Marker Logo HMdb.org THE HISTORICAL
MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Rossville Community, Muirkirk District in Prince George's County, Maryland — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Iron Production: Maryland's Industrial Past - The Iron Making Process

 
 
Iron Production: Maryland's Industrial Past - The Iron Making Process Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, May 8, 2009
1. Iron Production: Maryland's Industrial Past - The Iron Making Process Marker
Inscription.
Iron Production: Marylandís Industrial Past

Marylandís early economy and identity were based on slave-based agriculture. However, slaves were also employed in manufacturing iron, one of the first non-agricultural industries. Seeing how other colonies were successful in producing iron, the Maryland Legislature passed an “Act for the Encouragement of an Iron Manufacture within this Province” in 1719 to promote iron production both for local industry and for export to Great Britain.

One of the first producers of iron in colonial Maryland was Richard Snowden, who had emigrated from Wales in about 1658. In 1669 he and Thomas Linticum purchased “Iron Mine, a 500 acre plot of land located at the head of the South River,” in Anne Arundel County for 11,000 pounds of tobacco. After his death, his son Richard along with some partners formed the Patuxent Ironworks Company at New Birmingham Manor which began operation in the mid-1730s and was owned by Richard Snowden and his partners. Later, his son Richard (known as the “Ironmaster”) took over and built additional furnaces. Altogether, the Snowden family operated ironworks on their lands in Prince Georgeís and Anne Arundel Counties for two hundred years.

Enslaved workers were involved in almost all phases of iron production
Iron Production: Maryland's Industrial Past - The Iron Making Process Marker </b>(left side) Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, May 8, 2009
2. Iron Production: Maryland's Industrial Past - The Iron Making Process Marker (left side)
in Maryland. They worked as foreman, founders, laborers and blacksmiths. The Snowdens were Quakers, a faith known for its opposition to slavery. However, tax assessments show that between 1760 and 1780, the Snowden ironworks averaged 45 slave hands per year. The Quakers' transition from slavery to anti-slavery took more than 100 years. For the Snowdens, and other Quakers, the business advantages of owning slaves may have outweighed moral considerations.

[Illustrations]:
Excerpt from manumission documents dated 1781 in which Samuel Snowden lists 35 adults and 36 children to be feed. Courtesy Maryland State Archives.

An 1802 Maryland Gazette advertisement for a runaway named Isaac, placed by Richard Snowden. The slave may have worked at the Patuxent Ironworks. Courtesy Maryland State Archives.

This fireback was cast at Patuxent Iron Works in 1737. Despite the rust, Richard Snowdenís mark is visible. Courtesy of Fort George G. Meade Museum.

Excerpt from “Act for the Encouragement of an Iron Manufacture within this Province.”

The Ironmaking Process.

A colonial era ironworks required a source of iron ore, forestlands to make charcoal to fuel the furnace, proximity to a river for transporting iron to market, and a large labor force. Charcoal was made from firewood
Iron Production: Maryland's Industrial Past - The Iron Making Process Marker </b>(right side) Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, May 8, 2009
3. Iron Production: Maryland's Industrial Past - The Iron Making Process Marker (right side)
charred in earthen ovens. Colliers (charcoal makers) stacked cordwood around a central chimney creating a mound 30-40 feet in diameter. The fire was extinguished slowly and allowed to cool.

Iron ore was extracted from shallow surface mines and taken to a blast furnace by horse drawn carts. The furnace was a 30-40 feet high brick or stone stack with a long ramp for workers to carry ore and fuel (charcoal) to its top. Charcoal, roasted ore and limestone was placed in the top of the furnace and smelted. Slag, a by-product, was drawn off and the remaining metal was then cast into “pigs”, crude iron bars roughly two feet by four inches. The bar molds resembled a sow nursing her piglets, hence the term “pig iron.” Pig iron was used to manufacture items such as firebacks and cannon shot. Pig iron was further processed into wrought iron for a forge. Wrought iron was marketed to craftsmen such as blacksmiths and wheelwrights to make a variety of goods and tools.

[Illustrations]:
Charcoal II,, illustrated by Denis Diderot, depicts a workman (figure 40) as he lights the furnace through the top and the combustion gets under way. (Fig. 5) As it proceeds more air is needed and vents are opened (Fig. 6). The fire must be tended constantly to regulate the rate (7, 8) until the process is complete, 1751.

