Questions: Iron History

Frequently asked questions: about iron history:

In this section we’ll provide some short (and some long) answers to your questions about the history of iron globally, in the United States, and here in the Upper Housatonic iron area.  There are also some articles that you might find useful — for example, we’ve got a page all about the history of Beckley Furnace, and links to some outside sources with other answers.

Why did the iron industry in the Upper Housatonic Valley go away?

There were several reasons.  First, the iron industry in our area was very slow to upgrade and make improvements.  Only after 1900 were major technological improvements aggressively pursued.   Second, demand shifted (particularly the railroads) from iron to steel.  There were no doubt other factors, but those were the two most important ones.

Who were Barnum and Richardson?

The short answer is that their company was the owner of Beckley Furnace for most of its active life, as well as eleven other blast furnaces in the general area, plus foundries and forges in Lime Rock where iron goods, especially railroad car wheels, were made.

Was the Barnum in Barnum and Richardson a relative of P.T.Barnum, the showman?

Yes, William H. Barnum was a third cousin once removed of P.T. Barnum.  They knew each other, and during P.T. Barnum’s very short career in politics, William H. Barnum defeated P.T. Barnum for Congress.  They were not friends.

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