Research Report

The Blacksmith in Colonial Virginia

Harold B. Gill, Jr.

October, 1965

Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library Research Report Series - 0022
Colonial Williamsburg Foundation Library

Williamsburg, Virginia



Harold B. Gill, Jr.

October, 1965


  • I. Introduction1
  • II. Iron and Steel Production5
  • III. Blacksmiths in Colonial Virginia18
  • IV. Williamsburg Blacksmiths39
  • V. Blacksmiths' Work and Smithing Operations73
  • VI. Blacksmiths' Tools101
  • Appendix 119
  • Bibliography128


Chapter I

The blacksmith's trade has been said to be the foundation of all other crafts and is certainly one of the most fundamental crafts. [1] The art of the smith is essential to everyone who uses tools, and the craft is also necessary for the supply of metal articles used in the construction of such things as buildings, ships, and mills. The blacksmith's art is closely associated with certain other crafts such as gunsmithing, carriage making, and locksmithing.

The trade of the blacksmith, naturally could not develop until the production of iron was understood. The iron industry falls into two main divisions. The first includes mining and smelting operations and the second, with which this paper is to be concerned, is the working of the metal in its endless variety.

The smelting and manipulating of iron was under-stood at least three thousand years ago, and possibly earlier. In central Europe iron had been used since about -2- 1000 B. C.--first for ornamental purposes and later for tools and weapons. But it was not until about 800 B. C. that iron began to replace bronze as the predominant metal in use. From about the middle of the first century B. C. iron was the only metal--whether plentiful or scarce--used for the production of man's basic implements. Regardless of the quantity of other materials available, iron assumed the principal role primarily because of its ability to shape other materials. [2]

The new iron industry had an important economic advantage over the bronze industry since it could produce useful articles at a lower price. The production of iron required a less complicated organization than bronze- making, which depended on the combination of two metals, copper and tin. In addition, the ores of iron are much more abundant and more widely distributed than those of copper and tin. The fabrication of iron articles demanded far less skill than the production and forging of bronze, and was less of a specialist's craft. [3] These factors made iron tools cheaper and brought them into the reach of the common purchaser, so that they could be universally used for agriculture, for the clearing of forests, and the -3- draining of marshes, and for other purposes which required heavy work. Iron made man better equipped in his struggle with nature and with his rivals. [4]

It was not until about 450 B. C. that the craft of the blacksmith was brought to the British Isles to such an extent that iron came into common use. By the time of Christ, blacksmithing had become a well-established craft, and the operations of the smith in manipulating iron and fabricating iron articles changed little until the nineteenth century. Indeed, even the tools of the smith of today are basically the same as those employed a thousand years ago. Recent archaeological excavations at sites of ancient European forges have turned up anvils, tongs, hammers, chisels, punches, files, and other blacksmiths' tools. [5]



^ 1. Egerton 2395, ff. 366, British Museum.

^ 2. H. R. Schubert, History of the British Iron and Steel, Industry from c 450 B. C. to A. D. 1775 (London, 1957), 4-5.

^ 3. Leslie Aitchison, A History of Metals (New York, 1960), I, 111.

^ 4. Schubert, History of the British Iron and Steel Industry…, 4-5. R. J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology (Leiden, 1964), VIII, 30.

^ 5. Schubert, History of the British Iron and Steel Industry…, 4. Radomir Pleiner, "Rediscovering the Techniques of Early Blacksmiths," Archaeology, XIV (1963), 242.


Chapter II

One of the specific objectives of the Virginia Company was to establish an iron industry in Virginia. In addition to gold, iron ore was one of the first commodities to be searched for by the colonists. [1] Iron ore was one of the first exports from Jamestown to England, and some of the ore was evidently smelted at Jamestown for in September 1607 Captain John smith implied that iron was being manufactured in the colony. He wrote that the colony's "best comodities was Iron which we made into little chissels." [2] Only one year after the settlement seven tons of iron were smelted in Bristol from Virginia ore. [3] William Strachey wrote in 1612:

Sir Tho: Dale hath mencioned in his Letters to the [Worthies] of the Councell of a goodly Iron Myne, and Capt Newport hath brought home of that mettell so sufficient a tryall, as there hath bene made 16. or 17. tonne of Iron, so good as the East Indian Marchants brought that of the Virginia Company, preferring that before any other Iron of what Country soever. [4]

As early as 1610 the Virginia Company was making plans for the new iron works. In that year they advertised for blacksmiths, bellows makers, edgetool makers, cutlers, -6- armourers, gun makers, iron miners, iron finers, iron founders, hammermen, millwrights for iron mills, and colliers for charcoal. [5] By 1619 the first full-scale iron works in English America began operations at Falling Creek, about sixty miles above Jamestown in what is now Chesterfield County. Some iron made at the works was sent to England in August or September of 1620. In 1622, however, just before the completion of an expansion of the works, the Indians fell upon the workmen and killed most of them. During the massacre the buildings and equipment were destroyed. [6] This disaster put an end to the Falling Creek works, and no substantial iron works were built in Virginia until the eighteenth century.

With the loss of so large an investment, the Virginia Company apparently gave up the idea of re-establishing the works. It was proposed to send over workmen to make "Iron by a Bloome[ry]." A bloomery is a much simpler method of making wrought iron and, indeed, some iron made by this method was shipped to England before 1622. [7]

By the bloomery process, or direct process of making iron, ore was heated to form a semi-molten mass -7- or bloom of wrought iron, which was refined by hammering on the anvil. Bloomery iron is of high quality, but the process is slow and only small amounts of iron can be made in this way. Even though the production would be small, a bloomery could produce enough iron to supply immediate needs for nails and small tools. [8]

Bloomeries were widespread in England in the seventeenth century and some even existed in the early nineteenth century. We have a description in 1675 of an English bloomery and the process involved:

It (i.e. the furnace) is very much like a common blacksmith's, viz., a plain open hearth or bottom without any enclosing walls, only where the nose of the bellows come in through a wall there is a hollow place (which they call the furnace) made of iron plates, as is also that part of the hearth next adjoining. This hollow place they fill and up-heap with char-coal, any lay the oar (broken small) all round about the charcoal upon the flat hearth, to bake it, as it were, or neal and thrust it in by little and little into the hollow, where it is melted by the blast. The glassie scoriae run very thin, but the metal is never in a perfect fusion, but settles as it were in a clod, that they take out with tongs, and turn it under great hammers, which at the same time beat off (especially at the first taking out of the furnace) a deal of courser scoriae, and form it after several heats into bars. They use no lime-stone to promote the flux, for that I enquired particularly. [9]
-8- By the bloomery process, any smith could produce high-quality wrought iron at his forge.

The ore usually treated in a bloomery is known as bog ore. Bog iron ore existed in large quantities in the neighborhood of Jamestown, and outcroppings are found today along the James River and other Virginia rivers. There is no indication of how much bog iron ore was smelted in Virginia during the seventeenth century. The settlers must have known the process, because it was commonly employed in England, and it could have been easily done in Virginia. In fact, we have already seen that iron made by the bloomery process was shipped to England }before 1622.

After the destruction of the Falling Creek iron works, no blast furnaces were built in Virginia until after 1700. Several attempts were made to re-establish the Falling Creek works in the seventeenth century, but they all failed mainly because the capital necessary for such an undertaking was not available. Nevertheless, interest continued in iron works. In 1630 Governor John Harvey shipped samples of iron ore from Virginia to England to be analyzed. Two years later -9- Harvey asked for skilled workers to be sent to Virginia to set the iron works "on foote." [10]

The English government had dreams of establishing a large iron industry in Virginia and realized private capital alone could not support and develop such an undertaking. In 1662 Governor William Berkeley was asked his opinion on the best way to undertake the construction of iron works in the colony:

Amongst other good works we desire to erect in that our colony of Virginia, we have a desire to erect such an Iron work as may be (in truth) considerable and above what a private undertaking can go through, and do therefore if we find encouragement thereunto resolve to undertake it our self, and in order thereto we would have you de-bate the whole matter and all that may conduce thereunto, with our council there and upon a clear state thereof and upon a view that there is plenty of good oar fit for the same, you transmit your advice and opinion thereupon how we may best undertake it; what we must transport from hence for that purpose and all things which are necessary thereunto and we shall thereupon pro-vide as we shall think fit. [11]
Berkeley's reply has not been located, but in 1672 he re-ported to the Lords Commissioners for Foreign Plantations in England: "...for iron I dare not say there is sufficient to keep one iron mill going for seven years." [12] Not everyone agreed with Berkeley's assessment of -10- Virginia's potential for supporting iron works. In 1681, for example, Nicholas Spencer, president of the Virginia Council, observed: "...the poverty of our Inhabitants, gives Checke to the Erecting of Iron or pot Ash workes, both which wee have the natural means to produce great Quantities of...." [13] In 1693 William Byrd mentioned his "intention" to carry on the ironworks which had been started "on Falling Creek in the time of the Company." [14] In 1710 Byrd's son, William, was considering the establishment of iron works in Virginia, but in 1717, he informed the Board of Trade that there was a great deal of ore in the colony but none rich enough to support iron works. [15]

The capital necessary for large iron works in Virginia was unavailable until the eighteenth century when English financiers evidently provided much of the money. For example, the iron works of Alexander Spotswood, established during the first quarter of the century, was financed by a group of "Persons of Substance," some in Virginia and some in England. Spotswood later bought out his partners at a cost of £5000. In 1732 he commented that Robert Cary in England was concerned with him in his iron -11- works, "not only to help support the Charge, but also to make Friends to the Undertaking at Home." [16] Other iron works were also established in Virginia with financial backing from England. For example, the long story of the Occoquan Iron Works is complicated by the hesitant English partners. [17]

In addition to the Spotswood and Occoquan works, other blast furnaces were erected in Virginia, such as those in Bedford, Frederick, and King George counties. These iron works produced pi,g iron and bar iron for exportation and cast iron articles for local consumption. Spotswood's works were producing "backs and frames for Chymmes, Potts, doggs, frying, stewing and baking panns" by 1723 which were sold at public auction in Williamsburg. [18] In 1735 Governor William Gooch reported to the Lords of Trade that there was only one forge for making bar iron in Virginia and he believed that it was impractical and unprofitable "to manufacture iron for the use of the Plantations, more than is necessary for agriculture and Planting, for mending as well as making Tools...." [19]

In 1750 the British government enacted the Iron Act which prohibited the erection of new steel furnaces, mills -12- for slitting or rolling iron and plating forges with tilt hammers. The object of the act was to encourage the colonial exportation of pig and bar iron to Britain so as to reduce the dependence upon foreign imports for those materials. [20] The law apparently had little effect on colonial iron making, and the industry continued to grow. [21]

Extensive farming, the growing milling industry, ship building, and the increasing use of wagons to carry freight to settlements above navigable water, required large quantities of bar iron. The demand was so great that most bar iron produced in the colonies was consumed by local blacksmiths. [22] In 1764, for example, Colonel John Tayloe, who owned iron works in King George County, found that the demand for bar iron by Virginia smiths had so increased that he could sell all his bar iron locally and had none for export. [23] Robert Carter, a partner in the Baltimore Iron Works, provided many Virginia blacksmiths with bar iron, and he sold large quantities in Williamsburg. [24] By 1770 William Hunter's works at Falmouth, said to be the largest in America, were manufacturing one and a half tons of pig iron into bars every day. [25] Thomas Jefferson, writing in 1781, listed eight iron works in Virginia. He claimed -13- they produced about 4,400 tons of pig iron and more than 900 tons of bar iron annually. [26]

Coal. Blacksmiths consumed large quantities of coal in their work. Charcoal was also used by smiths but in smaller amounts than coal because it is unsuitable for some smithing operations. Hugh Jones wrote in 1720 that there was "coal enough in the country, but good fire-wood being so plentiful that it encumbers the land, they have no necessity for the trouble and expence of digging up the bowels of the earth...." [27] Nevertheless, coal was being mined as early as 1709 near the site of Virginia's first iron works. William Byrd thought that the mines would furnish several generations with coal, and they were actually being worked in the present century. [28] Samuel DuVal who operated coal pits during the last half of the eighteenth century, stated that the pits were 40 to 50 feet deep and "the blacksmiths agree that the coal is much better than it was...." [29] The owners of the Chesterfield pits exported coal, which they claimed to be equal in quality to Newcastle coal, to other colonies. In 1767 for example, about 7,000 bushels of coal were exported from Virginia to Maryland and Massachusetts. [30]


Some coal was imported into the colony from England. From 1729 to 1735, for example, 26,969 bushels of coal were imported into Virginia and Maryland. [31] Many merchants sold English coal. In 1766, Bolden, Lawrence, & Co. of Norfolk, announced the arrival of a shipment of coal:

For SALE, on Board the snow Mally, Captain Isaac Nunns, just arrived at Norfolk, from Lancaster, About 1500 bushels of fine COALS (of equal goodness with Newcastle) for house or smith work, which will be sold very reasonable, if taken alongside the vessel immediately. [32]



^ 1 Charles E. Hatch, Jr. and Thurlow Gates Gregory, "The First American Blast Furnace, 1619-1622," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, LXX, (1962), 261.

^ 2 Ibid., 265.

^ 3 J. Russell Smith, The Story of Iron and Steel (New York, 1915), 28.

^ 4 William Strachey, The History of Travell into Virginia Britannia, Louis B. Wright and Virginia Freund, eds. (London, 1953), 132, quoted in Hatch and Gregory, "First American Blast Furnace," 262.

^ 5 Broadside published by the Virginia Company, London, 1610, Society of Antiquaries of London.

^ 6 Hatch and Gregory, "First American Blast Furnace," 274-275.

^ 7 Ibid., 276-277.

^ 8 Victor S. Clarke, History of Manufactures in the United States, 1607-1860 (Washington, 1929, reprinted New York, 1949), I, 169.

^ 9 H. R. Schubert, History of the British Iron and Steel Industry from c 450 B. C. to A. D. 1775 (London, 1957), 417.

^ 10 "Virginia in 1629 and 1630," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, VII (1900), 381. CO 1/6, ff. 195-196, PRO.

^ 11 "Instructions to Berkeley, 1662," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, III (1896), 19-20.

^ 12 W. W. Hening, ed., Statutes at Large: being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia…(Richmond, 1810), II, 514.


^ 13 CO 1/46, ff. 324-325, PRO.

^ 14 Kathleen Bruce, Virginia Iron Manufacture in the Slave Era (New York, 1930), 5.

^ 15 Louis B. Wright and Marion Tinling, eds., The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover 1709-1712 (Richmond, 1941), 235. CO 391/109, PRO.

^ 16 William Byrd, "A Progress to the Mines," in Writings of Colonel William Byrd, ed. John S. Bassett (New York, 1901), 375-376.

^ 17 See Letter Books of James Lawson, Currie-Dal. Miscellaneous, Bundle 20, Box 1, Court of Session Unextracted Processes, Scottish Record Office.

^ 18 CO 5/1319, f. 105, PRO.

^ 19 CO 5/1324, f. 5, PRO.

^ 20 English Historical Documents, IX, American Colonial Documents to 1776, ed. Merril Jensen (New York, 1955), 416-417.

^ 21 Oliver M. Dickerson, The Navigation Acts and the American Revolution (Philadelphia, 1951), 48.

^ 22 Ibid., 47.

^ 23 William Allason Letter Book, 1757-1770, 108 (Virginia State Library).

^ 24 Robert Carter Account Book, 1759-1775, 4, 11, 24, 26, 27, 28, 32 (Maryland Historical Society).

^ 25 T 1/476, ff. 126-127, PRO.

^ 26 Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden (Chapel Hill, 1955), 27-28.

^ 27 Hugh Jones, The Present State of Virginia, ed. Richard L. Morton (Chapel Hill, 1956), 92.


^ 28 Wright and Tinling, eds., The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1709-1712, 61.

^ 29 Virginia Gazette (Pinckney) March 2, 1775.

^ 30 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), June 13, 1766; Jan. 22, 1767; March 19, 1767; July 9, 1767; October 29, 1767; December 3, 1767.

^ 31 T 64/276A, No. 245, PRO.

^ 32 Virginia Gazette, May 16, 1766.


