Among the riches of mineral wealth and the
products of the metallurgical arts in the Mining Building at the
World’s Columbian Exposition, in Chicago , there was not
anything which attracted more serious interest on the part of
those acquainted with the founding of metals, than a modest
glass case in the gallery of the building, containing a tiny
iron kettle, of about one quart capacity, swinging on a
The cause of this attraction was not due to any
peculiarity of design or material, or skill in workmanship, but
to the fact that the kettle was well authenticated as the first
casting made in America and the precursor of the vast iron
industry of the country.
The kettle was cast at the Saugus Iron Works at
Lynn, Mass., in 1642, probably in the autumn, and was given to
Thomas Hudson, as the consideration for sixty acres of land,
comprising a portion of the iron works property.
This Thomas Hudson was, undoubtedly, the younger
brother of that name, of Henry [Hendrik] Hudson, the eminent
English navigator. The kettle was kept as an heirloom in the
direct descent from Thomas Hudson for over a century, when it
passed into the female line, and thence, back into the
possession of John E. Hudson, Esq., of Boston, a direct
descendant, who presented it to the city of Lynn a few years
ago. A number of the citizens caused it to be placed in a
suitable case, with a tablet, and it is now kept in the City
The city Government authorized its exhibition at
Chicago last year in response to a special request from D. W. C.
Skiff, chief of the Department of Mines and Mining, and the jury
in that department awarded a medal to the municipality for this
It may be very naturally asked, what is the evidence warranting
the presumption that this kettle is, as claimed, the first
casting made at the Saugus Iron Works?
There are still living persons who formerly
owned the kettle and remember the story of its origin, as told
them by their grandmother who had, in like manner, received its
history from her grandfather, the son of the original owner.
It is true that this article lacks the stamp and
attested record of many witnesses, but, like Plymouth Rock and
many other important relics of American history, it depends in
part upon tradition in a generation devoid of sentiment or
personal interest, which might introduce possible elements of
error. Tradition has preserved for the world much of its
history, essential principles of law, and even vital points in
both Jewish and Christian religion.
The design of the kettle is that of a type used
in the earliest colonial days, but in its physical
characteristics it bears evidence of being made of iron cast
directly from the ore as reduced in a blast furnace, and not
from pig iron re-melted in a reverberatory or a cupola furnace;
and there is no evidence or reason to believe that there was
either of these furnaces at the Saugus Iron Works.
The registration of deeds of land did not begin
in the colony of Massachusetts Bay until a later date, and there
is no evidence bearing on the subject, to be obtained from that
The first published record of this kettle is
contained under date of 1642, in the history of Lynn, by Alonzo
Lewis, 1844. The same is included in Lewis’s and Newhall’s
History of Lynn (1890), and is referred to in every history
treating of the Saugus Iron Works.
The Standard History of Essex County, C. F.
Jewett (1878), of which the chapters upon Lynn were prepared by
the late Cyrus Mason Tracy, contains a description of this
kettle, and there is extant a manuscript written by Mr. Tracy,
in 1881, in which that able antiquary eloquently referred to the
kettle as “the humble prototype of the immense iron industry
that now extends over our land.”
Further references on this subject may be made
to Volume I. of the History of Essex County, Massachusetts (J.
W. Lewis, Philadelphia, 1888), in which the chapters on Saugus
were written by William F. Newhall, Esq., of Saugus.