Slag at Beckley Furnace

People generally know about pig iron.  Most visitors to Beckley Furnace have seen the signs about how the furnace worked, and how it turned iron ore, charcoal, and limestone into pig iron.  You may even have heard one of our hosts describe the process for you if you’ve visited when one was on duty.

However, fewer people know about slag.  If you’ve ever wondered where the stuff that’s left over from the iron ore and limestone goes after the iron is made and what happens to it, then you’re asking the right question — and slag is the answer.

In this video, Christian Allyn visits the slag pile (and it is a big one!) at Beckley Furnace and shows you what you would find there if you visited yourself.  And he tells you quite a bit about the stuff as well.

Just CLICK HERE to enjoy the video!

Thanks to Christian Allyn, our knowledgeable and personable presenter.  Thanks to Eleanore Jenks who directed the video and who did the video capture as well.  Between the Lakes Group is responsible for post-processing, as they call it in the video trade.

 

 

Roles for women and girls

Besides the obvious and prominent role of men at a blast furnace, women and children were also important in the workings. Perhaps surprisingly, without both women and girls in a supporting role the conditions would have drastically changed. They way the industry functioned might have even have been altered.

We’ll be having a series of posts on the subject of the roles women and children, particularly girl children, played in the iron industry, but this one underscores their role in the community that surrounded a blast furnace like Beckley.

Women 

Women didn’t really do much except cook and maintain the households. While you may think that does not sound very important, it actually was. The men working at the furnace had to be incredibly strong. To stay strong, they had to eat a lot of protein and good food. The women spent most of their time cooking to meet those needs.  We’ve seen estimates that a furnace worker, particularly one who worked in the casting shed, might burn an incredible 4000 calories per day, day after day, week after week, month after month.  That’s a whole lot of food to prepare, and in an age when there were no supermarkets, everything had to be cooked from scratch — and that’s a whole lot of work; a full-time job, in fact.

Children (Girls) 

The girls did mostly the same things as their mothers. A wife could not be expected to cook for more than one man (and her family) by herself. But that left plenty to do around the house.  The girls were usually involved in other small tasks as well, although they usually helped their mothers with the cooking. With their mothers occupied with cooking, the girls generally also helped with laundry, cleaning, and maybe took on some cooking herself if her mother had too much to do.  There was also a family garden to tend, and likely some livestock to take care of.  Virtually all families had chickens, many had a hog or two, some had a milk cow.  Each of these creatures took time to feed and care for — and usually this fell to the girl children according to their abilities. Of course there was school, too, although in many of the years that Beckley Furnace was active, an 8th grade education was considered more than enough, and, in an age before extracurriculars, girls had lots of time before and after school to do housework.

One unfortunate fact is that we have very little in the way of documents about the roles of females, and most of what we do know is second hand — someone, usually a man, mentioning what the women might have been doing. The rest? Well, we have had to examine the evidence and draw conclusions.

Also, it’s important to remember that while this may have been the life of females around a blast furnace, roles for women differed widely on the basis of their husband’s work. An ironmaster’s wife might have been expected to take an interest in the families of the furnace workers and offer hospitality when the big shots from Lime Rock visited. At a foundry, for example, there would likely be a whole middle class made up of molders and other skilled trades, and the roles of women there might have been different, too. And finally, there were the few women who were married to the executives and the owners — and their lives were still different, but no less demanding. Finally, this was an age when most middle class and all upper class families had household servants, most of them women, so their lives would have been different as well.

We’ll explore those roles in future posts…..

 

 

 

New Videos Coming!

The feedback we receive from visitors, as well as our own experience, tells us that while words are necessary, and photos are great to have, nothing conveys a message quite like a video.  Our two youngest board members, Christian Allyn and Eleanore Jenks, have decided to take advantage of this and to create some more videos for the site.

UPDATE!!

See the video Christian and Eleanore made about slag!  Go see that right now!!

