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Robeson Township in Berks County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex

 
 
Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker image. Click for full size.
By Carl Gordon Moore Jr., October 10, 2020
1. Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker
Inscription.  
Blowing Engine House & Hot Blast Area
The mid-19th century style building with its Gothic windows housed a Weimer model 1889 steam engine to help power the Furnace.

This new hot blast method of producing super heated air replaced the giant waterwheel that had been turned by water running through the headrace to operate the blast machinery. Instead, hot gases were tapped from the Stack and channeled through a downcomer pipe to a boiler behind the Blowing Engine House, producing steam for the engine and providing heat to create the hot blast.

Invented in 1829 [,] the hot blast method of smelting iron superheated the blast air before it entered the Furnace. This method retained much more heat than had been possible in a cold blast method, reducing the amount of charcoal needed and doubling production of iron.

Joanna Furnace, during its short hot blast period (1888-1898), did not switch to coal or coke for fuel; it continued to use charcoal throughout its 107 years of operation.

[photo caption] A 1920's view of the Blowing Engine House. Joanna Furnace changed from its original cold blast system

Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker image. Click for full size.
By Carl Gordon Moore Jr., October 10, 2020
2. Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker
Left 1/3
to the new more efficient, more intense hot blast method of producing iron in 1888.
Photo: Bethlehem Steel Corporation

[photo caption] A Weimer 1889 model steam engine was once installed in the Blowing Engine House. The original engine was 15 feet high, 9 feet wide and 17 feet long with an estimated engine weight of 4_1/2 to 5 tons. Pictured is a 1/8th scale reproduction of the engine created by brothers John and George Fleming and is on display.
Photo: George Loughery

[photo caption] A cold blast of air from the Weimer Blowing Engine was pumped through the retorts. This air was then heated to 800-900 degrees and sent to the Furnace Bosh.
Photo: Bethlehem Steel Corporation

[photo caption] The downcomer pipe on the back of the Furnace Stack directed the exhaust gasses from the top of the Furnace to the combustion chambers under the retorts. The gas in one of the chambers heated the boiler that created the steam used to power the Weimer Blowing Engine.
Photo: Harry E. Stauffer, 1918

Furnace Stack
Built in 1791 with native sandstone to a height of 28 feet, the Furnace Stack stands today at 45 feet high and was constructed wide at the bottom and narrow at the top like a pyramid and was reinforced with iron girders. To make iron production easier, the Furnace Stack was erected
Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker image. Click for full size.
By Carl Gordon Moore Jr., October 10, 2020
3. Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker
Center 1/3, but the left part was inadvertently omitted (chopped at left), so an extra photo has been supplied to this hmdb.org entry.
on the side of the hill so iron ore, limestone (flux) and charcoal (fuel) could be easily dumped into the top of the Furnace.

The inner firebrick part of the Furnace Stack, known as the Bosh, resembles an inverted cone and was the smelting chamber holding the molten iron. The Bosh consists of three definitive sections: hearth or base, corbelled lower bosh and upper bosh. The molten iron was tapped from the hearth at the bottom of the stack.

To make iron the Bosh was first filled with charcoal and lit from the top. Then, when the fire had burned down to the archway near the bottom of the Stack, the furnace was refilled with charcoal and the fire worked back to the top. A blast of cold air was then applied through tuyeres. Next a charge of charcoal, iron ore and limestone was put in from the tunnel-head in increasing quantities. This air blast was obtained by water-powered bellows, activated by a giant waterwheel. It took several days before the slag and molten iron produced from this process flowed into the hearth below. The Furnace was charged every half hour with the three ingredients and molten iron was tapped every twelve hours.

[photo caption] Joanna Furnace Stack ca. 1920
Photo: HCVHA Collection - Bethlehem Steel Corporation

[photo caption] Isometric drawing showing the sandstone masonry Furnace Stack and the inner
Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker image. Click for full size.
By Carl Gordon Moore Jr., October 17, 2020
4. Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker
Left part of center 1/3
firebrick Bosh lining.

