steam-generating boiler’s roots go back to the late 1700s and early 1800s with the development of the kettle-type boiler, which simply boiled water into steam. The water was placed above a fire box and then boiled into steam. It wasn’t until around 1867, with the development of the convection boiler, that the steam-generating industry began.
It may be debated who developed the first steam-generating boiler; however, most will agree that George Babcock and Steven Wilcox were two of the founding fathers of the steam-generating boiler. They were the first to patent their boiler design, which used tubes inside a firebrick-walled structure to generate steam, in 1867, and they formed Babcock & Wilcox Company in New York City in 1891. Their first boilers were quite small, used lump coal, fired by hand, and operated at a very low rate of heat input. The solid firebrick walls that formed the enclosure for the unit were necessary because they helped the combustion process by reradiating heat back into the furnace area.
The Stirling Boiler Company, owned by O.C. Barber and named for the street (Stirling Avenue) the facility was on in Barberton, Ohio, also began making boilers in 1891. Their eighth Stirling boiler design was called the H-type boiler (“h” being the eighth letter in the alphabet) and had a brick setting design. The Stirling boiler was much larger than the Babcock & Wilcox boiler and used three drums to help circulate the water and steam flow throughout the boiler.
In 1907, the Stirling Boiler Company merged with the Babcock & Wilcox Company. They renamed their boiler the H-type Stirling, and it became one of best-selling boilers of its time, probably because of its ability to produce up to 50,000 pounds of steam per hour.
However, they were not the only boiler manufacturers during the late 1800s. The Grieve Grate Company and the American Stoker Company were also making boilers of similar all-brick-wall design. They both used a traveling or screw-type grate at the bottom of the boiler to transport the fuel (lump coal) across the inside of the boiler. As the fuel traveled across the inside of the boiler, it was burned and the ash or un-burned fuel would drop into a hopper. These two companies later formed the Combustion Engineering
Company in 1912. The new Combustion Engineering Company offered their version of the Grieve and American Stoker boilers and called it the Type E stoker boiler.
Combustion Fossil Power, Combustion Engineering, Inc., 4th Edition (1991).
Steam, its generation and use, Babcock & Wilcox Company,
40th Edition (1992).
Babcock & Wilcox a corporate history, Carlisle Printing Company,
N.W. Eft (1999)
Refractories in the Generation of Steam Power, McGraw-Hill Book
Company, F. H. Norton (1949).