About Christian

Christian, as many visitors know, is our main docent for the summers.  He’s a student at UConn, and as well being an expert on the Beckley Furnace site, has a family background that includes quarries that produced some of the limestone that fed Beckley Furnace, back in the day, and still produces limestone up the hill on the other side of Route 44.

He’s known about Beckleychristian2015 Furnace as long as he can remember, and has been a key member of  our summer staff for the past four summers.  Did we say that he knows a lot about Beckley Furnace and the iron industry?  Well, he definitely does!

He also has some expertise that none of the rest of us at Beckley has:  he knows about plants — in fact, his majors at UConn are in that area, and during his years at Housatonic Valley Regional High School (where he also volunteers in developing the school archives) he was particularly active in FFA.

For many of the videos planned as well as two that are already “in the can,” Chris is (usually) the presenter and tells us what we need to know.

About Eleanore

Eleanore, our youngest and newest board member, is still in high school in New York City.  Her ties directly to Beckley, while nowhere as lengthy as Chris’ ties, are still substantial.  In fact, you would not be reading this material if it were not for Elli and her hard work and creativity, because she was the designer and builder of the Beckley Furnace website, and doElli2015es most of the maintenance on the site as well.   The welcome video for this site was her work, all the way from the filming, to the voiceover, to the music, to the post processing.

Elli’s family background includes some significant portions of heavy industry as well.  A likely distant ancestor was a major player in the Saugus Iron Works in Massachusetts Bay Colony in the 1600s, and more recently another ancestor held a patent on making cinder blocks (which, like the products of the New England Slag Company, another East Canaan Barnum and Richardson business, are a repurposed industrial waste product).  And just as Chris lives within a stone’s throw from a limestone quarry, Eleanore lives a stone’s throw from the site of one of the 26 blast furnaces that once dotted the Salisbury Iron District, of which, of course, Beckley Furnace was one.

As you might have guessed from her work on the website, Elli is mostly (but not entirely) involved in the videography of this new video series.

What’s coming next?

As well as the upcoming videos, there’s another project the two have in mind.  It’s something that all smartphone users will appreciate.  They are planning a series of QR codes posted around the Beckley site that people with smartphones will be able to click on and be connected automatically to material on this website about the items in the area where the QR code in question is posted.  It’s not economically possible to create permanent signs for many aspects of the Beckley Furnace complex, and we think that the use of QR codes will help us provide information to visitors quickly and economically.  We’re thinking about the slag pile and the Leffel Turbine as likely candidates for QR codes of their own, but there will certainly be others.

So, thanks to Christian and Eleanore!!!

 

Tariffs – and Beckley Furnace

Beckley Furnace made pig iron, way up in East Canaan, CT, right?

What could that possibly have to do with international trade and tariffs?

As it turns out, a fair amount!

You’ll recall that Beckley Furnace was owned for most of its useful life by the Barnum and Richardson Company.  They used the output of Beckley largely to manufacture railroad car wheels at their Lime Rock foundries.  Barnum and Richardson also effectively used a marketing technique called “product differentiation” to make its pig iron and its railroad car wheels different from the pig iron and railroad car wheels manufactured by others at that time.

“Salisbury iron” was advertised to be different from other iron — so much so that Barnum and Richardson named their iron mine in Michigan the “Salisbury Mine” even though it was mining an entirely different kind of iron ore for use in their Chicago wheel foundry just to permit them to attach a shred of honesty to their claim that all their car wheels were indeed made of “Salisbury ore”.  (Since Beckley used almost entirely ore from the Ore Hill mine and another mine in the Township of Salisbury, calling it “Salisbury ore” was not a problem for the Beckley output — it was this other ore from Michigan that required a little bit of poetic license.

Back to the tariff:

Senator Barnum, a principal of Barnum and Richardson, was politically a Democrat, and in business terms a robber baron.  He was disposed — both for his own economic interests and politically — to favor high tariffs on imports, especially imported pig iron and railroad car wheels, and for the most part high tariffs were in effect during this period.

