Sergeant Preston Prospector's Camping Stove

Discussion in 'Other Brands' started by Kent Vining, Jul 12, 2020.

  1. Kent Vining

    Kent Vining United States Subscriber

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    This is an edited re-post of a post I made in the Forum made at the request of presscal that it be posted in the Reference Gallery. Captions have been added, additional comments made, and spelling errors corrected.

    Offered here is my paltry contribution to the collected wisdom. I did not find this stove in the Reference Gallery, nor did a search of the site reveal it in any posts.

    Because I use my vintage camping gear, I've been looking for a lighter weight period correct camp stove to replace my relatively heavy 1948 Coleman 530 (3.7# without fuel). Hunting through Evilbay I came across a listing for a "VINTAGE 1950'S MINI CAMPING STOVE, NEVER BEEN USED" The first pic here is the auction listing. It was offered at a minimum bid of $25 plus $11.75 shipping so the price was right.
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    Main Pic of the Ebay auction. Note how the Instructions are folded. This is how it appeared in all other pics the vendor put up.

    It appeared to be a "hobo stove" and I could read enough of the instructions to see that it could be used with "canned heat" (Sterno). Hobo stoves are an excellent lightweight option for backpackers, they are basically cans with a hole in the side big enough to push thumb diameter sticks into a pile of burning kindling inside and holes in the top to promote air flow. They are lightweight to begin with and have the advantage of not requiring one to carry fuel. I have a couple of modern ones and when I use them, I just start breaking off twigs and sticks from trees, bushes, and deadfall on the trail for the last hour of my hike so that I arrive at the campsite with a double handful of kindling and fuel (even in wet weather, wood taken from standing vegetation is drier than that laying on the forest floor).

    Nobody else bid on it, so it was mine for the offered price. When I got it in the mail, I discovered that it was, in fact, a decent commercial hobo stove in good condition, but it was something else as well. The reverse side of the instructions, which was not shown in the auction pics, revealed that this stove is a Quaker Oats cereal premium.

    Back when I was but a little guy, cereal companies would offer free or low cost goods to children if they cut the box top off the box and mailed them in to the company. Sometimes all it took to get the shiny thing was three or four boxtops, others took a couple box tops and a minimal amount of cash, easily earned by doing chores, mowing lawns, or delivering newspapers. This resulted in children asking for cereal not based on nutrition, or even taste, but on what was being offered for sale or free on the back of the box. It also resulted in my Dad saying "You don't need that stuff, its crap. Eat the corn flakes I bought."

    The cereal premium in this case is part of the "Sergeant Preston Prospector's Camping Outfit" which consisted of a small vinyl 'Prospector's Tent" which was offered for $1.00 plus two box tops from either Quaker Puffed Wheat or Puffed Rice cereal, (and was indeed a piece of crap) and/or the "Prospector's Camping Stove" (which, in the advertisrment below, we are assured is "not a toy"). Its cost was fifty cents plus two box tops, or both could be had together for the same two box tops plus $1.50, saving your parents the cost of two more boxes of Puffed Rice. Or, if you had a Dad like mine, another week of cornflakes and unfulfilled dreams.

    sgt_preston03.jpg
    Advertisement for the Sergeant Preston Prospector's Camping Outfit, probably from the back cover of a comic book.