Chapter III

The Virginia Company realized that tools, and men to keep them in order, were necessary to carve a settlement out of Virginia's wilderness. The services of a blacksmith were vital to the success of the colony, not only for repairing tools but also to keep firearms and other weapons in usable condition. It was only natural then for a blacksmith, George Read, to accompany the first settlers to Virginia in 1607. He was joined later by another blacksmith, Richard Dole, and a gunsmith, Peter Keffer, who arrived the next year with the first supply. [1]

The Virginia Company made every attempt to keep the colony supplied with craftsmen necessary for the development of the settlement, and they offered inducements to emigrate to Virginia. The inducements were apparently effective because other smiths soon arrived at Jamestown. In 1611, for instance, Sir Thomas Dale reported that a smith's forge was being constructed at Jamestown, and five years later John Rolfe wrote that blacksmiths followed their trade in the colony. [2] Among the articles purchased for Smythe's Hundred in 1618 were "a great pair of bellows, and an anvill for a -19- smith." [3] By 1622, John Jackson, blacksmith and gunsmith, had a shop at Jamestown, and in 1623 Sir Thomas Wyatt mentioned John Blisse, a smith who "was employed in his trade." [4] George Menefrie's blacksmith forge was reported to be in operation in 1626. [5] In that year the General Court of Virginia ordered William Ramshaw to "work at the trade of a blacksmyth untill hee have by his worke" repaid a debt to Michael Marshatt. [6]

The work of most seventeenth-century smiths was evidently confined to repairing broken articles and making small tools. Iron work for special construction purposes was usually imported. For example, the iron work for a mill being constructed in York County in 1670 was imported. [7] In 1684 William Byrd ordered iron work from England necessary for a saw mill he was building. [8] Governor Edmund Andros reported to the Lords of Trade and Plantations in England in 1697 that eight ships, eleven brigantines, and fifteen sloops had been recently built in Virginia for which all the iron work had come from England. [9] In addition to ready-made iron work, bar iron as well as coal, for smith's use was imported from England. This fact made the supply of bar iron uncertain and expensive, and, it was said by some, -20- kept the smiths' trade from flourishing.

The scarcity of tools, and the materials for repairing broken or worn ones, was considered by some to limit the development of all crafts in Virginia, with the result that the colony could not prosper to its greatest potential. Anthony Langston reported in 1663, for example: "Towns and Corporations stored with Trade and Manufactures is the onely defect we have to make us the most florishing and profitable Plantation his Majesty hath...." He believed this resulted from "...want of Iron and steele whereby the Smiths trade might goe forward w[hi]ch is the foundation of all other Arts...." Langston complained that "quicker wayes to make profitable returns" had prevented the development of a colonial iron industry. He maintained that other crafts and trades would soon follow the establishment of a colonial iron industry, "w[hi]ch now stands still for want of tools and Instruments to be made and repaired." Langston continued:

…many opportunities hapning to the Gentlemen that live there [in Virginia] to go forward with this that or the other good design, w[hi]ch before they can send to England for such Instruments as are necessary thereto, their Advantages and occasions stand clear another way therefore I look upon this as the first moveable that may carry about all other designs tending to the setting up of any Trades or Manufactures whatsoever…. [10]
-21- Langston believed that since all other crafts were dependent on the smiths' trade they would soon flourish when the smiths were well established in the colony.

In addition to the scarcity of materials, the lack of skilled labor was a serious handicap to the development of crafts in Virginia. If they were to be found at all, free laborers were extremely expensive. If an independent crafts-man needed additional workers, his best possibility was to purchase an indentured servant or a slave. Few good crafts-men were willing to come to America as indentured servants without some special allowances, and a slave would not be useful until he was trained.

The scarcity of skilled workers probably accounted for the high rates blacksmiths charged for their work. The "unconsionable rates" prompted the Virginia Assembly in 1660 to give the county courts the power to regulate blacksmiths' accounts. The legislature also attempted to prevent exportation of iron from the colony in order that smiths might have materials to work. [11]

The Virginia legislature adopted several policies to encourage artisans to follow their trades and not abandon their professions for agricultural pursuits. J. S. Sprogell -22- noted in 1731 that craftsmen "generally take more delight to live upon a Plantation rather then to follow their usual Trade, whereby they are sure of their maintenance, and what they raise more by their Industry, they sell for such Commodities as their necessity requires...." [12] If artisans engaged in their crafts and did not plant tobacco, they would be relieved of taxes and levies. And to provide them with materials, the legislature prohibited the exportation of iron as well as other commodities useful to craftsmen. However, all the efforts of the legislature apparently came to nothing. The situation was so serious by 1671 that the government was forced to pass an act which required blacksmiths and armourers to repair "arms and habiliments of war." If any such artificer refused "to lay aside all other worke to goe about this of armes," he would be subject to a heavy fine. [13]

With encouragement from England, the Virginia government attempted to create towns where ships would be required to load and unload, with the hope that crafts would prosper in them. Also, for convenience of payment of debts, and to strengthen the local market, provision was made by the Assembly for repayment of debts in locally -23- produced wares and commodities. This act included no iron or iron work, but the crafts represented all needed tools that only smiths could make or repair. [14]

For the most part the efforts of the legislature failed to produce the desired results. There were several reasons for this. Virginia was unsuited for the development of towns, especially during the seventeenth century when most plantations were located on navigable water where ships could land goods and load each planter's crop at plantation wharfs. Moreover, most plantations included the necessary craftsmen among their servants and slaves to provide most of the services necessary for daily operation. They were practically self-sufficient. Land was so cheap that any indentured craftsman at the end of his term of service could stake out his own plantation. [15]

To make matters worse for Virginia's economy, in 1683 colonial laws prohibiting the exportation of iron and certain other commodities were repealed by royal order because they endangered the trade and commerce of England. Hereafter the English government did everything possible to discourage the development of industry and manufacturing in Virginia. [16] The Virginia Act for Ports -24- of 1691 was suspended in 1693 on the grounds that it encouraged colonial manufactures. [17] English restrictions on local industry tended to slow up Virginia's struggling economy with the result that the colony was not able to support a class of successful craftsmen until around the middle of the eighteenth century.

The scarcity of hard money was another hindrance to the success of local craftsmen. Governor John Harvey observed as early as 1636 that trade and commerce could not develop in Virginia because there was little or no money in the country. He said workmen and craftsmen could not be paid for the same reason. [18] The law of 1671 which required blacksmiths and armourers to repair firearms also provided for a method of payment. The assembly tried to prevent "the greate trouble that usually accures to artificers in collecting severall small parcells in payment of work done" by allowing them to "take [accounts] from under the hand of those for whome they worke" and return them to the county courts where the accounts would be paid "when the levy is laid." [19]

In 1698, Hartwell, Blair, and Chilton noted in their report to the Board of Trade in England that "For -25- want of Towns, Markets, and Money" there was little encouragement for craftsmen, and therefore their labor was "very dear in the Country." They pointed out that since there were no markets where a craftsman could buy meat, milk, corn and other items, he must be a farmer himself or "must ride about the Country to buy Meat and Corn where he can find it;" and because he could not buy "one Joynt or two" he would be "puzzled to find Carriers, Drovers, Butchers, Salting...and a great many other Things, which there would be no Occasion for, if there were Towns and Markets." They also mentioned the difficulty of a tradesman collecting for his labors:

…Then a great deal of the Tradesman's Time being necessarily spent in going and coming to and from his Work, in dispers'd Country Plantations, and his Pay being generally in straggling Parcels of Tobacco, the Collection whereof costs about 10 per Cent. and the best of this Pay coming but once a Year, so that he cannot turn his Hand frequently with a small Stock, as Tradesmen do in England and elsewhere, all this occasions the Dearth of all Tradesmen's Labour, and likewise the Discouragement, Scarcity, and Insufficiency of Tradesmen. [20]

In 1731 J. S. Sprogell wrote that the crafts-men found it difficult to maintain themselves and family because "There is no Cash amongst them." [21] The question of money continued to vex Virginians throughout the colonial -26- period. In 1768, for example, the Virginia Gazette reported that money was very scarce in the Barbadoes and the editor added: "As it verily is in Virginia." [22]

Because of the lack of money, as well as the other handicaps to the success of craftsmen, most blacksmiths who followed their trade in Virginia, especially during the seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth century, were indentured servants who operated plantation smithies. In 1662, for example, there were no free black-smiths in Northampton County engaged in the smithing business. [23] As late as 1732 there was only one smith in the town of Fredericksburg. [24]

Plantations were generally quite large, and a blacksmith shop was necessary, as they are today on large farms, for the repairing and manufacturing of farm tools, implements, and other work. For example, William Hunt, a wheelwright turned planter, owned a fully equipped black-smith and gunsmith shop on his plantation in Charles City County in 1677. His shops were operated by indentured smiths who not only did routine farm work but also performed special work for the county government. [25] Nathaniel Bacon's plantation in Henrico County included a "Smiths shopp with -27- bellows all sorts of Smiths tooles & 4 grindstones" operated by an indentured Dutch blacksmith. [26]

William Allen, a planter of York County who died in 1678, also had a "pcell of Smith's tools." [27] Ralph Wormeley established a smith's shop on his plantation in Middlesex County. At his death in 1701 Wormeley's shop included 1000 pounds of "trash iron," 1 pair of bellows, 1 anvill, 8 vices, screwplates, files, hammers, and other smiths' tools. [28] Gabriel Penn had three blacksmith shops on his plantation in Amherst County, and Robert Carter had a smithy on his plantation, "Nomini Hall." At Carter's shop work was performed for near-by neighbors as well as for his own use. [29] Archaeological excavations carried out at "Rosewell," the Page family home, revealed evidence of a plantation smithy. Waste iron and rough tools were uncovered in a trash pit. [30] No doubt these plantation shops were operated by indentured servants or slaves trained in the craft.

The use of indentured servants as blacksmiths continued throughout the colonial period. Along with other craftsmen, indentured smiths were imported into the colony in large numbers: -28-

JUST arrived the Success's Increase, Captain Curtis, with about eighty choice healthy Servants, among whom are many Tradesmen, viz. Shoemakers, Weavers, Carpenters, Black and White Smiths, Tailors, a Sailmaker, a Tanner, a Glazier and Painter, a Brick-layer, a Brass Founder, a Turner, an Upholsterer, Surgeons, and Apothecaries, Hair Dressers, School-masters and Book-Keepers, with many Farmers,' Labourers, &c. &c. The sale will commence at Leeds Town, on Monday the 3d of January, and continue till all are sold. Reasonable Credit will be allowed, on giving Bond with approved Security to James Mills, and Company.

N. B. Tobacco will be taken in Payment for the above. [31]

In 1756, John Tait wrote to England "for a black-smith who has been accustomed to coarse Country work." He wanted him to "work chiefly in hoes & axes." Tait preferred a smith to be indented for four or five years and offered him ten pounds sterling annual wages besides "meat, drink, washing & lodging...." [32] James Jones, an architect and builder, owned an indentured smith and a completely equipped blacksmiths' shop. Jones' inventory included, besides smiths' tools and a large assortment of nails:

52 lb of Barr Steel @ 7d ½ 1.12..6
67 lb old Iron 0..6..6
253 lb Barr Iron 2.12..8 ½

Ephraim Goosley, a blacksmith of Yorktown, had three indentured servants who were probably blacksmiths. Goosley's estate was charged with "Provisions for the Smiths while they worked on the Estates account." [34] John Taliaferro, -29- who owned several plantations in King George and Spotsylvania counties, employed an indentured blacksmith as well as a Negro smith. [35]

Negro slaves were widely employed in blacksmiths' work as well as other crafts. They were usually trained by an indentured servant. The obvious advantage of a slave trained in a craft over an indentured servant was that after the servant's term of servitude had expired he was free to go wherever he pleased while the slave was bound for life. Hugh Jones wrote in 1722 that slaves "..are taught to be sawyers, carpenters, smiths, coopers, etc. and though for the most part they be none of the aptest or nicest; yet they are by nature cut out for hard labour and fatigue, and will perform tolerably well...." [36] Governor Francis Fauquier commented in 1766: "...that every Gentleman of much property in Land and Negroes have some of their Negroes bred up in the Trade of Black smiths, and make Axes, Hoes, plough shares, and such kind of coarse work for the use of their Plantations." [37] In 1753, Henry Lovett was bound to James Key, blacksmith, as an apprentice. As an apprentice fee Key accepted "…the use & labour of a negro boy belonging to the said Henry…on Condition the -30- said Key does instruct the said Negro in his trade as farr as he is able." [38]

Colin Campbell offered his Negro smith along with his tools for sale in 1770:

I have a likely young Negro Fellow, a blacksmith (with a set of tools) which I would sell on reasonable terms. He understands something of ship work, as he was a year at the business, and also coarse country work. The purchaser will have credit until the first of May next, on giving bond and security, or a merchant's assumpsit for the money, which must be paid at Williamsburg. [39]
William Macon of Hanover County needed a blacksmith for his plantation:
I am in want of a Negro Blacksmith of a good character, and one that understands the business well; particularly making hoes, axes, shoing horses and wheels: For such a one, I will give a generous price, or hire by the year. [40]
The estate of the Armistead Lightfoot, inventoried in 1772, included "1 Negro Man Robin a Blacksmith." Robin was valued at eighty pounds. [41] John Harrower, an indentured servant in Spotsylvania County, mentioned a Negro blacksmith who belonged to Colonel John Corbin in 1775. [42]

By the end of the seventeenth century, the beginnings of towns, a larger population and the beginning of a more stable economy, enough work was available to encourage -31- blacksmiths to follow their trades. Smiths began to establish shops in the towns and at county court houses. For example, Owen Davis set up his smith's shop in Yorktown by 1694, and another was established at Middle Plantation by 1699. [43]

These blacksmiths needed help, and from the end of the seventeenth century many young Virginians were apprenticed to blacksmiths. Blacksmiths' apprentices served from 3 to 13 years--the term of service was usually over when the apprentice became 21 years of age. Some boys were bound apprentices at the age of eight. In addition to teaching the trade, master craftsmen generally agreed to teach the apprentice to read and write. [44] County courts sometimes bound boys as apprentices to craftsmen who lived outside of the county or even out of the colony. For example, in 1760 the Norfolk County Court bound John Johnson to Richard Woodhouse, a blacksmith who lived in Lancaster County. [45] The same year, the Spotsylvania County Court bound John Boon, Jr. as an apprentice to Robert Cummings of Maryland who was to teach the boy the trade and art of forge building and millwright. [46]

Free laborers and craftsmen were indeed scarce. -32- Governor William Gooch, speaking of blacksmiths in 1728, remarked: "...those wretched Artificers we have Charge thrice as much for their Labour as a good Workman would in England." [47] In 1732 he again commented on the high wages demanded by "handycraft Labour." [48] As already mentioned, when indentured servants had served out their terms they were free to go wherever they pleased and many evidently took up land and became planters. Land was cheap and tobacco culture offered artisans a more secure life than did a craft. One observer remarked that craftsmen who paid their own passage usually desired to live on a plantation rather than follow their usual trade, because this gave them a surer maintenance. With the produce they raised, they could buy what they needed. [49]

Advertisements offering craftsmen "good encouragement" appeared over and over in local newspapers. For example, John Holt needed a blacksmith "that understands making Plantation work" and offered applicants "good encouragement." [50] Henry B. Lightfoot also advertised for a blacksmith:

I want to hire for one, two, or three Years, a Black-smith who understands the Business in all its Branches. If any One that can come well recommended, as an industrious, sober, obliging Man, will apply before the 1st of September, I will give him Wages sufficient to encourage him to persevere in his Business. [51]


In an effort to get craftsmen to settle near by, the managers of Hunter's iron works in Falmouth offered anchor smiths, blacksmiths, nailors and other artisans half acre lots for a "small ground rent for ever" and even offered to assist them in building and to provide them with provisions and materials. [52]

Philip A. Bruce, in his Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, stated: "The trade of the blacksmith was perhaps the least remunerative of all callings of that general character...." [53] The evidence is so sparse, however, that Bruce's conclusion can neither be adequately supported nor refuted. County Court records certainly show that many smiths who failed in business had their estates attached for debts. At the same time there are many examples of blacksmiths who possessed large and valuable estates, both real and personal. For example, the personal estate of John Fox, a blacksmith of Fredericksburg, was valued at over £500 in 1750. [54] John Brockman, blacksmith, owned 550 acres of land in Orange and Louisa counties, and his personal estate was worth over £100 at his death in 1755. [55] John Trotter, a blacksmith of Yorktown, owned land in York County and 418 acres in Orange County. [56] Thomas Stewart, a tory blacksmith -34- of Portsmouth, valued his estate at over £3000 in 1775. [57]

The art of the blacksmith would certainly be indispensable in an agricultural and frontier community like Virginia during the colonial period. William Barker wrote that Virginia was one of the best countries he ever saw for all sorts of tradesmen and blacksmiths could earn seven shillings and six pence a day. [58] It would seem, then, that the success or failure of a smith in colonial Virginia depended as much on his ability as on the general economic conditions of the times.