Then along came a new Democratic presidential candidate, Grover Cleveland — and Senator Barnum, in his role has Chair of the National Democratic Committee, was expected to support the candidate’s policies, which happened to favor low tariffs.  Senator Barnum, a good party man, swallowed his pride, subordinated his economic interests, sucked in, and supported the Democratic platform, upon which Grover Cleveland was elected President of the United States.

Where was the payoff for Senator Barnum?

Well, when Barnum died in 1889, during the four years that elapsed between the two terms that Cleveland served as President, Cleveland attended Barnum’s funeral at Trinity Church in Lime Rock.  It was, presumably, a duty call — the press of the day reported that Mr. Cleveland left immediately following the services.

It would be an interesting exercise to track Beckley Furnace production against various tariff schemes in effect during the years it was functioning, and perhaps someone will eventually do that.

However, it is reasonably clear that export of Barnum and Richardson railroad car wheels, particularly to Latin America, continued strong through most of this period.  It was said that as recently as 1975 Barnum and Richardson car wheels were still turning on railroads in Latin America — perhaps the last continent in which they were still in use.

Henrico Coal Company

The Barnum and Richardson Company has been mentioned many times on this website already, and for good reason:  Barnum & Richardson owned Beckley Furnace for most of its useful life.  There’s a lot more to be said about the Barnums and Richardsons, however, and particularly the Barnum family.

US Senator William H. Barnum was not only a principal of Barnum & Richardson, he was an entrepreneur in a golden age for entrepreneurs — so much was it a golden age for entrepreneurs that it is known today as the Gilded Age, and the entrepreneurs were known as robber barons.

Here’s a historic document.  It’s from the papers of the Henrico Coal Company (in Richmond, Virginia) showing both Senator Barnum and his son, William Milo Barnum, a New York City attorney, as officers of that company.

Another Barnum venture, Henrico Coal Company
Another Barnum venture, Henrico Coal Company

(You can see this as a larger PDF file by clicking 51038)

The source of this document is a microfilm of a portion of the papers of William M. Barnum in the Library of the University of Washington — located in the Library of Virginia, in Richmond, VA.  Interestingly, another company’s records also appear on that microfilm, the minutes book of the Kanawha Improvement Company (1887-1890), which was actually a railroad company in West Virginia.

We’ll be documenting more of these outside connections in future posts.

Beckley is a State Park

While Beckley is mainly the state’s Industrial Monument…

it’s also a park, and there are definitely park-like aspects to the place.

There are, for example, four picnic tables — and not so close to each other that one feels one is in a cafeteria.  Here’s one at the top of the dam:

Picnic table at Beckley Furnace
Here’s one of the four picnic tables at Beckley Furnace — this one overlooking the dam

 

There are two picnic tables in front of the furnace itself, in the area that once was the casting shed, and another on the lawn overlooking the new turbine house.

 

Dam and pool at Beckley
The dam — and the pool — are scenic attractions at the site

This section of the Blackberry River is also popular with anglers.  Frequently there are furnace site tours going on at the same time that people are actively fishing in the Blackberry just a few feet away.

Just on the other side of this wall, in fact:

Wall at Beckley Furnace
This attractive stone wall has separated the furnace complex from the Blackberry River for many years

Occasionally families take a dip in the pool below the dam — but the water is pretty cold, and there’s no lifeguard on duty.

