From the perspective of early colonists in America, it makes sense that firewood was initially easier to collect, but that as demand grew there was a transition to coal, which was more abundant. According to https://eh.net/encyclopedia/the-us-coal-industry-in-the-nineteenth-century-2/

With abundant supplies of wood, water, and animal fuel, there was little need to use mineral fuel in seventeenth and eighteenth-century America. But as colonial cities along the eastern seaboard grew in population and in prestige, coal began to appear in American forges and furnaces.

Of course, the advantage of coal over wood is greater for making steel than for simple heating.

To ask a specific question, then:

In what decade did New York City start consuming more coal than firewood for domestic heating?

  • I'm not sure "replace" is the word you want here. There are, after all, many people who live in rural areas and use wood for part or all of their heating. (I'm one of them.) But I don't even know where an individual would buy coal.
    – jamesqf
    Aug 31, 2019 at 2:50

1 Answer 1


I'm not sure about New York in particular but for the United States as a whole, the crossover point happened around the mid-1880s.This is nicely illustrated on a chart included in the history section of the Wikipedia article on energy consumption in the United States.

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