^ 1 John Smith, The General Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles (Glasgow, 1907), I, 89-91; 113-114.

^ 2 Alexander Brown, The Genesis of the United States (Boston, 1890), I, 492. "Virginia in 1616," The Virginia Historical Register, I (1849), 107.

^ 3 Ferrar Papers, Box "Virginia," No. 13574, Magdalene College, Cambridge.

^ 4 H. R. McIlwaine, ed., The Minutes of the Council and General Court of Colonial Virginia (Richmond, 1924), 4. Susan M. Kingsbury, ed., The Records of the Virginia Company of London, IV (Washington, 1935), 104.

^ 5 McIlwaine, Minutes of the Council and General Court, 107.

^ 6 Ibid., 124.

^ 7 York County Deeds, Orders, Wills 6, 1677-1684, 82.

^ 8 "Letters of William Byrd, First," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, XXIV (1910), 233.

^ 9 CO 5/1309, ff. 66-68, PRO.

^ 10 Egerton 2395, f. 366, British Museum.

^ 11 W. W. Hening, ed., Statutes at Large: being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia..., I (New York, 1823), 488, II (Richmond, 1810), 11, 124-125.

^ 12 CO 5/1323, f. 168, PRO.

^ 13 Hening, Statutes, II, 294.

^ 14 Ibid., II, 471-478, 506-507; III, 58-59.

^ 15 Robert E. Brown and Katherine Brown, Virginia 1705-1786: Democracy or Aristocracy? (East Lansing, 1964), 9-10.


^ 16 CO 1/53, ff. 104-105. H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia (Richmond, 1925), I, 61-62.

^ 17 T.1/17, 240-244, PRO.

^ 18 CO 1/9, ff. 40-41, PRO.

^ 19 Hening, Statutes, II, 294.

^ 20 Henry Hartwell, James Blair, and Edward Chilton, The Present State of Virginia, and the College, ed. Hunter D. Farish (Williamsburg, 1940), 9-10.

^ 21 CO 5/1323, f. 168, PRO.

^ 22 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), June 16, 1768.

^ 23 Northampton County Order Book 1657-1664, f. 138.

^ 24 William Byrd, "A Progress to the Mines," in Writings of Colonel William Byrd, ed. John S. Bassett (New York, 1901), 373.

^ 25 CO 5/1371, ff. 220-222, PRO. Charles City County Orders, 1655-1665, 386, 421, 511, 538.

^ 26 CO 5/1371, ff. 227-231, PRO.

^ 27 York County Deeds, Orders, Wills 6, 1677-1684, 147.

^ 28 Philip A. Bruce, Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century (New York, 1935), II, 418.

^ 29 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), March 21, 1771. Hunter D. Farish, ed., Journal and Letters of Philip Vickers Fithian 1773-1774 (Williamsburg, 1957), xxiv.

^ 30 Ivor Noël Hume, Excavations at Rosewell, Paper 18, Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology (Washington, 1962), 175.

^ 31 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), December 23, 1773.


^ 32 Jerdone Letter Book 1756-1763 (William and Mary Library).

^ 33 King George County Inventory Book 1, 1721-1744, 306-313.

^ 34 York County Wills and Inventories 20, 1745-1759, 275-276, 357-358.

^ 35 King George County Inventory Book 2, 1745-1765, 134-136.

^ 36 Hugh Jones, The Present State of Virginia, ed. Richard L. Morton (Chapel Hill, 1955), 76.

^ 37 CO 5/1345, ff. 176-177 PRO.

^ 38 Princess Anne County Minute Book 7, 1753-1762, 7.

^ 39 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), November 8, 1770.

^ 40 Virginia Gazette and Weekly Advertiser (Richmond), October 30, 1784.

^ 41 York County Wills and Inventories 21, 1771-1783, 128-129.

^ 42 Edward M. Riley, ed., Journal of John Harrower (Williamsburg, 1963), 92.

^ 43 York County Deeds and Bonds 1, 1694-1701, 2. "Speeches of Students of the College of William and Mary delivered May 1, 1699," William and Mary Quarterly, 2nd series, X (1930), 332.

^ 44 Norfolk County Deed Book 19, 1759-1761, ff. 70-71; Princess Anne County Minute Book 6, 1744-1753, 214; Essex County Deeds &c No. 25, 1749-1752, 197; Spotsylvania County Will Book B, 1749-1759, 421.

^ 45 Norfolk County Deed Book 19, 1759-1761, ff. 70-71.

^ 46 Spotsylvania County Will Book B, 1749-1759, 437.

^ 47 CO 5/1321, ff. 82-84.

^ 48 CO 5/1323, ff. 62-66.

^ 49 Ibid., f. 168.


^ 50 Virginia Gazette, November 7, 1751.

^ 51 Ibid., (Purdie and Dixon), June 16, 1774.

^ 52 Ibid., (Purdie), June 21, 1776.

^ 53 Bruce, Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century, II, 418.

^ 54 Spotsylvania County Will Book B, 1749-1759, 30-32.

^ 55 Orange County Will Book 2, 1744-1778, 223-229, 250.

^ 56 Orange County Deed Book 1, 1734-1737, 262-267. York County Deed Book 4, 1729-1740, 83-84.

^ 57 A. O. 13/83, Folder SVI, 582-645, ff. 601-605, PRO.

^ 58 Brown and Brown, Virginia 1705-1783…, 9.


Chapter IV

A blacksmith shop had already been established at Middle Plantation by 1699 when the colonial capital was moved there from Jamestown. [1] It is not known who operated the shop. Many smiths set up business in Williamsburg during the eighteenth century--some were successful and some were not. A local blacksmith usually served the colony as armourer. He was responsible for the maintenance of the colony's fire-arms stored in the Williamsburg magazine. During the Revolutionary War local blacksmiths rendered valuable services for the government in repairing arms and performing other military work.

Some Williamsburg blacksmiths were employed in related crafts such as chair and coach-making. For example, Elkanah Deane, coachmaker, advertised that he made and re-paired "Steel springs, and Iron work of every kind relative to the Coach-making Trade...." [2] After his death, Deane's executrix, advertised "a large Quantity of Coachmakers, Joiners, and Blacksmiths Tools" for sale. [3] In 1766, Peter Powell, wheelwright and chairmaker, announced that he was -40- in "immediate want of a BLACKSMITH, who understands doing riding chairwork...." [4] In 1771, an outbuilding of Charles Taliaferro, coach and chair-maker, was burned, owing, it was reported, "to a Spark from his Forge getting into the Fodder Loft...." [5]

The biographical sketches that follow will give some idea of the men who engaged in the blacksmiths' trade in eighteenth-century Williamsburg. The dates in parenthesis following the smith's names are the dates that they are known to have been in Williamsburg.

James Anderson (1762-1798), the son of James Anderson, was born in Gloucester County in 1740. [6] There is no record concerning the younger James' early life or with whom he learned the blacksmith's trade. The earliest mention of Anderson as a blacksmith appears in Alexander Craig's account book when "Mr. Jas Anderson Blacksmith" purchased bellows hides from Craig in 1762. [7] Anderson must have been a well-established smith by the following year when the York County Court bound James Banks, a free mulatto, an apprentice to Anderson. At this time Anderson was described as being a blacksmith of the city of Williamsburg. [8] Three years later he married Hannah Tyler of Essex County. [9] In April 1766 -41- Anderson was appointed public armourer to replace John Bell who had moved from Williamsburg. [10] By this time Anderson must have been at least a moderately successful business man. Later that year, Peter Powell, a local chairmaker, mortgaged 120 acres of land near Williamsburg to Anderson for £229..9..9 which Powell was to repay by April 21, 1771. [11]

Sometime between March 16, 1761 and June 27, 1767, James Anderson purchased the southern half of lot 19 in Williamsburg from Dr. William Carter. This part of the lot was on the corner of Francis Street and what is now Botetourt Street, then referred to as a "cross Street." Anderson probably built his forges and smith shop on this lot. In September 1770 he advertised merchandise for sale at his shop on "back Street" (Francis Street). An 1806 insurance policy describes a kitchen on this lot that was formerly a blacksmith's shop. In October 1770, Anderson purchased lot 18, next to his half lot, from William Holt. He may have moved his shop to the back part of lot 18 since archaeological excavations have established that forges were on this lot. [12]

In addition to his blacksmithing operations, -42- Anderson evidently engaged in the mercantile business as well. In September 1770 he announced the arrival of a shipment of glassware:

JUST IMPORTED from London, And to be SOLD at a reasonable Advance for ready MONEY only, COMPLETE SETS of BOTTLES and STAFFORDSHIRE WARE, fit for the FACULTY. Likewise PICKLING JARS of all Sorts for Family Use. They may be viewed at any Time, by applying to Mr. James Anderson, Blacksmith, in the Back Street. [13]

In 1777, Anderson agreed to rent his blacksmith shop, tools, and workmen to the government for public use. He agreed to superintend the work himself:

Mr. James Anderson...agreed to do Blacksmith's work for the Commonwealth of Virginia at his shop in Williamsburg on the following terms for six months, and for a longer time unless he shall give the Board one month's notice of his intention to decline the Business, or they shall give him the same notice of their intention to discontinue him viz Mr. Anderson is to be allowed fifteen shillings per day for his own wages including Sundays, for the rent of his shop, six setts of Tools and eight Vices for the Gunsmiths Business at the rate of ninety pounds per annum, he is to be allowed 6 per day for boarding each work man, for his two forges and five apprentices three ponds per month each, and if he is deprived of either of them by accident he is to supply their place with another Hand as good; He is to employ such other workmen as the public Business requires on the best terms he can, and charge the country with whatever wages he pays. [14]

Anderson had at this time five apprentices and -43- several other employees, and he had advertised for "Journey-men Gunsmiths and Blacksmiths" and "8 or 10 healthy BOYS as Apprentices" the previous year. [15] At one time he employed nine apprentices. The number of workers employed by Anderson indicates that his shops were large. In April 1779, he advertised that he would give "extraordinary wages to a good Blacksmith and NAILER, that is capable of acting as foreman in my shops." The following June he again advertised for gun stockers and blacksmiths as well as more apprentices. [16]

Anderson performed all kinds of smiths' work during the war. He repaired surgical instruments, repaired firearms, mounted cannon on carriages and manufactured many articles. For example, in July 1780 he informed Col. George Muter, Commissioner of War, that "In my present Situation I think I can make Eighteen axes and three Tomahawks a day." [17] The following year he offered to make nails for the State:

I have Nine lads thats Nailors, which the State may have for one Year at 2/3 Specie Pr. Day, the lads must be fed Clothed Washing and lodging fiting for Apprentices. Eight of those Lads shall make Twenty five Thousand Nails pr Week. [18]
Anderson's offer was accepted provided the nailors perform "such other smith's work as they are able to do."

Anderson also made ramrods, and in 1782 he complained -44- because some muskets had been fitted with iron ramrods:

I have never heard of such a thing as case hardening Iron ramrods--An art I believe never was practiced by any man. An Iron ram rod in my opinion ought never be put to a muskett. Though I am sorry to say we have too many of them, which I suppose is owing to those that had the direction of haveing them made. There is one half of the muskets that want repairs, is without ramrods, which is owing in some measure to their being made of Iron. The least strain almost will Render them useless--If you think proper, after this that I shall make iron ramrods, it shall be attended to Amediately.

In 1780 Anderson was appointed captain of the Company of Artificers, and when the capital was moved to Richmond in 1780, his shops were moved along with other governmental agencies. In 1781 his shops and tools were destroyed when Arnold raided Richmond. Anderson claimed to have lost "eight pair of Smith's Bellows, with a quantity of other tools, my own property." [20] The following year Anderson retired from public service because of the want of "means to support himself and family." He complained that he had received no pay for two years. [21] He later moved back to Williamsburg where he evidently carried on the blacksmithing business until his death in 1798.

Anderson apparently continued to operate his -45- blacksmith shop in Richmond after he returned to Williams-burg. In 1793 he turned his shop in Richmond over to his son:

JAMES ANDERSON, RESPECTIVELY informs the public, that the Black-Smith shop below the Capitol, carried on by him, will be given up to his son JAMES ANDERSON, on the first day of January next: Who then will be furnished with the best of materials, and good workmen, some of which, I will venture to say, equal to any on the continent. [22]
Anderson's ledger for 1789 to 1799 includes accounts dated both in Richmond and in Williamsburg. [23]

The scope of Anderson's work can be seen from some of his accounts:

1771 Mr Henry Morse Dr to James Anderson
Jan 22 To Cleaning 3 guns @ 3/ 0..9..0
March 22 To Cleaning 3 Do @ 3/ 0..9..0
August 28 To plating Chair Shafts ?..?..3
To mendg a spring 0..2..6 1772
May 25 To a New tumbler pr lock 0..2..6
June 3 To Mending Bridle Bitt 0..0..7 ½
7 To Mending a Chair 0..2..6
July 30 To Altering a spring 0..3..9
To Do 2 bolts 0..1..3
May 18 To feeding 2 horses
20 days @ 4/ 4..0..0
To laing axletree pr Chair 0.15..0
To 3 Tiar Nails @ 1 ½d 0..0..4 ½
To pr Clamps pr Wheels 0..2..6
July 5 To 2 gallons oats 0..1..3
Decmb 7 To a key pr lock 2/6 mendg lock 1/3 0..3..9
Jany 18 To a Nutt for Chair 0..0..7 ½
Augt 22 To 8 Dog Nails 8d Cleang
a Gun 2/6 0..3..2
May 17 To a Key for a lock 0..2..6 [24]
Work done for the Capitol By James Anderson 1773
May 24 To Cleaning a Stove 1..0..0
July 26 To 4 Bars prs Statue 2..4..5
Octr 3 To 3 Bars prl Doors @ 2/6 0..7..6 To 4 Do @ 5/. 20 mendg a
hinge 2/6 1..2..6
4 To Eight hooks @ 7 ½ 0..5..0
15 To 2 Keys prs locks @ 3/9 0..7..6
To a Box prs do 0..1..6 [25]
1773 Country Dr
Apr 25 To half a Year Salary as Armourer to the Magazine £10 [26]
Anderson was also paid £6 for winding the Capitol clock and was paid for "Mending legg Irons" and hand cuffs, for the jail. [27]

William Ashburn (1774), first appeared in Virginia's colonial capital in April 1774 when he advertised his abilities as a cutler:

WILLIAM ASHBURN, Cutler from London, has opened Shop near the Capitol in Williamsburg, and makes and sells all sorts of Knives, Razors, Scissors, Surgeons Instruments, and Box and Spring Fleams on a new Construction, which are much approved by the most eminent Farriers in Great Britain; also grinds and repairs all Sorts of Edge Tools in the above Branch, cleans Fire Arms, and makes -47- Springs and Screws for Do. All such as please to favour him with their Custom may depend on the utmost Punctuality and reasonable Charges, and Commissions from the Country duly executed. Razor Strops made and dressed. Direct to the Care of Mr. George Simmons,Peruke Maker. [28]

Little else is known of Ashburn although he may have been the same William Ashburn who received several sums of money from James Southall in 1771 and 1772 for unspecified reasons. [29]

John Bell (1753-1766), who called himself both white smith and blacksmith, is first mentioned in Williamsburg in 1753, when he purchased leather from Alexander Craig. [30] In 1761 he purchased land from Thomas Cobbs. [31]

Bell served as public armourer for several years. In 1764 his petition to the House of Burgesses for pay for additional services was rejected:

A Petition of John Bell, praying to be allowed by the Publick for several Years Attendance to shackle and handcuff the Criminals committed to the Publick Gaol, taking off their Irons when carried up to their Trials, or otherwise discharged, for which he hath never received any Satisfaction, was presented to the House and read and the Question being put that the said Petition be referred to a Committee.
It passed in the Negative. [32]

Bell acted as armourer from 1763 until 1766 when he announced his intention of leaving Williamsburg to settle -48- in Portsmouth where he planned to "carry on his business in all its branches, make locks, hinges, jacks, &c. and grind razors." [33]

James Bird (1740-1758), blacksmith, was in Williamsburg by 1740. In that year his name appeared on an account of Dr. Bowis' estate. [34] In 1745 Bird purchased property in Williamsburg, and he established his black-smith's shop "in the Market Square" on a piece of land leased from the trustees of the city. [35]

In 1744 Thomas Hobday was apprenticed to Bird to learn the trade of a blacksmith. [36] The following year Hobday complained to the county court that his master "misused" him and prayed relief. The Court found Hobday's complaint groundless and dismissed it. Four years later Hobday finally gained his freedom:

James Bird with the Consent of this Court discharges his Apprentice Thomas Hobday from any further Service in Consideration of which and the said Birds agreeing to pay four Pounds in part of a Doctors Account the said Hobday acquits his said Master of his freedom dues. [37]
Hobday later became a successful blacksmith in Yorktown.

James Bird apparently acted as public armourer at the Magazine in Williamsburg. In 1745 he petitioned -49- the House of Burgesses for the armourer's salary:

A Petition of James Bird, was presented to the House, and read: praying that he may be allowed the whole Salary of Fifty Pounds Sterling, per Annum, as Armourer; and that this House will make him some Allowance for cleaning the Great Guns before the Governor's House. [38]
There is no record of how the House acted on Bird's petition--it was probably rejected because the annual salary of the armourer was only twelve pounds. The following year Bird assigned his salary "for cleaning and taking care of the Public Arms" to two of his creditors. [39]

By 1754 Bird's financial difficulties apparently increased. In that year he mortgaged his Williamsburg property, and in 1756, when he was unable to meet his obligation, the mortgage was foreclosed. [40] Two years later he left Williamsburg and settled in Norfolk or Princess Anne County. In 1759 John Lane, Sergeant of the Hustings Court of Williamsburg, reported that Bird had "absconded in low Circumstances." [41]

Bird was evidently somewhat more successful after he left the colonial capital. The Princess Anne County Court bound John Borrough, an orphan, to Bird as an apprentice. Bird promised to teach the boy to "read and write -50- and the Trade of a blacksmith." [42]

Robert Bond (1761-1783) was bound apprentice to John Terry, a blacksmith of Yorktown, in 1745, [43] and had apparently established his blacksmith shop in Williamsburg by 1761. In that year, William Ashwell, smith and founder, who worked with Bond, purchased bellows leather and other articles from Alexander Craig, a Williamsburg saddler. [44] Bond purchased large quantities of bar iron from Robert Carter. For example, in June 1773, he purchased 1,119 pounds of bar iron from Carter, and the following October he received another 1,168 pounds. [45]

In 1774 the Church Wardens of Bruton Parish bound Edward Jasper, a poor orphan, to Bond to learn the black-smith's trade. [46]

During the Revolution Bond was hired by the state as a blacksmith. He repaired wagons and did other smiths' work. [47] When the British damaged his bellows so badly as to "require new leathering," the Commissioner of War ordered the Commissary of Stores to supply him with leather. [48] Bond evidently did not receive the leather and complained to the Commissioner:

Mr. Armsted [Commissary of Stores] Gave Me an Order on Mr. Plume for two hydes of Lether -51- for my Bellus but he will Not Except it he toold me that he Wood not Let No one have any Lether With out the Money and i am in tyerly idle theay wont Let Me Draw any Provisions because i ant at Work and i Cant Doe anything With out my Bellus i shall be very Much abliged to you if you can possible be any asistence in Geting the Lether for Me as it is to be had for Money and Not With out.... [49]

Bond continued to live in Williamsburg until 1783 when he dropped from sight, and nothing more is heard of him. [50]

John Brush (1717-1726). Although it seems that John Brush was primarily a gunsmith, he may have engaged in the blacksmiths' trade as well. He first appeared in Williamsburg in July 1717 when he purchased lots 165 and 166 on the Palace Green. At that time he was mentioned as being from James City County. [51] Little is known of Brush's life in Virginia. It was said that he "was gunsmith to Col. Spotswood," and that "he used to clean the magazine & the Governors arms…." [52] In March 1718 Brush sued for a debt in York County Court, and he acted as security for Robert Langston's ordinary bond the same month. [53] Brush may have engaged in blacksmiths' work as well as the gun-smiths' trade. In 1723 he was paid for "Work and Reparations about the Governors House." [54] Later the same year he -52- petitioned the legislature for an allowance "for his misfortune in being blown up and hurt in firing the Guns on his Majtys Birthday." The Burgesses rejected Brush's petition. [55]

Brush made firearms and doubtless repaired them as well. Henry Bowcocke, in his will dated December 27, 1729, left his "gun, which was made by John Brush" to his son. The inventory of Bowcocke's estate included "1 bird piece made by Brush," valued at two pounds ten shillings. [56]

Brush died in November or December 1726, and he left most of his estate to his daughter Elizabeth Brush and his son-in-law, Thomas Barbar. Elizabeth later sold her share of the house and lots on the Palace Green to Barbar. [57]

The inventory of Brush's estate included a large assortment of gunsmith's and blacksmith's tools. Among them were four vices, six screw plates, "two tumbler tools," "2 pair borers," "pr Cyphering tongs," a hand vice, files, punches, chisels, "a powder trier," "1 Draw bore," seven pair of smiths' tongs, 2 hammers, bellows, anvils, and "1 large Wheel for Razor Grinding." He also owned brass, steel, iron, and copper. [58]


Thomas Cowles (1772-1775). Little is known of Thomas Cowles, who is mentioned as a blacksmith of Williams-burg and of James City County. If he lived in Williamsburg, he must have lived in the part of the city which lies in James City County. He is first mentioned in 1772 as a patient of Dr. John M. Galt, a Williamsburg physician. [59] In 1773 he purchased bar iron from Robert Carter, and in 1775 he was paid by the Committee of Safety for "repairing Arms for Capt. Lynes Comp[an]y of Minute Men." [60]

John Draper (1769-1789), smith and farrier, advertised his abilities as a veterinary in 1769:

JOHN DRAPER, Smith and Farrier, In the Main Street, Williamsburg, Has with Great Success made trial of a certain Medicine, very salutary in preserving from, or restoring those who have already catched the distemper, which now rages so generally. The above Medicine may be had of said Draper, [who] will undertake to cure this, and other disorders incident to cattle.
***No CURE no PAY. [61]

In 1770 Draper leased a part of William Goodson's lot on the Duke of Gloucester Street for seven years. A blacksmith's shop was already on this lot, and Draper may have been here earlier. [62] In 1780 Draper purchased a lot on the corner of Francis and Waller streets "where the Old Play House lately stood" and apparently lived there until -54- his death about 1789. [63]

Draper performed the usual blacksmith's work as well as that of a farrier. His account with the estate of Lord Botetourt shows a variety of work he undertook in both fields:

The Estate of the Right Honble Norborne Baron de Botetourt deceas'd to John Draper
May 14 To mending 2 lamp Irons 0.10..0
18 cleaning 2 stove Grates 5/. trimg 8 horses feet 5/ 0.10..0
24 a heater for a tea kitchen 0..2..6
27 2 spit racks for kitchen 40 lb @ 9d 1.10..0
screws for Bed 5/. removg 4 shoes 2/6 0..7..6
June 15 mending brass Chain cleang &c in Ball Room 0.10..0
curg a Colts Shoulder 12/6.
mendg Dutch hoe 9d 0.13..2
curg Coach horse of the Faricy(?) 3..0..0
a grass hook 4d a drag for a well 7/6 0..7.10
20 raising bucket out of the Well 0..2..6
24 Trimg 8 horses 5/. puting Jack in order 2/6 0..7..6
hook for backband 8d. cleang two stoves & paintg 5/. 0..5..8
makg dutch hoe & staff 7/6.
mendg 1 do 1/ 0..8..6
curg Horse 12/. makg Gardenc Rake & fixing 7/6 0.19..6
July 5 making 1 Garden Rake & fixing 7/6 grass hook 4d 0..7.10
plate for plow 2/6. spring key bolt for do 4d. 0..2.10
ring for Scythe handle & fixing 1/ do for fork & do 1/3 0..2..3
18 2 pick axes 20/. fixg 2 forks in their handles 1/3 1..1..3
[July 18] setting Scythe & wedges 2/ 2 Grubg Axes 20/ 1..2..0
23 2 pick axes 20/ 1 shoe 1/3 4 shoes do 5/ 1..6..3
Aug. 5 mendg rake 1/6 pointg plow share 1/3 0..2..9
lapping plate and nails for Harrows 0..3..0
2 swivals & 1 staple for Chain 2/6. trimg 8 Horses 5/ 0..7..6
30 4 shoes 5/. a grass hook 4d. mendg coffee pot 1/3.
key for a plow 4d. hooping 2 Malls 2/6 0..2.10
two new handles to park spades 2/6. 1 do & mendg 3/ 0..5..6
16 clout Nails 1/3. Octo. 7. 2 Garden Rakes 15/ 0.16..3
2 Dutch hoes 15/. 1 Garden Rake Handle & fixg 7/6 1..2..6

In 1771 Francis Moss was apprenticed to Draper to learn the blacksmiths' trade. The indenture was recorded in York County Court in May of that year:

This Indenture Witnesseth That Francis Moss of the County of York by approbation of the Court of the County aforesaid and his own Consent hath put him-self, and by these presents doth voluntarily and of his own free will and accord put himself apprentice to John Draper of the City of Williamsburg to learn his Art Trade and Mystery and after the Manner of an Apprentice to serve the said John Draper from the Day of the Date hereof for and During and unto the full one and Term of Six Years during all which Term the said Apprentice his said Master faithfully shall serve his Secrets keep his Lawfull Commands at all Times readily Obey: He shall do no Damage to his said Master, nor see it be done by others without giving Notice thereof to his said Master. He shall not waste his said Masters -56- Goods nor lend them unlawfully to any. He shall not Commit Fornication nor contract Matrimony within the said Term. At Cards Dice or any other unlawfull Game he shall not play whereby his said Master may have Damage With his own Goods nor the Goods of others without License from his said Master he shall not buy nor sell. He shall not absent himself Day or Night from his said Masters Service without his Leave nor haunt Alehouses Taverns or playhouses but in all Things, behave himself as a faithful apprentice ought to do during the said Term. And the said Master shall use the utmost of his Endeavours to teach or Cause to be taught or instructed the said Apprentice in the Trade or Mystery of a Blacksmith and procure or provide for him sufficient Meat Drink Cloathes Washing and Lodging fitting for an apprentice during the said Term of Six Years also teach him to read and write with freedom Dues And for the true performance of all and singular the Covenants and Agreements aforesaid the parties bind themselves each unto the other firmly by these presents. In Witness whereof the said Parties have interchangeably set their Hands and Seals hereunto Dated the Twentieth day of May in the Eleventh Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord George the Third King of Great Britain &c. Anno Domini One Thousand Seven hundred and seventy one.

During the Revolution, Draper was paid for guns, chair hire, for riding express, and repairing arms. [66] The Navy Board paid him for nails furnished for the use of the Brig Liberty and for "repairing pistols and for Langrage and Shott" furnished for the use of the Norfolk Revenge Galley. [67]

James, David and William Geddy (1736-c.1780). -57- James Geddy, gunsmith, father of David and William, established his shop in Williamsburg sometime before 1736. [68] In 1737 he advertised that he lost "a Steel Cross-Bow, the Spring of it broke…" out of his shop. At the same time he announced that he had "a great Choice of Guns and Fowling Pieces, of several Sorts and Sizes, true bored…." [69] In 1738 he again advertised his business in the Virginia Gazette:

Gentlemen and Others, may be supply'd by the Sub-scriber in Williamsburg, with neat Fowling-Pieces, and large Guns fit for killing Wild-Fowl in Rivers, at a reasonable Rate. He also makes several Sorts of wrought Brass-work, and casts small Bells. [70]
Geddy also repaired arms for the colony. After his death in 1744 his wife received money from the colony "due to the Estate of her late Husband for cleaning seven hundred Public Arms at the Magazine." [71]

Geddy owned lots 161 and 162 in Williamsburg. At his death the property came to his wife, Anne, who sold lot 162 to James Taylor and in 1760 she conveyed the other to her son James, a silversmith. [72]

Geddy's shop included a variety of tools and guns:

1 pr Brass Pistols 60/ 1 pr Pistols 26/ 4 pr Spoon Moulds 20/
18 Gun Locks at 3/6 pr 63/
12 Pistol Do at 5/
a parcel rough brass work for Guns 10/
8 doz files Sorted at 8/.
19 Small Do at 5d
3 pr Bullet Moulds 5/.
a parcel of Gun Smiths Tools
1 Compass Saw 2/6, 3 hand Vices 7/6
1 Bench Vice 7/6, 1 do 10/. 1 Whites hand Saw 10/ 2 Screw plates 10/.
A parcel of Gun Smiths Tools in his Shop. 5 Gun barls 30/
1 large Stand Vice 26/. 1 Iron Anvil 60/
1 Beck Iron 7/6 2 Sledge hammers 4/ 3 hand Do 3/ 1 Slack Tubb & 6 pr Iron Tongs 10/
5 Iron Smiths Stacks 10/ 2 Screw plates & 1 Brace 10/ 1 Grind Stone and Trough 4/. 1 Cutlers wheel & 2 runners &c. 20/
1 Turner Laith &c. 7/6 a parcel of Nail Tools 2/6
1 Frame Saw 10. 1 Founders Laith 5/.
7 pr Flasks 10/. 1 Sand Bench 5/. a parcel of Founders patterns 26/.
19 Melting Pots at 8d ps.
2 pr Smiths Bellows 50/.

David and William Geddy, sons of James and Anne, evidently carried on their father's business of gunsmithing and brass founding:

DAVID and William Geddy Smiths of Williamsburg, near the Church, having all Manner of Utensils requisite, carry on the Gun-smith's, Cutler's, and Founder's Trade, at whose Shop may be had the following Work, viz. Gun Work, such as Guns and Pistols Stocks, plain or neatly varnished, Locks and Mountings, Barrels blued, bored, and rifled; Founder's Work, and Harness Buckles, Coach Knobs, Hinges, Squares, Nails and Bullions, curious Brass Fenders and Fire Dogs, House Bells of all Sizes, Dials calculated to any Latitude; Cutler's Work, as Razors, Lancets, Shears, and Surgeon's -59- Instruments ground, cleaned and glazed, as well as when first made, Sword Blades polished, blued, and gilt in the neatest manner, Scabbards for Swords, Needles and Sights for Surveyors Compasses, Rupture Bands of different Sorts, particularly a Sort which gives admirable Ease in all Kinds of Ruptures: Likewise at the said Shop may be had a Vermifuge, Price, 3s. 6d. per Bottle, which safely and effectually destroys all Kinds of Worms in Horses, the most inveterate Pole-evils and Fistulas cured, and all Diseases incident to Horses; at their said Shop. [74]

David Geddy later left Williamsburg, but William continued to operate the shop there, probably sharing the same shop with his brother James, the silversmith.

During the Revolution, William Geddy was paid for repairing arms and casting ball. [75] During or after the Revolution, Geddy may have moved to Richmond. From 1784 to 1786 he was paid for blacksmiths' work which he must have done in Richmond. For example, he was paid for "an iron Grate put up in the Senate Room." [76] He was also paid for "iron work done on the public jail," and "for making handcufs and Chains for the criminals at work on the public ways." [77]

For about three years, 1761 to 1764, John Dennis worked with William Geddy. Dennis had been employed as a journeyman at John Tayloe's forge in King George County before he came to Williamsburg. [78]


John Moody (1776-1779), smith and farrier, arrived in Williamsburg from Philadelphia by way of Norfolk in 1776. He announced the opening of his shop in June of that year:

John MOODY, smith and farrier, from Philadelphia, but late from Norfolk, begs leave to inform the publick, that he has opened shop in the city, opposite to Mr. Charles Taliaferro's, near the Church, where he professes to shoe horses in all the different methods practised in Europe and America, and cures them of most prevailing disorders. He also undertakes smiths work in general, for all kinds of carriages, house work, farmers work, edge tools, &c. and shall be much obliged to all those who favour him with their custom. [79]

Little is known of Moody while he was in Williams-burg. During the Revolution he was paid on several occasions for shoeing horses. [80] He died in 1779, and his estate, inventoried in April 1779, included "1 pr Blacksmiths Bellows, 1 Anvill, 1 beck iron & sledge Hammer." [81]

Hugh Orr (1738-1764). The first known blacksmith in Williamsburg is Hugh Orr, who settled in the town by 1738. [82] Before 1743 Orr purchased lot fifteen on the Duke of Gloucester Street in Williamsburg. A mortgage dated in 1743 mentioned a smiths' shop with a forge and tools on the lot as well as a dwelling house and outhouses. [83] Orr announced -61- his intention to return to Great Britain in May 1739, but it is uncertain that he actually made the voyage. If he did leave Williamsburg in May he returned by November of the same year. [84]

Orr may have acted as farrier as well as a blacksmith--his inventory included a set of volumes on the art of a farrier. He referred to himself as both a blacksmith and a hammerman. His account with Thomas Jones shows that he bled slaves and others, or he owned a servant or slave who could perform this task:

Nov. [torn] of tambler Irons 7/6 )
Mar 13 To Bleading a Negro winch 1/3 )
[1740] ) 0.14..9
May 3 To altering a [torn] of hoops for wheels 6/ )
27 To Bleading a Negro winch twice 2/6 )
June 11 To Bleading Negro will twice 2/6 ) 0..5..0
July 5 To mending a wheel spinule 8d To one new do 1/ ) 0..1..8
14 To Bleading a Negro shoemaker 1/3 )
Aug 9 To Bleading a Negro winch 1/3 ) 0..6..3
14 To Bleading one Do 1/3 )
Sept 22 & 23 To Bleading one Do 2/6 )
Nov. 3 To 3 Clouts & 2 Linch pins for a Cart 0..2..6
Jan 10 To mending a tea Kittle 1/3 )
13 To Bleading Negro Kent twice 2/6 ) 0..3..9
14 To Bleading yr self 1/3 To Bleading Negro will 1/3 0..2..6
May 2 To Bleading a Negro Boy 1/3 To do a winch 1/3 0..2..6
Octobr 24 To Mending [a Bri]dle 1/3 )
Nov 20 To Bleading [a Negro ?] winch 1/3 ) 0..6..3
22 & 23 To Bleading [torn] times 3/9 )
27 To Bleading one do 1/3 (Decmr 4) To [Blea]ding Do 1/3 0..2..6
Feby 11 To 18 Tyer Nails for ye wagon 0..2..6
To 2 clamps & 4 clamp pins for Do 0..2..0
Mar 15 To two Bolts & Keys 1/8 )
To two plates & nails 1/6 ) 0..3..2
To Bleading Negro will 0..1..3
£2.16..7 [85]
Errors Excepted Hugh Orr.