However, it’s not always necessary to be doing something active.  Beckley today offers something that it most assuredly it did NOT offer back in the day when it was an active iron blast furnace, with all the noise, bustle, and confusion that accompanied it.  With the waterfall as background noise, the Beckley Furnace site is also a place to be contemplative — to be alone with your thoughts…

With the roar of the waterfall in the background, it's a place to be alone with your thoughts...
With the roar of the waterfall in the background, it’s a place to be alone with your thoughts…

What you will NOT find at Beckley Furnace:

Yes, Beckley is a State Park.  However, please be aware that:

  • there are no public rest rooms at the facility
  • mentioned above but worth saying again: there are no lifeguards on duty
  • while there is a good cellphone signal at the site, there are no public phones
  • during most hours there are no rangers or other park personnel on duty
  • BUT there are no admission fees or other charges for visiting the facility!

 

 

 

 

More about Drones at Beckley

Drone Saves Drone at Beckley Furnace

The following story appeared in The Lakeville Journal of September 4, 2014, and is reproduced here with permission.  See our earlier post about using a drone to explore the Beckley Furnace site from an aerial view.

 

photo by Shawn Takatsu

By Darryl Gangloff

LAKEVILLE — Technology and history collided last month when area historian Dick
Paddock attempted to use a tiny drone to inspect the skylight and furnace stack
of Beckley Furnace in East Canaan.
“A 40-foot ladder won’t reach the top of the furnace, and we didn’t want to
build scaffolding,” Paddock said. “I had seen these drones online and thought
they might be able to fly up the flue. That would be a quick, inexpensive
solution.”
Paddock purchased a remote-controlled Blade 180 QX HD quadcopter (named for its
four rotors) for approximately $180. It included a camera that can take both
photos and videos.
He discovered on Aug. 16 that the drone could indeed fly up the flue, but was
unable to take photos due to poor lighting. He then sent the quadcopter soaring
toward the skylight, only to have a gust of wind flip the device onto Beckley
Furnace’s roof.
With the drone stuck out of reach, Paddock went to the Buy Local trade festival
at The Hotchkiss School on Aug. 17 and told Visionary Computer owner David
Maffucci of his plight. Maffucci mentioned that Shawn Takatsu, an Apple
certified support professional at Visionary Computer, flies quadcopters as a
hobby.
“I’ve been flying RC copters for number of years,” Takatsu said in a phone this
week interview. “I saw a video of a GoPro camera attached to one of these
quadcopters and thought it could take my hobby a bit further.”
Takatsu’s large DJI quadcopter dwarfs Paddock’s drone. It costs around $2,500
with modifications and has a legal range of 400 feet high and 1,000 feet out in
line of sight.
“I told Dick that I’d love to help,” Takatsu said. “What a great cause!”
Takatsu was able to use the wind from his massive rotors to safely blow
Paddock’s drone off the roof on Aug. 24.
“There was a little damage, but it’s easy to fix,” Paddock said. “It will fly
again. The camera is serviceable. It was a successful rescue.”
While he was at Beckley Furnace, Takatsu used his quadcopter to take some aerial
shots that included photos of the skylight and the entire park.
“We got a good outline of the whole site thanks to Shawn,” Paddock said. “We’ve
never had a picture before that shows the entire span of the industrial
monument.”
Paddock plans to send his small drone up the flue again now that he’s worked out
the lighting problem. He said all of this information will go in the record of
the Beckley Furnace, and inspections will continue on a regular basis.
As for anyone who may be interested in flying drones, Takatsu said they can be
found online for as cheap as $30, or go as high as $20,000 for massive
octocopters.
Takatsu’s quadcopter photography services are available to hire through his
Northwest Connecticut Aerial Photography website, www.nwaphoto.net.

 

Our sincere thanks to The Lakeville Journal

 

A Different Angle…

Looking at things from a different angle…

We’re always looking for better ways to help visitors understand how Beckley Furnace worked.  Fact is that few of our visitors are intimately familiar with the process of making iron ore into pig iron, and putting all the pieces together can be a little problematical.  And, unfortunately, some pieces of the puzzle of just how the entire furnace worked are missing.  Sometimes, we’ve found, looking at things from a different angle can help with this.

