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Full text of "The Baltimore shot tower."

THE BALTIMORE SHOT TOWER. 
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THE BALTIMORE SHOT TOWER 



THE SHOT TOWER 
By Lizetta v/oodworth Reese. 



A frail coil for a cloud? For 
wind that goes 
A little sadly round a house in 

spring? 
Or smooth words for some old 
and lovely thing 
Like panes at dusk or a red tragic 
rose? 



Nor purse nor speech she asks, 
fleets Beauty by 
Yester, today. Her wage is 

that we stay 
Close to her side. Men go; she 
bides away 
Beyond the fall of leaf, or change 
of sky. 



Tall tower, still keep for us your 

ancient place 
Among the trumpeting morns, 

yur magic plot 
Above the roofs. For Beauty's 

sake you must 
Last till the town turns to un- 

chimneyed space, 
When he that loves you, he 

that loves you not, 
Is but a blown out name, some 

trivial dust. 



-3- 

THE BALTIMORE SHOT TOWER. 

Towering high above the roofs of the busy city of 
Baltimore is a silent sentinel, which has watched over the 
scenes above it for nearly one hundred years, withstanding 
the ravages of time and defying the very elements . Many times 
it has been threatened with destruction, and, if it were not 
for its sturdy structure and commanding height, it would long 
ago have met the fate of a series of similar towers, and 
been sacrificed on the altar of progress. 

Very little literature or' history of shot towers 
can be found. Most of this material available is in the form 
of short reports, advertisements of old shot companies, and 
comparatively recent newspaper articles. 

In all, there were about thirty-two shot towers 

in the United States, the oldest of these being spark's Tower, 

erected in 1808 on Front and Carpenter Streets, Philadelphia, 

At one time, there were three towers manufacturing shot in 

Baltimore The oldest was built in 1823 on the west side of 

Gay Street, north of Fayette Street. Another stood on Sutaw 

Street near Camden Street, There seems to be little known 

about this one, except that it was torn down in 1851, The 

third which is the only remaining one in the Monumental City 

is located on the southeast corner of Front and Fayette Streets 

At the time of its construction Fayette Street was known as 

Pitts Street, This was the site of, the first Bajptist Meeting 

House in Baltimore, the land being purchased for this purpose 
as early as 1773. 



-4- 
H I STORY 

It was on the second of June, 1828, that Charles 
Carroll of Carrollton, the last surviving signer of the 
Declaration of Independence, laid the corner stone for this 
tower, which was to be one of the largest and highest of the 
kind ever constructed. It was built for the Pheonix Shot 
Company by Jacob Y/olfe, a well known builder, who had achieved 
prominence as the builder of the Gay Street tower, and to him 
is due the credit for this remarkable example of masonry. The 
tower was completed November 25, 1828, 

In 1844, Baltimore was in the midst of a political 
battle between two opposing parties, those backing Henry Clay 
and those supporting James K. Polk for the presidency. During 
this political struggle, a burgee bearing the names Polk, Dallas 
and Carroll was flown from the top of the tower. Patrons of 
the firm, who were friends of Henry Clay, filed protests against 
the use of the tower for political purposes, John ivlc^ullough, 
a New Yorker, who was president of the Pheonix Company, gave 
this protest no attention. Following this action, the mer- 
chants supporting Clay for president and Pratt for governor 
wasted no time in organizing a new company known as the Mer- 
chants Shot Company. This group built a tower on Eutaw Street, 
and almost from the beginning took trade from the Pheonix 
Company, 

McCullough's party won the election, but he lost 
the trade of his patrons, who were in no humor to forget that 



-5- 



offensive "burgee, and in 1847 he was glad to sell out to the 

new company and leave Baltimore. 

The Merchants Shot Company was progressive in every 

way. The following is from the company's advertisement for 

the year 1873: 

"Having all the new and most improved machin- 
ery for the manufacture of Drop and Mould Shot and 
Bar Lead, the quality of our manufactured articles, 
in size, style and finish is not excelled in the 
world . 

