Easton in Northampton County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Lehigh Crane Iron Company
1840 - 1855
Five furnaces were in operation in 1854 when this image of the Lehigh Crane Iron Company was made, together producing an average of 750 tons of pig ron a week. These were the first commercially and technically successful anthracite-fired iron furnaces in North America, and led to the rapid development of iron industry using anthracite coal, first in the Lehigh Valley and then elsewhere in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and Maryland. By 1873, 46 per cent of all the iron made in the United states came from anthracite furnaces, nearly three quarters of which were in Pennsylvania, where half of all American iron was made.
The success of Crane Iron and the many other iron companies that sprang up in the Lehigh Valley led to a major mining boom in Lehigh County, with no less than 261 mines of varying size being opened. Some were worked by independent operators and the ore sold on the open market, others leased by iron companies, and some owned outright by the companies. In 1875, Crane Iron leased 11 limonite mines in Lehigh County, owned three outright and one jointly.
"After many vexatious delays,
— David Thomas, commenting on the opening of Furnace No. 1 in Biery's Bridge
David Thomas (1794-1882)
Born and educated in Wales, David Thomas entered the iron industry at the age of 17, and by 23 was superintendent of the Yniscedwyn Ironworks in southern Wales. He experimented with anthracite in the company's iron furnace, but met the same failures that plagued Pennsylvania iron makers on the same quest. Then Thomas and George Crane, who owned the Yniscedwyn facility, enlarged their furnace and exposed the stubborn anthracite to hot blasts of air, which increased temperatures in the furnace and resulted in a dramatic increase in iron production.
Erskine Hazard traveled to Wales in 1838 and hired Thomas to come to Pennsylvania to use Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company anthracite in a new iron business along the Lehigh Navigation. In August, 1839, Thomas began constructing his furnace adjacent to Lock 36, where water was channeled away from the canal to turn a waterwheel that propelled the hot-blast machinery.
Thomas began his own business in later years, founding the Thomas Iron Works and the village of Hokendauqua, where its first furnaces were located. Thomas also founded the Union foundry and Catasauqua Manufacturing Company, the Lehigh Firebrick Works, and the National Bank of Catasauqua.
Erected by City of Easton, Pennsylvania.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Industry & Commerce • Natural Resources • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical date for this entry is July 3, 1840.
Location. 40° 40.07′ N, 75° 14.213′ W. Marker is in Easton, Pennsylvania, in Northampton County. Marker is on Hugh Moore Park Road, 0.2 miles south of Hill Road, on the left when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Easton PA 18042, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Promise of Anthracite Coal (here, next to this marker); From Mine to Market (within shouting distance of this marker); Fathers of the Industrial Revolution (within shouting distance of this marker); Iron in Colonial Pennsylvania (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution (about 400 feet away); Men of Iron (about 400 feet away); From Brownfields to Greenfields (about 400 feet away); Anthracite Iron - A Revolution Is Born (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Easton.
Credits. This page was last revised on October 6, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 6, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. This page has been viewed 79 times since then and 17 times this year. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on October 6, 2020, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia.