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U.S.A. is subject to acute unemployment in the special form of persistent under-employment, which, being of this nature, does not force itself into public notice and State relief. Fuel began as waste in the countryside. Then it moved to the mine. The farm and the coal field between them produce food (of the white or black variety) and population. Agriculture is still a smallscale occupation and does not produce a greater population than is wanted in the world as a whole. The New World combs Western Europe for land workers; but it does not, and will not, comb it for miners, because in order of need markets come first, machinery second, and personnel only third.



Section 1. From Charcoal to Pit Coal. Section 2. British Leadership in the Casting of Iron. Section 3. The Puddling and Rolling of Iron. Section 4. The New Steel. Section 5. Pre-War Production of Great Britain, Germany, and the United States.

Section I. From Charcoal to Pit Coal

THE early iron worker reduced his metal by a single operation obtaining iron or steel according to the way he fired his furnace. If in the process he eliminated all the carbon, he secured a soft product, which came to be distinguished by the name of ' wrought' or finished' or 'malleable' iron. If, however, a small portion of carbon was left in, he secured a hard product, which was called steel, a word of ancient origin denoting firmness or resistance. At first he could not heat the metal sufficiently to cast it, but when the blast furnace was improved this became possible; and as far back as the reign of Henry VII guns of cast iron were produced in England. The next advance was the employment of iron cast in a rough oblong as the raw material of the later stages. The oblong was called a' pig' from the fact that the molten metal was run into a central channel of sand with side channels at right angles to it. The central channel was the sow and the little side channels were the pigs sucking at the old sow's side. This pig iron became the branching point of the two great departments of the industry, cast iron and wrought iron. In either case the ore was first of all smelted, i.e. reduced to pig in a blast furnace. Then if destined for casting it was reduced again and run into a mould of the shape required. But if destined for wrought iron it was refined and hammered into shape. The casting of iron

was the work of the foundry and the finishing of iron the work of the forge.

As a result of substituting successive stages in the treatment of the ore for the old direct method, in which there was a large element of chance, the making of steel, which metallurgically lies midway between cast and wrought iron, was improved into a separate art. The steel-maker, who furnished the cutlers and weapon-makers with their raw material, took bars of wrought iron and by re-adding the necessary ingredients converted it back into homogeneous steel. The process, as perfected by Benjamin Huntsman about 1740, involved the melting of the iron bar in a crucible and the casting of the liquid into a bar of steel; and his product was of such excellent quality that it made Sheffield steel famous in Europe. But the industry was a specialty and its further development was separate from that of the iron industry. It was not the avenue by which the modern technique of steel production was reached.

The iron industry required heat at every stage and therefore its want was cheap fuel, but down to about 1700 charcoal only was employed in ore smelting, the main fuel-consuming process. By this time, however, the forests of England were approaching exhaustion, especially the Sussex Weald, which was the centre of cannon founding in 17th-century England. The industry thus became dependent on imports of pig iron or wrought bar iron from the forest-bearing regions of Scandinavia, and the iron-masters looked anxiously to the American continent for alternative sources of pig iron. But all the while there lay beneath the surface pit coal in inexhaustible abundance. About 1620 Dud Dudley -like Adam Smith a son of Balliol and an author-had experimented with it. It was already in use for domestic heating, in breweries and in the forges of nail-makers and blacksmiths. the part of Worcestershire where Dudley's works were situated it was so accessible and cheap that he used it for economy's sake. But these were days of civil strife, and owing partly to the upset of the times, and partly (if Dudley's account in Metallum Martis, 1665, is to be believed) to the conservatism and opposition of the iron-masters, the process was abandoned, with the result that blast furnace practice remained stationary for another century and the iron trade sank to a low ebb.


Not later than 1709, as Mr. T. S. Ashton shows in his Iron and Steel in the Industrial Revolution (1924), the forgotten process was rediscovered and employed by Abraham Darby the First at his works in Coalbrookdale, Shropshire, at the foot of the Wrekin Hill. The pit coal was first coked and then mixed with the ore. Up to about 1760 the new process was confined to Shrop

shire and Staffordshire, but it was then taken up by iron-masters in South Wales and the North of England, and by 1790 only a fraction of the blast furnaces used charcoal. The reason why pit coal made such slow headway as a fuel was that in 1700 wrought iron was the most important branch of the trade and pig iron when smelted with pit coal was unsuitable for this; and it remained unsuitable until iron-masters invented a better blast. Therefore it was not until after the application of the doubleacting blowing cylinder, actuated by the Watt steam-engine, that the victory over charcoal became complete.' 1

Section 2. British Leadership in the Casting of Iron

In 1700 England was the inferior of Europe in the reduction and working of metals other than tin. Smelting with pit coal was the crucial improvement, but it was only one in a series which by 1800 had placed Britain definitely ahead of Europe in iron smelting and the production of cast-iron goods.

Abraham Darby I (1677-1717) learned in Holland an improved method of casting pots of copper and iron; and, bringing some skilled workers back with him, he was able to produce in England at a much lower cost than before a range of articles for which there was a popular demand-pots, kettles, firebacks, pipes and the like. Most of these had been made formerly of wood or a more expensive metal such as copper. Iron, like cotton, was so abundant as a raw material that when its manufacture was improved it ousted rival materials for mass use.