Mould Shot. Nos. 16, 37, 55, 10, AP, NP, 

000, 00, 

Drop Shot. TTT, TT, BBS, BB, B, 1, 2, 3, 
4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 
13, 14." 

In 1878, the interior was destroyed by fire. The 
flames shooting from the top of the tower furnished one of 
the most spectacular sights ever witnessed in Baltimore. 

The interior was rebuilt and the company continued 
a flourishing business, until the American Shot & Lead Com- 
pany became a bitter rival, finally owning twenty-eight of 
the thirty-two towers in the United States, The Baltimore 
firm living up to the splendid traditions of its founders 
waged a fight as long as it was wise. However, it finally 
came under the control the United Lead Company, a group of 
financiers of national reputation. Later some of their 
towers were torn down and worked ceased at others. No shot 
was manufactured in the Baltimore tower after 1892, and it 
was seemingly overlooked. 



-6- 



RECENT HISTORY. 

It was from the United Lead Company, that the 
present owners, the Union Oil Company, purchased the prop- 
erty in 1921 for the small sum of $14,500. 

The contract specified that the tower should not 
be used for making shot. The object of this was plainly the 
elimination of competition. 

The ground floor is now used as storage room for 
the Union Oil Company. The remaining part of the tov/er is 
of no value to the firm, except as an advertisement for their 
place of business. 

This brings its history down to the present con- 
troversy. The question is whether the shot tower will be 
torn down to make room for a more useful structure, or pre- 
served as a monument. The owners are in a rather peculiar 
position. They do not wish to destroy a historic land mark, 
but yet they are not so flushed with capital that they can 
become philanthropists and donate to the public a property 
which is a source of income to them. 

The fact that the people of Baltimore desire the 
preservation of the tov/er was manifest in the many editorials 
in the newspapers when It was learned that the tower was to 
be taken down. 

Criticising the actions of others is groundless 
without a remedy for the ills. Therefore, this enthusiasm 
and desire must be backed up by something tangible. It is 



-7- 



hoped that in the near future, the public spirit will be so 
fired that contributions will be raised and the tower pur- 
chased from the owners, and that it will remain the guardian 
of ground once devoted to religious purposes. 

DESCRIPTION OP TOVfflR. 

The brick foundation of the tower is 10 feet wide 
at the base and 6 feet at the top, and rests on rock 17 feet 
below grade. It might be well to mention here that the street 
level has been raised since the tower was first constructed. 
±11 is fact accounts for the difference in height and width of 
wall at base, as given by various records. 

The circular wail has an Incline of about l/2 inch 
to the foot. The outside diameter of wall at base is 40 feet, 
6 inches, and at the top 20 feet. It starts at the grade with 
a base of several projecting courses. At the street surface 
It is 4-1/2 feet thick, which thickness continues for nearly 
50 feet, when it diminishes at each story until it reaches 
the top with a thickness of 21 Inches. 

The whole is crowned with an eighteen Inch parapet 
wall making the summit of the tower 234 feet above the ground. 

The tower is as solid as rock. In the heaviest 
gale the maximum vibration did not exceed four inches. 

The bricks measure 8-1/8 inches x 2-1/6 inches 
x 4 inches. They were hand made, wood burned, and brick of 
uniform size and colorj laid for courses to ten and one-half 



-8- 



lnches, one course of headers to every three of stretchers. 
The firm of Burns St Hussel, which manufactured the bricks, 
was established In 1818 and Is still in business. 

INTERIOR CONSTRUCTION 

Light is furnished to the interior by eleven win- 
dows. Gas was the artificial means of lighting. Entrance to 
the ground floor may be made by three doors, - o)ne opening on 
the street and the other two opening in the adjoining build- 
ings. On entering, one Is struck with the slmpleness of con- 
struction. Four wooden columns extend almost the entire length 
of the tower. Their sizes vary from 11 x 12 inches at the bot- 
tom, to 9-1/2 x 9-1/2 Inches, where they terminate below the 
iron floor near the top. Each floor and landing is supported 
by two main horizontal beams which vary in size from 9-1/2 x 
11-1/2 inches to 5-1/2 x 11-1/2 inches. They are built into 
the wall of the tower and bolted to the upright columns with 
5/8 inch bolts having 1 inch square heads. This Is the type 
of construction used throughout the tower, with a very few 
exceptions . 

