The Manufacture of iron.
We have seen of late, in several quarters, notices of a work lately published in Great Britain
by a Mr. Scrivenor
, purporting to be a history of the iron trade.
If carried out as it ought to be, such a work would be one of the most interesting which could be presented to the world.
In the opinion of many philosophers, iron has been a far more important metal to mankind than even gold
.--It were scarcely too bold a figure to say that its history is the history of civilization.
To it we owe everything that we are, and all that we possess.
Agriculture, art, commerce, science — everything that man is or has, in the highest state of civilization, is, in a second degree at least, its work.
It has cleared the forests, slain the beasts that infested them, tilled the ground, mowed the crops, built the granaries, for thousands of years.
It has erected the edifices which are the pride of civilized man, not less than the cabin in which the settler squats.--Its agency is felt in the construction and navigation of ships, in the steamboat, in the railroad, in everything fashioned by the hands of man. What would man be without it?
Trace out what the Indians were when Capt.John Smith
first came here, and you will perceive.
It is impossible to conceive of any one implement of use or ornament employed by civilized man, from the huge gun that burns twenty pounds of powder at an explosion down to the pins that fasten the clothes of a baby, from the plate on the rich man's sideboard to the crockery on the shelf of a free negro's cabin, from the golden dinner set of Queen Victoria down to the wedding ring
on a lady's finger, which has not, in some way, felt its influence, or been wrought into its present shape by its action.
The very pen with which this article is written, the ink with which it is charged, the paper on which operates, the type in which it will be set, he press by which it will be struck off, all are indebted to this metal, or consist, to some extent, of it. It is, indeed, the universal agent.
We find that exactly in proportion to the growth of its use among men, has been the progress of society.
Three thousand years before the Christian era, and about five hundred before the Deluge, we are told that Tubal Cain
instructed men in the working of brass and iron.
It is hardly possible to believe that the Pyramids, the Labyrinth, and the other vast works of Egypt
, were completed without the use of this all-conquering metal.
Yet, we find, in the poems of Homer
, very little mention made of it. There, everything that ought to be iron, is brass.--The points of the spears are brass, the shields are brass, the clasps and fastenings of the belts are all of brass.
Vulcan is there the god of the fire, the anvil, and the forge, the patron of all workers in metal.
We are introduced to his forge-- we see him at work — we are exactly instructed in his processes — we are made acquainted with the metals he employs.
They are chiefly gold and brass.
Occasionally a little tin, or a little silver is thrown in; but we hear — to the best of our recollection-- nothing of the use of iron in his experiments.
The armor which he made or Achilles
was of brass, gold, and tin. He made trinkets for all the Gods.
He built them mansions on Olympus
He made their furniture.
He fashioned their arms.
He endued them all with a self-moving power.
But neither wood nor iron enters into their composition.
Other writers, much later than Homer
, tell us of innumerable other things which he made.
The collar of Harmonias, the fire-breathing bulls of Ætes, the dogs of Aluminous all were of brass, or gold
or silver From
all this we are led to infer, that in very early times brass was a metal much more common in use than iron.
In fact, it was very natural that it should be so. ‘"Gold
and copper,"’ says Mr. Scrivenor
.‘"are found in their perfect state, and were accordingly the metals first known, and first applied to use. But iron, the most serviceable of all, is never discovered in its perfect state.
Its cross and stubborn material must twice feel the force of fire, and go through two laborious processes before it becomes fit for use."’ By ‘"a perfect state"’ of course is meant a metalic state.
Here is the lateness of the improvements in iron naturally accounted for.
, for many centuries after the Romans had abandoned the island, but little progress was made in producing iron.
The population wanted it badly enough.
They were conquered by the Saxons, the Saxon
were invaded by the Danes, perpetual war existed on the Northern
In fact, the wretched inhabitants, whether Briton or Saxon
, seem never to have been at peace. --Vet so scarce was the great article of demand for the uses of war, that at a much later period — as late, even, as the time of the Planingenets, the Scots made an inroad for the purpose of getting all they could of it. Their own country, in the meantime, could have supplied them with enough to furnish the world, had they known how to get at it.