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Written by: Emily Karklin

The Selkirk Chimney is an insulated chimney that was invented by Kelly Sveinson in 1933. The first one they made was using the metal from a Coca-Cola sign. Today all over the world this type of Chimney is still called the Selkirk Chimney. This insulated chimney was revolutionary because it helped prevent chimney disasters. At the time of its invention, and still today, it was used to help properly and safely vent wood burning stoves. An issue of the Selkirk Enterprise described the Selkirk Chimney as follows:

 “… a heavy-gauge inner pipe for a smoke stack sealed at both ends to a lighter pope of 1 in. larger diameter to provide a dead air space; then an outer pipe 6 in. larger to encase the insulation and clean out receptacle at the bottom for any deposits.” – Bob Metcalfe, Selkirk Enterprise August 27, 1958.

Newspaper Article on the Selkirk Chimney
Selkirk Enterprise Aug 27, 1958

The chimney was made with insulation between the hollow metal inside and metal outside to prevent waste gasses from cooling down too quickly as they were escaping. In a regular brick chimney the gases would cool too quickly causing them to stick to the brick and they would eat away at it causing it to become weak and dangerous. Another selling feature was that the Selkirk Chimney was easy to install and light weight. According to an issue of the Selkirk Enterprise published on Wednesday August 27th, 1958 the Selkirk Chimney only weighed eight pounds per linear foot compared to one hundred pounds for brick. This made chimney installation not only safer for the occupants but also safer and easier for those installing it.

An architectural line drawing showing the design of the Selkirk Chimney
Selkirk Chimney and Installation - Source: hearth.com

The first wood burning stove was invented in the 16th century in Europe. It became popular during the Industrial Revolution. Surprisingly, in the 1740s Benjamin Franklin wanted to improve the stove’s design and created the iron boxed wood stove that we have today. This was ideal because it only used a quarter of the fuel needed to fuel the original European design.  People did not take to the design at first, but eventually smaller designs were created and chimneys that suited small country homes. The popularity of the wood burning stove declined in the late twentieth century as access to alternative and safer heating methods were developed.  However, the wood burning stove is starting to gain popularity once more.

A black and white photograph of a hearth and wood burning stove
The Franklin Stove - Source: www.almanac.com

Chimneys themselves were revolutionary because it allowed families to heat their homes without suffocating from the smoke. The chimney gave the smoke a path to travel up and out of the home. With the rise of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, towns became a lot more populated and homes became closer together which meant a lot more chimneys and a lot more people who needed to clean them. Climbing boys, as they were called in early 20th century England, would go around offering their services to clean chimneys. They were small boys and usually of the lower class that would climb up the chimney and clean out the charcoal. The was very dangerous because they would kick up a lot of charcoal dust which they would breath in. There was always a chance that the chimney could collapse while they were in it. The Climbing Boys were not new to the Industrial Revolution but had been around as early as the 16th century.

Black and white drawing showing chimney boys at work
Chimney boys climbing and cleaning - Source: historic-uk.com

Manufacturing of the Selkirk Chimney started not long after Sveinson built the first prototype. Factories in Winnipeg began making them to sell worldwide and Selkirk had its own facilities that were soldacross Canada . Selkirk Metal Products was one of the manufacturers in Winnipeg that made Selkirk Chimneys. Because of Sveinson’s invention people were and still can heat their homes safely. Thanks to him people dont have to worry about all of the heat escaping instead of heating their homes. Sveinson Street was named in his honour.

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