    We know the exact vintage of this piece because this premium was only offered in 1952, although we currently have no information as to who manufactured it, or if it was ever offered for commercial sale in sporting goods stores or catalogs before or after (it would seem to me that it would have been). At the time of the offering, Sergeant Preston was the main character in a popular children's radio program called Challenge of the Yukon. Preston was a member of the Canadian Mounted Police and was always accompanied by his brave, loyal, and often resouceful malamute dog Yukon King. In episodes that took place in summer, they were accompanied by his brave, loyal, and often resourceful horse "Rex". In winter episodes, he had a brave, loyal, and often resourceful sled dog team led by Yukon King. They kept law and order in the Yukon of the 1890s, the scripts usually involving crimes committed by bearded men with French accents wearing knit caps with tassles and capotes made from 5 point Woolrich blankets, or rescues of similarly clad individuals. Although brave, loyal, and often resourceful, Sergeant Preston always seemed to get into situations where the animals in his life were rescuing him. In 1955, the show made the migration to television as Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, and I have fond memories of watching it in syndication after school during my yoot. Like most early kiddie TV shows based on radio programs, these were basically radio scripts with moving pictures and sound effects added. Sound design was excellent, outdoor photography was sparse and tentative with a lot of added sound effects, and most scenes were shot on cheaply built indoor sound sets with paper mache cabins and powdered snow with a lot of added sound effects. For a nine year old, it was a cinemagraphic masterpiece.

    sgtpreston_22_kindlephoto-429014112.jpg
    The Sergeant Preston of my memory. The series was telecast on CBS from September 29, 1955, to September 25, 1958, and in syndication for most of the 1960s. It can sometimes be seen on digital broadcast notstalgia channels, and there are many episodes on YouTube.

    The stove itself is actually a nice piece of kit. They told the truth about this not being a toy, this is an adult stove. It is described in the literature as a 5 1/4" diameter 5 inch tall can (but it measures to 5" diameter, see pic below). There is a 2" x 3 3/4" rectangular hole cut near the bottom, with a lid featuring nineteen 1/2" diameter holes which snaps onto the top with a very tight fit. You can build a respectable cooking fire inside a can of this size, and feed it with sticks 1" to 1 1/2" in diameter fairly easily. It features an "oven" 4" in diameter and 4 3/4" high with ten 3/8" diameter holes in the side. This is to be used for heating canned food. Open a can of beans, rip off the label and use it as kindling to set the fire inside, place the open can on top of the stove, and the "oven" on top of it, and the can will heat to eating temperature in no time as the "oven" traps heat inside. The instructions also indicate that you can fry an egg, hamburger, or bacon on the top of the "oven" while your can of beans is cooking. It comes with a pair of tongs that allows you to remove the "oven" while hot once your canned food is done. Best part for my purposes is that it weighs 10 ounces with all the components, more than 3 pounds less than a fully filled Coleman 530. This is a savings of nearly 10% of the weight of a pack filled with 1950s/60s gear.

    CCI07102020.jpg CCI07102020_0001.jpg CCI07102020_0002_crop.jpg
    The literature included with the stove. I wonder how many folks put an unopened can into one of these things? My advice would be to open the top of the can, not just poke a hole in it. Poking a hole requires you to open a hot can once its cooked.

    KIMG2380.jpg KIMG2381.jpg KIMG2388.jpg KIMG2389.jpg
    Unboxing the stove. The original shipping box is included, but there are only remnants of the lable with no useful information to be gleaned. Note the generously sized opening in the fire chamber. While the literature states the stove is 5 1/4" in diameter, a measurement reveals it to be 5". Still, a respectable cooking fire can be built in a stove this size.


    KIMG2382.jpg KIMG2384.jpg KIMG2387.jpg
    Illustrating the "operation" of the stove. The literature implies that its principal purpose is to cook a can of food. Cut the top off of the food can, rip the label off to use as kindling for the fire, place it on the lid of the stove and the "oven" over that, then sit back and let the magic happen. When the food is done, use the tongs to lift the oven off. No guidance is made as to how to get a steaming hot can of beans off the stove though.

    One thing learned is that the size of the can I used for the above pics is improper for the optimal operation of the stove. It is tall enough to interfere with easy use of the tongs, making removal of the oven difficult and possible unsafe. But Beanie Weenies? This thing was MADE for Beanie Weenies, and soup can sized cans. Note has been taken of what size can should be on the grocery list for the next vintage camping trip.

    Another thing the vendor got wrong is the description that the stove had "never been used". Pristine examples are brightly tinned, and the tinning on mine has been dulled and oxidized by heat, with a few rust spots evident which indicates its been used at least a couple of times.

