There is ample evidence that the colonies were producing about as much iron as England right up to the time of the Revolution. English production, due to the adoption of coke as a fuel, takes off in the last quarter of the 1700s and England is the leading producer of iron by 1800.

It was not all shipped back to England, most of it stayed in the colonies. The Chesapeake industry was geared toward export. But even so there was enough demand for local cast iron products that Alexander Spotswood build a foundry (double air furnace) at Massaponnax around 1732. A total of 16 blast furnaces were running at one time or another during the 1700s in Virginia. While Issac Zane started out shipping iron to England, he found it much more profitable to sell locally, or ship to Philadelphia. Almost all of the iron produced in Pennsylvania, NY, and NJ was consumed locally. And we are talking thousands of tons. Peter King has been able to trace a bit over 7,000 tons of iron from colonial furnaces to Britain during the 1st half of the 1700s. But that is a small fraction of American production. 

I wrote my MA on this. If you want lots of data, I can send you more.
James Brothers, RPA
[log in to unmask]

On Jan 24, 2007, at 17:06, Torbert, Barton wrote:

Thanks for the reply.

So once war was declared all the production would have stayed
in-country.  So you seem to be saying that there was significant
American production available no matter how it was previously accounted

Where was the ore coming from for the iron production in the Chesapeake


-----Original Message-----
From: Arch-Metals Group [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
Evelyne Godfrey
Sent: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 2:42 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Falling Creek IW side question


I think that the situation so long as the American colonies were under
British control was that colonists were banned from keeping or selling
locally produced iron; cast iron was just being produced in America, and
it all had to be shipped straight to Britain where it could be taxed and
some of it perhaps sold back to the colonists. This was one of the
points of contention at the time of the Revolution. Of course by then,
colonists were regularly flouting the laws and casting cannons and all
sorts to use against the British Army. 

Supposedly by the mid-18th century, the Chesapeake region (Maryland and
Virginia) had been the worlds third biggest iron producer, after Russia
and Sweden, but colonial iron would have counted as "British" production
rather than "American" per se. 

The English settlers from Jamestown, who built that blast furnace at
Falling Creek just twelve years after arriving, were presumably being
pushed by the Virginia Company back in London to establish some sort of
profitable industry as soon as possible... they had started out looking
for gold of course, and when that didn't pan out as it were, they
decided to go after the iron ore. Even though work at Falling Creek came
to an abrupt end with the massacre of 1622, iron remained Virginia's
second big 'cash crop', alongside tobacco, up until the late 18th C, and
the blast furnaces were organised according to the plantation system,
just like the tobacco growing, i.e. with slave labour (sadly, slaves
continued to make up the bulk of the workforce in the Virginia iron
industry right up until 1864). 



Bart Torbert <[log in to unmask]> 1/24/2007 3:42 PM >>>
This discussion brings up a side question.

What was the iron production in pre-Revolutionary America?  The
question is relative to the Americans ability to  provide war needs from
native sources.


 -------------- Original message ----------------------
From: Steve Gray <[log in to unmask]>
The precursors of the furnaces are more likely to be Welsh rather
than English, 
from such counties as Carmarthenshire, Glamorgan and Gwent.
Yours Steve Gray
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: Peter King 
  To: [log in to unmask] 
  Sent: Tuesday, January 23, 2007 10:08 AM
  Subject: Re: Falling Creek IW

  The precursors of the furnace would inevitably be English.  I
cannot think of 
evidence from 1620s or earlier, but later English furnaces had
systems for 
draining water from below the furnace, but I think the foundations
would have 
been in stone.  However, at that period, timber-framing of buildings
was still 
common in England, with lath and plaster between the timbers.  It is
thus quite 
possible that other parts of the furnace buildings would be of
timber, not to 
mention the waterwheel.  

  The traditional view is that furnaces went into blast in the autumn
and blew 
until the early summer.  While this was not invariably done in places
where the 
water-supply was good enough, it almost certainly has an element of
truth in it.  
I would have expected May to be the anticipated end of the first
blast, not its 
start.  On the other hand, if the furnace was in blast at the time of
massacre, I would expect it still to be (or have been) there and full
of its 
large charge.  

  This is of course all speculation.  

  Peter King
  49, Stourbridge Road, 
  West Midlands
  DY9 0QS
  [log in to unmask] 
    -----Original Message-----
    From: Arch-Metals Group [mailto:[log in to unmask]]On
Behalf Of 
James Brothers
    Sent: 23 January 2007 02:47
    To: Peter King
    Subject: Falling Creek IW

    Lyle Browning, the Falling Creek IW archaeologist, has proposed a
number of 
possible explanations for the timbers recently discovered at the
site. While 
much of the equipment at an ironworks (e.g. wheel, bellows, anvil,
and hammer) 
rested on substantial timber structures, is there evidence elsewhere
for heavy 
wood foundations for blast furnaces? Or is this more likely to be
part of the 
wheel support/foundation or some other part of the water power
system? Or is 
there another possibility that hasn't been thought of yet? If
Cathedral could be built on a raft, why not a blast furnace? 

    James Brothers, RPA
    [log in to unmask]