Drawing prepared by the Institute for the History of Technology and Industrial Archaeology, West Virginia University, November 1995

[photo caption] Joanna Furnace ca. 1870. The Furnace (left) is not visible in this photo; the Stack was then 28 feet high, but was increased to 45 feet when the Hot Blast was installed in 1888.
Photo: C. S. W. Bissell Collection

[photo caption] The Furnace Bosh is the inner brick lining of the Furnace Stack. Two round holes were constructed in the Bosh. One on the front to remove slag (waste) and the second was in the Casting House to tap molten iron. The iron upright bars on the Bosh were crafted to help maintain the Bosh during a blast.
Photo: HCVHA Collection - Bethlehem Steel Corporation

[photo caption] Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex ca. 1920 showing (l-r) Blowing Engine House, Hot Blast Machinery, Furnace Stack and Casting House.
Photo: HCVHA Collection - Bethlehem Steel Corporation

[photo caption] The top of the Joanna Furnace Stack showing the derrick; this piece of equipment raised and lowered the bell of the hopper.
[no Photo credit found]

[photo caption] The filler dumped his loads of iron ore, limestone (flux) and charcoal (fuel) into the hopper and dropped the charge into the Furnace.
Photo:
Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker image. Click for full size.
By Carl Gordon Moore Jr., October 10, 2020
5. Joanna Furnace Industrial Complex Marker
Right 1/3
Walter Jacob

Casting House
The Casting House is the stone building constructed to the right of the Furnace Stack. Due to the extreme heat in this building the walls were constructed with castellations (openings). The openings allowed hot air to vent to the outside and cooler, exterior air to flow in. The orange clay beaver-tail tile roof also safeguarded the building from heat and protected it from sparks emitted by the Furnace.

The day-to-day operation required two founders (supervisors) to regulate the furnace. In addition, two keepers, two guttermen, two or three fillers, moulders and several other laborers. These people worked day and night in twelve hour shifts, every day while the Furnace was in blast -- from nine to thirteen months. These skilled workers were English, Welsh, Irish, German and African Americans.

Usually twice a day the molten iron was tapped from the Bosh and was channeled or ladled into impressions of blackened sand in the floor of the Casting House to produce pig iron, floor castings and flask castings. In 1840, Joanna Furnace produced 2,200 tons of pig-iron and 500 tons of castings.

[photo caption] Approximately 5,500 beaver-tail tiles were placed on the Casting House roof. Each tile was individually made by a potter who used his fingers to create channels in the tile to divert water
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off the roof. The end result was a tile that resembled a beaver's tail.

Photo: HCVHA Collection

[photo caption] The Casting House roof no longer remains as nature begins to take over the abandoned Furnace Complex ca. 1920. To the right of the Casting House stands an ore roaster which was used to eliminate sulphur from poorer grade ore.
Photo: Bethlehem Steel Corporation

[photo caption] Although produced throughout the entire Furnace life, after 1845 pig iron was the primary product made at Joanna.
Photo: HCVHA Collection

[photo caption] Among the items cast at Joanna Furnace were in-plate stoves, sash weights, bake ovens, pots, pans, kettles, fire backs and cannon ball.
Photo: Walter Jacob
 
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Industry & Commerce.
 
Location. 40° 11.428′ N, 75° 53.177′ W. Marker is in Robeson Township, Pennsylvania, in Berks County. Marker can be reached from Furnace Road half a mile east of Morgantown Road (Pennsylvania Route 10), on the right when traveling east. You will be facing north if you face this marker. Behind this marker is the "Ore Roaster" marker, which is just out of sight to the right. Furnace Road is up the hill, running left-right, but is blocked from view here.
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Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1250 Furnace Rd, Morgantown PA 19543, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Ore Roaster (a few steps from this marker); Joanna Furnace Mansion Site (within shouting distance of this marker); Office / Store (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Charcoal Barn (about 300 feet away); Blacksmith Shop (about 300 feet away); In Honor of the Men from Caenarvon Township (approx. 2 miles away); The Caernarvon Presbyterian Church (approx. 5.4 miles away); Alleghany Mennonite Meetinghouse (approx. 5˝ miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Robeson Township.
 
More about this marker. The entire marker is in the 1st photo, followed by the left 1/3, center 1/3 (with extra photo to supply an omitted part), right 1/3 in order.
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on December 15, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 17, 2020, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. This page has been viewed 55 times since then and 3 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on October 17, 2020, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland.   4. submitted on October 18, 2020, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland.   5. submitted on October 17, 2020, by Carl Gordon Moore Jr. of North East, Maryland. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.
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Mar. 7, 2021