From 1740 to 1744 Orr performed smith's work for James Bray and purchased old iron, beet wood and bricks from Bray. [86] He also did work for Carter Burwell of "Carter's Grove" and provided George Washington with brass work. [87]

Orr may have been an officer in the Williamsburg Militia. In 1755 Alexander Craig, saddler, sold Orr eleven sword scabbards, and in 1756 Craig covered a cartouch box for him. [88] Orr served as armourer for the colony from 1760 until October 1763. In that capacity, Craig charged him with carting "Magazine Stores" from Capitol Landing. [89]

Hugh Orr died in 1764 and was buried in Bruton Churchyard. His tomb is inscribed:

Hugh Orr
Here lyes the corps
of Hugh Orr hammer
man of Williamsburg
who died Jan'ry 6th 1764
aged 54 years.

The inventory of Orr's estate, which is badly mutilated, lists no smiths' tools except "1 Large Smiths -63- Vice £1.10" and "Smiths Bellows £2." His personal estate was valued at £637.12..6. [91]

Thomas Pate (1760-1814), blacksmith, was born in James City County in 1728 and evidently lived in or near Williamsburg. [92] The first record located of Pate is his account against the estate of Col. John Custis. This account seems typical of a colonial smith. It consists mainly of charges for repairing tools and making small articles.

1760 Collo Custis Estate to Thos Pate Dr.
Feb. 11 To lenthening a Chain and mending a Bed pin for Cart £0..3..0
To Altering a Sett of Clamps Do 0..2..6
19 To Pointing a Plough 0..2..6
22 To Making a Screw key for the mill 0..2..6
23 To Mending 2 Keys for Locks 0..2..6
27 To Making 2 Bed pins and 2 Linch pins for Cart 0..6..3
To making Cleavey and Pin Do 0..3..9
To making Iron work for a Ox yoke 0..5..0
March 5 To Making a Ox Chain 0.10..6
To making Iron Work for a Ox Yoke 0..3..9
11 To Altering 3 Mill Hoops 0..3..9
April 4 To mending a Lock and Key 0..2..0
26 To Altring a Mill Spindle 0..5..0
May 1 To Pointing a fluke hoe 0..2..6
2 To Making 2 Wddges for the Mill 0..2..6
7 To Mending a Sane 0..1..3
30 To Pointing a fluke hoe 0..2..6
June 3 To Dressing 3 mill Peaks and Lengthening a crane 0..5..0
30 To Pointing a fluke hoe 0..2..6
July 5 To Making a Hoope for Mill 10 pounds 0..7..8
To making 2 Wedges Do 0..2..6
11 To mending a Broad Ax 0..1..3
July 24 To mending a Key for a Lock 0..0..7 ½
Novm 17 To making a box for a whip saw 0..3..9
Feb. 3 To making 2 peed pins for Small Cart 0..2..6
9 To Mending a Lock 0..1..3
Pate received 132 pounds of old iron in part payment for the above account.

In 1770 Pate presented his account against the estate of Lord Botetourt for cleaning and mending a jack and for removing 4 shoes from a horse. [94] Pate purchased over three thousand pounds of bar iron from Robert Carter in 1773 which indicates he did a considerable business. [95] During the Revolution he repaired arms for Virginia troops. [96] Pate died in James City County in 1814. [97]

William Willis (or Willess) (1768-1770), gunsmith, arrived in Williamsburg sometime in 1768 from Birmingham, England. In that year he announced the opening of his shop in Williamsburg:

WILLIAM WILLIS, Gunsmith from Birmingham, INFORMS the publick that he has lately opened shop near the playhouse, where he intends to carry on his business in all its branches. Those who choose to employ him may depend on receiving full satisfaction, and have their work done in the best manner, and with the greatest despatch. [98]
There is little information concerning Willis' activities in Williamsburg. He evidently was a blacksmith as well as -65- a gunsmith.
WILLIAM WILLESS, Gunsmith from Birmingham, HEREBY informs the publick that he carries on his business, and does all the nice articles in the blacksmith trade, at his shop below the Capitol. Those who please to employ him may depend upon having their work done expeditiously, on very reasonable terms, and in such a manner as he hopes will give satisfaction. [99]

In 1770 Willis left Williamsburg and established his business in Norfolk at the "Sign of the Cross Guns." [100] During the Revolution he was paid for his services to the state as a gunsmith. [101] In 1776 the Council of the State ordered the commanding officer at Suffolk to "assist Wm. Willis, with Waggons, to remove his blacksmith Tools & Effects to Cobham." No other information concerning Willis has been located. [102]



^ 1 "Speeches of Students of the College of William and Mary Delivered May 1, 1699," William and Mary Quarterly, 2nd series, X (1930), 332.

^ 2 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), June 18, 1772.

^ 3 Virginia Gazette (Pinckney), October 26, 1775.

^ 4 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), April 25, 1766.

^ 5 Ibid., October 31, 1771.

^ 6 "Family Records of Anderson, Pate, Tyler, Graves and Mouring Familys," William and Mary Quarterly, 1st series, XII (1903-1904), 116.

^ 7 Alexander Craig Account Book 1761-1763, entry under date November 29, 1762 (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.).

^ 8 York County Judgments and Orders 3, 1759-1763, 470.

^ 9 "Family Records of Anderson...," William and Mary Quarterly, 1st series, XII (1903-1904), 116.

^ 10 T 1/461, f. 273, PRO.

^ 11 York County Deed Book 7, 1763-1769, 187-189.

^ 12 Mary A. Stephenson, "James Anderson House History," unpublished report, August 1961 (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.), 4-5.

^ 13 Virginia Gazette (Rind), September 27, 1770.

^ 14 H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Official Letters of the Governors of the State of Virginia, I, The Letters of Patrick Henry (Richmond, 1926), 127.

^ 15 Virginia Gazette (Purdie), August 23, 1776.


^ 16 Virginia Gazette (Dixon and Nicolson), April 16, 1779; June 19, 1779.

^ 17 Revolutionary Misc. Accounts, folder: "Receipts & Orders for Provisions, mostly Essex County," (Virginia State Library).

^ 18 The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd (Princeton, 1951), IV, 566.

^ 19 Calendar of Virginia State Papers, ed. W. P. Palmer (Richmond, 1883), III, 175.

^ 20 Ibid., 157-158.

^ 21 Ibid.

^ 22 Virginia Gazette and General Advertiser (Richmond), "Extraordinary," December 18, 1793.

^ 23 James Anderson Ledger B, 1789-1799, passim. (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.).

^ 24 Webb-Prentis Papers (Alderman Library, University of Virginia).

^ 25 Anderson Accounts, Brock Collection (Huntington Library).

^ 26 Ibid.

^ 27 Ibid.

^ 28 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), April 14, 1774.

^ 29 James Southall Receipt Book, 1771-1776, receipt dated July 6, 1771 and May 11, 1772, Brock Collection (Huntington Library).

^ 30 Alexander Craig Account Book, 1749-1756, f. 168.

^ 31 York County Deed Book 6, 1755-1763, 348.

^ 32 John P. Kennedy, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses, 1761-1764 (Richmond, 1907), X, 273.


^ 33 T 1/433, f. 316; T 1/461, f. 275, PRO. Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), March 14, 1766.

^ 34 York County Wills & Inventories 19, 1740-1746, 32-33.

^ 35 York County Deed Book 5, 1741-1754, 124-128; York County Deed Book 6, 1755-1763, 8-9.

^ 36 York County Wills and Inventories 19, 1740-1746, 318.

^ 37 York County Judgments and Orders 1, 1746-1752, 242.

^ 38 H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses, 1742-1747, 1748-1749 (Richmond, 1909), VII, 173.

^ 39 York County Deed Book 5, 1741-1754, 184-187.

^ 40 York County Deed Book 6, 1755-1763, 8-9, 108-110.

^ 41 CO 5/1429, f. 191, PRO.

^ 42 Princess Anne County Minute Book 7, 1753-1762, 310.

^ 43 York County Wills and Inventories 19, 1740-1746, 359.

^ 44 Alexander Craig Account Book, 1761-1763.

^ 45 Robert Carter Account Book, 1759-1775, 24, 28 (Maryland Historical Society).

^ 46 York County Order Book 4, 1774-1784, 63.

^ 47 William Finnie, Deputy Quartermaster General, Accounts 1776-1780 (Virginia State Library).

^ 48 War Office Letter Book, Jan. - September 1781, 25 (Virginia State Library).

^ 49 Executive Papers, February 1781 (Virginia State Library).

^ 50 Williamsburg City Personal Property Tax Lists, 1783, 1 (Virginia State Library).


^ 51 York County Deeds & Bonds 3, 1713-1729, 246-247.

^ 52 "History of the Fontaine Family," 6269a (Alderman Library, University of Virginia).

^ 53 York County Orders and Wills 15, 1716-1720, 292, 412-413.

^ 54 H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia (Richmond, 1930), IV, 34.

^ 55 H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Legislative Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia 1715-1753 (Richmond, 1918), II, 695. H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses of Virginia, 1712-1714, 1718, 1720-1722, 1723-1726 (Richmond, 1912),

^ 56 York County Orders and Wills 17, 1729-1732, 43, 55-57.

^ 57 York County Orders and Wills 16, 1720-1729, 424. York County Deeds and Bonds 3, 1713-1729, 470.

^ 58 York County Orders and Wills 16, 1720-1729, 438.

^ 59 Galt and Pasteur Account Book, 1771-1780, f. 75 (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.).

^ 60 Robert Carter Account Book, 1759-1775, p. 32. Treasurer's Office Receipt Book, 24, p. 15 (Virginia State Library).

^ 61 Virginia Gazette (Rind), October 19, 1769.

^ 62 York County Deed Book 8, 1769-1777, 76-78.

^ 63 York County Deed Book 6, 1777-1791, 94.

^ 64 Accounts of the Botetourt Estate, 1768-1771, Robert Carter Nicholas Account Book (Library of Congress).

^ 65 York County Deed Book 8, 1769-1777, 111-112.

^ 66 H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1932), II, 413, 414, 454; Committee of Safety Ledger, 1775-1776, 91, 104.


^ 67 Navy Board Ledger 1776-1779, f. 16; Navy Board Journal 1776-1779, 43 (Virginia State Library).

^ 68 Virginia Gazette, October 15, 1736.

^ 69 Virginia Gazette, July 8, 1737.

^ 70 Virginia Gazette, October 6, 1738.

^ 71 Wilmer L. Hall, ed., Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia (Richmond, 1945), V, 174.

^ 72 York County Deed Book 5, 1741-1754, 402; Deed Book 6, 1755-1763, 276-278.

^ 73 York County Wills and Inventories 19, 1740-1746, 321-322.

^ 74 Virginia Gazette, August 8, 1751.

^ 75 Committee of Safety Ledger, 1775-1776, ff. 38, 104 (Virginia State Library).

^ 76 Wilmer L. Hall, ed., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1952), III, 388.

^ 77 Ibid., 387, 448.

^ 78 Alexander Craig Account Book, 1761-1763, entry under date November 25, 1761. York County Judgments and Orders 1763-1765, 280, 295. Tayloe Account Book, 1740-1741, Tayloe Papers. (Virginia Historical Society).

^ 79 Virginia Gazette (Purdie), June 28, 1776.

^ 80 William Finnie, Deputy Quartermaster General, Accounts, 1776-1780.

^ 81 York County Wills and Inventories 22, 1771-1783, 425.

^ 82 On July 8, 1738, Hugh Orr wrote a letter from Williams-burg to Daniel Logan in Scotland. The original copy of this letter is in the New York Historical Society and a photostat is in the Colonial Williamsburg Research Department.


^ 83 York County Deed Book, 1741-1754, 89.

^ 84 Virginia Gazette, May 4, 1739.

^ 85 Item No. 652, Jones Family Papers (Library of Congress).

^ 86 Bray Accounts in Burwell Ledger, 1736-1779, 13, 14 (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.).

^ 87 Burwell Account Book, 1738-1755, f. 1 (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.); George Washington Ledger A, 1750-1772, f. 56 (Library of Congress).

^ 88 Alexander Craig Account Book, 1749-1756, ff. 23, 116.

^ 89 Alexander Craig Account Book, 1761-1763, accounts under date Jan. 21, 1763.

^ 90 Mary A. Stephenson, "Captain Orr's Dwelling," unpublished report, 1955, 12.

^ 91 York County Wills and Inventories 21, 1760-1771, 191-192.

^ 92 "Family Records of Anderson, Pate...," William and Mary Quarterly, 1st series, XII (1903-1904), 119.

^ 93 Custis Papers, 1711-1764 (Virginia Historical Society).

^ 94 Accounts of the Botetourt Estate, Robert Carter Nicholas Account Book.

^ 95 Robert Carter Account Book, 1759-1775, 11, 26.

^ 96 H. R. McIlwaine, ed., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia (Richmond, 1932), II, 489.

^ 97 James City County Personal Property Tax Lists, 1814-1815 (Virginia State Library).

^ 98 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), September 22, 1768.

^ 99 Ibid., May 25, 1769.


^ 100 Ibid., August 20, 1774, July 30, 1772.

^ 101 Treasurer's Office Receipt Book 24, 1775-1776. Entry under date 25 March 1776. (Virginia State Library).

^ 102 McIlwaine, Journals of the Council, II, 466.


Chapter V

Because Virginia was primarily an agricultural community, blacksmiths' work was largely confined to repairing farm tools and making replacements for worn-out parts. In addition they were often called on by county courts to perform public services of various sorts. For example, in 1664, William Hunt was paid by Charles City County Court for "1 pare of Shackles" made by his smith. In 1663 he was paid 270 pounds of tobacco for "irons for the ducking stool." [1] In 1701 James Darbyshire, a black-smith of Yorktown, was paid by the county court for "hand-cuffs or Manacles for ye Pyrates as by Account." [2] The following year York County Court paid Peter Gibson, blacksmith, 190 pounds of tobacco "for iron Work for the Prison." [3] On January 16, 1710, the court paid Will Evans 160 pounds of tobacco "for services done as a blacksmith to the prison" and the following year paid him for "cleaning the Armes &c." In 1715 he was paid for shackles supplied to the local jail. [4]

Another public service performed by smiths was that of armourer, whose responsibility was to maintain the -74- colony's arms. Blacksmiths were especially wanted for the militia and for military expeditions, and they were offered higher wages than other craftsmen. For example blacksmiths employed by the militia were paid four shillings per day, while wheelwrights, carpenters, and other artisans were paid three shillings per day. [5] In 1754 the Virginia government offered "good encouragement" to any "Black-Smith that will attend the Forces on the Ohio Expedition." [6]

Advertisements of blacksmiths in local news-papers call attention to some types of work they were able to execute. For example, John Fox, a blacksmith of Fredericks-burg, announced that he made and sold "all Sorts of Iron-Work, in the Best Manner." [7] Ephraim Goosley made "polished and rough" iron and brass work:

Gentlemen, and Others, that have Occasion of any Kind of Iron or Brass Work, either polish'd or rough, may be supply'd on applying to the Subscriber, in York Town, with as good Work and as cheap as can be imported, having Materials and Men, from the best Shops in London, for that Purpose. All Persons that will favour me with their Orders, may depend on being expeditiously serv'd, after the best Manner, by Their humble Servant,
Ephraim Goosley.

