Our goal with One Minute Essays is to provide the reader with a basic understanding of the concepts at hand without getting bogged down into tiny details. One Minute Essays are generalizations. Unless otherwise indicated, they are meant to convey information that in general applies to all the ironworks, or the mills, or the societal aspects under discussion.
- Mills in Colonial Cities, Steven A. Walton
Teaching activities. If you look around your own town if there is any flowing source of water at all, it is virtually guaranteed that you will find a street named after a mill or its industry.
- The Millers’ Tale, Robert P. Rich
The work of the miller has lent itself to several such figures of speech.
- Colonial Pennsylvania Mills, Bill Pensack
Because of the social and economic structure of early America, colonial mills functioned far differently than in Europe. First, food was far more plentiful and varied. Second, because there was no manorial system, except in New York, mills could (and were) built almost anywhere. Third, government authority was weak (there was usually no army except the militia, that is, the citizens themselves) and responsive to popular will.
- Of Chairs and Mills, Steven A. Walton
The interplay between trades was relatively limited in European
cultures: professional conduct was often regulated by guilds. In America
on the other hand, the relative scarcity of labor let — even demanded
that — craftsmen do all the necessary jobs and then some. Under the
roughly 150 years of the existence of the American colonies before
Independence, guilds never got a strong foothold here.
- Windmills on a Caribbean Island, Steven A. Walton and Marco Meniketti.
Teaching activities. The Island of Nevis in the Caribbean is a wonderful
laboratory to understand how windmills were sited. Discussion questions.
- Three Types of Waterwheels, Steven A. Walton
There are three basic types of waterwheels.
- Bad Metal in a Fight, Ben Hudson
Throughout history the smelting of raw ore into metal has been only one
consideration; a more important concern was the production of good
quality metal. Impurities, improper smelting procedures, and low-grade
ore all resulted in metal that was brittle or soft. For farmers this
meant that plough shares or metal implements broke frequently. For
warriors, this meant that their weapons would fail them in battle.
- Swords into Ploughshares, Ben Hudson
The solution to the problem of poor quality metal came from the Vikings themselves. In the ninth century an improved smelter was developed in, what is now, Norway. Many Europeans came to North America because they wanted to turn their swords into plough shares. In the Middle Ages improved metal processing helped that wish.
- Forge, Furnace, What's the Difference?, Gerald Eggert
Medieval ironmakers often used the terms "bloomery," "forge," and "furnace" interchangeably. The terms were, in fact, the names given the three major mechanisms employed during the course of the Middle Ages for smelting (separating metallic iron from its ore). Although all used charcoal for fuel, there were significant differences in methods, scale of operation and efficiency.
- How to "Blow In" a Newly Built or a Cold Iron Furnace, Gerald Eggert
Once constructed, a new iron furnace — or one that has been "blown out"
and allowed to stand cold — must be "blown in" before it is ready to
smelt iron. — How this is done.
- What Goes on in the Blast Furnace?, Gerald Eggert
How a blast furnace works.
- Where Do Little Pig Irons Come From?, Gerald Eggert
How to tap iron from the blast furnace.
- To Market, to Market, But How?, Gerald Eggert
What was done with all of the iron—pig, bar and wrought—once it was made?
- The System of a Blast Furnace, Steven A. Walton
In order to understand the blast furnace, let's take a look at one built in Maryland in the 1760s.
- How to Make Charcoal, Gerald Eggert
How to make charcoal, medieval or colonial.
- Medieval Manors vs. Colonial Plantations, Steven A. Walton
The medieval manor and colonial plantation shared a great deal in
common. American plantations were actually more medieval than their
contemporary farms back in Europe because of their isolation. Even
industrial iron plantations smelting iron replicated the medieval manor.
- Feudalism vs. Capitalism in the Colonies, Steven A. Walton
A much more detailed study of labor relations and modes of production in two early North American colonies.
Sweeny takes a look at French Canada (Quebec), founded in 1608 as what he quite rightly notes was "the world's last feudal society," and the British colonization of Newfoundland starting in 1610, "the world's first capitalist society."
- What Was an Iron Plantation?, Gerald Eggert
A large rural establishment in the North, with hired hands producing
iron, was as much a "Plantation" in this broader sense as was a big
tobacco or cotton farm in the South worked by slaves. How an iron
plantation was run.
- The Company Store, Gerald Eggert
Iron masters (the owners of the furnace) usually operated a "company store" for the convenience of both his workers and himself.
- The Lives of Pre-Industrial Workers, Gerald Eggert
Prior to the 19th Century, with few exceptions, people spent their whole life working, the great majority as farmers.
- Recycling in Colonial America: Pewter, Robert P. Rich
American pewtersmiths had only one course of action, to collect damaged or disused pewter goods and recycle them.
- Ironworks and the Revolution, Steven A. Walton
The importance of iron to the revolution cannot be understated.
- The Cautionary Tale of Comparing Ironworks, Gerald Eggert
It must be kept in mind in reading the One Minute Essays that they are
generalizations. Unless otherwise indicated, they are meant to convey
information that in general applies to all the ironworks under
- The Industrial World, Steven A. Walton
In the first two centuries of American existence, the industrial experience differed little here from that in Europe.
- Medieval Technology and Agriculture, Steven A. Walton
Studying political history, we find a strong break between the medieval
and modern worlds in the 16th century Reformation and 18th century
revolutions. When viewed through other lenses, such as demographics and
material culture, continuities stand out more strongly than
- On Owning Land, Steven A. Walton
Attitudes towards land in the two cultures — one developed more linearly from medieval feudalism, one reinvented in a vast open continent.
- Forge, Mill, and the Societies of Northern Britain and Ireland, Ben Hudson
The contribution of the Scotch-Irish to the development of colonial is often acknowledged, but little studied.