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HEARTH (a word which appears in various forms in several Teutonic languages, cf. Dutch haard, German Herd, in the sense of " floor "), the part of a room where a fire is made, usually constructed of stone, bricks, tiles or earth, beaten hard and having a chimney above; the fire being lighted either on the hearth itself, or in a receptacle placed there for the purpose.

Like the Latin focus, especially in the phrase for " hearth and home " answering to pro aris etfocis, the word is used as equivalent to the home or household. The word is also applied to the fire and cooking apparatus on board ship; the floor of a smith's forge; the floor of a reverberatory furnace on which the ore is exposed to the flame; the lower part of a blast furnace through which the metal goes down into the crucible; in soldering, a portable brazier or chafing dish, and an iron box sunk in the middle of a flat iron plate or table. An " open-hearth furnace " is a regenerative furnace of the reverberatory type used in making steel, hence "open-hearth steel" (see IRON AND STEEL).

Hearth-money, hearth tax or chimney-money, was a tax imposed in England on all houses except cottages at a rate of two shillings for every hearth. It was first levied in 1662, but owing to its unpopularity, chiefly caused by the domiciliary visits of the collectors, it was repealed in 1689, although it was producing 170,000 a year. The principle of the tax was not new in the history of taxation, for in Anglo-Saxon times the king derived a part of his revenue from a fumage or tax of smoke farthings levied on all hearths except those of the poor. It appears also in the hearth-penny or tax of a pennyon every hearth, which as early as the 10th century was paid annually to the pope (see PETER'S PENCE).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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