Page:Men of the Time, eleventh edition.djvu/131

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before the British Association, at Cheltenham, his first paper on the manufacture of malleable iron and steel. His discovery of the means of rapidly and cheaply converting pig-iron into steel, by blowing a blast of air through the iron when in a state of fusion, was the result of labours and experiments which extended over a period of more than ten years, and in which the ultimate result was only attained after many and disheartening failures. Prior to this invention, the entire production of cast steel in Great Britain was only about 50,000 tons annually; and its average price, which ranged from £50 to £60 per ton, was prohibitory of its use for many of the purposes to which it is now universally applied. In the year 1877, notwithstanding the depression of trade, the Bessemer steel produced in Great Britain alone amounted to 750,600 tons, or 15 times the total of the former method of manufacture; while the selling price averaged only £10 per ton, and the coal consumed in producing it was less by 3,500,000 tons than would have been required in order to make the same quantity of steel by the old, or Sheffield, process. The total reduction of cost is equal to about £30,000,000 sterling upon the quantity manufactured in England during the year; and in this way steel has been rendered available for a vast number of purposes in which its qualities are of the greatest possible value, but from which its high price formerly excluded it. During the same year the Bessemer steel manufactured in the five other countries in which the business is chiefly conducted—namely, the United States, Belgium, Germany, France, and Sweden—raised the total output to 1,874,278 tons, with a net selling value of about £20,000,000 sterling. The first honorary recognition of the importance of the Bessemer process in this country was made by the Institution of Civil Engineers about 1858, when that body awarded Mr. Bessemer the Gold Telford Medal, for a paper read by him before them on the subject. Sweden was the next country to appreciate a process which touched so nearly the great staple manufacture of that kingdom. The Bessemer process was early established there, and the Crown Prince, who is the President of the Iron Board of Sweden, inspected the first operation of making steel, with which he was so satisfied as to make Mr. Bessemer an honorary member of the Iron Board. Hamburg was the next to adopt the process, and afterwards to present Mr. Bessemer with the freedom of the city. The process of manufacture then spread to Styria and other parts of Germany, and the King of Würtemberg presented Mr. Bessemer with a gold medal, accompanied by a complimentary letter of acknowledgment. Meanwhile the system had been adopted at the works of Prince Demidoff, and those of the Northern Railway, near Vienna. The Emperor of Austria took great interest in its progress, and conferred on its inventor the honour of Knight Commander of the Order of Francis Joseph, the jewelled cross and crimson collar being accompanied by a complimentary letter. In 1867 a scientific commission in Paris reported to the Emperor, Napoleon III., upon the progress and importance of the Bessemer process, suggesting that his Majesty should confer on Mr. Bessemer the Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour. The Emperor assented, on condition that the English Minister in Paris would permit Mr. Bessemer to wear it; which permission, however, he failed to obtain, and so the intended honour was never conferred. At the Exhibition in Paris, however, in 1867, although Mr. Bessemer was not an exhibitor, the Emperor presented him in person with a magnificent gold medal, weighing 12 ounces, in recognition of the value of his inventions.