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Full text of "The history of the development of the steel industry in Baltimore and vicinity / John M. Leach."

THE HISTORY OF THE DEVELOPMENT 

OF THE STEEL INDUSTRY IN 

BALTIMORE AND VICINITY 



John M. Leach 






INTRODUCTION 

The value of iron from a philosophic standpoint and 
its status in our present civilization can be best determined 
by visualizing a world entirely devoid of any iron or steel 
creations. Such a condition would denote a period many 
thousands of years removed from our own. It merely serves 
as ample proof of the statement, iron is the backbone of 
civilization. Because of its versatility it creates industry 
thereby producing wealth which is the tool of advancement. 

This thesis is a short history of the development 
of the steel industry in the vicinity of Baltimore, Maryland. 
As all other industries it did not develop^ suddenly but 
gradually as the demand arose. Every incident connected 
herein will not be related, but an effort was made to 
emphasize the outstanding conditions and influences which 
caused the birth and growth of the industry in this vicinity. 



-2- 



HISTORY 

EARLY PERIOD 

Captain John Smith is credited with being the first 
man to discover iron ore in the vicinity of Baltimore. In 1608 
while sailing up the Patapsco River he discovered ore which 
looked to be rich in iron. Two barrels were sent to England 
for analysis by him later in the same year, but whether they 
were Maryland or Virginia ore and the results of the analysis 
are not recorded., 

Plantagenet became interested in a superficial iron 
deposit in 1648. This was a bog ore deposit of a type which 
waB numerous over the entire Eastern Shore. However the 
art of iron manufacture did not develope at a very early 
date despite an effort on the part of the Legislature to 
turn the industry of the colonies into iron channels in 1681 
by imposing a duty on iron export. The Assembly further 
encouraged the industry a short time later by offering a 
grant of one hundred acres with certain limitations to any- 
one who would errect a furnace for the reduction of iron ore. 

COLONIAL PERIOD 

The first works of which a record is known was 

located at North East and was mentioned in a deed of 1716, 

It was probably a bloomary. Doubtless other blooraarys 

were in operation at the time as Maryland and Virginia 

together exported 3 tons 7 c. w. t. to Englaii in 1718. 
PR INC I PI COMPANY 

In 1722 an English iron master began the erection 



-3- 



of a furnace at Talbots Manor in Cecil County. The Principio 
Company consisting of Joshua Gee, William Russell and John 
Rouston absorbed this furnace and also consolidated with 
John Onion and Company. During the same year the Principio 
Company purchased three hundred eighty three acres in Lord 
BaltimoreB Manor of North East. There was a falls at North 
East having a twenty-five foot head which made it particular- 
ly desirable for a furnace site as the water furnished power 
for the blowers. A forge wae erected in 1735 at the foot of 
the falls. The ore used by this forge was dug about fifty 
miles from North Hast and conveyed by small ore boats to the 
forge. The ore was gray and white in color and contained 
about 50% iron. Good order and efficient management was 
maintained in the Company by John England who was in charge 
at the time. Ore for the furnaces and forges was later 
obtained at Gorsuck's Point on the eastern shore of the 
Patapsco River opposite Port McHenry, and still later at 
Whetstone Point. The lease at Whetstone Point was three- 
hundred pounds sterling and twenty pounds current money of 
Maryland. Kingsbury Furnace at Herring Run on Baclc River 
was next acquired by the company. It was built in 1744-45 
and the first blast ran from April to December 1745 during 
which time four hundred eighty tons of pig iron were pro- 
duced. The first four blasts from 1745 to 1751 produced 
three thousand eight hundred fifty three tons or about 
seventy- five tons per working month. Three thousand three 
hundred tons of this iron was shipped to England. 




MARYLAND GEOLOGICAL SURVEY 



WM. BULLOCK CLARK, STATE GEOLOGIST 



2D 40 



A.liwn^U f.irh-fli 



THE. LOCATION OF TH El PRINCIPAL IRON ORE DEPOSITS 

IN THE VICINITY OF BALTIMORE 



-4- 



The Lancashire Furnace was next purchased from 
Dr. Charles Carroll of Annapolis in 1851* It was located 
near Kingsbury. The deed called for eight thousand two 
hundred acres and was signed by Lawrence Washigton, a 
half brother to George Washington. The Principio Company 
had built a furnace for George Washington's father at 
Accokeek in hfaryfand. Lawrence Washington had succeeded to 
his father's interest and was in this way connected with the 
company. The Lancashire Furnace was in operation up until 
the time of the Revolution and was the last acquisition of 
the company in America, 

The Principio Company was the largest of its time, 
being in direct control of four furnaces and two forges at 
the outbreak of the "Revolution. In 1780 the Maryland 
Assembly passed an act to confiscate all British property 
whithin the state which marked the formal end of the Principio 
Company. 

OTHER COLONIAL PURNAC5S 

A furnace which is credited with being the second 
in the state was erected at the mouth of Gwynns Palls on land 
belonging to John Moale in 1723. The Maryland Legislature 
proposed to lay out a town on surrounaing ground which met 
with vigorous protests .from John Moale as he considered the 
ore on the land worth more than a town site. The founding of 
Baltimore City was thereby delayed and the site changed some- 
what. Old Joppa was at that time the leading town of the 
province . 



>5- 



About two and a half miles north of Towson a 
furnace known as Northampton was built about 1760. Thie 
furnace operated seventy years on a single deposit of 
brown ore. 

By the outbreak of the Revolution Maryland had 
constructed seventeen furnaces and eighteen forges. 
England had at first discouraged the iron industry in the 
colonies as she was afraid of draining her own industry. 
Near the middle of the eighteenth centruy she realized 
that it was cheaper to brng her imported iron in through 
the colonies tax free, than to pay high taxes on Swedish 
and other foreign iron. Consequently the industry in the 
colonies received encouragement and a ready market in 
England. Iron was the leading industry of the state 
during the Colonial period with the possible exception of 
the western end. This section did not develope its iron 
resources until after the Colonial period. Towards the 
close of the period Maryland and Virginia combined were 
exporting more than two thousand five hundred tons of pig 
iron yearly to England. Catoctin Furnace in Frederick 
County, constructed in 1774 was the last to be built 
prior to the war. 

REVOLUTIONARY PERIOD 

During the Revolution the furnaces of Maryland 
furnished America with cannon and munitions. Utilizing ore 
that had been used to supply Virginia furnaces earlier in 



-6. 



the century. The pig iron from Ridgely's furnace was in 
particular demand by the gun makers of Massachusetts as 
it was reputed to be the best in the state. This was the 
Northampton Furnace in Baltimore County. 

A few words concerning the type of furnace used 
during this period and the manner of operation will be 
appropriate at this time. The furnaces were at beat very 
crude affairs. Charcoal was the only fuel used to reduce 
the ore. The furnaces were very small compared to the 
present day blast furnaces and were very wasteful of 
energy. Several waterwheels were often required to operate 
one furnace. Each waterwheel operated one bellows. Very 
little was known regarding the chemical reactions within 
the furnace. Consequently very little control over the 
quality of the finished product was maintained. The stand- 
ardization of the iron depended principally on the uniformity 
of the ore. 

NINETEENTH CENTURY 

During the period 1780 - 1830 only seven furnaces 
were built in the state and four of these were in the western 
part. 

Thomas Russell built a furnace at North East in 1802 
which was in operation for four years. The furnace did not 
prove as profitable as had been anticipated so it was discon- 
tinued upon the death of Russell in 1306. Whittaker Furnace 
was build in 1310. The iron from the furace was used for 
making shovels. It was later bought by Horace Abbott 



7- 



who used the iron for making steamboat shafts. Gunpowder 
Falls, below Eranklinville was the site of the furnace. 
It waB abandoned prior to the Civil War. The Joppa iron 
works were built by J. W. and E. B. Patterson in 1920. 

The Avelon iron works were located about a half 
mile from the Relay House on the Baltimore and Ohio 
Railroad. It was erected by several members of the Dorsey 
family about J.7S5. It made nails and bar iron and later 
on rolled rails. It closed down about 1860. 

A rolling mill was built about five miles north 
of Elkton on the Big Elk River in 1810 on the site of the 
copper workB which were active before the Revolution. Its 
chief product was sheet iron and it remained in operation 
until about 1860. 

