He Kept New Hampshire Beds Warm: Concord’s Louis F. Gillette (1857-1937)

Sketch included in Patent US 991844 A: Therapeutic bottle, by L.F. Gillett of Concord, NH.

In the early twentieth century most New Hampshire homes did not have central heating, and warming pans were in common use. These devices warmed up the sheets, and also kept the bed warm at least for a few hours, especially if you didn’t have a sleeping companion.

At first heated brick and hot stones were used. Later a warming pan would hold embers from the fire place. Eventually this device evolved into a closed metal container that held hot water. It was this latter sort of device that was produced by Louis F. Gillette in Concord, New Hampshire.

In 1910 L.F. Gillette submitted a patent for a “Therapeutic” bottle made of metal with a removable stopper. His improvement was making it not only a water bottle but “secondly, for use as a reservoir for a fountain syringe.”

Gillette Manufacturing Co. envelope that contained company advertising, provided by Schuyler Bogue. Used here with permission.

Louis Gillette began to manufacture these and regular hot water bottles in Concord. This hot water bottle was  described as “8 inches in diameter and 2 inches thick, and constructed entirely of brass with a heavy plating of block tin on its interior surface to prevent ruse or corrosion, and a heavy plating of burnished nickel on the outside. The non detachable stopper is held by a chain. An open-mesh washable cover is furnished to protect the flesh from the hot metal (when using boiling water) and, at the same time, allow free radiation of the heat.”

The Gillette Hot Water Bottle was advertised in Good Housekeeping Magazine, stating the price was $2.50. The combination syringe and hot water bottle described above, would cost $3.50.

Journal of the Outdoor Life magazine ad for Gillette Hot Water Bottle, 1911.

These products were also advertised in the Journal of Outdoor Life (1911), perhaps trying to capture avid campers who wanted to avoid a cold sleeping bag or cot. In that ad it was stated that the bottle would remain hot from either to ten hours, “an entire night with one filling, that cannot leak.” Reportedly upwards of 30,000 of these were in use.  After the invention of rubber, the metal bed warmers was replaced by the hot water bottle, still widely used, but being supplanted by the microwave-heated warmer and electric pads or blankets.

Louise Fitzgerald Gillette had been born in Washington, D.C., the son of an attorney and clerk for the State Department who had died suddenly after a fall. Through his mother he descended from the famed Papy family, some of the earliest plantation owners in Florida.

Photograph of Louis Gillette. From the collection of Schuyler Bogue. Used gratefully with permission.

Following his father’s death, Louis moved to Boscawen to live with his aunt, Lucretia Tousey Gillette who had married a well-to-do farmer, Jacob Eastman Hosmer. Louis began his working career as a photograph copyist in Concord, New Hampshire (1885 Concord NH Directory) and later as a portrait artist in Somerville MA (1892). By 1910 he submitted a patent for his new, improved water bottle and began commercially manufacturing it from a shop at 22 Bridge Street. The Sanborn maps show a “tin shop” there, and possibly this was his. By 1932 he was retired, and living at 11 Wall Street. He married and had a daughter (shown in his genealogy below), and also died there, being buried in Blossom Hill Cemetery.


Augustus Whiting Gillet, b 1796 USA [poss CT], d. 1832 [will proved 27 Feb 1832 Birmingham, England]; m. 25 May 1820 New York City to Harriet Grant Tousey, dau of Donald Grant & Lucretia (Beers) Toucy. She was b. 1799 in Newton, Fairfield Co. CT and d. 1869. According to his son Augustus’ Yale biography, Augustus was American by birth, but his business was that of a hardware manufacturer in Birmingham, England.  He was also an inventor. The family lived in England, though they at one time resided in New York. Harriet Grant (Toucey) Gillett, of Birmingham England or Derby CT ‘belonged to the Toucey family who were for many years prominent in political life.’ [see biography: Semi-centennial Historical and Biographical Record, by Yale University, Class of 1841]. After her husband’s death, in 1832 Mrs. Harriet G. Gillett returned to the United States on the ship, “New York.”  Her husband’s estate was sold, and the New York papers show that he had owned 4 houses and lots on the S.E. Corner of Henry and State Streets in NYC, about 100 feet square.  In 1827 the newspaper announced shares of his stock were sold.
Ship: “New York” From Liverpool England to New York NY arrival 18 Oct 1832
Mrs. Harriet G. Gillett 33y
Augustus C. Gillett 10y 4m
Edward Gillette 7y 11m
Harriet E Gillett 5y 9m
Lucretia L. Gillett 3y 8m
William B. Gillett 1y 4m
Spectator (New York) Feb 14, 1832
DIED–At Birmingham, Eng. on the 17th Dec Mr. AUGUSTUS WHITING GILLETT, aged 36 years, late of this city.
Children of Augustus W. & Harriet G. (Tousey) Gillet:
1. +Augustus Canfield Gillett, b. 22 May 1822 NYC
2. Edward E. Gillett, b. abt Dec 1824 NY
3. Harriet E. Gillett, b abt Jan/Feb 1827 NY
4. Lucretia Adele Tousey Gillett, b abt Feb 1829-34 NY; married 25 May 1847 in Philadelphia PA [marriage was also registered in Boscawen NH] to Jacob Eastman Hosmer, son of Capt. Jacob & Catherine (Wellington) Hosmer. He was born 23 April 1820 in Concord NH and d. 26 Dec 1896 in Boston MA, aged 76 (he was an oil merchant there). Resided Boscawen, Merrimack Co. NH. Children b. Boscawen NH (1) Charles Emery Hosmer b 8 Sep 1855 ILL, d. 18 Dec 1880 in Boscawen NH. He m. 22 Apr 1880 in Newton MA to Willie E. Gillette, dau of Allison O. & Mary J. Gilette. (2) Stella Adele Hosmer b 8 Sep 1859, d. 1 April 1860.
5. William Henry Gillett, b. 23 April 1831, d. May 1833 MacDougal Street


Louisa Marie (Papy) Gillette, mother of Louis Gillett.

Augustus Canfield Gillett/Gillette, b 22 May 1822 NYC, d. 17 Feb 1856 Washington DC due to a fall. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle of 15 Aug 1854 announced: “Augustus C. Gillette of Florida has been appointed clerk in the State department.” In 1841 he was a member of Yale’s Skull & Bones Society, he also was in the graduating class of 1841 with an A.M. degree. He m. 14 Feb 1846 in St. Augustine or St. Johns FL to Louisa Marie Papy, daughter of Maguel Juan & Maria DeLaCandelaria Peso (DeBurgo) Papy [who his biography calls ‘a large slaveholder and planter, and descended from the early Spanish settlers in that State.’ She was b. 30 April/3 March 1831/1832 in FL and d. 2 Apr 1867 in Newton MA, age 36 y. She m2d) 20 Dec 1859 in Washington DC to Albert A. Boschke. He was b. abt 1826 in Prussia. In the 1865 census he was a Harbor Engineer in Newton MA, and a member of the U.S. Coast Survey. In 1850 Augustus Gillett, wife and daughter Mary L were living in Duval, Duval Co. FL. He is buried in the Congressional Cemetery, Washington DC.  [SEE His Yale Biography]
New York Evening Post, Feb 20, 1856
Washington, Feb 17, 34y Augustus C. Gillett of NY
Jacksonville FL, December 24, 1847 Advertisement
Augustus C. Gillett
Attorney and Counsellor at Law
And Commissioner of Deeds of the State of Connecticut,
within and for the State of Florida.
Jacksonville, FLA
1865 Massachusetts Census > MA > Middlesex > Newton
Albert Boschke M 39y Prussia
Mary Boschke F 34 Florida
Mary Gillette F 16y Florida
Edward Gillette M 14y Florida
Charles Gillette M 12y Washington DC
Louisa Gillette F 9y Washington DC [should be M]
Albert Boschke M 4y Massachusetts [b 12 Nov 1860 Cambridge MA]+
George Boschke M 2y Massachusetts
Children of Augustus C. & Louisa M. (Toucey) Gillett:
1. Mary Louise Gillette, b. c1847-1853 FL, and d. 15 March 1917 in St. Augustine FL. She m. before 1880 poss NY to Bartolo Oliveros Papi/Papy, resided St. Augustine FL.
2. Dolores Philippa Gillette, b. 26 May 1849 Jacksonville FL, died before June 1850
3. Edward Gillette, b abt 1851 Florida, d. 1878.
4. +Charles Bradley Gillette, b. c1855 Washington DC, d. c1877-1878
5. +Louis Fitzgerald Gillette, b. 8 Feb 1857[56]. Washington DC


Allison Hosmer Gillette. Photograph provided by Sandy Dickson, used here with her permission.

