Vintage Gas Water Heaters

Vintage Gas Water Heaters

Vintage Gas Water Heaters as seen in the newspapers of yesterday. You get the picture of the cowboy who comes in after a long day (or week) of cattle rustling and treat himself to a hot bath for 2 bits (or less depending on how many people were before you). Back in the day, people had to heat up their water on the store or over a fire. Then, around 1889, a Norwegian immigrant named Edwin Ruud, invented the first water heater and hot water on demand was the luxury item everyone wanted in their home.

Period Music – Cows May Come – Irving Kaufman

We take a look at some of these now Vintage Gas Water Heaters as they were seen in the advertisements and articles of the old newspapers.

Vintage Gas Water Heater Advertisement

Vintage Gas Water Heater Advertisement

Gas Water Heaters Save Trouble and Coal – New York Tribune 1918 – Our transports, our warships, our munition plants, our aeroplane factories, in fact, all industries engaged in pushing the war to a successful end require coal, coal, coal, and in such quantities that the fuel administration has decreed that the householder can have only two-thirds of the usual yearly supply.

1899 ruud

First ad for Ruud gas water heater found – 1899

In the average household two kinds of coal are used. A small size, known as stove coal for use in the kitchen range, and a larger size, the egg coal, for the cellar furnace. We may not all be so fortunate as to get our full two-thirds allotment and most of us will prefer that the stove coal shall run short, since we can cook by other fuels, but most houses cannot be comfortably heated except with coal. Under these conditions, the question of providing an adequate supply of hot water with the old reliable coal range cold and idle may be of extreme importance to many householders within a month or two.

In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the gas water heater will satisfactorily solve the problem. There are two general types in use, First, the automatic, instantaneous type, which delivers hot water within a few seconds after opening the faucet, and the tank type, which is connected with the circulating water  boiler and must be given time to store up a supply of hot water. It rests with the individual to decide which better meets his conditions.

Automatic and Instantaneous – The automatic instantaneous heater is a

1920 gas water heater

Pittsburgh automatic gas heater 1920

rather large rectangular or cylindrical piece of apparatus (4 feet by 2 feet), constructed entirely of metal and having a cast iron jacket, inclosing many feet of copper tubing arranged in the form of coils. Beneath these coils is a battery of gas burners and a pilot light. Automatic valves control both the gas and water flow. No boiler is needed, and usually the heater is placed in the kitchen in the space formerly occupied by the boiler or else is located in the basement or cellar.

Connections are made so that the water from the supply outlet flows through the copper coils of the heater, and opening a faucet anywhere in the house not only starts the water flowing through the coils, but automatically opens the flow of gas so that the small pilot flame lights up the battery of burners which heat the water as it flows. Thus, within a few seconds, hot water is running out of the faucet. Thermostatic valves prevent the water being overheated and fuel wasted. This is the cheapest method of heating water by gas, since one cubic foot of gas will heat one gallon of water, but, unless care and discretion are exercised in the use of the supply, it may very easily prove expensive through the waste of the hot water.


Lawson tank gas water heater 1905 – click for larger

The Gas Tank Heater – The gas tank water heater is the one in most common use, chiefly because it means relatively little initial expense. This piece of apparatus consists of a small cylindrical cast iron jacket containing two or more spiral coils of copper tubing, with a radial gas burner beneath. It is generally located alongside of the boiler to which it is connected and the gas flame heats the water as it circulates out of the bottom of the boiler through the coils and back in again at the top. Hence the hot water is stored at the top, where it is available for immediate use. The burner consumes about fifty cubic feet of gas per hour and twenty minutes is usually required to heat sufficient water for a bath, while within ten minutes enough for dish washing is provided. Thirty gallons of water can be heated to an average temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit in one hour and ten minutes. With this heater you must light the burners half an hour or more before you need the water, and, therefore, it is not to be compared in convenience with the automatic instantaneous type.

1910 ruud heater

Ruud gas heater ad 1910 – click for larger

Comments (6)

  1. Athena

    I recently found an old Rex No.20 gas water heater made by The Cleveland Heater Co on my farm. I am trying to find more info on it, but can’t seem to find any. Do you know where could look or maybe you would know.

  2. Liliana Marquez

    I’m hoping you can shed some light on this piece I recently acquired since I don’t have much experience with these heaters.

    I have what appears to be a (vintage? antique?) No. 4 Ruud Cast Iron Tankless Water Heater. Now, although it is quite an interesting and beautiful piece, I don’t have a need for this in my home (my taste in home decor is quite different) so I would like to sell it… But I don’t have a clue as to what to charge for this!

    Would you be so kind as to possibly point me in the right direction to find pricing for these types of water heaters? Obviously if YOU can give me a good idea for a price range, then even better!

    Sorry for the very long email…I tend to write long messages, texts, etc.!

    Thank you kindly for your time, I look forward to hearing from you soon!



    1. justin

      hi id love to purchase your piece…
      I own a plumbing company that specializes in water heaters and i think it would be awesome for our office.

      whats your email?


      1. admin (Post author)

        Justin, The reply email was and I’m sure she would appreciate the info. I don’t have any collectors knowledge on pieces such as this. I enjoy scouring old newspapers and finding advertising of days gone by. Good luck!

  3. Tasha Dykes

    I just recently acquired an antique Rudd heater, the plate is missing so I’m not sure on the date but it is cast iron with ivory enamel and has the full copper coil still inside. My father in law was a plumber and pulled it out of a house over 20 years ago and we recently found it while going through his things for my mother in law. Does anyone have any tips on how to determine value or finds buyers? Thank you!

  4. sherry

    I have a Lawson no 3 Pittsburgh is 2ft tall with ornate small legs…copper insert…looking for info.



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