    1952-camping-stove-quaker-puffed_1_23f5947a8a0321d2d63857c3c02f301c.jpg
    Unused example of a Sergeant Preston stove from a post on Worthpoint. Note that it is brightly tinned, while my example is dulled and oxidized. The only used example of this stove I was able to find in an internet search was the one I've aquired. I don't have a Worthpoint account to see what the realized price on the various pristine stoves I found there to determine the Cereal Premium Collector value, and since my example is the only one posted here on CCS we can say that the stovie collector value is $39.78, the total with tax and shipping of my Ebay purchase.


    So, now I'm in a quandary. I normally have no compunction about using used camping gear of this vintage to accomplish the tasks for which it was designed. Most of it is bomb proof, especially when compared to modern lightwieght equipment. But here I have that, plus a collectible cereal premium, a market that's relatively vibrant when compared to vintage camping gear of this period. I'm fairly certain its more valuable as a cereal premium than it is as vintage camping gear. I'm not sure what the stovie value of this thing would be given that its pretty much a "one off" item and not exactly swimming in the middle of the "mainstream" classic stove market.

    But, given that this thing is exactly what I'm looking for as a light weight vintage piece that can be used to make coffee and oatmeal in the morning and weighs more than three pounds less than what I have been using, I think I know what I'll do. To expand its utility, I'll use spacers of some kind to allow the use of a Palco one quart pot and/or frying pan from the cookset I use. The pics below show 1/2" diameter nuts, but I can use tent stakes, small stones, or even medium diameter sticks on the lid to allow airflow under the pots. I also figure I will be able to use the "oven" to cook a biscuit or muffin in a cut down food can or single muffin tin.

    KIMG2390.jpg KIMG2391.jpg KIMG2392.jpg

    So. My search for a lighter weight, reliable cook stove of the proper vintage to go with my 1950s/60s camping kit is ended because once again, 60 years later, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon has come to the rescue of a wayfarer in the trackless wilderness. Albeit, the trackless wilderness is the National Forests of Texas at the dawn of the 21st Century, and not the Canadian Yukon at the twilight of the 19th.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2020
  2. presscall

    presscall United Kingdom SotM Winner SotY Winner Subscriber

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    I appreciate it. Great research and compilation of a post on a simple, but nevertheless ‘classic’ stove.
     
  3. Kent Vining

    Kent Vining United States Subscriber

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    I'm beginning to really anticipate using this stove in the field. I might even brave the Texas heat to do so. I'll be digging through catalogs and magazines for a while trying to find if this thing was ever offered as a commerical stove beyond its offering as a cereal premium. Its such a nice piece of kit that I can't imagine it not being on the market. I'll post any results of that search as well as any field trials as they occur.
     
  4. Haggis

    Haggis Subscriber

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    Nice find,,, I enjoy those sorts of kits from the past. One of my oldest, (not my photos), is a Stopple Kook Kit,,, 19-teensish,,, I’d be horrified I’d damage it if I used it, but I still enjoy it immensely,,, just having it is enough...

    It’s almost like finding 1/2 a hundred dollar bill...

    Boyish dreams of “back o’ beyonst” never completely fade I think...


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  5. Kent Vining

    Kent Vining United States Subscriber

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    I have a Stopple Kit as well, although not as nice as yours, and its the "single" aka "Boy Scout" model. I don't use any pre- WW2 metal kit as its my beleif that lead or other metal poisoning is possible due to the manufacturing processes of the time. I'm probably just being paranoid, but better safe than sorry. I do use reproduction kit of the period as its modern manufacture.

    The attached pics are of a home-made Trapper Nelson type frame with reproduction gear from What Price Glory to form the pack bag and shoulder straps in the manner that some farmer or rancher of the 20s might make in his shop and aquire from Bannerman's Catalog. The Stopple kit is just for show. I'll use the grate, but cook in reproducution ACW or WW1 mess gear and drink from the reproduction canteen.

