Our ancestors’ homes usually were heated by wood-burning stoves. While any wood stove will keep a certain space warm, the ability to heat a whole house – particularly one that is two stories — diminished with distance and range.
Sitting next to a fire is nice when the weather outside is -30 degrees Fahrenheit, but if you’re sleeping upstairs you’re going to feel far less heat and far more cold.
While some homes had the luxury of a second story fireplaces, most did not. As a result, our ancestors had to improvise numerous solutions to stay warm at night.
Some of these solutions were simple and some more complex. Some were temporary, while others were more permanent. Many of these solutions were used in combination on particularly cold nights. Still, our ancestors found some unique and even weird ways to stay warm at night when sleeping.
1. The “grate.” Homeowners would cut a hole between the first and second floor and insert a grate that would allow the hot air from below to rise into the second floor. It was far from forced-air heating, but it did offer some relief.
2. The hot-bed pan. Another solution was to take hot coals from the fire and insert them into a covered pan on the end of a long wooden handle and rub it over a mattress before sleeping.