The era of furnace building was between 1830 and 
1855. This is considered the most important period in the 
history of the Maryland Iron Industry. The Joppa iron works 
were rebuilt in 1851, It consisted of six puddling furnaces 
and one heating furnace, two trains of rolls, thirty-seven 
nail machines and one hammer. Thie was one of the largest 
furnaces in the state at the time and it remained in operation 
until 1860. Stephen Onion withdrew from the Principio Com- 
pany soon after its formation and started a furnace of his 
own. The Jootjs iron works were probably built over the site 
of the old Stephen Onion iron works. The Yohogany iron works 
were built at Friendeville on Bear Creek in 1834. A furnace 
was built on theEaetern Shore about five miles from Snow Hill 







A.HWli ^ C' a _ LWh. R*llir, 1 , > r». 



LOCATION Of FURNACES IN THE VICINlTr OF BALTIMORE 



i 
x 

3 

s 

6 
7 



ASHLAWD 
CEDAR POINT 
CHESAPEAKE 
CUKTL5 CfcEEK 

ELBA 

ELM FSIDGE 
GUNPOWDC R. 



8 GWVNNS FALLS 



3 HARTFO/tD 

/O J OP PA 

fj Kl NGS&uf&Y 

JZ LA 6R-AW6E 

/3 LAVS EL 

/* LEGH 

'<" LOCI/5T G HOVE. 

16 MAH.Y LANO 



IT *MARYL AND STEELC&XG f£OU 6H AND EEADir 



/g MUIRKJRK 

19 NA5SAVVAW60 

Z» NORTHAMPTON 

Zl ORE.&0N 

2Z PATAPSCO 

23 PATUXENT 

1* PfllNCI PIO 



OS R.I/SSELL 

27 SARAH 

28 SAVAGE 

29 STJCKNCV 

30 WW tT TAKER 



* NOW BETHUHfM STEEL COMPANY 



-8- 



in 1830 by Mark Richards. It used "bog ore yielding only 
28% iron. Its annual production four years later was 
seven hundred tons. It was the only furnace in the state 
which used hog ore exclusively. In 1840 it was bought by 
T. A. Spence who called it Kassawango. A bloomary which 
utilized bog ore was located near Federalsburg but was 
later abandoned. The iron resources of the western part 
of the state were now being developed much more rapidly 
then before. In 1837 a furnace was built at Lonaconing 
near Frostburg by the George* b Creek Coal and Iron Com- 
pany. It was fifty feet high and fourteen and one half 
feet wide at the boshes. Cose was to be used as fuel in 
nlace of charcoal. The Mount Savage Iron Company started 
another furnace but never completed it. The use of coke 
in refining iron by the western part of the state no doubt 
detracted from the industry in the eastern part as iron was 
produced cheaper by coke than by charcoal. The Mount Sav- 
age rolling mill was built in 1843 as a rail mill and the 
following year it rolled the first "U* pattern iron rails 
to be rolled in the United States weighing forty-two pounds 
to the yard. Thus two of the highest honors in connection 
with the American iron trade goes to Alleghany County 
Maryland. That of building the first successful furnace for 
the use of coke and the rolling of the first heavy rails. 
A furnace called Lena was erected at Cumberland in 1846. It 
used charcoal at first and later coke but soon was abandoned. 



-9- 



Locust Grove furnace web built in 1844 by Robert Howard 
near Stemmer Run. It orodwced twelve hundred Beventy- 
seven tons of pig iron in 1851 and was discontinued in 
1885. Ashland Furnace was built in 1837 to use the ores 
from the Oregon ore banks. This furnace was in operation 
until the early eighties, Oregon Furnace was built in 
1849 but was soon abandoned as the Ashland Furnace could 
make pig iron cheaper. Gunpowder Furnace at Gunpowder 
Falls produced eleven hundred tons of foundry and forge 
iron during a thirty week run in 1856. No new furnaces 
were built between 1855 and 1864. 1865 to 1885 marked a 
rapid decline in the iron industry in Maryland. Only 
two or three new furnaces were built and twenty- seven 
old ones were abandoned. Practically all of the Baltimore 
County furnaces were among those closed. In 1870 
Maryland was fifth in rank of the iron producing states 
with an output of fifty- four thousand two hunrded four 
tons of pig iron. In 1880 it was in eleventh place with 
fifty-three thousand two hundred seventy-one tons of pig 
iron. The other iron producing territories were stead- 
ily forging ahead while Maryland was standing still. 
Hinety-eight thousand three hundred fifty-four tons of 
iron ore in 1870 wsb worth $600,246. or $6.10 per ton, 
while in 1880, one hundred thirty-nine thousand six 

