Water Heater Rescue: Know-How, Troubleshooting, Anodes graphic

Museum > Jewel No. 503

Three views of the Jewel: top, overview, middle, the burner, bottom, the burner partially pulled out

"The Jewel possesses merits never before attained by any water heater made up to this time," reads an advertisement in Scribner's magazine. Considering that up to that time, water mainly had to be heated in a pot over a wood fire or in a kettle on a stove, that was likely a true claim.

Manufactured by the George M. Clark & Co. of Chicago, in 1901, the Jewel No. 503 was one of the first instantaneous water heaters. It came with two sets of brackets, perhaps one for the kitchen and another for the bathroom, and was designed to be carried from place to place, as needed, by the lady of the house.

Women in those days had to be strong. The Jewel is made of iron and weighs 40 pounds!

It worked like this: you hooked up a cold-water hose to one of the pipes on the righthand side (3) -- didn't matter which; the other served as the hot-water outlet.

Then you attached a gas hose (1) from a gas lamp or cigar lighter -- both of which were common in those days, pulled out the burner (2) turned on the gas and lit the burner.

Letters on the front plate of the device remind you that water must be flowing through the pipes when the burner is operating. Water then flowed back and forth through the pipes (5) and came back out the right side. The higher you ran the gas, the hotter the water.

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