Charles Bradley Gillette, son of Augustus C. & Mary Louisa (Papy) Gillette, born July 10 1854 in Washington DC, and died August 25th 1878 in Newton, Mass. He is buried in the same cemetery as his mother (Newton Cemetery). After Augustus Canfield Gillette passed away from a fall in D.C., Charles ended up in the Boston area living with his mother after she was remarried to Albert Boschke. Charles married Willie Etta Swett (1856-1902) on May 18, 1874 in Newton Mass. I have [Sandy Dickson does] Willie Etta’s diaries from 1886 and early 1900s which are quite fascinating. Willie Etta and Charles lived with Willie Etta’s parents at 321 Lake Ave in Newton Highlands Mass. Willie Etta’s parents were Allison Owen Swett and Mary J Townes. After their deaths, Charles and Willie Etta remained at 321 Lake Ave. [This biography written by a descendant, Sandy Dickson].  Charles died relatively young in 1878. He had recently returned from a trip to Florida (which was in Willie Etta’s diary). Charles was a Printer by trade. Willie Etta remarried Charles Emery Hosmer on Apr 22 1880. He was actually the son of Lucretia Tousey Gillette who married Jacob Eastman Hosmer [mentioned elsewhere here]. I believe Willie Etta was close to Lucretia as Charles Bradley and his brother Louis F, being her nephews were sort of taken in by her after their father Augustus Canfield Gillette had passed. The history of artists, printers, inventors, and photography ran deep. Actually the grandfather of Louis F Gillette, Augustus Whiting Gillette held a few patents in his day as well.
Children of Charles Bradley & Willie Etta (Swett) Gillette:
1. Allison “Elsie” Hosmer Gillette (1875-1934)  (greatgrandfather to Sandy Dickson)  married Leora “Lola” May Grigg . They had 10 children. The first born was Allison Owen Gillette. Sandy’s grandmother was their daughter, Pameta Marion Gillette.
2. Mary Louis Gillette  (1877-1960) married William J Anderson

Louis Gillette political card. From the personal collection of Schuyler Bogue. Used here gratefully with permission.

Louis Fitzgerald Gillette (this story is about him, see above), son of Augustus C. & Mary Louisa (Papy) Gillette, b 8 Feb 1856[57] Washington DC, he died 6 June 1937 at Concord, Merrimack Co. NH. His father’s biography shows that in 1892 he was a portrait artist and a resident of West Somerville MA. His own biography states that At the age of 17 he moved to Concord NH. In the 1885 Concord Directory he is living at 118 Pleasant Street, with a shop in Railroad Square, “L.F. Gillette Portrait Copying Co. [his occupation, photo. copyist]. He was the inventor of the metal hot water bottle that he manufactured in Concord NH for 20 years. The company appears in the Concord NH Directory from 1912-1929 at 22 Bridge Street, and in 1929 at 1 Odd Fellows Ave. He retired in 1932 [in 1933 directory shows retired and company is not listed]. He married 22 Oct 1879 at Concord NH to Ella M. Stevens, daughter of Benjamin F. & Ann (Hunter) Stevens. She died 15 May 1948 in Concord, Merrimack Co. NH. They lived at 11 Wall Street from 1906-1937. They are buried Blossom Hill Cemetery, Concord NH.

A Gillette water bottle. Property of Sandy Dickson. Photograph used here with her permission.

Gillette, L. F., photographer (Copying), 12 Front St. Exchange, Worcester, MA (1879) City Directory
Concord NH City Directory
1914 Gillette MFG Co. 22 Bridge [his home 11 Wall St]
1926 Gillette MFG 1 Odd Fellows Ave
-LOCATIONS of the Gillette Water Bottle Manufacturing Co.-
22 Bridge Street, Concord NH, location of his manufacturing company
1 Odd Fellows Ave, final and brief location of his factory.
1870 US Census > NH > Merrimack Co. > Boscawen
Jacob E. Hosmer 50 Farmer 5000/100 NH
Lucretia A. Hosmer 36 Keeping House NY
Charles E. Hosmer 14 Illinois
Louis Gillett 14 Washington DC
Eleanor Nash 16 Massachusetts
Mary A. Watriss 30 domestic servant Vermont
Child of Louis F. & Ella M. (Stevens) Gillette:
1. Lillian Louise Gillette, b 2 Aug 1881 Brookline, Norfolk Co. MA, d — prob NYC; m. 3 June 1924 in Concord NH to Evan Morton Evans of New York, son of Daniel W. & Sarah E. “Lilly” (Cole) Evans. He was born Nov 1869 in NY and d. 19 March 1955 in New York City, NY. In 1880 living in Englewood, Bergen Co. NJ, in 1900 and 1910 living in Manhattan, NY NY. He m1) abt 1899 to Elizabeth Maverick Allen, and had son Daniel D. Evans by her.

