The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Rolling Begins In America

The history of rolling in America began at an iron works located on the Saugus River in Massachusetts. It had the first rolling and slitting mill in the American colonies and operated from 1646 to c1670.

The history of rolling in Pennsylvania began with John Taylor in Chester. In 1746, Taylor built a rolling mill which allowed the Sarum Iron works to mass produce iron products at high quality for significantly cheaper prices. When Britain learned of these cheap goods being produced in the colonies, it passed the Iron Act of 1750. 

As a requirement of the Iron Act, local sheriffs inspected and documented any iron works that violated the new law. In 1751, Sheriff John Owen searched Chester County and reported that "there is but one mill or engine for slitting and rolling iron within the county aforesaid, which is the situate in Thornbury Township, and was erected in the year 1746 by John Taylor."

The Iron Act was largely ignored due to lack of enforcement and the colonies' frustration with Britain. Instead of restricting iron production, the law led to rising anger and defiance of Britain, which fueled the American fight for independence.

Photograph: Library of Congress