THE ORIGIN OF THE IRON INDUSTRY IN MARYLAND
|By 1754 there were 7 furnaces and 8 forges in Maryland, increasing by 1758 to 8 furnaces and 10 forges producing 2,500 long tons of pig iron and 600 long tons of bar iron annually. By the time of the American Revolution, there were 14 furnaces and 17 or 18 forges (Fig. 4; Appendix A). (See Appendix B for description of the important early iron-producing family, the Snowdens.) Their production is summarized in Table 3. (Note: Furnaces produce mainly pig iron from ores and forges mainly bar iron from the pig iron. It is bar iron that is used in the manufacture of most finished iron products.) |
Figure 4. Curtis Creek Furnace, Furnace Creek, Anne Arundel County, typical of the Catalan furnace commonly used in Maryland's early iron industry (Singewald, 1911). For information on the design and operation of the Catalan furnace, see Weitzman (1980) and Bining (1938).
Table 3. Production of pig iron and bar iron in Maryland from 1750 to 1755 (Singewald, 1911, p. 130). (See Table 1 for Note on Weights and Measures.)
Most of the iron of the early domestic industry was exported in a crude state as pig, bloom, or bar iron. (Pig iron derives its name from the appearance of a row of ingots on either side of central channel resembling nursing piglets. Bloom iron is a mass of malleable iron from which the slag has been beaten off.) In fact, England as a colonial power discouraged the manufacture of ironware in the colonies. Nonetheless, there was a flourishing domestic iron forge industry which produced a variety of goods including farm and domestic tools, nails, and particularly at the time of the Revolution shot, shell, and cannons. (See Appendix A for more detail on production and products.)
The early ironmasters, persons in charge of the furnace operations, at Principio were Stephen Onion and Thomas Russell, Sr. They left John England in charge when they returned to England in 1724. On their ship they encountered Benjamin Franklin, who was returning from New Castle to Philadelphia. Mr. Russell stayed in England. Although Mr. Onion returned in 1726, John England became the primary ironmaster thereafter. Mr. England remained as ironmaster and part owner until his death in 1734 (Robbins, 1985). Tables 4 and 5 give examples of what it cost to make iron in the first part of the eighteenth century.
Table 4. Production costs at Principio Furnace, Cecil County, August, 1727 (Singewald, 1911, p. 163.) (See Table 1 for Note on Weights and Measures)
Table 5. Cost of 2,240 lbs. (1 long ton) of bar iron at North East Forge, Cecil County for 1754 (Singewald, 1911, p. 164). (See Table 1 for Note on Weights and Measures.)
Mr. England was followed as primary ironmaster by John Ruston (1734-1736), Nathaniel Chapman (1736-1761), and Thomas Russell II (1764-1781). During all this time, members of George Washington's family were important shareholders in the Principio Company (Robbins, 1985)