The Blast Furnace
Historical Markers at entrance to Abraham Hall Photo, Click for full size
By Richard E. Miller, May 8, 2009
4. Historical Markers at entrance to Abraham Hall
7612 Old Muirkirk Road
V,
illustrated by Denis Diderot shows workers on the left preparing a bed of sand into a mold for molten iron. When the mold is formed, the hearth will be tapped and molten iron will flow into it. The workers on the right cart away a “pig” that has cooled and hardened, 1761.

The Manufacture of Iron - Tapping the Furnace, by Tavernier and Frezeny, Harperís Weekly, November 1, 1873. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.

The Great Industry of Birmingham, Alabama. A Pig Iron Furnace, drawn by Charles Graham. Harperís Weekly, March 26, 1887.

The Manufacture of Iron - Carting Away the Scoriae, by Tavernier and Frezeny, Harperís Weekly, November 1, 1873. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.

The ore bank at Elizabeth Furnace. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.

A 1922 photo of the charcoal kiln at Muirkirk Ironworks. After the Civil War, brick kilns like this were used to make a charcoal from wood. Previously, charcoal was made in earthen mounds. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

Furnace used at Muirkirk Ironworks. Courtesy of the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.

Making the mounds for pig iron, blast furnace,
Manumission Documents Photo, Click for full size
By Allen C. Browne, August 4, 2013
5. Manumission Documents
Excerpt from manumission documents dated 1781 in which Samuel Snowden lists 35 adults and 36 children to be feed.
Close-up of photo on marker
Maryland State Archives
blast furnace, Pittsburgh, Pa. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.

Carrying away and loading the pigs, blast furnace, Pittsburgh, Pa. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
 
Erected 2008 by Department of Parks and Recreation, Prince George's County.
 
Location. 39° 3.55′ N, 76° 52.4′ W. Marker is in Rossville Community, Muirkirk District, Maryland, in Prince George's County. Marker can be reached from Old Muirkirk Road. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7612 Old Muirkirk Road, Beltsville MD 20705, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. When the Iron was Hot: African America Ironworkers of Muirkirk (here, next to this marker); Abraham Hall: A Historic African American Benevolent Lodge (here, next to this marker); Three Sisters: Close Knit Communities of the Laurel Area. (here, next to this marker); Queenís Chapel Methodist Church, Established 1868 (approx. 0.2 miles away); Dinosaurs in Maryland! (approx. 0.8 miles away); Dinosaur Alley (approx. 0.8 miles away); Welcome to Dinosaur Park (approx. 0.8 miles away); Dinosaur Park's Industrial Heritage (approx. 0.8 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Rossville Community, Muirkirk District.
 
More about this marker.
Twenty Dollars Reward Photo, Click for full size
By Allen C. Browne, August 4, 2013
6. Twenty Dollars Reward
An 1802 Maryland Gazette advertisement for a runaway named Isaac, placed by Richard Snowden. The slave may have worked at the Patuxent Ironworks.

Twenty Dollars Reward
Ran away from the subscriber, living in Prince-George's county, near Patuxent Iron Works, on the first instant, a negro man named Isaac, about thirty years of age, five feet eight or nine inches high; he is black, has very red eyes, a down look, a scar on the top of his head, about the size of a dollar, where no hair grows, stoops in his shoulders; he went off in his common working cloathing, but it is probable he may change his dress and endeavour to pass as a free man; he was purchased in Charles county, where it is probable he will be harboured. Whoever will take up the above negro, and deliver him to the subscriber, or secure him in any gaol, shall be entitled to the above reward, paid by
Richard Snowden.

May 10, 1802.
Close-up of illustration on marker
Maryland State Archives
Marker can be reached from Old Muirkirk Road, off the parking lot for the recently restored Abraham Hall community center, a block north of Muirkirk Road, across the street from Muirkirk West Neighborhood Park, and about half a mile east of Old Baltimore Pike. Note that Muirkirk Road is not directly accessible from U.S. 1 (the area's primary north-south thoroughfare). Travelers on U.S. 1 should turn east at Powder Mill Road (MD 201) in Beltsville, crossing the B&O RR tracks, to reach Old Baltimore Pike and then proceed north to Muirkirk Road.
 
Also see . . .  Muirkirk, MD. (Submitted on May 17, 2009, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.)
 
