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Birmingham in Jefferson County, Alabama — The American South (East South Central)
 

Casting Pigs

Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark

 
 
Casting Pigs Marker image. Click for full size.
By Timothy Carr, June 22, 2011
1. Casting Pigs Marker
Inscription.
The Process

The technology of casting molten iron into bars called pigs changed dramatically over the years. Prior to 1931 casting at Sloss took place inside the cast shed. Men cut molds into the sand floor of the shed, allowing the molten iron to pour through the channels and into individual molds. The configuration of molds feeding off troughs gave rise to the term "pig" for the bar of iron—workers thought the molds resembled pigs suckling at the sow.

After 1931 casting was mechanized. Iron flowed from the furnace, down the curved runner and into the ladle car outside the shed. The ladle car then moved down the tracks to the pig casting machine, the remains of which you can see straight ahead.

The People

The men who broke up and carried out the iron from the sand casting beds were called iron carriers. Edward Uehling, inventor of the mechanical pig casting machine, described their work this way: "When the iron had cooled down to the temperature of solidification, but was still red hot, the iron carriers began their task. They covered the pigs with a layer of sand, then put on shoes with thick wooden soles, walked on the hot iron, and with crowbars broke the pigs off the sow and with sledge hammers broke the sow into pieces the length of the pigs. This was as hot a
Casting Pigs Marker image. Click for full size.
By Timothy Carr, June 22, 2011
2. Casting Pigs Marker
job as a man could stand, but it had to be done. If the pigs were allowed to get cold, it would not only be more difficult to break the pigs off the sow and the sow pieces, but the iron could not be carried away in time to mold up [the sand] for the next cast...Only one man in ten is physically fit to be an iron carrier, and the best of them cannot stand up under the strain for many years...

The task of breaking up and carrying out the iron from the casting beds of even modest-size furnaces is not a fit one for human beings. If it were possible to employ horses, mules or oxen to do this work, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Dumb Animals would have interfered long ago, and rightfully so."
 
Erected by Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark.
 
Location. 33° 31.235′ N, 86° 47.444′ W. Marker is in Birmingham, Alabama, in Jefferson County. Marker can be reached from the intersection of 32nd Street North and 2nd Avenue North, on the left when traveling north. Click for map. This marker is located on the grounds of the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Marker is at or near this postal address: 20 32nd Street North, Birmingham AL 35222, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Stock Trestle (here, next to this marker); The Blast Furnace (a few steps from this marker); Stock Trestle/Tunnel (a few steps from this marker); Slag (within shouting distance of this marker); The Gas System (within shouting distance of this marker); Boilers (within shouting distance of this marker); Ironmaking (within shouting distance of this marker); The Blowing Engine Room (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line). Click for a list of all markers in Birmingham.
 
More about this marker. This marker can be found outside of Furnace Number 1's casting shed, south of the furnace.
 
Also see . . .  Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. (Submitted on October 7, 2013.)
 
Categories. Industry & Commerce
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Timothy Carr of Birmingham, Alabama. This page has been viewed 331 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by Timothy Carr of Birmingham, Alabama. • Bernard Fisher was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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