hundred twenty-eight tons was worth only $421,691 or 
$3.02 per ton- A drop of such enormous proportions in a 

space of ten years made the Maryland Ore extremely un- 



PRODl/CTION OF IfcON ORE 
fN MARYLAND 



ITV 






























































































































































































MX 


















































































































































































































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St, 




































































































































































































































































































1 fl 






























-^ o 























































































































































































































































^^_^ 

















2 
O 



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O 



xes-o 



I8&0 



1370 



1890 



/B90 



(900 



C3iO 



VEAfe 



-10. 



profitable to mine. There was however a definite cause 

for such s rapid decline. The Arundle ores were used to 
produce a high quality charcoal iron. This iron was so 
much in demand that it brought even higher prices than 
other charcoal iron. The increasing demand for this iron 
rendered the supply inadequate. Consequently prices rose to 
a high point. With the development of transportation, the 
Lake Superior and Alabama iron mines opened with cheap ore 
and coke produced iron. This was exactly what the iron 
industry required. The result was that Maryland, with its 
high priced ores, was left behind in the rush for cheap ores. 
The introduction of the Bessemer process of producing steel 
further shut of f the demand for high grade iron. In 1885 only 
seven furnaces remained active within the state and two of 
these closed soon after. In 1891 Principio at North East 
abandoned the production of pig iron and in 1903 Catoctin 
closed down. The two Stickney furnaces had closed during 
1895-96 so with the exception of the Maryland Steel Company, 
Muirkirk was the sole survivor at the beginning of the 
twentieth century. This furnace supplied a high grade 
charcoal iron having a tensile strength of forty-one thousand 
pounds per square inch. Muirkirk was abandoned about 1916. 
In 1911 all of the ore mined in the state was sent to outside 
furnaces with the exception of Muirkirk. Renewed interest 
had developed at Catoctin and in the Bachman Valley in ore 

mining between 1907 * 1911 but it never reached its previous 
state of production. 



TABLE OF ERECTION 0? BALTIMORE COUNTY 
FURNACES IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDSR 



FURNACE 

Gwynne Falls 

Stephen Onion 

Kingsbury 

Lancashire 

Northampton 

Whittaker 

Pat ap sco 

Ashland 

Maryland 

Cedar Point 

Locust Grove 

Chesapeake 

Laurel 

Gunpowder 

Oregon 

Sparrows Point 



DATE 'ERECTED DATE APANDONED 



about 

about 



1723 
1743 

1744 
1744 
1760 
1810 
1835 
1837 
1840 
1843 
1844 
1845 
1846 
1846 
1848 
1889 



after 



about 
about 

about 
about 



1769 
1780 
1780 
18 50 
1866 
1849 
1880 
1888 
1880 
1885 
1882 
1885 
1860 
1856 



-11- 



SPARROWS POINT IRON WORKS 

This organization , because of its present rank among 
the steel manufacturing interests of the world, deserves 
special mention with regard to its origin and growth. 

The Pennsylvania Steel Company was operating a plant 
in 1867 at Baldwin (now Steelton) Pennsylvania for the 
manufacture of Bessemer steel to be used for rolling rails. 
The large amount of ore needed by this and other plants, 
brought about by the develpment of railroads and similar 
enterprises requiring steel, rendered the supply of American 
ore inadequate to the demand. 