N.B. By whom Gun-Work, such as new Stocks, Cocks, Mounting, &c. are done after the best manner.

-75- In another advertisement, later that year, Goosley announced that he made "all sorts of Axes and Hoes," and he solicited customers by stating: "Any Gentlemen, Merchants, or others, that will favour me with their Custom, will encourage a Branch of Trade that may be usefull to this Country...." [9] The smiths at Hunter's iron works turned out "fullers shears, files, and a variety of the iron branch." [10]

Most of the work performed by Virginia blacksmiths seems to have been coarse work such as making and repairing farm implements and tools. Governor William Gooch complained: "...we have no Smiths here that understand fitting them [gun carriages] with the necessary Iron work,... " [11] In 1768 James Blair, President of the Virginia Council, wrote: "We do not make a saw, auger, gimlett, file, or nails, nor steel; and most tools in the country are imported from Britain." [12] Governor Fauquier in 1766 claimed that he did not know of a "white smith or maker of Cutlery in the Colony." [13]

Blacksmiths' accounts show something of the kind of work they performed and the prices they charged. For example, John Cock presented Mrs. Elizabeth Jones with the following bill in 1759: -76-

To making Niles and Shuing one whele 0.12..6
To making a hoop one Staple and two Rings and Rivating the wheles by J. L. 0..5..6
January 4
To Shuing a pr of five foot and a half wheles and Rivating them Round A. L. 3..0..0
9 To making 5 Staples 1 Ring and 3 goosnecks 0..9..0
12 To making 5 Staples for the yokes & bees 0..4..0
To making 3 hooks and 6 Rings 0..5..0
To making 1 large Ring 0..1..0
To making 8 small pins & Cuting a Chane and making a traces 0..3..6
20 To making 4 hooks and 4 Rings 0..4..0
To making an ox chane 0..7..6
To Lanthing an ox Chane and making a Staple and Ring 0..2..0
To making a ploug Large 0..6..0
To making an ax 0..2..0
F.1 To making three axes one of my iron 0..6..6
12 To Cuting a plough hoe 0..3..9
21 To Laying Eight hilling hoes 0.12..0
24 To Laying a fluck hoe of my iron 0..4..6
To making a plough of my iron 0.10..0
To making 3 hilling hoes 0..4..6
To making 5 hilling hoes 0..7..6

Francis Jerdone, who owned a plantation in Louisa County, had a blacksmith's shop operated by an indentured smith. The following accounts show the work done by the smith, other than the usual plantation work, in January 1767:

January 1, 1767
Mr. Samuel Ragland Dr
To laying a poll ax Iron & steel found 0..2..6
Mr. John Ragland Dr
To laying 1 narrow ax: Iron & Steel found 0..2..6
Mr. George Pottie Dr
To 2 new horse shoes made & sett on 0..2..0
Mr. Francis Merriwether Debr
To 2 new Wedges wt 10 ½ li @ 8d 0..7..0
To 2 new half shear plows & Coulters
22 ¼ li & 2 ½ li Steel laid on them @ 9 & ½ 0.19..2
Mr. Richard Swift Dr
To 1 Cross cut saw file 0..1..0
To laying 1 poll ax with Steel found 0..2..6
Mr. William Harris Dr
To Strakes & nails for a pair of Cart Wheels
weighing 53 li @ 8d 2..2..0
To Shoeing the wheels 0..2..6
To a new wedge 4 ½ li @ 8d 0..3..0
Mr. Samuel Ragland Dr
To 1 new poll Ax pr note to Wm Buttyworth 0..5..9
Mrs. Sarah Kimbrow Dr
To laying a Small broad ax Iron & steel found 0..2..6
Mr. Samuel Ragland Dr
To laying 1 hilling hoe 1/6 to 4 ½ li Iron 1/6 0..3..0
Capt. James Overton Dr
To pointing 2 Wedges 0..1..0
Mr. Francis Meriwether Dr
To laying a Wedge & finding 2 li Iron 0..1..6
Mr. Charles Smith in Hanover per note from his overseer Benja. Oakley
To laying 3 narrow axes Iron & Steel found 0..7..6
To laying 4 plow hoes & 19 ½ li of Iron 0.16..6
To laying 5 hilling hoes & 17 ¾ li Iron 0.13..3
David Richardson Junior Dr
To laying 3 hilling hoes 4/6 & 9 ½ li Iron @ 4d 0..7..8
Daniel Lane Dr
To laying 1 narrow ax: Iron & steel found 0..2..6
making a new Coulter 0..1..6
Mr. Joseph Graves Dr
to laying 2 hilling hoes @ 1/6 0..3..0
Mrs Judy Belsches Dr
To laying 7 hilling hoes @ 1/6 0.10..6
To laying 5 plow hoes @ 2/ 0.10..0
Mr Robert Hester Dr
To mending a cross cut handle 0..1..0
Mr Samuel McGehee Dr
To laying 4 hilling hoes 0..6..0
To laying a Grubbing hoe 1/3 & beating 1 out 6d 0..1..9
For the month of January 1767 the smithy brought in £7..0..1, in addition to the work performed for Jerdone's plantation. A blacksmith's shop, then, must have been a fairly profitable addition to the plantation.

In June 1763 John Sanders did smiths' work for a Mr. Lindsay of Essex County:

June 18 By laying one plow hoe & finding six pou[n]d Iron 0..5..6
By laying a plow hoe and finding an Eye 0..5.10
By laying a Coopers Adds 0..2..6
June 21 By putting an Eye to a hoe 0..1..0
By mending a Chane poling an ax 0..1..0

In 1780 Charles Dabney itemized the different kinds of work performed by local smiths and compared the old rates with the inflated prices during the Revolution:

The rates of Smiths Work settled from the 11th March to the 11 July 1780 settled by Mr Crenshaws rates
Old Rates New Rates
Makg Weedg Hoes of B[ar] Iron 3/6 £4..4..0
Makg ditto of Old Iron 4..7..6
Layg ditto with Bar Iron 2/6 3..0..0
Layg ditto with Old Iron 3.12..6
Makg Hillg Hoes of B[ar] Iron 2/ 2.16..0
Makg ditto of Old ditto 3..0..0
Layg ditto with B[ar] Iron 1/6 2..2..0
Layg ditto witb old Iron 2..5..0
Makg Trowell Hoes with B[ar] Iron 3/ 4..4..0
Makg ditto with old ditto 4.10..0
Layg ditto with B[ar] Iron 2/ 2..2..0
Layg ditto with O[ld] Iron 2..4..0
Pointg ditto with B[ar] Iron 1/ 1..8..0
Pointg ditto with O[ld] Iron 1.10..0
Makg Grubg Hoes of B[ar] Iron 2/ 2.16..0
Makg ditto of O[ld] Iron 3..0..0
layg ditto with B[ar] Iron 1/3 1.15..0
layg ditto with O[ld] Iron 1.17..0
Beatg out Hilg Hoes into Broad ditto 1/6 2..2..0
Makg Broad Axes 4/6 6..6..0
Makg Narrow Axes 3/ 4..4..0
Layg ditto with Bar Iron 2/ 2.16..0
Layg ditto with O[ld] Iron 3..0..0
Jum[pin]g ditto 2/ 3..0..0
Upseting ditto 1/ 1..8..0
Hardeng ditto /6 0.14.10
Layg Broad Axes 3/6 4.18..0
Shoeg Horses 1/6 2..5..0
Movg ditto 1/ 1.10..0
Makg Half Shares of B[ar] Iron 3/6 4.18..0
Makg ditto of old Iron 5..5..0
Footing Coters 1/ 1.10..0
beatg out ditto /6 15..0
layg ditto 1/ 1.10..0
Putg Eyes to Hoes /6 15..0
Layg Half Shares of B[ar] Iron 2/6 3.10..0
Layg ditto with O[ld] Iron 3.15..0
Putg Eyes to Hoes /6 15..0
Putg Eyes to Axes 1/ 1.10..0
Makg ditto 1/ 1.10..0
Makg Eyes for Hoes /6 15..0
Pointg Colters /9 1..2..6
Makg Rings & staples for Ox Yokes 2/ 3..0..0
Beatg out Hoes /6 15..0
Makg 2/6 Nails of B[ar] Iron pr lb 2/ 3..0..0
Makg ditto of Rod Iron pr lb 1/ 1.10..0
Makg 20d ditto of B[ar] Iron pr Ct 2/ 3..0..0
Makg ditto of Rod Iron pr Ct 1/ 1.10..0
Makg 10d Nails pr Ct of B[ar] Iron 1/6 2..5..0
Makg ditto of Rod Iron /9 1..2..6
Makg 8d Nails pr Ct with B[ar] Iron 1/ 1.10..0
Makg ditto of Rod ditto pr Ct /6 15..0
Makg 6d ditto of B[ar] Iron pr Ct /9 1..2..6
Makg ditto of Rod ditto pr Ct /4 ½ 11..3
Makg Rings & Staples for Hames 1/6 2..5..0
Makg ditto the best kind 2/ 3..0..0
Oxe Chain pr foot 1/ 1.10..0
Horse ditto /9 1..2..6
Beatg out Axes /6 15..0
Makg & Pointg pr Horse Shoes 1/6 2..5..0
Layg Chisell [Not Rated]
-81- This list probably includes the complete range of routine work performed by most colonial blacksmiths, especially those in rural areas such as Hanover.

The manufacture of nails and horseshoes was an important part of the smith's work.

Nails. During the early years of the colony, nails were scarce and the Virginia government prohibited the burning of buildings to recover nails used in construction. [18] The scarcity of nails also held up new construction. For example, in 1640 one builder, Edward Lillie, had to stop work on a church in Norfolk County because "he could not goe forward for want of nailes & other Irone worke…." [19]

The consumption of nails was naturally great in a community where there was a serious housing shortage. As new settlers came into the colony, the demand for nails must have been great, and it undoubtedly exceeded the quantity imported. Local smiths and nailors, therefore, were probably kept busy. There is evidence that nails were being made on the Eastern Shore of Virginia as early as 1633. [20]

As the colony grew, nails became more plentiful. Great quantities were imported and local blacksmiths turned out large numbers. Most blacksmiths owned nailors' tools -82- and nearly every inventory included nails. During the Revolution James Anderson wrote that eight boys could make twenty-five thousand nails in a week. [21] Thomas Jefferson built a small nail factory at Monticello about 1794, and in 1800 he employed sixteen workers and a foreman. [22]

Horse shoes. Philip A. Bruce wrote that the blacksmith's trade was not profitable in Virginia "... since horses were unshod." [23] That horses were often unshod in Tidewater Virginia is mentioned many times. For example, Hugh Jones wrote from Maryland in 1699:

... Our soil is generally sandy, free from stone, which makes itt very convenient for travelling. And we have no occasion for shoeing our horses except in frosty weather. And what with the goodnesse of our little horses and with the smoothnesse of the roads, we can travell upon occasion fifty miles in a summers afternoon, and sometimes a hundred miles a day. Indeed, our miles are not soe longe as in England, yet they are measured miles. [24]
Jones' statement that horses were unshod "except in frosty weather," clearly demonstrates that horses were sometimes shod. Writing about Virginia in 1722, Jones said that horse shoes were "things seldom used in the lower parts of the country, where there are few stones." [25] One writer -83- recorded in his diary in September 1749: " horse being barefoot could not travel." [26] Archaeological excavations, on the other hand, have turned up horse shoes in the area around Williamsburg. Some of these shoes can be dated from the eighteenth century. [27]

Farriers do not seem to have been present in large numbers in Virginia, but some men did engage in the trade and many farmers owned "Farriers Instruments." At least two farriers, John Draper and John Moody, followed the trade in Williamsburg.

Generally the task of horseshoeing seems to have been in the realm of the blacksmith. Almost every black-smith's account book included charges for shoeing horses. For example, the account book of Francis Jerdone's black-smith included many charges for shoeing horses as well as for making horse shoes. James Anderson, a Williamsburg blacksmith, also shod horses. [28]

Some of the operations performed by colonial smiths are briefly described below. Blacksmiths doubtless could do other work than the ones listed here, but these operations seem to be the most widely used in the eighteenth century.


Annealing. Annealing is the process of softening hardened steel by heating it to a definite temperature and then allowing it to cool slowly so that it can be worked with cutting tools. Chambers, in his Cyclopaedia, defines annealing as "the heating of [steel] in the fire to a blood-red heat; and then taking it out, and letting it cool gently of itself…. This is done to make it softer in order to engrave or punch it." In the eighteenth century the process was often called "nealing." [29]

Beat out. See draw down.

Brazing. This is the process of joining two or more pieces of metal by means of a brass or silver spelter. Joseph Moxon, in his Mechanick Exercises, noted that smiths braze their work when it is to thin to be welded. Chambers wrote that blacksmiths sometimes referred to welding as brazing. [30]

Case-Hardening. This process hardens the outside surface of iron and steel. Case-hardened steel will not easily bend and will resist shock because of its soft core and therefore is especially valuable for certain purposes. One Encyclopaedia described the operation:

…a superficial conversion of [iron] into steel, by the ordinary method of conversion, namely by -85- cementation with vegetable or animal coals. This operation is generally practised upon small pieces of iron wrought into tools and instruments to which a superficial conversion is sufficient; and it may be performed conveniently by putting the pieces of iron to be case-hardened, together with the cement, into an iron box, which is to be closely shut and exposed to a red heat during some hours. By this cementation a certain thickness from the surface of the iron will be converted into steel, and a proper hardness may be afterwards given by sudden extinction of the heated pieces of converted iron in a cold fluid. [31]

Joseph Moxon described the purpose and method of case-hardening in his Mechanick Exercises:

Case-hardning is sometimes us'd by File-cutters, when they make course Files for Cheapness, and generally most Rasps have formerly been made of Iron and Case-hardned, because it makes the outside of them hard. It is us'd also by Gunsmiths, for Hardning their Barrels; and it is us'd for Tobacco-boxes, Cod-piecebuttons, Heads for Walking-staves, &c. And in these Cases, Workmen to set a greater value on them in the Buyers esteem, call them Steel-barrels, Steel-tobacco-boxes, Steel-buttons, Steel-heads, &C. But Iron thus hardned takes a better Polish and keeps the Polish much longer and better, than if the Iron were not Case-hardned. The manner of Case-hardning is thus, Take Cow-horn or Hoof, dry it thoroughly in an Oven, and then beat it to Powder, put about the same quantity of Bay-Salt to it, and mingle them together with stale Chamberly, or else White-wine-vinegar. Lay some of this mixture upon the Loam, … And cover your Iron all over with it; then wrap the Loam about all, and lay it upon the Hearth of the Forge to dry and -86- harden: When it is dry and hard, put it into the Fire and blow up the Coals to it, till the whole Lump have just a Blood-red-heat, but no higher, lest the quality of your mixture burn away and leave the Iron as soft as at first. Then take it out and quench it; Or, instead of Loam, you may wrap it up in Plate Iron, so as the mixture may touch every part of your Work, and blow the Coals to it, as aforesaid. [32]

Drawing down. Drawing down or drawing out consists in lengthening the stock by reducing the area of the cross section, either throughout its entire length or a portion of it. The cross section may be kept the same shape or it may be changed, as from round to square or from square to octagonal. Small stock usually is worked on the face of the anvil. When the iron is to be expanded, both in length and breadth, the flat face of the hammer is used, but when it is to be stretched in one way only, the peen of the hammer is used, and the work is struck with the peen at right angles to the direction in which extension is desired. This action is that of a dull wedge forcing the metal in the desired direction. The straight peen should be used for widening the stock and the cross peen for lengthening it. Large stock that is to be made much longer, but little if any wider, or is to have its section greatly reduced, can be drawn out much more -87- rapidly on the horn of the anvil because it acts as a dull wedge and forces the metal lengthwise and prevents the work from widening. When the stock that is being drawn down is to have the sides parallel, care must be taken to have the hammer face fall parallel to the anvil.

If a bar of square iron is to be drawn down square but smaller, the bar should be turned a quarter turn at each blow. The art of rolling the stock a quarter turn is not easy, and a diamond shaped cross section may be produced. This may be brought back to square by striking on the edge. Rectangular stock is handled in the same way as square stock, after the sides of the rectangle have been made to bear the proper proportions to each other. Changing from rectangular section to square, or from square to rectangular, is accomplished in the same way. On square or rectangular stock, only two sides need receive the blows.

