Answer Man: Belleville stoves flamed out

News-DemocratMay 21, 2014 

I recently purchased a small, brown enamel parlor stove made by the Quality Stove and Range Co. in Belleville. What information can you give me on this company? -- Steve Bremer

On Nov. 14, 1903, the stove wars continued to heat up in Belleville.

That's the day the Belleville Daily Advocate announced that Louis Opp, Henry Ehret, Charles Spoenemann and George Jackson Jr. had incorporated the Quality Stove and Range Co. It would operate in the old Belleville Shoe Co. building at East A Street near the Louisville and Nashville Railroad tracks.

For the next three decades it would thrive in what has become known unofficially as the "Stove Capital of the World." It saw its initial $20,000 capital stock grow to $100,000 by 1924. In 1921 it teamed up with the nearby Oakland Foundry to open a $15,000 sales room. By 1928, it had 25 employees with a weekly payroll of $900.

Along the way, it saw a couple of major organizational changes. Just before Christmas in 1924, it merged with the Crown Foundry near Bristow and Scheel to establish a bit of an Ehret family stove dynasty.

Adam Ehret had opened Crown in early 1902, and his sons Alex and Erwin joined him nine years later. By 1924, Hugo Ehret was president of Quality while his two cousins by that time were running Crown. Then, in February 1927, Hugo, Alex and Erwin submitted incorporation papers changing the name of their combined venture to the Lincoln Foundry and Manufacturing Co.

But on Sept. 8, 1930, the Quality half of the company went up in flames. Just after 5 a.m. that Monday morning, a fire apparently broke out on the first floor of the Oakland Foundry warehouse on Florida Avenue. It quickly spread up the elevator shaft and then jumped to both the Oakland and Quality plants on the north side of East A Street.

By the time firefighters arrived at 6 a.m., an inferno had engulfed the buildings. When the Jackson Street and West End fire departments hooked up their hoses to the hydrants, they were confronted with a nasty surprise -- little water.

"Major Charles Stegmeyer and City Attorney Arthur W. Peth reported that fire department apparatus 'pumped air' out of the water mains when the first hose lines were played on the fire," the Advocate reported. "The average water pressure during the early part of the fire averaged only between 7 1/2 to 8 pounds, the officials said."

Making matters worse, despite warnings by firefighters, a westbound L&N train severed a hose by running over it at 6:25 a.m. The resulting loss was estimated at $500,000. Oakland rebuilt and Lincoln labored on, but there was no more Quality, as far as I could find.

What Major League player has played the most innings? -- B.H., of Cahokia

Unless someone knows of a statistic I don't, I fear I'm going to strike out on this one.

The most logical answer is someone who (so far) can't even make it into the Hall of Fame -- Pete Rose. He tops all players in games played -- 3,562 (3,629 including playoffs). That's 254 more games than Carl Yastrzemski and 264 more than Hank Aaron, so Rose would be the leading contender for the honor.

But I can't find a stat service that keeps track of innings played by position players since it doesn't figure into any of the statistics. You'll find a handful of sites listing Rose as having played 41,696 innings, but I'm sure this can't possibly be correct. Even if you figure in playoff games, that would mean each and every game he played lasted an average of 11 1/2 innings.

Naturally pitching is a simpler matter. Cy Young is far and away the iron man with 7,356 innings on the mound followed by James Francis "Pud" Galvin (6,003), Walter Johnson (5,914), Phil Niekro (5,404) and Nolan Ryan (5,386). Haven't heard of Galvin? Funny, he pitched in 20 games during his first (1875) and last (1892) seasons in the majors with the St. Louis Brown Stockings/Browns.

Today's trivia

Who sang the bass part in Olivia Newton-John's "Let Me Be There" and "If You Love Me (Let Me Know)" -- and what other "hit" did he play a role in?

Answer to Wednesday's trivia: Officially, R2-D2 stands for Second Generation Robotic Droid Series 2, according to a "Star Wars" encyclopedia. But the real origin is much more mundane. While director George Lucas was finishing up "American Graffiti," sound editor Walter Murch says he asked to hear R2-D2 in the studio. That's Hollywood shorthand for reel 2, dialogue track 2. Lucas, who had nodded off while working on his "Star Wars" script, reportedly woke up, said he thought it was a "great name," and promptly went back to sleep. As for C-3PO, urban legend has it that C-3 were map coordinates for the post office (PO) in Lucas' hometown of Modesto, California. I can't vouch for them, but you can find more supposed "facts" at

Send your questions to Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat, 120 S. Illinois St., P.O. Box 427, Belleville, IL 62222-0427 or or call 618-239-2465.

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