Large deposits of low phosphorous ore had been 
discovered in Cuba as early as 1882 of which the Pennsylvania 
Steel Company had acquired extensive interests. A factory 
site for refining this ore in the United States had to be 
easily reached by water and at the same time be accessible 
to the West Virginia and Pennsylvania coal fields. Consider- 
ing these requisites, . Sparrows Point, fourteen miles from 
Baltimore, was selected as the site. This Point is adjacent 
to a natural thirty-five foot channel and is also close to 
the coal fields. Construction was immediately started on 
four blast furnaces. It waB originally intended to ship 
the pig iron from these furnaces* which were completed in 
1891» to the Pennsylvania mills for rolling. The later 
development of manufacturing methods required that the mills 
be located near the furnaces, so later in 1891 the Maryland 
Steel Company was organized under the same management as the 



-12- 
Pennsylvania Steel Company. 

As the plant grew and more modern methods were 
adopted, new machinery was Installed. The four blast 
furnaces were of the regenerative type, having four 
stoves, ninety feet in height, for each furnace. 

The open hearth department consisted of five, fifty 
ton tilting, open hearth furnaces and the necessary cranes 
for handling the metal. 

The Bessemer department contained three, twenty ton 
converters which were fed by ladles bearing the hot pig iron 
directly from the furnaces. 

In the blooming mill the ingots were passed through 
thirty-six inch reversing rolls, and then twenty-eight inch 
reversing rollB.and then to the different finishing machines 
such as plate rolls. 

There was a by product coke plant containing two 
hundred ovens as well as docks for receiving coal and ore 
and shipping finished steel products. 

Foundries, machine shops, and a shipyard capable 
of building large steel vessels were in operation. 

By 1911 the average output of rails per month 
was thirty-five thousand tons, which gives an estimate of 
the size of the plant at that time. 

In February, 1916 the entire plant and grounds 
consisting of ten square miles were purchased by the 
Bethlehem Steel Company. This Company has during its 
twelve years of ownership expended flQQ t O00,000. for 
improvements. 



-13- 



The present monthly production of ingots ie one 
hundred forty thousand to one hundred fifty thousand tone, 
and the plant is operating at 69% capacity. 

The following products are now being manufactured: 
Pig Iron Coke 

Rails Plates 

Tin Plate Sheets, blue, black, 

Pipe, Lapweld and Buttweld and galvanized 
Billets Hails 

Wire Sheet Ban 

This Plant is the largest of itc kir^d in the state 
end is one of the largest In the United States. A personnel 
of ten thousand workers, occupying three shifts is main- 
tained at the present. 
CONCLUSION 

The State of Maryland, and especially the vicinity 
of Baltimore, has played no small part in the development 
of the steel industry of the world. It was foremost among 
the colonies to build furnaces of any size, and it now 
contains the moBt modern blast furnace in the world; located 
at the Bethlehem Steel Company at Sparrows Point. 

The progressive trend in iron manufacture would no 
doubt have placed Maryland at the head of the list of iron 
producing states had it not been for interfering geological 
and geographical conditions. 

Lake Superior ie furnishing the creem of the ore 
mined today. The rapidity with which the fields are being 



-14- 



exhaunted will soon create a demand for other deposits. 

Abojc 15% of the United states' supply is already- 
being secured from scrap iron. 

HIThen the 'ire am is gona the milk will be used. So it 
is highly possible that the ore deposit© within the State of 
keryland will again becowe profitable to mine g and will place 
the state in a position to supply its own as well as oa^side 
plant 3 with ore as in previous times. 



-15- 



EIBLIOGRAPHY 



The following books were used ae references for the 
preparation of this thesis: 

History of Iron in All Ages 

Iron Ore 

A Report en the Iron Ores of 

Maryland 

Maryland Mineral Industries 



J. M. Swank 

C. S. Eckel 

J. T. Singswald 



C. D. Wright 



W. B. Clark 

B. B. Mathews 



The A, B. C. of Iron and Steel A. 0. Backert 
Industrial Evolution of the 
United States 
The following men were consulted with regard to the 
material for the preparation of this thesis. 

Dr. E. B. Mathews Baltimore, Maryland 

Dr. Prank L. Hess Washington, D. C. 

Mr. Joseph B. Coster Baltimore, Maryland 
Dr. C. E. Eckel Washington, D, C. 

Mr. Jones Muirkirk, Maryland