The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
Colonial American Iron

1600s to 1776

In the colonial era, most Americans were farmers, but some owned small businesses like stores and iron sites. Iron furnaces were in remote locations near sources of water, iron ore, coal, and wood and ironmasters employed a mix of free laborers, indentured servants, and slaves.

Due to isolation, ironmasters often faced labor shortages. In 1727, "Persons Connected in the Iron-Works" complained to a Chester County Assembly that "the Difficulty of getting Labourers, and their excessive Wages, [were] a great Discouragement and Hindrance to their undertaking:"

Lawmaking and Legislators in Pennsylvania: a Biographical Dictionary, 1997

Illustration: Hammering a plate — National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum