Wooden Foot Warmer
6" x 9" x 9"
This 19th-century cylindrical wooden foot warmer, though simple in design, serves as a reminder of times past and the objects essential for both comfort and survival. Foot warmers have a long history, with similar objects dating back to ancient Rome, though they are perhaps most commonly associated with use in Holland and the Low Countries during the 17th century, where they took a more standardized form as the foot “stoof” (stove). Typically square and constructed of wood, punched tin or brass, with an opening housing an earthenware receptacle for hot coals or embers inside, heat emits through holes found at the top of the wooden structure. 17th-century Dutch genre paintings, such as those of Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675), depict the common existence and use of foot warmers in domestic spaces. These objects would have fallen under the female purview as women were traditionally responsible for maintaining the warmth, light, and heat of the home. In later centuries, foot warmers continued to be of importance: in Colonial America, particularly New Amsterdam which inherited many Dutch traditions, foot warmers provided essential heat during long Sunday church services. The 19th century saw foot warmers fall out of common use, though they remained a staple in lower class homes. The cylindrical shape of this particular foot “stoof” exists as a rare form of the object.
At this time in Great Britain, the coronation of 19-year-old Queen Victoria (1819–1901) took place at Westminster Abbey on June 28, 1838. The Queen had succeeded to the throne a year prior. Victoria reigned for 63 years and 7 months, in a period that is now often referred to as the Victorian Era, known for its advancements in the fields of industry, science, and culture.