[Editor’s note: It is slightly possible that I am related to this family, as I do have a Gillett line from Connecticut, however I have not been able to make a strong connection at this time.  I will update if I discover more.  In the meantime, if you are related, please let me know and I will add your line.


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12 Responses to He Kept New Hampshire Beds Warm: Concord’s Louis F. Gillette (1857-1937)

  1. Amy says:

    Fascinating! But how did it stay hot for ten hours? And what was a fountain syringe? Always learning something new from your blog!!

    AND happy birthday!

    • Janice Brown says:

      Not sure how and if the hot water bottle actually stayed hot for ten hours, as I don’t own one so I can’t test it! As for the “fountain syringe,” we still today use something similar. It meant there was a threaded portion at the bottom of the bottle, so it could be filled with water and used with tubing as a douche or enema bag.

  2. Ruth Speed says:

    Very interesting item. I always enjoy your work.

  3. Miriam J Robbins says:

    We had a long-handled warming pan when I was growing up in Southeast Alaska in the 1970s. We had a home with no running water or electricity for some time, with a wood stove for heat, and the warming pan was used to heat up our beds on winter evenings. They were so nice! Now, of course, I have an electric blanket. 🙂

  4. Michael C. Delahunty says:

    I really enjoyed He Kept New Hampshire Beds Warm. I have to put together a 40 page quarterly for the Decatur Genealogical Society, in Decatur, Illinois. Would you give me permission to use this in an up-coming quarterly? You will be given total credit.
    Thank You

    • Janice Brown says:

      Thank you for contacting me and I am glad you enjoyed the story about Louis F. Gillette. I have never given permission for any publication or another web site or blog to reproduce my stories. They are always found uniquely here, and that is what I plan to continue. The patent is public knowledge and I have even provided a link to it should someone else want to write a story about hot water bottles. As for the Gillett family, I do not see a connection between them and the state of Illinois.
      Best wishes with your quarterly.
      Janice Brown, Editor, Cow Hampshire

  5. Michael says:

    I wonder whether these warming devices were ever responsible for fires or other accidents.

    I think it’d be interesting to test one out to see what the experience was like (metal, of course, none of these newfangled rubber hot water bottles).

  6. Schuyler Bogue says:

    I’m so glad you did this! My mother’s family always spoke highly of him years ago, but I didn’t know much about him.

    • Janice Brown says:

      Schuyler, thank YOU for inspiring me to write this in the first place AND for providing the photographs of Louis Gillette. He had a fascinating life and comes from an interesting family. I hope to come across either one of the portraits he painted or his copied photographs. Such talent. I wonder if he knew he knew about his “inventor genes.”

  7. I noted this with interest since I suspect the Swett mentioned would be a cousin, circumstantially it looks likely (Brunswick ME birth for Willie Etta looks good for Swett/Sweet from John Swett of Newbury , but A.O’s parentage wasn’t obvious for me.).

    I came back to this when i noticed both Jewett kinship and Mayflower kinship in Connecticut under name
    «Gillett/Gillette, Charles, (A044876), b. at Colchester, CT., 22 Oct. 1728, ,
    > d. killed by Indians at “The Cedars” Canada, 18 May 1776,
    > son of Josiah Gillett[e] and Sarah Pellett; m. at Sharon, CT., 1 Feb. 1753,
    > Jerusha Jewett, b. at Norwich, CT., 6 April 1736, d. at Litchfield, CT., 30 Oct. 1798,
    > dau. of Caleb Jewett and Rebecca Cook, desc. of Pilgrims William Bradford (MF 22:312).
    » in Mayflower Soc’s P2P file,
    and was just now startled by your Edit saying you were wondering if Louis, Charles, and August, were related to your own Conn. Gillet(te)s, which is exactly what i was wondering too.

    Are your Conn. Gillet(te) desc. from Jerusha Jewett m. Charles Gillett(e), or kin of his?

  8. LanceGillette says:

    We have a couple of these Gillette bed warming pans as I’m related to Louis Gillette

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