father went back to Barbados and lived out his life there. Grace was raised by his maternal grandmother. Her name was Constance and she was married to Hugh Lowden, a wealthy merchant. Grace grew up in their Philadelphia mansion on High Street.[1]

Mid life

Grace was a friend of Benjamin Franklin, who described Grace at 21 years of age in 1730 as a wealthy man with a pleasing personality. He inherited much from his father of estates in Barbados. From his grandmother's side Grace had received an inheritance from the estate of Hugh Lowden (Constance's husband). This included a large sum of money and the mansion on High Street in downtown Philadelphia. Grace was already wealthy as a young man of seventeen years of age in 1723.[2]

Franklin stove

Franklin's Junto Club of scientists used part of Grace's mansion for their meetings. Franklin mentions in his autobiography that around 1729 the Club no longer had their meetings at a tavern and instead used a room at Grace's house that he had set aside for them. It was proposed to Franklin that books of the members should all be located in the same place for convenience of the researchers. Some of these books were collected and put on shelves in the room used for their club meetings. They were aggregated together from various members in a type of library. So many books were gathered in a year that they became unmanageable and the library was discontinued for a while. Grace's house eventually was leased by Benjamin Franklin for his residence and printing shop business. The three-story brick mansion, originally built in 1710, became the Philadelphia Public Library, eventually fulfilling Franklin's concept.[3]

The Pennsylvania Gazette newspaper published on May 29, 1740, a wedding notification that Grace had married Mrs. Rebecca Nutt, a wealthy widow, a few days prior.[4] Grace was a close friend of both Rebecca's previous husband and Franklin. Franklin invented his stove in the 1741–1742 time period; he gave a model to Grace to use as a template for manufacturing the first heating stove and Grace set up a profitable casting business.[5][6][7] He did not have to pay Franklin anything for the model, as Franklin wanted his stoves to be available to everyone, relishing popular appreciation of his handiwork and eschewing patents.[7][8][9][A]

This combination of events led to the first Franklin stoves being manufactured by Warwick furnaces, which was owned and managed by Grace from his marriage to Rebecca.[11][12] The stoves originally had an arched and decorated front plate.[11] The stove had a projecting hearth at the bottom that was inserted into a fireplace and the smoke was guided up through the chimney.[13] The stove was more efficient in producing heat for the room than an open fireplace.[14]


Grace died in the summer of 1766.[15][16]



  1. ^ "In order of time, I should have mentioned before that having, in 1742, invented an open stove for the better warming of rooms, and at the same time saving fuel, as the fresh air admitted was warmed in entering, I made a present of the model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early friends, who, having an iron furnace, found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable thing, as they were growing in demand. To promote that demand, I wrote and published a pamphlet, entitled 'An Account of the new-invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces; wherein their Construction and Manner of Operation is particularly explained; their Advantages above every other Method of warning Rooms demonstrated; and all Objections that have been raised against the Use of them answered and obviated.' ... An ironmonger in London, however, assuming a good deal of my pamphlet, and working it up into his own, and making some small changes in the machine, which rather hurt its operation, got a patent for it there, and made, as I was told, a little fortune by it. And this is not the only instance of patents taken out for my inventions by others, tho' not always with the same success, which I never contested, as having no desire of profiting by patents myself, and hating disputes. The use of these fireplaces in very many houses, both of this and the neighboring colonies, has been, and is, a great saving of wood to the inhabitants."[10]


  1. ^ James 1874, p. 376.
  2. ^ Du Puy 1910, p. 65.
  3. ^ "Lending Library". Benjamin Franklin History. Benjamin Franklin Historical Society as part of the University of Massachusetts History Club. 2014. Retrieved March 22, 2017. 
  4. ^ The Pennsylvania Gazette, front page May 29, 1740.
  5. ^ Bining 1973, p. 85.
  6. ^ Kane 1997, p. 290.
  7. ^ a b "Franklin Stove". March 10, 2006. Retrieved March 21, 2017. 
  8. ^ Robeson 1916, p. 154.
  9. ^ James 1874, p. 54.
  10. ^ Frankin, Benjamin (1999–2017) [1771]. Memoirs. Electric Ben Franklin. The Independence Hall Association, p. 55. Retrieved March 21, 2017. 
  11. ^ a b Heckscher 1992, p. 254.
  12. ^ Snyder, Michael T. (March 3, 2003). "Chronicles the Coventries- Local author/historian looks North, East and South". The Mercury News. Robert Grace was a close friend of both Samuel Nutt Jr. and Benjamin Franklin. This friendship led to Coventry and Warwick furnaces manufacturing the first Franklin stoves. 
  13. ^ Franklin, Benjamin (February 13, 2015). "The Franklin Stove 1742". History of Science and Technology. Retrieved April 12, 2017. 
  14. ^ "Franklin Stove". Dictionary of American History. 2000. Retrieved April 12, 2017. This "New Pennsylvania Fireplace" avoided drafts, gave more even temperatures throughout the room, and checked loss of heat through the chimney. 
  15. ^ James 1874, p. 388.
  16. ^ Mercer 1914, p. 135.


  • Bining, Arthur Cecil (1973). Pennsylvania iron manufacture in 18th century. 
  • Du Puy, Charles Meredith (1910). History of Dupuy Family. University of Michigan Press. 
  • Heckscher, Morrison H. (January 1992). American Rococo, 1750–1775. Metropolitan Museum of Art. ISBN 978-0-87099-631-3. 
  • James, Mrs. Thomas Potts (1874). Memorial of Thomas Potts. University Press. 
  • Kane, Joseph Nathan (1997). Famous first facts. H.W. Wilson. ISBN 978-0-8242-0930-8. #4331 – The first heating stove was the Pennsylvania fireplace, invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1742 and now called the Franklin stove. It was a wood-burning open box of cast-iron that stood out from the chimney and caused heat from its back and sides to be thrown into the room. Smoke escaped over the top of a flat chamber behind the fire, and passed downward between it and the real back of the stove, then into the chimney. Franklin refused to patent his invention. The stoves were manufactured by Robert Grace, the master of the Warwick furnace in Chester County, PA. 
  • Mercer, Henry Chapman (1914). Bible in iron. Bucks County Historical Society. 
  • Robeson, Susan Stroud (1916). Genealogical of Andrew Robeson. Lippincott. 
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