PICT0079

As it turns out, Dick Paddock and Christian Allyn, two members of the Friends of Beckley Furnace, have recently been experimenting with our version of a drone — actually, a little remote controlled helicopter that can carry a camera — as a way to explain things better.

The photo above is one of their early efforts — this one, about 60 feet in the air, looking down at the casting arch.  You can see a portion of the exterior wall of the building in which the furnace was located on the left and right of the stack (and see the remainder of the outline of the casting house outlined in limestone elsewhere on this site.)

We think that viewing things from above suggests a lot of possibilities, such as showing the spatial relationship between the  turbine location and the furnace — and even the slag heap — in a single photo.  Stay tuned!  We’ll have more!!

And thanks to Dick and Chris for making this happen!

Topography of Beckley Furnace area

Topographical Map

We extracted this from an 1896 United States Geological Survey topographical map of the area.  We selected this particular edition of the map because the railroad was there (although not all of it — particularly the sidings) is reflected here.  There are clues on this map about why this site was selected for building Beckley and the other furnaces.  As well, 1896 was a time when three furnaces were active in the immediate area.

The Beckley Furnace complex is located on the Blackberry river, in the lower right hand section of the map, slightly to the west of East Canaan.

1896_topography

The iron ore that was used at Beckley Furnace came from an area about five miles west of the left edge of this map.  The limestone came from quarries within a mile of the furnaces.  The charcoal initially came from the mountain directly south of the furnaces, but ultimately it came by rail from as far away as Vermont.

Something to think about:  Why do you suppose Beckley and the other East Canaan furnaces were built where they were?  Why not on the mountain to the south?   Do the contour lines in the topographic map (see the close-up below) give you any clues?  

Notable on the map is the limited number of black dots indicating a structure.  One would expect that there would be more structures shown in an area that contained three working blast furnaces as well as ancillary structures, like charcoal sheds and houses for workers and their families.

Here’s a close-up from the map

topo_tighter

In this view you can clearly see the Beckley complex, the site of East Canaan #1 (the Forbes furnace), but, oddly, Furnace #3, known as the “Furnace in the Field” is not shown on the map, although we know that it was in operation at that time.  We ascribe this to an error by those preparing the map.

 

Housatonic Heritage

Housatonic Heritage

Beckley Furnace has a close relationship with Housatonic Heritage, the umbrella organization that represents the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area.

We’re proud to publish the Iron Heritage Trail map and brochure! It’s free, available at Beckley Furnace, at any area Historical Society, at most libraries, and at many hotels, inns, and restaurants in our area.  We are also proud that Beckley Furnace is the centerpiece of this set of tours around our area.

The Iron Heritage Trail makes it easy to see important elements of our industrial and social history via nine separate suggested tours.  Each tour is a reasonable objective for a morning or afternoon, and each also provides opportunities for more study.

Here are the tours suggested in the brochure:

Tour I:  Beckley Furnace (that’s us!!).  No driving in this tour; we believe there’s enough at Beckley to keep nearly anyone interested and involved for a couple of hours.

Tour II: Beckley Furnace to Norfolk and Colebrook, CT

Tour III: Beckley Furnace to North Canaan, Falls Village, and Amesville, CT.

Tour IV:  Salisbury, Mount Riga, and Lakeville

Tour V: Lime Rock to Sharon

Tour VI:  Sharon, Cornwall, Kent, and Roxbury, CT

Tour VII: Amenia, NY to Clove Valley Ironworks, Beekman, NY

Tour VIII:  Millerton, NY; Copake, NY; Chatham, NY

Tour IX:  North Canaan, CT to Lanesborough, MA

The brochure also includes convenient articles about the discovery of the so-called Salisbury Ore, the blast furnaces of the Salisbury Iron District, and the natural local resources that made the Upper Housatonic valley area a natural one for the production of iron.

So you can spot it among all the other brochures vying for your attention, here’s what it looks like:

Iron Heritage Trail brochure
Iron Heritage Trail brochure

 

 

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