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HISTORY

OF

THE IRON TRADE.

ERRATA.

Page 5., note, for "C. F. Sorn " read "Worn."

314. line 1. for "Lord Dungannon " read "Lord Dundonald."

317. Declared Value of the Exports of British Iron and Steel, for "Tons" read "£"

ance relative to the history of iron, leaving opportunity and occasion for the author's remarks throughout the treatise,an arrangement, which it is conceived will not be objectionable to any who may be disposed to allow this volume a place amongst books of reference.

The pursuit of information necessary for the establishment of matter of fact, and a desire to exclude irrelevant theory, have added to the labours of the author; and he has endea

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voured so to condense as to offer, in one volume, the fruits of many years' investigation, hoping thus to have avoided prolixity without any sacrifice of the necessary explanatory details. The absence of any publication similar to this, and the scanty information to be gleaned from the scientific journals of this country, claim for this work at the hands of the public liberal consideration; and if criticism be disposed to severity, it should not be forgotten that a work of this character precludes the introduction of matter other than that which a close adherence to the subject renders admissible.

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In speaking of this metal, Dr. Ure, in his "Dictionary of Arts, Manufactures," &c., thus expresses himself:-"Every person knows the manifold uses of this truly precious metal; it is capable of being cast in moulds of any form of being drawn out into wires of any desired strength or fineness-of being extended into plates or sheets-of being bent in every direction-of being sharpened, hardened, and softened, at pleasure. Iron accommodates itself to all our wants, our desires, and even our caprices; it is equally serviceable to the arts, the sciences, to agriculture, and war; the same ore furnishes the sword, the ploughshare, the spring of a watch or of a carriage, the chisel, the chain, the anchor, the compass, the cannon, and the bomb. It is a medicine of much virtue, and the only metal friendly to the human frame. The ores of iron are scattered over the crust of the globe with a beneficent profusion, proportioned to the utility of the metal; they are found under every latitude and every zone, in every mineral formation, and are disseminated in every soil."

The increased value of manufactured iron, compared with the raw material, cannot, perhaps, be better illustrated than by taking as an example the price of Berlin cast-iron ornaments, which, in some cases, is equal to upwards of 55,000l. per ton, while the cost of the raw ore, from whence the article is manufactured, cannot be taken at more than thirty shillings per ton.*

*From Dr. Friedenberg's German edition of Mr. Babbage's "Economy of Machinery and Manufactures."

In one of the principal manufactories of this description in Berlin, that of Devaranne, such is the fineness and delicacy of those separate arabesques, rosettes, medallions, &c., of which the larger ornaments are composed, that nearly ten thousand go to the pound, the price increasing in proportion to the fineness, as will be seen by the following table, which gives the selling prices at this establishment:

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The articles written on the subject, which have appeared in "Rees's Cyclopædia" and in the "Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica," are confined exclusively to the history of our own manufacture, and were written (more particularly the former) when the trade was comparatively in its infancy. The interest excited, at the present time, by any allusion to the state or prospects of the trade, is fully proved by the ready transfer of papers touching on the subject, from the columns of one journal to another; these notices, however, barely extending beyond some statistical details over a confined period. Attention has lately been drawn to the progress perceptible in this manufacture in France, where the facilities are afforded for acquiring correct information as to the state of this branch of metallurgy; but still, without considerable research, little or no information can be obtained of the state of foreign manufacture in general. Without this information it is impossible to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion as to the

exact position in which we stand with regard to other countries; a species of information, which in itself would be peculiarly valuable at the present time, when all seem eager to increase to the utmost, and to take advantage of, the means placed at their disposal, by the inexhaustible mineral resources of this kingdom. The main object of this series of papers, next to the history of our own trade, is, then, to place in a clear and correct point of view the rise and progress of the trade in all countries where iron may be considered to be a staple manufacture.

It is proposed, in the following work, to trace the origin and use of the metal; the advance and improvements which have taken place; to consider the important question, how far the trade of this country is likely to be interfered with by foreign manufacture? and, at the same time, clearly to demonstrate the immense advantages we possess over other countries, and the improbability of their interference, to any extent sufficient to affect our permanent prosperity. The first chapter will show the early discovery of iron, the knowledge which the ancients had of this metal, and the purposes to which it was applied. The subsequent chapters will then trace the working of it in this country, from the time of the Romans to the almost total destruction of the manufacture, from the want of fuel, after the attempts to make coal available as a substitute for charcoal had failed, and note the progress and loss of the trade in Ireland, and the rise and history of the manufacture in the British colonies in America, up to the period of the war when they established their independence. Its history in Great Britain is then continued from the invention of the blast engine, the establishment of coal as fuel, and the introduction of certain valuable improvements in the manufacture of iron down to the year 1830, and previously to the further consideration of the home manufacture, the foreign trade is traced in its progress in each country separately, commencing with Spain.

Although the iron of Spain is of excellent quality, and probably more ductile than any other, it has never been a

manufacture of any extent, except at an early period, and then only in comparison with the confined rate of production of other countries. Not so Sweden and Russia: these countries are remarkable, not only for their extensive make*, but also for the superior quality of their iron; for many years we derived our principal supply from Sweden, till the rivalry of Russia interfered; and during the period in which, from want of fuel, our trade was at a stand still, we annually received many thousand tons from both these countries. Coal, the blast engine, and our local advantages, have, however, so completely superseded the use of foreign iron, that little or none is now imported, except for conversion into steel, and in this description of iron these nations are still without a rival -the finest steel iron used in this country being manufactured in Sweden, and some of the most useful, for particular purposes, in Russia.†

The histories of France and America open a wider field of inquiry, and are in every respect more virtually important to the iron manufacturing interests of this country. In the case of Sweden and Russia, a certain extent of make has been arrived at, beyond which it is not likely materially to advance. They supply almost exclusively their own wants, but the cost at which their iron is manufactured precludes the possibility of their entering into any extensive competition with our own in foreign markets. In the American alone can they venture to meet us, and there the competition arises from the heavy and unequal duties imposed by the States on our iron, in order to prevent its interfering with their own manufacture.

Both France and America uphold the monopoly of the raw material to the injury of all consumers, manufacturing as well as agricultural, and their shipping interests also severely feel

*For the recent returns of produce, principally of Sweden and Russia, the author is indebted to Mr. C. F. Sorn, Junior, member of the Swedish Diet, who was kind enough to send him his "Treatise on the Repeal of Taxes on Iron in Sweden."

† A great change has, during the last few years, taken place affecting the use of Swedish iron in this country, which will be more particularly referred to in the chapter on Sweden.

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