Round stock, even if it is to be round when finished, should always be drawn down square to the required size and then rounded with as few blows as possible. If an attempt is made to keep the stock round throughout the process, the bar may become cupped at the ends and split through the center. The cupping is caused by a too rapid -88- working of the outer surface which causes it to stretch more than the interior. This outer stretching can be carried so far as to cause the outer surface to become entirely loosened from the center of the stock. The cracks are caused by a movement of fibers. The steps in drawing down from round to round are: first, the section is reduced to a square, the sides of which should measure slightly less than the diameter of the piece desired. Next the four corners are hammered so as to make the section octagonal. These corners are hammered into eight more sides, and so on until the section is round.

When drawing down to a round point, one must follow the same course. The end should be drawn to a square pyramid of proper size and length and then rounded by being hammered first to four corners, then to eight, etc. The point always must be kept hot, or it will split. In drawing down the iron should be heated to a bright red and not hammered after it reaches a dull red, except in finishing, when it is hammered with light blows from dull red to black.

Laying. This is the process of re-steeling the worn edge of an implement and was widely performed by -89- colonial blacksmiths. See Steeling.

Steeling. Many tools were made of iron with an edge or face of steel applied by welding to those places where the principal wear was expected. The process was known as steeling. Although it was done principally to avoid expense, it would generally give a more serviceable tool, combining toughness and hardness more effectively than in a tool made entirely of steel. This process was evidently the same as the commonly called "laying" in the eighteenth century. [33]

Tempering and Hardening. The process of slightly softening or toughening a piece of metal is called tempering. Cutting tools must be tempered after being hardened because the cutting edge would be brittle and would crumble or break in use. Joseph Moxon described the process in his Mechanick Exercises:

English, Flemish and Swedish-steel, must have a pretty high heat given them, and then suddenly quench in Water to make them very hard; but Spanish and Venice-steel will need but a Bloodred-heat, and then when they are quenched in Water, will be very hard. If your Steel be too hard, that is too brittle, and it be an edg'd or pointed Instrument you make, the edge or point will be very subject to break; or if it be a Spring, it will not bow, but with the least bending it will snap asunder: Therefore you must let it down -90- (as Smiths say) that is, make it softer, by tempering it. The manner is thus, take a piece of Grin-stone or Whet-stone and rub hard upon your Work to take the black Scurf off it, and brighten it; then let it heat in the Fire, and as it grows hotter you will see the Colour change by degrees, coming to a light goldish Colour, then to a dark goldish Colour, and at last to a blew Colour; choose which of these Colours your Work requires, then quench it suddenly in Water. The light goldish Colour is for Files, Cold-chissels and Punches, that Punch into Iron and Steel; the dark goldish Colour for Punches to use on Brass, and generally for most Edge-tools: The blew Colour gives the Temper to Springs in general, and is also us'd to Beautifie both Iron and Steel; but then Work-men sometimes grind Indico and Sallad-oyl together, and rub that mixture upon it, with a woollen Rag, while it is heating, and let it cool of it self.

There is another sort of Hardning, call'd Hammer-hardning, It is most us'd on Iron or Steel Plates, for Dripping-pans, Saws, Straight-Rulers, &c. It is performed only, with well Hammering of the Plates, which both smooths them, and beats the Mettal firmer into its own Body, and somewhat hardens it.

The manner of Forging Steel, either for Edge-tools, Punches, Springs, &c. Is (the several shapes consider'd) the same with forging Iron: Only this general Rule observe, from an old English Verse us'd among Smiths, when they Forge Edge-tools,
He that will a good Edge win
Must Forge thick and Grind thin.


Upsetting. Upsetting, or jumping up, is the reverse operation of drawing down; a piece is shortened in length and the cross-section increased in one dimension -91- or more. Upsetting is a slower and more laborious process than drawing down. There are several methods of upsetting. The proper one to use depends largely upon the shape and size of the work. Short pieces are generally stood on end on the anvil, and the upper end is struck with a hammer. Pieces small in cross section relative to their length which are to be upset on the end, should be held flat on the anvil by the tongs, so that the end of the piece to be upset projects over the edge about ½", where it can be struck a sharp blow with the hammer. By resting the piece on the face of the anvil, the tendency to bend is greatly lessened. Pieces of larger size are upset by being bumped repeatedly upon the face of the anvil or upon a plate of cast iron set in the floor alongside the anvil. Another way is to lay the piece upon the anvil face or swing it in a chain, hold the end with both hands and strike the other end with a sledge or a swinging monkey. Many heats are often required to jump up a moderate mass of metal, and the result is that the dimensions are not very exact. The upset metal, in spite of much care in localizing the heat to the place wanted, is unequal and without sharp -92- shoulders; hence to allow for drawing back to the desired form and size considerably more must be upset than is needed.

Upsetting tends to separate the fibers of the metal. It is therefore necessary that the work be done at a welding heat.

Pieces of any length will tend to bend when being upset and should be straightened as soon as a bend starts, because additional blows will simply bend the stock more and produce no upsetting.

The blows must be heavy enough to work the metal the entire distance that is to be upset, in order that the section may remain uniform throughout. If it is found that the ends are spreading faster than the center of the stock, they can be cooled so that when struck with the hammer they will remain unchanged while the hot middle part is worked. This can be repeated till the piece has become uniform in section.

Welding. Welding consists of heating to a welding heat (or nearly to the point of fusion) two or more pieces of iron or steel, at the places where the joint is to be made, and uniting them by pressure or by -93- quick sharp hammer blows.

The exact temperature of the welding heat in wrought iron and steel is not known, but when it is reached, wrought iron and steel become pasty, so that they will stick to similarly heated pieces when placed in contact.

Heated beyond this point, the iron will burn, giving off sparks. When wrought iron has reached the welding heat it has a dazzling white appearance, and when exposed to the air it makes a slight hissing noise and gives off bright sparks of burning iron. Soft steel becomes grayish white, and tool steel, bright yellow. As stated above, the metal becomes waxlike or semi-fluid, a condition in which the particles of the separate pieces come into the same close contact as those of the solid bar, as they are welded or hammered together. Only such metals can be welded as gradually become softer and softer with the increase of heat or those that change slowly from the solid to the liquid state; the greater the range of this semi-fluid state, the easier is the process of welding. Metals that remain hard up to the melting point cannot be welded.


The difficulty in welding is to heat the metal properly and to keep it clean and free from scale. It is necessary that the fire be kept clean, and that its depth be great enough to prevent, as far as possible, oxidation of the metal which results in a dirty heat (that is, the metal will have cinders and dirt adhering to it which will prevent the particles of metal from coming into contact). Depressions that will pocket air between the pieces will have a similar effect. The pieces that are to be welded are usually "up-set," or enlarged at the places where they are to join, to allow for unavoidable drawing out in making the weld and in the subsequent hammering to refine the grain (which is carried on until the pieces are at a low red heat).

The object of hammer refining is to break up the coarse crystals that are formed by the high temperature, which can be done by hammering or finishing at a dull red temperature. Hammer refining gives the finished piece a fine strong grain. Care in hammer refining and proper welding will produce a weld almost as strong as the original bar.

The higher the iron is heated the easier it will take up oxygen and form scale. Scale will prevent a weld -95- whether formed in the fire or in the time consumed in taking the pieces from the fire and placing them together. At the welding temperature, scale is formed very rapidly, so a flux is used to prevent its formation or to dissolve it. When irons of different composition are to be welded together, a flux is needed to prevent the metal that reaches its welding temperature first from oxidizing. The flux will melt and cover the parts to be welded, preventing the formation of scale and dissolving any that has already formed. When the pieces are placed together and hammered the flux is forced out and the pieces are allowed to join. Fluxes generally used are sand, borax, or a mixture of borax and some substance, as sal ammoniac. Most welding compounds have borax as a base. Sand makes a good flux for wrought iron but is of little use with steel. When steel is welded, borax or a mixture of borax and sal ammoniac is preferred. With this flux, iron scale dissolves at a comparatively low temperature and in this fluid condition can be squeezed out of the way; while if the flux were not used, the iron would have to be subjected to a higher heat to melt the scale. With ordinary wrought iron a heat that will melt the scale can easily be reached -96- without the use of a flux, but with certain machine steel and all tool steel a temperature high enough to melt the oxide would burn the metal.

Borax contains water which should be driven off. Dehydrated borax forms what is called borax glass, which when pulverized makes an excellent flux. Flux acts merely to protect the surfaces from oxidation and to dissolve the scale; it serves in no way like a cement.

The process of welding is very simple, but it is one to which too much care cannot be given. As previously stated the fire must be clean and deep, for unless the fire is exactly right the pieces cannot be heated sufficiently or kept free from dirt and scale. If the metal is insufficiently heated or is dirty (covered with scale or slag) no amount of hammering will cause the pieces to join. Again, if the iron is heated too hot, it will burn and become useless, for burned iron will not weld. In welding, everything must be in readiness; the anvil must be clean and nothing in the way, and the hammer laid in a convenient place and in correct position to deliver the blow. The tongs should fit the work tightly and be so held that no changes will be necessary to place the pieces in proper -97- contact. The iron is heated slowly at first until the welding temperature is reached, then it is taken from the fire and the oxide dissolved, usually be dipping the metals in a flux and returned to the fire for an instant.

When the pieces are at the proper heat the smith must work rapidly. The pieces are taken from the fire, given a sharp rap on the edge of the forge or anvil horn to knock off the dirt, placed in position, and hammered rapidly till all parts are stuck together. After the first blow which joins the pieces the thin parts should next be struck to complete the weld, because they lose their heat more rapidly than the thick parts. If the pieces do not stick at the first or second blow do not continue hammering, as it will only get them out of shape. When two pieces are at a proper welding heat they will stick when touched together.



^ 1 Charles City County Orders 1655-1665, 421, 511.

^ 2 "Papers from the Auditor's Office," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, XXVI (1918), 54.

^ 3 York County Deeds, Orders, Wills 12, 1702-1706, 73.

^ 4 York County Orders and Wills 14, 1709-1716, 47, 123, 462.

^ 5 W. W. Hening, ed., Statutes at Large: being a Collection of all the Laws of Virginia…(Richmond, 1820), VII, 112.

^ 6 Virginia Gazette, November 7, 1754.

^ 7 Ibid., August 28, 1746.

^ 8 Ibid., June 6, 1751.

^ 9 Ibid., October 17, 1751.

^ 10 Virginia Gazette (Dixon and Hunter), August 31, 1776.

^ 11 CO 5/1321, ff. 82-84, PRO.

^ 12 King's 206, British Museum.

^ 13 CO 5/1345, ff. 176-177, PRO.

^ 14 Item No. 1614, Jones Family Papers (Library of Congress).

^ 15 Blacksmith's Account Book, Jerdone Papers (William and Mary Library).

^ 16 Lindsay Account Book, Patton Family Papers, 1693-1957 (Virginia Historical Society).

^ 17 Charles W. Dabney Papers, 1744-1940 (University of North Carolina).

^ 18 Hening, Statutes, I, 291.


^ 19 "The Church in Lower Norfolk County," Lower Norfolk County Virginia Antiquary, I (1897), 85.

^ 20 Susie M. Ames, ed., County Court Records of Accomack-Northampton, Virginia, 1632-1640 (Washington, 1954), 40.

^ 21 Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd (Princeton, 1951), IV, 566.

^ 22 James A. Bear, Jr., "Thomas Jefferson - Manufacturer," The Iron Worker, XXV (1964), 2.

^ 23 Philip A. Bruce, Economic History of Virginia in the Seventeenth Century (New York, 1935), II, 418.

^ 24 Michael G. Kammen, "Maryland in 1699: A letter from the Reverend Hugh Jones," The Journal of Southern History, XXIX (1963), 367-368.

^ 25 Hugh Jones, The Present State of Virginia, ed. Richard L. Morton (Chapel Hill, 1956), 58.

^ 26 Robert Rose Diary, 1745-1750, 67 (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.).

^ 27 Ivor Noël Hume, Excavations at Rosewell (Washington, 1962), 223-224.

^ 28 Blacksmith's Account Book, Jerdone Papers (William and Mary Library); James Anderson Ledgers (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.).

^ 29 E. Chambers, Cyclopaedia: or, an Universal Dictionary of Arts and Sciences (London, 1781), III. Joseph Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, 3rd edition (London, 1703), 60.

^ 30 Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, 12-13.

^ 31 Thomas Dobson, Encyclopaedia: or, a Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and Miscellaneous Literature (Philadelphia, 1798), IV, 222.

^ 32 Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, 56.


^ 33 Cyril S. Smith and Anneliese Sisco, "Iron and Steel in 1627: The 'Fidelle Ouverture De L'Art De Serrurier' of Matburin Jousse," Technology and Culture, II (1961), 138.

^ 34 Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, 61-62. For additional information on smithing see: Charles Philip Crowe, Forge-craft (Columbus, Ohio, 1913); Robert H. Harcourt, Elementary Forge Practice (n. p., 1920); Garry Hogg, Hammer & Tongs: Blacksmithery down the Ages (London, 1964); John Jernberg, Forging (Chicago, 1917); William Allyn Richards, Forging of Iron and Steel (New York, 1915); and A. J. Shirley and A. F. Shirley, Handcraft in Metal (Philadelphia, 1953).


Chapter VI

Most tools used in all crafts, smiths' tools included, were imported from England. Governor William Gooch wrote in 1749 that "…all manner of Iron ware, such as Locks, Hinges, Nails, Carpenters, Joyners, and Smiths Tools… " were imported as well as axes, hoes and firearms. [1] James Blair, President of the Council of Virginia, commented in 1768: "We do not make a saw, auger, gimlett, file, or nails, nor steel; and most tools in the Country are imported from Britain." [2]

Most colonial merchants sold tools of all kinds. For example, John Greenhow of Williamsburg, advertised smiths' tools as well as tools for other crafts for sale at his store. [3] Francis Jerdone, a merchant in Louisa County, on the application of two of his neighbors, ordered a set of smiths' tools for a poor blacksmith in his area:

1 pr blacksmiths bellows about £3 price
1 Anvill of about 2-2-0 of Byrds make [280 lbs.]
1 Beck iron with long horns one of them Square, the other round & tapering
1 Straight peen'd sledge hammer about 15 li
1 Cross peen'd Do about 14 li
1 Upright Sledge hammer cross peen'd 9 li
1 flat faced hand hammer 5 li
1 Common hand hammer 5 li
1 pretty large standing vice for coarse work
1 Small hand vice
1 Breeching plate
1 Screw plate pretty large
1 Screw plate for gun locks
6 doz. Smiths files compleatly sorted
1 Ferriers Rasp.

Although it was said that most smiths' tools were imported, few instances of orders made by colonial merchants for smiths' tools have been located. For example, the inventory and invoice books of William Allason include no smiths' tools, and the orders placed by Roger Atkinson with his English suppliers included no such tools. [5] Smiths' tools were expensive in comparison with tools of other crafts: a set of smith's tools cost from about ten to fourteen pounds while a set of shoemaker's tools cost only six to fifteen shillings, and a set of cooper's tools cost around fourteen shillings. About one third of the total value of the personal estate of a Yorktown blacksmith re-presented the value of his tools. [6] The high cost, along with the fact that smiths' tools have a long life may account for the few importations. Another reason may be that many smiths made their own tools. As late as the middle of the nineteenth century, it was the rule rather -103- than the exception for smiths to make their own tongs, anvil tools, and even screw dies and taps. [7] In any case, there is evidence that some smiths' tools were imported, but the lack of substantial importations may indicate that at least some such tools were made in the colony.

Some of the most commonly employed tools of the blacksmiths' trade are described below. Colonial smiths owned tools of most of the types listed, but some are rarely, if ever, found in inventories of colonial black-smith shops.

The Forge. The most important feature of a blacksmith's shop is the forge where the smith builds his fire to heat the iron. He sometimes refers to the forge as the hearth or fire. The forge consists of a square frame, usually made of brick, on which the fire is made. It normally stands about two feet six inches high. Hanging above the fire-bed is a hood or hovel which is designed to carry smoke and fumes to the chimney. A trough of water is usually placed in front of or near the forge in order that the iron can be quickly cooled as well as the smiths' tongs when they are too hot to handle.


A blacksmiths' fire is always small and concentrated. In a fire-pit, perhaps four or five feet square, the actual fire which heats the metal may be no more than a few inches across. Surrounding the fire is unburnt fuel which the smith can rake in towards the center when needed. A slice--a long-handled, light-weight shovel--is used to place the fuel at the point the smith is developing his heat. The slice is also used to pack coals around the outside of the fire in order to prevent the heat from escaping, and "as oft as you find the Fire to break out, clap them close again." [8] A rake, or fire-hook, is used for extracting clinkers and regulating the depth of the fire. The smith uses a bunch of twigs, called a "washer," to flick a spray of water from the trough on the fuel when he wants to decrease the area of intense heat.

