Connections to Learning

Learning at Beckley Furnace

If you’re a student, you’re probably wondering how Beckley Furnace could apply to your education. In other words, does Beckley provide any connections to learning? Though the main focus of the furnace is History, in school considered as part of Social Studies, you may be surprised to find that Beckley Furnace has connections to other fields of study.


“This place” is about the iron business that began in colonial times in the upper Housatonic Valley and continued here until the mid-1920s.  If you go to the About  page, you will learn more about the history of Beckley Furnace itself, but that’s only part of the story.  Throughout this site you will find material about how the history of Beckley Furnace and the iron industry affected other aspects of American history — and how the history affects us today.


You’re probably wondering: What the heck does this have to do with science? Well, a whole lot more than you think!  Read on.

1. Physics!

The hot air blast that powered the furnace was water powered.

2. Chemistry!

The chemical process by which iron ore is made into iron is called reduction. Also, the process of making charcoal is called pyrolytic decomposition. Last, the colors in the slag reflect the elements within it. For example, red slag means gold.

3. Geology/Earth Science!

The geology of the area was responsible for the local availability of iron ore (first discovered at Ore Hill, near Lakeville, CT, about 10 miles west of this site) as well as the local limestone used as the flux in the furnace.  The iron ore (and remember that there are many different ores of iron) here was said to be uniquely responsible for tensile strength in the products.  Was that hype?  Was there a basis in fact?  The brick that line the furnace come from a variety of sources that reflect their geological origins.  And there’s more….

4. Geography

Just for openers, due to the geographic isolation from population centers and navigable waterways, the iron industry in the Upper Housatonic Valley survived the American Revolution because the British troops could not easily get to these locations.  Hence, the local iron industry was able to crank out hundreds of cannons during the Revolutionary War.  Later, north/south and east/west railroads crossed in nearby Canaan, CT — made possible by the terrain.

Social Sciences

We usually think of history when we think of social studies.  However, such topics as immigration, women’s studies, ethnicities, labor relations, politics, and a host of other topics in the social sciences are currently under study.  Think about the Social Studies “Common Core” and you’re headed in the right direction!!  (by the way, you’ll often notice a question in italics as you go through this site and posts on it.  These questions are designed to help you think about Beckley Furnace in relationship to the social studies section of the Common Core.)  Wondering about robber barons and the gilded age?  This post and this post might provide some perspective.


Yes, music.  Did you know that many 19th century industrial companies, like Barnum and Richardson, the company that owned and operated Beckley Furnace, had their own brass bands?  Any idea what kind of music they might have played?  That one church that the management of Beckley Furnace supported had, in 1905, its own boychoir?  Here’s another one: the hardest iron produced at Beckley Furnace was largely used for phonograph needles!


In the waning years of the local iron industry, intrepid artists began to settle in several villages in the upper Housatonic iron area, and the trend gained momentum after 1925, when the local iron industry finally disappeared.

Something to think about:  When the iron industry left the area, they left behind housing and other buildings that were no longer needed.  Also, as the iron industry declined, the natural environment began to recover (trees grew, etc.).  What connections can you see between the end of the iron industry and the arrival of artists?

By the way, throughout this website you’ll find questions in italics.  They simply represent something to think about for many of us.  However, those of us who are still in grade school or middle school or high school may notice that some of them sound a little bit like they are part of the Social Studies Common Core curriculum.  Well, that’s intentional!