By James A. Mulholland
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Extra info for A History of Metals in Colonial America
Unlike Virginia, where the constant urgings to find and mine valuable metals produced few results, the Puritans limited their commercial aspirations to the more mundane natural produce of New England. The early correspondence expressed the hope that quantities of salted fish could be available for return shipment, or beaver, or, at the very least, wood. In March 1629, however, John Malbon, "having skyll in Iron works," and Thomas Graves, who had self-proclaimed talent in the discovery of iron, lead, and copper mines, were hired by the company and sailed for Massachusetts in the same fleet with Reverend Higginson.
19 Still, the idea of producing iron in Virginia was slow to develop, although there was increasing reference to the abundant presence of iron in the literature concerning the colony after 1609. One prominent account by William Strachey, Histone of Travel! into Virginia Britannia in 1613, mentioned the "excellent" mine from which Newport had obtained his iron ore. Strachey, however, like nearly all writers of the time, displayed excessive optimism and credulity concerning the mineral potential of the colony, favoring rumors of exotic metals over the substance of mundane ores like iron.
Both hammer heads and anvils, each weighing several hundred pounds, were imported from England. Hammersmith also had a unique facility in the combined rolling and slitting mill. Although the details surrounding the construction and use of this facility are sketchy at best, it was one of the earliest built anywhere and one of a very few built in America during the colonial period. Here partially finished bar iron was heated and reduced by passing it between heavy rolls. One waterwheel drove both rolls and slitters, sets of opposed discs with hardened steel edges that could cut the rolled bar to a desired width.
A History of Metals in Colonial America by James A. Mulholland