Mark Twain wrote the following description in ‘Europe and Elsewhere’. Although he spoke of German fireplaces specifically, his words are now true (in proportion) for all of the Masonry Heaters that we install.
“Take the German stove, for instance … where can you find it outside of German countries? I am sure I have never seen it where German was not the language of the region. Yet it is by long odds the best stove and the most convenient and economical that has yet been invented.
To the uninstructed stranger it promises nothing; but he will soon find that it is a masterly performer, for all that. It has a little bit of a door which seems foolishly out of proportion to the rest of the edifice; yet the door is right; for it is not necessary that bulky fuel shall enter it. Small-sized fuel is used, and marvelously little at that. The door opens into a tiny cavern which would not hold more fuel that a baby could fetch in its arms. The process of firing is quick and simple. At half past seven on a cold morning the servant brings a small basketful of slender pine sticks – say a modified armful – and puts half these in, lights them with a match, and closes the door. They burn out in ten or twelve minutes. He then puts in the rest and locks the door, and carries off the key. The work is done. He will not come again until the next morning.
All day long and until past midnight all parts of the room will be delightfully warm and comfortable, and there will be no headaches and no sense of closeness or oppression. In an American room, whether heated by steam, hot water, or open fires, the neighborhood of the register or the fireplace is warmest – the heat is not equally diffused throughout the room; but in a German room one is as comfortable in one part of it as in another. Nothing is gained or lost by being near the stove. Its surface is not hot; you can put your hand on it anywhere and not get burnt.
Consider these things. One firing is enough for the day; the cost is next to nothing; the heat produced is the same all day, instead of too hot and too cold by turns; one may absorb himself in his business and peace; he does not need to feel any anxieties or solicitudes about his fire; his whole day is a realized dream of bodily comfort.
America could adopt this stove, but does America do it?
The American wood stove, of whatsoever breed, it is a terror.
There can be no tranquility of mind where it is. It requires more attention than a baby. It has to be fed every little while, it has to be watched all the time; and for all reward you are roasted half your time and frozen the other half. It warms no part of the room but its own part; it breeds headaches and suffocation, and makes one’s skin feel dry and feverish; and when your wood bill comes in you thin you have been supporting a volcano.
We have in America many and many a breed of coal stove also – fiendish things, everyone of them. The base burner sort are heady and require but little attention; but none of them distributes its heat uniformly through the room, or keeps it at an unwavering temperature, or fails to take the life out of the atmosphere and leave it stuffy and smothery and stupefying…”
from ‘Europe and Elsewhere’ by Mark Twain