Categories. African AmericansAntebellum South, USColonial EraIndustry & CommerceNatural ResourcesNotable PlacesSettlements & Settlers
 
<br>R ♥ S<br>1737<br>Potuxent<br>Iron Works Photo, Click for full size
By Allen C. Browne, August 4, 2013
7.
R ♥ S
1737
Potuxent
Iron Works
This fireback was cast at Patuxent Iron Works in 1737. Despite the rust, Richard Snowdenís mark is visible.
Close-up of photo on marker
Fort George G. Meade Museum
Excerpt from “Act for the Encouragement of an Iron Manufacture within this Province.” Photo, Click for full size
By Allen C. Browne, August 4, 2013
8. Excerpt from “Act for the Encouragement of an Iron Manufacture within this Province.”
close-up of text on marker
An Act for the Encouragement of an Iron Manufacture, within this Province.

Whereas it is represented to this present General Assembly, That there are very great Conveniencies of carrying on Iron- Works within this Province, which have not hitherto been embraced for want of proper Encouragements to some first Undertakers, altho the Consequences thereof might not only be considerably advantageous to the Persons immediately concerned therewith, but also to the Public Trade of Great- Britain, and this Province ; and for that it may so happen that the Lands or Places most proper for the fixing Forge-Mills, and other Conveniencies for the carrying on such considerable Works, may happen to be within the Bounds of any Lands already reserved to his Lordship's Use, or such Lands as are in the Hands or Possession of Persons under Age, or unable to be at the Charge of carrying on such considerable Works, or else such as are wilfully obstinate, to the Hinderance of such Persons as would purchase such Lands or Places as should be fit for the carrying on so great Works, and setting them up, to the Increase of our Trade and Navigation, the Peopling of this Province, and to the Advantage of his Lordship, by the Encouraging the Taking-up such remote and barren Lands as are now entirely useless and uncultivated ;
II. Be it Enacted, by the Right Honourable the Lord Proprietary, by and with the Advice and Consent of his said Lordship's Governor, and the Upper and Lower Houses of this present General Assembly, and the Authority of the same, That if any Person or Persons from and after the Publication hereof, shall desire to set up such Forging-Mill, and other Conveniencies for the carrying on such Iron- Works, upon any Land not before cultivated, next adjoining to any Run of Water within this Province, not being the Estate oi Inheritance of such Undertakers, nor leased to them, to the Intent thereon to set such Forging-Mill, and other Conven- iencies for the carrying on such Iron- Works, they may pur- chase a Writ out of Chancery, directed to the Sheriff of the County where such Land lieth, requiring him by the Oath oi Twelve Men of his County, to inquire what Damage it would be to his Lordship, or others, to have such Builders or Under- takers invested with an absolute Estate of Inheritance in One Hundred Acres of such Land, proper for the setting up such Forging-Mill, and other Conveniencies for the carrying or such Iron- Works as aforesaid: The Form of which Writ followeth, viz.
" Charles, absolute Lord and Proprietary of the Provinces " of Maryland and Avalon, Lord Baron of Baltimore &c
Ore Bank, Elizabeth Furnace, 1872 Photo, Click for full size
By Allen C. Browne, August 4, 2013
9. Ore Bank, Elizabeth Furnace, 1872
Men working at the ore bank a Elizabeth Furnace Virgina, 1872
Close-up of photo on marker
Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
Charcoal Kiln Photo, Click for full size
By Allen C. Browne, August 4, 2013
10. Charcoal Kiln
A 1922 photo of the charcoal kiln at Muirkirk Ironworks. After the Civil War, brick kilns like this were used to make a charcoal from wood. Previously, charcoal was made in earthen mounds.
Close-up of photo on marker
Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Iron Furnace used at Muirkirk Photo, Click for full size
By Allen C. Browne, August 4, 2013
11. Iron Furnace used at Muirkirk
Furnace used at Muirkirk Ironworks to manufacture pig iron. The stack measured 38 by 8.5 feed with production capacity of 7,000 tons. The furnace was built in 1847, rebuilt in 1888 after a fire, and eventually closed in 1920, ca. 1921.
Close-up of photo on marker
Historical Society of Washington, D.C.
Making Molds for Pig Iron, Pittsburgh, PA Photo, Click for full size
By Allen C. Browne, August 4, 2013
12. Making Molds for Pig Iron, Pittsburgh, PA
Close-up of photo on marker
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division
Carrying away and Loading the Pigs, PIttsburgh, PA. Photo, Click for full size
By Allen C. Browne, August 4, 2013
13. Carrying away and Loading the Pigs, PIttsburgh, PA.
Close-up of photo on marker
Library of Congress Prints and Photographic Division.
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 2,530 times since then and 178 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13. submitted on , by Allen C. Browne of Silver Spring, Maryland. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
Paid Advertisement