18th Century Foot Warmers

Last updated: Jan 5, 2024

In A Catalogue and Description of the Etchings of Rembrandt Van-Rhyn (1752), the authors describe the use of foot warmers by Dutch women, both in Rembrandt’s time and in 18th century, in their commentary on a picture of an old woman:

She ſits on a carved Seat, and her right Foot is on a Foot-Stove, to which the Dutch Women are ſo accuſtomed, that even in Summer they uſe them without Fire, merely becauſe having been uſed to have their Feet raiſed ſo much higher than the Ground, they find themſelves uneaſy without them; and when a female Viſitant is receiv’d, it is as much the Cuſtom to ſet a Stove for her as a Chair; even at Church, during the Winter, Perſons let out theſe Stoves for the Uſe of the Ladies.

While foot warmers appear in many Dutch interior scenes, they were also manufactured and used elsewhere in Europe and in the American colonies.

In his Essay on the causes, early signs and prevention of pulmonary consumption (1799), Dr. Thomas Beddoes notes:

It would be dangerous ſuddenly to lower the temperature to which the feeble or delicate have been long habituated. But ſixty degrees of Fahrenheit’s thermometer ſhould perhaps never, even at preſent, be exceeded. By gradual reduction we ſhould, I ſuppoſe, without unpleasant ſenſations, be well able to bear a temperature of fifty degrees. In effecting this change, attention muſt be paid to two circumſtances. A faſhion of warmer cloathing muſt be introduced, and the contrivances for keeping the feet warm muſt be adopted. An apparatus of great elegance might be invented, upon the Dutch principle: or the feet, when cold, may be placed upon a cloſe tin veſſel, containing warm water. In various kinds of indiſpoſition, attended with cold extremities, I have for ſome years recommended, with manifeſt advantage, a tin foot-warmer; and I underſtand they are now manufactured of a convenient form, by Lloyd, near Norfolk-Street, Strand, London.

A page linking to depictions of 18th century bed warmers is available elsewhere on this site.

Extant 18th century foot warmers

The Rijksmuseum also has several miniature silver foot stoves from the 18th century, including BK-NM-3380 (c. 1649-1689), BK-NM-11177-164 (c. 1700), BK-NM-11177-168 (c. 1700), BK-NM-11177-163-A/BK-NM-11177-163-B (c. 1727-1742), BK-NM-11177-177 (c. 1755), BK-NM-11177-180 (c. 1755), BK-NM-11177-175 (c. 1755), BK-14913-V-A/BK-14913-V-B (1756), and BK-NM-11177-165 (1771).

You can also find antique foot warmers and foot stoves on eBay.

Depictions of foot warmers from the 17th and 18th centuries