Bellows have been in existence since metal smelting (bronze) became possible as early as 3000BC. Bellows helped stoke kindling much quicker and made a much hotter fire which was needed for blacksmithing and smelting.
Dorothy Stone, in the Spring 1953 Decorator, described bellows as instruments by which through alternate expansion and contraction draw air in through an inward opening and expel it through a nozzle. “They consist of 2 boards, usually pear shaped, connected around the edges by a band of leather so as to include an air chamber, which can be increased or diminished in volume by separating the boards or bringing them nearer together. The leather is kept from collapsing by wires or reeds, which act like ribs of animals. The lower board has a hole in the center covered inside with a leather flap or valve, which only opens inward. There is also a smaller open outlet in the form of a nozzle. When the upper board is raised, air rushes into the cavity through the valve to fill the partial vacuum produced. On again depressing the upper board, the valve is closed by the air seeking outlet, and this air is discharged through the open nozzle with a velocity depending on the pressure exerted. The air produced comes in a series of puffs, thus stoking the fire.”
Many, of course, were made in beautiful wood with no decoration, but as we can see our early ancestors also wanted them to be functional and pretty. As early American decoration continued throughout the 19th century, we can see the progress of all of our disciplines.