Abraham Darby II (1711-1763: in control of the business 1732-62) developed the use of pit coal with such success that he made Coalbrookdale the premier producing centre of cast iron. It is with his name that smelting by pit coal is commonly associated. In developing the process which his father had successfully tried, he took the first step towards the application of steam power to the industry. He depended for his blast on a waterwheel, and water being scarce he erected in 1743 a Newcomen fire-engine, to pump up the water from the lower to the upper mill-pond in order that it might do its work again. Just as the Darby process of casting led to improvement and cheapening of the fire-engine, so the latter reacted in benefiting the iron industry.' 2

Abraham Darby III (1750-1791 in control of the business 1768-91) introduced no critical improvement in production, but he showed the great field that awaited the new material by building in 1779 the first iron bridge. The bridge spanned the 2 Ibid. p. 42.

1 T. S. Ashton, op. cit. p. 37.

Severn south of Coalbrookdale, and a small town which sprang up close by was therefore named Ironbridge.

The first iron-master to exploit on a really big scale the improved technique was John Wilkinson (1728-1808). The family works were in the North at Bersham near Chester, but John came down to Broseley, near Coalbrookdale, to manage an iron works, of which in time he became the owner. By 1770 he and his brother were operating plants at Bersham, Broseley and Bradley, which was near Bilston in South Staffordshire. Before the end of his life his interests were far-flung. He controlled collieries and iron works in Shropshire, Staffordshire and South Wales, was interested in tin mines in Cornwall, and had a great warehouse in London and commercial connections Continent. By nature very masterful, he enjoyed a distinction denied to a Rockefeller or a Leverhulme, for the coinage in the districts where he was an employer was composed in part of metal tokens inscribed with the legend Wilkinson, Iron Master.' The second great captain of industry in the iron trade was Richard Crawshay, the founder of the Cyfarthfa (Merthyr Tydvil) Iron Works, whom people called the Iron King. Four generations of Crawshays managed the business, which in 1840 was spoken of as 'the largest in the kingdom,' 1 but the works were closed as the result of labour trouble and the invention of Bessemer steel.

The districts which after 1760 went ahead with the new technique all possessed the three essentials of coal, iron and access to the sea-board. They were South Wales and Monmouthshire South Yorkshire, the Newcastle-on-Tyne district and Scotland. In Scotland the industry was entirely new, but in the other places it was already in being on a small scale.

Scotland's iron industry was founded at Carron Edinburgh in 1760 by Dr. John Roebuck. It was a striking manifestation of the new industrial era. Chemistry being his hobby, the doctor became a consulting chemist. By discovering how to substitute leaden chambers for glass globes he revolutionised the manufacture of sulphuric acid, which he reduced to a quarter of its former cost. From sulphuric acid he turned to iron for as a manufacturer of acid he was familiar with the action of coke, which is coal minus its volatile elements, and with the nature of iron ore, from which sulphur is commonly derived. He built his plant on the River Carron a few miles from its mouth at the Firth of Forth, because there he had good water power and access to the sea (the company still operates passenger and freight steamers from Grangemouth to London and other points) and was in the immediate neighbourhood of iron ore, limestone and

1 Dugdale's Gazetteer, Merthyr Tydvil.'

coal. He obtained from England his engineer John Smeaton and some skilled workmen. Thus launched, the Carron Company, which in 1773 took over the business from Roebuck owing to his financial reverses, grew so rapidly that by 1800 it became the most famous plant in Europe for the manufacture of ordnance. Wilkinson (cf. p. 252) had extended his business by devising a new method of boring cannon. The Carron Company specialised in small naval guns, therefore named Carronades. But neither firm was mainly dependent on the manufacture of war material, from which indeed the Carron Company withdrew altogether in the 19th century. For there was a sufficient demand from the civil engineers, now that Great Britain and the rest of Europe were passing to an iron-using basis. The cities, with their growing populations, called for water-pipes, gas-pipes and drainpipes, the workshops and factories for machinery of iron, the railways for iron rails, iron bridges, iron girders, iron wheels and iron locomotives, the steamships for engines and iron hulls. The engine for Symington's steamboat, of which Watt was so contemptuous, was made at Carron at a cost of £333 10s. 6d.1 In 1801 David Mushet discovered the black-band ironstone on the River Calder near Glasgow in the heart of the Lanarkshire coalfield. It was not developed until railways made their appearance first at home and then abroad, with their insatiable demand for iron in the form of rails and railroad equipment; but from about 1825 onwards it was mined very rapidly, so that the early railroad age (1825-50) saw Scotland come to the front as a producer of iron. In 1830 Scottish blast furnaces turned out about 37,500 tons of pig, a fraction of the British output; in 1847, 540,000 tons, more than a quarter of the total. The Scottish iron-masters had the great advantage of using coal and iron on the spot where both were mined. Lanarkshire was flanked by the sea on either side, by the Forth to the east and the Clyde to the west; and therefore shipment coastwards or for export was easy. When iron replaced wood in shipbuilding the Clyde had the new material at its doors, while Belfast and the north-east coast of England were within a short distance of Scottish supplies.

It is conjectured that Abraham Darby I succeeded in smelting ore by pit coal because he used more powerful bellows. This accords well with the improvements which were made later in the efficiency of the blast in Scotland or by Scotsmen. In 1768 John Smeaton supplied to the Carron works in Scotland a superior blowing cylinder driven by a waterwheel. In 1775 the Scots

1 Cf. The Carron Company; A Century and a Half of Commercial Enterprise,

P. II.

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