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  6. kerophile

    kerophile United Kingdom SotM Winner Subscriber

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  7. presscall

    presscall United Kingdom SotM Winner SotY Winner Subscriber

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    @kerophile Well remembered and a marvellous post that was, disclosing a young Ernest Hemingway was the user of the stove. Wholly appropriate to this thread.
     
  8. Kent Vining

    Kent Vining United States Subscriber

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    Yes, I recall that thread as well. Its a great piece of kit and I am convinced that if someone reproduced it today in stainless steel it would sell well. It wouldn't be popular with ultra-lighters, but it would be among bushcrafters and casual backpackers. I'd carry one.
     
  9. Haggis

    Haggis Subscriber

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    A Purcell Trench Grill, (stainless, and quite lightweight), replaces the Stopple grill in my current kit.

    When in the BWCA canoe camping, the above grill, a small skillet, a 2-quart Bulldog Brand billy pot, and a white enamel cup make up my kit. (I do thought carry a small camp stove for when speed or simplification are at the forefront.)
     
  10. z1ulike

    z1ulike United States SotM Winner Subscriber

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    Brings back childhood memories of watching Sgt. Preston of the Yukon Mounties on television. Sea Hunt was another TV program from the same era that got me into diving. I wanted to be just like Mike Nelson so my father bought me SCUBA lessons for my 16th birthday.

    Ben
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2020
  11. Ed Winskill

    Ed Winskill United States Subscriber

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    What a great post. I remember Sgt. Preston well.
     
  12. Kent Vining

    Kent Vining United States Subscriber

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    I'll have to look that up. Always in the market for another way to cook in the woods.

    I was a bit younger than you. I was just a little shaver watching my Dad make his own wetsuit, I wasn't even big enough for a mask to fit on me. But we did watch Sea Hunt together and when we went to a cove on the Maine coast to, well, poach lobster I'd have to sit on the shore and watch.

    I absolutley loved the show. Its probably one of the things that makes this stove just a bit more special. I wonder if Yancy Derringer had any camping related cereal premiums.....
     
  13. SveaSizzler

    SveaSizzler United States Subscriber

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    I was a big Sgt Preston fan, mainly I liked his dog King. I lived in the city and the parents wouldn't let me have a dog. I think I had that tent, too. A hand-me-down from the older brother. The cheesy green vinyl was already cracking, and the steep teepee angle meant no one, not even a kid could actually stretch out to sleep in one.
    Too bad my brother didn't get the "Prospecter Stove'' too, but they probably wouldn't let him have a fire toy.
    Nice score.
     
  14. Kent Vining

    Kent Vining United States Subscriber

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    Yah, when searching for more info I came across a vendor selling one of the tents, and cheesy is the right word. They didn't even try to make the tent look big in the advertising either. Definitely the kind of thing you'd set up in the living room to watch the nexty thrilling episode of Sergeant preston, though.
     
  15. Haggis

    Haggis Subscriber

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    Sorry for the thread drift, but with the mention of using only the Stopple grill, I thought of the Purcell Trench Grill,,, the 4-ish ounce stainless steel wonder. It’s always with me in “The Silent Places”...

    Most likely the Stopple grill and the Sarg. Preston stove were both spinoffs of tried and true outdoor kit from even earlier times.

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  16. Kent Vining

    Kent Vining United States Subscriber

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    The Stopple is the OG backpacking cookset. The Preston stove, though, is relly just a commercial version of the hobo stoves which have been being made since they started putting food in cans.
     
  17. SveaSizzler

    SveaSizzler United States Subscriber

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    Kent Vining, that is a classic vintage Beef Stew can label. Is it a reproduction, or a real antique can?
    I'd be careful if it's original, as they were soldered shut with lead solder, and consuming the contents can lead to madness. Such as dragging your jolly boat all over the ice fields and firing on otherwise-friendly Inuits. Stick to the Polar Bear Liver, to be safe.
     
  18. Kent Vining

    Kent Vining United States Subscriber

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