The Chicago Flexible Shaft Company was founded by John K. Stewart and Thomas J. Clark. The pair became friends while living in New Hampshire. In the 1880s they moved to Providence, Rhode Island, working for the toolmaker Brown & Sharpe Manufacturing Company. In 1890 they moved to Chicago, founding the Chicago Flexible Shaft Company in 1893, producing clippers, bike handle bars in addition to flexible shafts. In 1903 half of the company was sold to William Cooper & Nephews, a British and Australian firm. In 1908 William Cooper & Nephews bought the remaining half of the company, with one of Stewart’s relatives kept as president of the company. The company expanded to manufacture electrical irons, coffeemakers, and toasters. In 1946 the company became the Sunbeam Corporation.
Among the items the Chicago-based company produced was the Clark Heater. The oval-shaped metal heating units were covered with green or blue carpet, which matched most carriage linings. The unit had a perforated drawer for coal. Ads boasted that properly prepared coal could burn without soot or smoke, from 12-15 hours.
Harry T. Hearsey came to the U.S. from England when his parents moved to Boston. He became infatuated with the newest transportation craze of the time – bicycles. In 1878 he became a bike mechanic, while also riding in exhibitions and meets. In 1885 he moved to Indianapolis and the next year opened his own bike shop. He moved from bikes into automobiles, becoming the city’s first auto dealer. In 1915 he moved out of auto manufacturing and back into bikes, but also adding auto parts manufacturing and sales to the company’s repertoire. The company advertised the Hearsey Heater in a number of publications, including R.F.D. News.
Albert Lehman was one of the partners of Lehman Brothers manufacturers (not to be confused with the present day, recently bankrupted financial firm). The Lehman Heater was created in 1885 and advertised for use in carriages. Lehman boasted in 1900 that they had sold 135,000 of the company’s coal-burning heaters to the American public, and were currently selling them at a rate of 10,000 per year. Like the Clark Heaters manufactured by the Chicago Flexible Shaft Company, Lehman recommended that buyers use only their coal.
In the relatively more innocent days following the discovery of radium (discovered in 1898 by Marie and Pierre Curie), the Novelty Manufacturing Company of Jackson, Michigan, used the idea of this new wonder fuel to a variety of heaters, including foot heaters for vehicles. It advertised its “X-Radium” heater in the early 20th century as the best and latest heating technology. An advertisement boasted that “one of its chief advantages is the fact that it requires no fuel. . . . the heating pad consists of a stamped steel receptacle filled with a substance which will attract itself heat rays and retain the heat attracted for several hours. The substance used they call ‘X-Radium.’” In 1903, the full power of radium was not yet realized and the idea of resting one’s feet on a container of radioactive material did not sound as terrifying as it does to today’s consumers.