Be a Successful Ironmaster

To be a good ironmaster, you have to plan ahead. You need to know how much of all the raw ingredients you need to make good charcoal iron. You need to know how much iron you can safely transport to market. You need to know what your expenses might be before you know how much money you will earn from your iron furnace.


These are some of the basic facts every ironmaster in the Juniata Iron area would know:


  • 1 furnace tapping = 2 tons of pig iron

  • 2 tons of pig iron = 800 bushels charcoal

  • 800 bushels charcoal = 22-25 cords of wood

  • 25 cords of wood = 1 acre of land

  • 2 tons of pig iron = 4 tons of iron ore

  • A "pig" weighs 100 pounds.

  • The average furnace made about 25 tons of iron per week, tapping the furnace twice a day. The furnaces operated 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Men worked 12-hour shifts, all week.

  • Colliers, the men who made the charcoal up in the mountains, earned about 2 cents a bushel of charcoal.

  • Early on, the best way to get your iron to markets in Pittsburgh and even farther was by mule, then to a boat. Mules carried two pigs each; the pigs were bent in a "U" shape and put on the mules' backs.

Now let's see how good an ironmaster you would be! Try answering these questions:


1. How much land would need to be cleared for one day's iron output?


2. How much of the raw ingredients would you need for one day's iron output?


3. If you owned 6000 acres and cleared it all in one coaling season, how much charcoal would your colliers be able to make that year?

How much money would you have to pay a good collier that season?

Do you think you could really do that?


4. How many pigs make up a ton?

How many pigs could you make in one tapping?


5. How much weight would a mule carry in each trip?

How much do you weigh?

Could a mule carry you?


6. Centre Furnace ironmasters James Irvin and Moses Thompson gave 200 acres to the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society in 1855 to put their Farmers High School — now Penn State. How much wood did they get from that land when it was cleared to become farmland? How much iron could that make?


7. Whenever workers made iron, they had to find ways of disposing of the slag. An efficient blast furnace using high-grade ore would make about 50 tons of slag for every 100 tons of iron produced. What is the ratio of slag to ore that was made in the iron furnace?


8. Most of the ironworkers were paid by the day. George McCullloch, who stocked ore, earned $1.52 per day for 261 days of work. A filler at the furnace, by the name of George Fulton, worked the same number of days, but was only paid 96 cents a day. What is the difference between the yearly wages you paid these two men?


9. Besides the workers at your furnace site, you have to hire miners for iron ore and limestone. Adult miners (over age 20) received around 75 cents a day. Teenagers, however, were paid around 40 cents a day. If a family sends a father and his 17- and 21-year-old sons to a local mine, how much would you pay them for a week's work?


10. Fifty-five men and boys cut and stacked 10,885 cords of wood during one winter. Lot Eakley, the season's champion, reported that he cut 600 cords of wood. J. Kelley Smith, who was second, reported that he cut 570 cords of wood. On average, how many cords of wood did the other men cut? Would you hire them again next winter?

Be A Successful Ironmaster - Answer Key


1. How much land would need to be cleared for one day's iron output?

Two acres (one per tapping).


2. How much of the raw ingredients would you need for one day's iron output?

Eight tons of iron ore (four per tapping) and 1600 bushels of charcoal, or 45-50 cords of wood.


3. If you owned 6000 acres and cleared it all in one coaling season, how much charcoal would your colliers be able to make that year?

150,000 cords of wood would make 4,800,000 bushels of charcoal.

How much money would you have to pay a good collier that season?

$96,000.

Do you think you could really do that?

That would have never happened in one season. At the 1850 value of the dollar, that would be millions and millions of 1998 dollars! Moses Thompson did own 6000 acres of land, but he couldn't afford to clear it in one season. Not only would it have used up all his charcoal-producing trees, but he didn't own enough furnaces to process nearly 5 million bushels of charcoal!


4. How many pigs make up a ton?

Twenty (20).

How many pigs could you make in one tapping?

Forty (40) — four tons.


5. How much weight would a mule carry in each trip?

200 pounds (two pigs).

How much do you weigh?

You might want to consider bringing in a scale, or having the school nurse come in with one. If your class is visiting the Centre Furnace Mansion, there is a scale next to the pig in the iron exhibit, so that kids can weigh themselves right there.

Could a mule carry you?

Most children (and many teachers) weigh under 200 pounds, so yes!


6. Centre Furnace ironmasters James Irvin and Moses Thompson gave 200 acres to the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society in 1855 to put their Farmers High School — now Penn State. How much wood did they get from that land when it was cleared to become farmland? How much iron could that make?

200 acres would yield 5000 cords of wood, which yielded 160,000 bushels of charcoal, which helped make 400 tons of pig iron (if you added 800 tons of iron ore).


7. Whenever workers made iron, they had slag leftover to haul away. An efficient blast furnace using high-grade ore would make about 50 tons of slag for every 100 tons of iron produced. What is the ratio of slag to iron that was made in the iron furnace? How much slag did you get for every ton of iron ore your fillers put in?

1:2 (slag: iron); one-quarter ton of slag


8. Most of the ironworkers were paid by the day. George McCullloch, who stocked ore, earned $1.52 per day for 261 days of work. A filler at the furnace, by the name of George Fulton, worked the same number of days, but was only paid 96 cents a day. What is the difference between the yearly wages you paid two men?

George McCulloch earned $396.72 that year ($1.52 x 261); George Fulton earned $250.56 that year ($0.96 x 261); George McCulloch earned $146.16 more.


9. Besides the workers at your furnace site, you have to hire miners for iron ore and limestone. Adult miners (over age 20) received around 75 cents a day. Teenagers, however, were paid around 40 cents a day. If a family sends a father and his 17- and 21-year old sons to a local mine, how much would you pay them for a week's work?

Father: $0.75 x 7 = $5.25; 21-year-old son: $0.75 x 7 = $5.25; 17-year-old son: $0.40 x 7 = $2.80; total family income: $13.30.


10. Fifty-five men and boys cut and stacked 10,975 cords of wood during one winter. Lot Eakley, the season's champion, reported that he cut 600 cords of wood. J. Kelley Smith, who was second, reported that he cut 570 cords of wood. On average, how many cords of wood did the other men cut? Would you hire them again next winter?

Fifty-three men were left with 9.805 cords (10,975 - 600 - 570). The average (9.805/53) was 185 cords per man. You might hire them again, since the question doesn't indicate how much time each woodcutter spent! Since woodcutting was seasonal, many men did it part-time in addition to other jobs.


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