(Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - Nov 2013 No. 107)
The Boss Roaster
Each year as Thanksgiving and Christmas celebration plans begin to emerge, images of families gathering around a table come to mind as each awaits the bird roasting in the oven to be set before them. So much for the shades of long ago memories, so how did the images that were a reality for our grand and great grand parents materialize? Early on, they may not have had the precision control we enjoy today with a gas-fired or an electric oven because they had to deal with a traditional wood-fired stove. Be that as it may, the kitchen of the late 1800s and early 1900s did have access to some of the latest cooking technology available from Fort Wayne.
A book at the Allen County Fort Wayne History Center titled, The Industrial Advantages of Fort Wayne, Ind., features material development and progress back in the days of 1895 when it was published. How many of us remember or even knew about the Boss Roaster Manufacturing Co., headquartered at 372 South Calhoun Street? Proprietors Daniel Klotz and Gottlieb Haller who produced the product started the company in March 1891.
Among the descriptive sketches of the company one declared, “The most important improvement ever introduced in culinary apparatus is the “Boss Roaster.” So what was the “Boss Roaster”? It was made in several sizes of strong and durable sheet metal as well as adaptable and easy to understand its use in all types of ovens. An oblong pan, with what was claimed to have an airtight cover, prevented steam from escaping thus preserving all the “juices and nutrition qualities of the meats and other articles of food being cooked.” It was designed for the cook to be able to check the contents of the roaster by simply pulling out the sliding lid. Meat could be browned to a desired color controlled by removing its ventilator at the top shortly before serving time.
Other than roasting meats, the Boss was said to be equally useful for baking bread, biscuits, pies, cakes or for roasting apples, potatoes and vegetables, and for steaming fruits. Some ten thousand roasters had been sold in Fort Wayne alone.
Because it was promoted as “the simplest, the best and the cheapest utensil of the kind on the market… thousands of them are in use for general cooking purposes and giving the utmost satisfaction in all cases.” Best of all “they sell on sight”, and the company was seeking to have “agents in every town and city in the United States.” Opportunities for an exclusive right of territory with the assurances that, “protection against other agents guaranteed.” In 1895, the offer was made that, “Any industrious man or woman can secure a profitable income by requesting this company in any part of the union.”
If the household cook had to deal with the inefficiencies of those early wood-fired cooking stoves, it is gratifying to know that the latest in accouterments of culinary was available to ease the burden. Whose to say how many kitchens had the Boss Roaster from Fort Wayne tucked away in its cupboard and responsible for so many memorable meals?
Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history centerfw.blogspot.com and “Blogging Hoosier History” at Indiana Historical Bureau’s blog.history.in.gov.