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On April 21, 1928 ….. Jesse W. Cornelius, from Birmingham, Alabama, filed a patent for his invention

On April 21, 1928 ….. Jesse W. Cornelius, from Birmingham, Alabama, filed a patent for his invention of the of the Open Grate for Heating Homes. from Birmingham, Alabama

The Transcription below was published in the Birmingham News May 25, 1928

OPEN GRATE USED FOR HEATING HOME: New Device to Take Place of Furnace is Invented by Birmingham Man

Conservation of cold unused air and the use of turning the wasted air into heat which can adequately be used in furnishing heat for a house, is the latest development and innovation in house furnaces.
This new furnace is the invention of J. W. Cornelius, 424 North Twenty-Fourth Street, and the furnace has been installed in a number of homes now under construction in Birmingham.
A demonstration test, which was open to the public, was held Thursday at a house being completed at Fifteenth Court and Nineteenth Street, North. The furnace was recently installed by Mr. Cornelius and was the first test to be made by him, as other homes with the furnace are under conservation.

This fireplace appears to have some type heater to save the heat lost in the fireplace (Library of Congress)

Liked Furnace Plan

The heating system is similar to the furnace plan, except an open fire gate is the feeder to the various floor registers instead of the usual basement furnace.
A feature of the new type heating system is that the cold air is utilized in furnishing additional hot air, which, after, passing over the specially constructed metal fireback of the grate, is transmitted into air ducts which run to the registers.
The first step in the new heating system is the building of a coal fire in the open grate. Specially constructed ventilators at each side of the grate take the cold air which has settled to the floor, minimizing the amount of cold air in rooms throughout the house. The cold air is heated through a process of coming in contact with the fireback and is then sent out in pipes to the registers.

Conserves Heat

This type furnace is the first to be constructed in which conservation of heat is the feature. Approximately 1,600 cubic feet of hot air a minute can be handled by the fan.
Mr. Cornelius has had a wide experience in constitution building, having taken a two-year course in this subject at Carnegie Tech., Pittsburgh, and having been engaged in construction work several years.

Here is an excerpt from his first patent

July 30, 1929. J. W. CORNELIUS AIR HEATING SYSTEM FOR FIREPLACES Filed April 21, 1928 Inventor 32 J W Cornelius Aaomcys Patented July 30, 1929.
Application filed April 21,
“My invention relates to air heating systems for fireplaces and has for its object the provision of apparatus of the character des gnated (?) which shall be effective to provide a circulation of air from a room where it has been partially heated and where the fireplace is located, and delivered to a more remote point where heated air is required.
A further object of my invention is to provide an air circulating system for a fireplace wherein partially heated air is withdrawn from the room where the fireplace is located and at a point closely adjacent to the fireplace, and then delivered to a more remote point without interference with the draft on the fireplace.”

He received a 2nd patent a little later for an improvement on his fireplace heater. I wonder what became of J. W. Cornelius and his invention.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Pioneers: Lost & Forgotten Stories  includes the following stories:

  • The Yazoo land fraud
  • Daily life as an Alabama pioneer
  • The capture and arrest of Vice-president Aaron Burr 
  • The early life of William Barrett Travis, hero of the Alamo
  • Description of Native Americans of early Alabama including the visit by Tecumseh
  • Treaties and building the first roads in Alabama.



  1. I have Cornelius in my family. I’m going to have to read more about this. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It looks like I have a great uncle named Jesse Cornelius. (born 1891) That would be interesting if it’s the same one.