Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/749

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AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.
THE DEVELOPMENT OF AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.

VIII. THE MANUFACTURE OF STEEL.

By WILLIAM F. DURFEE, Engineer.

IT is now two hundred and thirty-six years since the first American steel maker of which we have any record, Mr. John Tucker, of Southold, Long Island, informed the General Court of Connecticut of his "abilitie and intendment to make Steele there or in some other plantation in this jurisdiction, if he may have some things granted." The court (says Bishop) acquiesced in a grant of privileges, and, in the following May, Tucker obtained from the Assembly a declaration "that if he doe laye out his estate in such a manner about this publique worke, and that God shall cross him therein so that he be impoverished thereby, they are willing that that small remaining part shall be free from rates for ten years."[1] Possibly Tucker thought that the "protection" guaranteed by the colony was not sufficient, as we have no evidence that he ever availed himself of it, or was ever "impoverished thereby."

In 1728 Samuel Higley, of Simsbury, and Joseph Dewey, of Hebron, in Hartford County, Connecticut, represented to the Legislature that the said Higley had, "with great pains and cost, found out and obtained a curious art by which to convert, change, or transmute common iron into good steel sufficient for any use, and was the first that ever performed such an operation in America."[2] Swank gives on the authority of Mr. Charles J. Hoadly, Librarian of the Connecticut State Library, a certificate, signed by Timothy Phelps and John Drake, blacksmiths, which states that, in June, 1725, Mr. Higley obtained from the subscribers several pieces of iron, so shaped that they could be known again, and that a few days later "he brought the same pieces which we let him have, and we proved them and found them good steel, which was the first steel that ever was made in this country that we ever saw or heard of."

A patent was granted Higley and Dewey for ten years, pro-

  1. New Haven Colonial Records, vol. ii, p. 173.
  2. Bishop tells us that "the first patent granted in England for the manufacture of steel was to Richard Lord Dacre, Thomas Letsome, and Nicholas Page, on 8th April, 1626, for apparatus for making steel, according to the inventure of Letsome." In 1655 "there was but little steel made in England, and that very imperfectly and all of foreign Iron." Forty years after (in 1695) English writers speak of steeling articles by "boiling them in raw metal," and steel was made by a similar process, and was "made by cementation by John Heydon, at Bromley, in 1697."