In the center of the tower are two wooden columns 
about 8x8 Inches, which extend to the top. To these are 
bolted the iron guides for the elevator which carried the lead 
to the furnaces in the upper floors. The guide is of interest 
because of a worm groove In the center. A roller with ends 
fitting in the grooves extends fiom one guide to the other. 
Mounted on the roller are two gears which move in racks fas- 






-9- 



tened to the bottom of the elevator. This mechanism re- 
tards the downward motion. The wooden supports of the elevator 
shafts are steadied by iron braces which are bolted to them 
and to the horizontal beams. There is sufficient room on each 
side of the elevator for shot to drop from the top to tanks 
at the bottom. On the Fayette Street side of the tower, fas- 
tened to the joists of the second floor are two iron drums, 
one the main elevator drum and the other nothing more than a 
pulley for a belt drive. The shaft of the two drums are con- 
nected with a train of gears. 

.a 

An iron stairway which is/ beautiful example of cast- 
ing follows the circular wall to the second floor. On this 
floor are the tops of two large boot-heel tanks on either side 
of the elevator shaft. These tanks and other equipment will 
be described in more detail under method of making shot. 

A continuous chain with buckets attached runs from 
the greatest depth of the tanks to a point between the third 
and four floors, where a series of inclines begin, which term- 
inate on the second floor near a door, which leads to the 
second floor of the adjoining building. 

There are a series of wooden stairs and landings 
from the second floor to within 50 feet of the top. Here there 
is an iron floor one -half inch thick, supported by two main 
horizontal "I" beams, 15 x 5-3/4 inches, which are built into 
the wall. These two beams carry " I" beams 8 x 4-1/4 inches, 
spaced 20 inches apart, which hold the iron. floor. On the 
side opposite the Fayette Street side there is a large circu- 



- 10 - 

lar furnace 5 feet high with a 6 foot diameter. The furnace 
is connected with a brick stack, which goes to the top. All 
of the wood work around the furnace is covered with sheet iron. 

This floor is connected with the one above with a 
spiral stairway incased in an iron cylinder 5 feet in dia- 
meter. This last floor is within 20 feet of the top. Another 
smaller furnace 5 feet high with a 4-foot diameter is In a 
position just above the first one mentioned. On both of these 
floors are several dropping pans. 

Between the last floor and the roof are mounted two 
3-foot diameter pulleys which bring the elevator cable from 
a point over the drum to the center of the shaft. 

The timber used in the interior frame work is the 
best grade of yellow pine. 

A trap door leads to the roof which is covered with cop- 
per. Here again is evidence that nothing but the best mater- 
ial was used in the construction of the tower, which accounts 
for the fact that it is as strong and safe as it was when first 
built. 

This height furnishes a wonderful panoramic view of 
the city, and as one's eyes wander over the view, all thoughts 
of the long climb to the top are forgotten. 



- 11 - 

METHOD OP MAKING SHOT. 

Lead was hoisted by the elevator to the two floors 
on which were located the Iron furnaces. Here the lead was 
melted and alloyed principally with arsenic. 

A perforated basin or dropping pan about 12-1/2 
inches in diameter and 3 inches deep was suspended over the 
hatchway by a holder attached to one of the columns. The 
small perforations in the bottom of this pan were stuffed with 
wire gauze. The molten lead was dipped out of the melting 
furnace with long handled ladles and poured into a compart- 
ment In the center of the pan which allowed only a thin layer 
of lead to cover the other part. This was the method used to 
prevent lead from running through the perforations in a stream, 
the size of the shot being determined by the size of the per- 
forations. 

The drops of molten lead formed into spherical 
globules, which were cooled in passing through the air and 
finally fell into the tank of water at the bottom. The lar- 
gest shot were dropped from the greatest elevation, so that 
they would have more time for cooling. 

Fastened to a continuous chain the iron buckets, 
with perforations in them to allow the water to flow out, 
scooped up the shot and carried them to the top of a series 
of inclines. The bottoms of these inclines were heated with 
exhaust steam from the engine, which was located In the build- 



- 12 - 

ing fronting on Payette Street. 

The shot, not yet free from all moisture, were 
collected at the bottom of the incline and dumped into a 
revolving drum around which circulated steam in a hollow steam 
jacket. When they were poured out, the shot were thoroughly 
dry and ready to be polished. 

Again they 'were put in a revolving cask where 
black lead was added. The swift rotary motion caused the shot 
to rub against one another and a high polish was quickly pro- 
duced. 

The polished shot were next taken into the finish- 
ing room adjoining the tower where it was rolled down an in- 
cline made up of five plates of French plate glass. This was 
done to separate the perfect from the imperfect shot, the 
former running freely down, while the latter slid, and in- 
stead of jumping the spaces in the plates, fell in between, 
where they were collected and taken back for re -melt ing. 

The angle of the plates could be changed, so only 
sizes of shot between certain limits would reach the bottom. 

The perfect shot were next put through sieves of 
different sizes. The sieves first used. in the early days of 
its history were in the form of a mahogany chest of drawers, 
the bottoms of which were made of sheep skin drawn tight and 
perforated. The larger perforations were in the top drawers. 
The shot were put in the top and the whole chest set in an 
iron cradle which rocked back and forth. The small shot 
finally worked toward the botttom through the various sizes of 
holes . 



- 13 - 

The method later used was a rack of revolving 
cylinders with different sized performations in them. The 
smallest was at the top. One end of the cylinders was smaller 
than the other, so that the shot which did not go through the 
holes passed on to the next cylinder. The shot passing through 
the holes in the various cylinders were collected in boxes 
below the rack. 

After the sizing process it was again run down 
an incline, which was made up of a ©ries of mahogany plates. 
If the shot were not perfectly round, the small pores or 
natural roughness of the wood surface would retard its progress 
and it would fall between the plates instead of jumping over. 
This final step in the process gave a very excellent grade. 

The perfect shot were then put in bags, which were 
weighed and sewed, ready for shipment. 

The yearly capacity of the tower was nearly 500,000 
twenty-five pounds bags. 

Kenneth F. Matthews, 
May 1, 1924. 



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PLATE 2. 



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h - hatch way for droppina 
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5 - siack 

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PLATE 4 



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French olass, platen 
Container for per feci shot 

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BIBLIOGRAPHY 

All statements made In this paper relating to the 
history of the tower and Its size may he corroborated with 
the following records, 

Nile's Register, December 27, 1828, 

This was a weekly publication edited by Heaekial 
Nile (1777-1839), It contained political, historical, geograph- 
ical, scientific, statistical, economical and biographical 
documents together with a record of the events of the times. 

Journal of American Institute of Architects, May, 1921, 

"The Monumental City", edited 1858 by John Gobright, 
city reported, 

"The Monumental City", edited 1873 by Howard. 

Gives an account of the past and present resources 
of Baltimore, 

Clippings from Baltimore newspapers of 1921, 

There are no written records available of the 
machinery used in the plant adjoining the tower. All such 
records were destroyed in the Baltimore fire of 1905, None 
of the original machinery is intact. Machinery mentioned in 
the paper was described by Mr.Fickenscher and his son (who are 
the present owners of the tower), Mr. Harvey of the Mercantile 
Trust & Deposit Company, and Mr. G. W. Sharrett, superinten- 
dent of the James Robinson Lead Works. 

Mr, Harvey, and his father before him, were pres- 
idents of the Merchant Shot Company,