In low situations, where the water has no free outlet, and yet where it cannot collect to form ponds or lakes, certain small plants, peculiar to such situations, accumulate and grow. When these decay, they are converted into that substance called peat, which consists almost entirely of roots, stems and leaves matted together. In some countries, the accumulation of such vegetable matter covers large tracts of several miles in extent, and are called "peat bogs," such as in Ireland ; we call them peat meadows and peat swamps. These bogs vary in depth from a few feet to several yards, and are, in general too soft for the foot of man to tread, yet there are passable foot-roads through most of them. Peat is employed for fuel in the greater part of Ireland, in several districts of France, Germany, and Holland, and in the Highlands of Scotland. The substance is soft when found in the bog, and is easily cut, with a long narrow spade, into pieces resembling bricks ; these, when exposed to the sun and air, become dry and hard, and are very inflammable. The quality ofpeatisvery variable, just like coal. The best kind is compact, and nearly black ; the inferior kind is light, and of a brown color. The lower strata of deep peat bogs make the best peat, because more compact j and they more nearly resemble bituminous coal in character. Owing to tlie great quantity of ashes which peat produces, it has, until within a few years, been little used in furnaces or grates ; it was, therefore, generally burned like wood, on the old-fashioned hearths, on andirons. In Germany, France and Ireland, peat has, of late, been subjected to severe pressure, like clay in brick-making, and thereby reduced to one third its natural bulk, by which process it has been rendered nearly as compact as coal, and as available for all purposes in which fuel is employed. Peat can be charred like wood, and its charcoal is reputed to be of a very superior character for making iron and steel. There are quite a number of peat bogs or meadows in various sections of our country, to which little attention has heretofore been paid, owing to the abundance of wood fuel; the time has now arrived when, of necessity, more attention must be paid to them. In Worcester, Mass., peat has been brought into use by Messrs. Washburn & Co., and has proved more valuable than was expected. From a peat meadow, (as described on page 379, Vol.XII, SCIENTIFIC AMEEICAF,) they have taken out and used about 2,000 cords, which, when well seasoned, produces as much heat as. an equal bulk of dry oak wood. We have no doubt that every peat meadow in our country might be rendered valuable for fuel, especially by subjecting it to pressure, a process, we believe, which has not yet been tried C among us. In the heat of summer, although we never need any fire in our rooms, we often want hot water for tea, coffee, and similar purposes ; flat irons require to be heated, and food cooked. To effect these desired ends without creating much or any external heat, is the aim of the simple little contrivance shown in our engravings. The invention consists in having a little iron plate box, A, having a number of holes, a, punched in its rim, as in Fig. 2, or suspended by little hooks, b, as in Fig. 1. This box is placed in the hole in the stovo, and a pint of charcoal is put into it, a match applied, and, if hot water is required, the kettle, B, (having a pipe, C, shown by the dotted lines open at both ends, passing through it,) placed on the fire, the pipe feeding the fire with air. A patent was obtained on the peculiar construction of the kettle on the 11th of August, 1857. The inventor states that one pint of charcoal burnt in this stove will boil five pints of water in twelve minutes, and yet not in any way warm the room. A saucepan with a tube through it, as seen in Fig. 3, may be applied onto the stove, or a gridiron of the shape seen in the same figure. Fig. 2 shows the invention applied to an apparatus for heating flat irons, the heater, C, being attached to the box by the little hook, e, and instead of a tube there is a shut-off arrangement, d, on its top. In winter these utensils can be placed on the stove itself; so they are equally useful in winter or summer. Those persons who have tried them pronounce them excellent in their operation. The State Fair at Janesville, Wis., awarded a premium to the inventor, W. Westlake, of Milwaukio, Wis., who will furnish any further information.
This article was originally published with the title "Peat for Fuel" in Scientific American 13, 21, 161 (January 1858)