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Saugus Iron Works - Lynn, MA


 
 

The First Iron Casting in America by Albert Spies, Cassier's Magazine, 1894

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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 [1893], 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 miniature crane.

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 Hall.

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 unique exhibit.
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 source.

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.


 
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