The fuel most commonly used by smiths is coal, but charcoal is sometimes used. Charcoal is poorly suited for smithing because it is light-weight and a strong blast will blow it out of the fire.

No great heat can be obtained in an open hearth without a forced draft of air. The draft for a smiths' forge is provided by a set of bellows. The bellows are -105- usually behind the forge with its nose or pipe placed in a tewel or tewel-iron. The tewel, a tapered pipe, is fixed at the back of the forge in a thick iron plate. The purpose of the tewel is to preserve the nose of the bellows and the back of the forge. The lower board of the bellows is fixed and the upper board arranged so that it can be raised. The draft is made by a weight on top of the bellows which causes the upper board to fall.

Highly skilled use of the bellows, as well as the slice, rake, and dowsing twigs, is necessary to obtain the varied heats that the smith requires. Much depends on the actual hot-spot in the hearth--it must not be so large as to disperse the heat and waste fuel, nor so small that it cannot include the whole of the metal to be heated. In addition it must be close enough to the source of draft but not so close as to be scattered by too powerful a blast from the bellows.

A blacksmith must be able to determine when his stock is hot enough. There is a proper degree of heat suitable for each kind of work. If the iron is too cold the hammer will make no impression (or, as smiths say, it will not batter) and if it is too hot it will "red-sear," -106- that is it will break or crack. The operation the smith wishes to perform on a piece of iron determines the degree to which it must be heated. There are degrees of "heats" necessary for blacksmiths to recognize. The first, a blood-red heat, is used when the shape of the iron is not to be altered, but the surface has only to be smoothed. This operation is performed with the hand hammer striking the work with light, flat blows "till it be smooth enough to file."

Secondly, the "flame, or white heat," is used when the iron is not in its required form or shape, but must be battered out or drawn out. The smith performs this operation with the peen of the hammer, "or sometimes, according to the size of [the] work, use two or three pairs of hands with Sledges...." When the iron is almost to its required shape, the smith must then smooth the "Dents the Pen [Peen] made," with the face of the hand hammer. [9]

The third "heat" is called a "Sparkling or Welding Heat" which is used only when the iron is required to be doubled, or two or more pieces are joined end to end, in order to make the piece of the required dimensions. This work necessitates considerable speed and dexterity by the smith. -107- The iron must be quickly hammered soundly together before it loses its "good Heat."

The Anvil. Practically all of the smiths' work is done on the anvil, which is hardly less important than the forge. The anvil may be any block of metal upon which the iron to be shaped is laid. It must be of such a weight that it will absorb the blows that are struck upon it without experiencing any perceptible motion in itself. The common smith's anvil has had the same basic shape since ancient times, and it might weigh up to about three hundred pounds. It is made of wrought iron, and its upper surface, called the face, is flat and smooth, without flaws. The face must be "so hard that a file will not touch it," that is, a file will not cut it. Most anvils in use today are made with a cone-shaped projection at one end commonly called the horn. It also bears numerous other names, such as beak, hick, bickern or pike. Anvils were sometimes made with horns at each end. The horn is used to curve pieces of iron, for shaping rings, links, shackles and other round or curving objects. The anvils shown in drawings in Agricola's De Re Metallica, published in 1556, are without horns. [10] Joseph Moxon in his Mechanick Exercises stated that anvils are -108- sometimes made with horns. During the eighteenth century anvils were available in both styles. In 1756 Francis Jerdone ordered an anvil of about 300 pounds, and he specified that it should have "a round beak on it." Isaac Zane's estate, appraised in 1795, included two anvils, one with and one without a horn. [11]

Between the horn and the face of the anvil is a small square area called the table. The surface of the table is not as hard as that of the face and it is used as a cutting surface. When iron is to be cut with the chisel, the smith places it on the table so when the chisel cuts through the metal it will contact the soft table rather than the hard face which would damage the tool.

Toward the end of the face, just short of the heel of the anvil, there are usually two holes, each having a number of specific purposes. One of these holes, which is round and a little less than an inch in diameter, is the pritchel hole, designed to take the round shank of a variety of tools and for receiving the point of any tool being used to punch holes in hot iron, such as nail holes in horse shoes. The other hole, which is larger than the pritchel hole and square, is called the hardie hole or swage hole. Its purpose is to -109- take the square shanks of various bottom tools--cutting tools, such as the hardie, which make their impact on the underside of the work when the smith strikes it from above. Into the hardie hole can be fitted a small auxiliary anvil known as a beak iron or stake. The black-smith uses the beak iron when he has occasion to forge small, delicately shaped articles for which the main anvil is too cumbersome.

Joseph Moxon, in his Mechanick Exercises, described a beak iron or stake as:

…a small Anvil, which either stands upon a broad Iron Foot, or Basis, on the Work-Bench, to remove as Occasion offers; or else it hath a strong Iron Spike at the Bottom, which Iron Spike is let into some certain Place of the Work-Bench not to be removed. [12]
He added that the stake was used "…to set small cold Work straight upon, or to Cut or Punch with the Cold-Chissel, or Cold-Punch."

During the eighteenth century beak irons seem to have been in more general use than they are today. Most inventories of estates of colonial blacksmiths include beak irons, but they are seldom mentioned in modern books on smithing nor in modern tool catalogues, except those -110- designed for such as jewelers' work. [13] There also seems to have been some misunderstanding of terminology in the eighteenth century concerning beak irons. For example, William Nelson ordered an anvil and he remarked "or Bick Iron, as you call it." [14] In 1758 Francis Jerdone ordered a beak iron, and he specified that it be made "with long horns: one of the horns Square, the other round and tapering."

Tongs. For each of the many jobs performed by a blacksmith, he needed a particular pair of tongs. A black-smith, therefore, would include among his tools several pair of tongs. For example, John Brush, a Williamsburg gunsmith, owned "7 pair of Smiths Tongs." [15] Eight pair of tongs were included among Isaac Zane's blacksmith tools. [16] Blacksmiths usually made their own tongs--each pair for a particular job. This may explain why Francis Jerdone included no tongs when he ordered a complete set of tools for a local blacksmith in 1758. As late as 1917, one writer on smithing commented that "few...of the various shapes of tongs found in shops are manufactured and for sale, since the blacksmith dresses his own tongs and adapts them to the work he has in hand." [17]


Tongs most commonly employed by blacksmiths are the straight nosed and crooked nosed. Straight nosed tongs are used when the smith works with small, flat pieces of iron or plate iron. The crooked nosed are used for forging bars and thick objects. Pick-up tongs are also generally found in smith shops. They are used to pick up hot pieces of iron and tools. Most colonial smiths owned at least three pairs of tongs. Even though the type is seldom specified in inventories, the tongs were probably similar to those mentioned above.

Hammers and Sledges. Moxon mentioned two kinds of hammers used by blacksmiths. The first, called the hand hammer should be "of such weight, that it may be wielded or governed, with one hand...." The second called a riveting hammer, is small and "rarely used at the Forge," except on small work. Moxon describes its use for riveting, "setting straight, or crooking small work." In 1759 Francis Jerdone ordered a set of blacksmith tools, and he included "1 flat faced hand hammer" and "1 Common hand hammer" each to weigh five pounds. Other hammers used by smiths are the straight peen and cross peen hammers. The ball peen hammer, widely employed today, seems not to have been in common use among -112- colonial smiths.

Sledges, large hammers wielded by the smith's helper, are of several types. The sledge hammer is used when heavy blows are needed either directly on the work or on some tool as a swage, fuller, or flatter. The "up-hand" sledge is used to batter or draw out iron and is held with both hands and is seldom lifted higher than the head. The "about" sledge, the biggest hammer used by the smiths, is primarily for battering or drawing out the largest work. It is held with both hands near the end of the handle and is lifted above the head or "is slung entirely round...." Jerdone included three sledges in his order for tools: "1 straight peen'd sledge hammer about 15 li," "1 Cross peen'd Do about 14 li," and "1 Upright Sledge hammer cross peen'd 9 li."

Drills and Drill Bows. The drill bit used by colonial smiths was similar to the modern drill bit. The method of turning the drill, however, was quite different. The drill, used in boring holes that could not be punched or which required more accuracy than could be obtained by punching, consisted of a cutting point, a shank, and a barrel.


The method of turning the drill was with a drill bow and string. The string was coiled around the barrel of the drill, and the smith moved the bow back and forth which caused the drill to make several revolutions with each motion. A drill-plate was sometimes used for heavier work which required more pressure on the drill. This was merely a piece of flat iron fixed to the top of the drill and attached to a weight.

In addition to the basic tools already described, a blacksmith shop would include numerous other tools. These are listed below with a brief description of each.

Vice. Smiths' vices are of two types, the large standing vice and the hand vice. The standing vice is used to hold iron for bending, riveting, filing, or polishing. Hand-vices are of two kinds. The "broad-chapt" and "square nosed." The "broad-chapt" hand vice is used to hold small work. The "square nosed" is seldom used "but for filing small globulous Work, as the Heads of pins that round off towards the edges...." Jerdone's order included "1 pretty large standing vice for coarse work," and "1 small hand vice."


Swages and Swage Blocks. Swages are used for a wide variety of purposes, but mainly for finishing round material. Swage blocks are made to take the place of numerous swages and special tools. They are made in various shapes and sizes. These tools do not seem to have been widely used by colonial blacksmiths.

Chisels. Smiths' chisels are of two basic types, one made thin and sharp for cutting hot metal and the other, made somewhat heavier, for cutting cold metal.

Punches. These are used for making holes and are made in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. Isaac Zane's smith shop included twenty punches.

Files. Smiths' files, made in many shapes and sizes such as round, flat, rat-tail, etc., are so well known that no description of them is necessary.

Plyers. Smiths' plyers are of two kinds, flat nosed and round nosed. Flat nosed plyers are used for holding small work and the round nosed are for bending or turning wire or small plates.

Screw Plates. These tools are used to cut screw threads on round stock such as pipes or rods. Screw plates are usually equipped with a set of matching taps for cutting -115- threads on the inside of hollow stock such as pipes.

The Flatter. As the name implies, the flatter is used to finish flat surfaces, just as swages are used to finish round surfaces. The anvil takes the place of the bottom swage as a bottom flatter. Its use and that of the set hammer are nearly the same.

The Set Hammer. The set hammer is used to set down square shoulders on work similarly to the way the fuller is used for rounded corners. It is also used to forge pieces that cannot be reached with the hand hammer, and often in place of a flatter.

The Fuller. Fullers are used to change the direction of iron fibers(without cutting) where it is to be reduced in section, or to widen stock. The fuller is used for both shouldering and spreading.

Heading Tool. Heading tools are of two types, the hand heading tool and the floor heading tool. They are used to shape and finish heads of bolts and similar articles, or collars on shafts.

Hardie. A hardie is nothing more than a bottom cutting tool. It fits into the hardie hole of the anvil and is used for cutting off stock, either alone or with hot or cold cutters.


Mandrel. A conical hollow casting, the mandrel is used chiefly in making rings. They are made in many sizes.

There are also other blacksmith tools designed for special work that smiths often performed. Nailors tools were probably included in most colonial smithies. Isaac Zane owned "17 Nailors tools great & small" and "2 nailors Anvills." Farriers tools would also be found in many black-smith shops.



^ 1 CO 5/1327, f. 80, PRO.

^ 2 King's 206, British Museum.

^ 3 Virginia Gazette (Purdie and Dixon), April 11, 1766, September 8, 1768, April 11, 1771.

^ 4 Jerdone Letter Book, 1756-1763, Jerdone Papers (William and Mary Library).

^ 5 Invoice and Inventory Book, 1761-1764, Allason Papers (Virginia State Library); Robert Atkinson Account Book, 1762-1802 (Alderman Library, University of Virginia).

^ 6 York County Wills and Inventories 20, 1746-1759, 253.

^ 7 Charles Singer, et al, eds., A History of Technology (Oxford, 1957), III, 113.

^ 8 Joseph Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, 3 rd edition (London, 1703), 7.

^ 9 Ibid., 1-2.

^ 10 G. Agricola, De Re Metallica, translated and edited by H. C. and L. H. Hoover (New York, 1950), passim.

^ 11 Jerdone Letter Book, 1756-1763; Isaac Zane Papers (Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

^ 12 Moxon, Mechanick Exercises, 22.

^ 13 Patterson Brothers, Catalogue of Hardware and Metals (New York, 1884), 292.

^ 14 Nelson Letter Book, 1766-1775 (Virginia State Library).

^ 15 York County Orders and Wills 16, 1720-1729, 438.

^ 16 Zane Papers.


^ 17 John Jernberg, Forging (Chicago, 1917), 12. For additional information on blacksmiths' tools see: Charles Philip Crowe, Forgecraft (Columbus, Ohio, 1913); Robert H. Harcourt, Elementary Forge Practice (n. p., 1920); Garry Hogg, Hammer & Tongs: Blacksmithery down the Ages (London, 1964); William Allyn Richards, Forging of Iron and Steel (New York, 1915); and A. J. Shirley and A. F. Shirley, Handcraft in Metal (Philadelphia, 1953).



The following accounts from James Anderson's ledgers show the variety of blacksmith's work he performed for citizens and institutions in Williamsburg. The prices he charged in these accounts are inflated because of war-time conditions and should not, therefore, be considered the regular rates. The charges contained in the accounts from Ledger C are probably more typical since these accounts begin about six years after the Revolution and prices were probably more stabilized by that time.

William Norvell Dr
Decem 3d Laying a broad Ax 30/ strengthening the Eye of do 6/ 1.16..0
22d To 2 Axes 10 3/4 lb C 7/ Janry 17th laying a Plough 22/6 pointg do 12/ 5..9..9
Febry 7th laying 2 large Harrow hoes 18 lb @ 18/ 16..4..0
May 19th laying 2 large Harrow hoes 18 lb @ 18/ 16..4..0
laying a narrow Ax 24/ laying a large Harrow hoe 30/ 2.14..0
25th laying large Harrowhoe 7 lb £6..6..0 6..6..0
Novem 1st mendg a Shovel 25/ mendg a Poker 12/6 1.17..6
4th nut for bolt of Chair 15/7 ½ 15..7 ½
Decemr 18 To dressing 2 pecks 1/ and mending a lock p Mill 2/ 0..4..0
Feb 3 To laying a broad ax 5/ laying a narrow do 3/9 0..8..9
Ring and staple for hames 0..2..6
14 Laying 2 large harrow hoes 21 ½ lb @ 1/ 1..1..6
28 4 hilling hoes 27 lb 27/ new grubbing do 5/ 1.12..0
laying a grubbing hoe 0..3..9
March 11 laying 2 harrow hoes 12 ½ lb @ 1/ 0.12..6
April 27 a staple for shaft of a chair 0..1..3
March 2 laing 3 harrow hoes @ 10/ 1.10..01
April 20 laing two harrow hoes @ 10 1..0..0 [1]
John Tazwell Esqr Dr
Decemr 28th To altering 40 window Hooks @ 2/ 4..0..0
Febry 7th 2 narrow Axes 10 lb @ 7/ 1 broad do 3 1/2 lb @ 10/ 5..5..0
March 3d 1 broad Hoes 60/ 20th hasp & staple for Henhouse 12/ 3.12..0
20th square staple for Doorlock 6/3
April 16th Alterg pr Andirons 12/ 0.18..3
April 28th handle for Scythe 12/6 2 wedges & ring for do 12/6 1..5..0
May 25th new end to Oyster clamp 15/ 0.15..0
June 24th mendg handle for Teakittle 18/ July 2d mendg a Scythe 42/ 3..0..0
July 3d 2 staples & 2 irons for pole of a Gate 4.10..0
12th 1 Iron pin & Chain 12/ 15th new hilling hoe 80/ 4.12..0
lengthning chain for Bucket 10/
27th Garden rake &c 100/ 5.10..0
Sept 1st 1 strike Tier 4 ½ lb @ 18/ 24 Nailes for do @ 4/ 8.17..0
linchpin & hook 18/ mendg a staple 6/ 1..4..0
mendg a pr Oyster Clamps 24/ 1 pole pin Chariot 12/ 1.16..0
1 pr Oyster Clamps 120/ 6..0..0 [2]
Benjamin Powell Dr
Janry 24th To shoeing a Horse 15/ Febry 7th pointg a sett Harrowhoes 45/ 3..0..0
Febry 13th a spindle for a Wheel 7/6 7..6
March 5th To spreading 4 Hoes @ 8/. 17th prong for a Dungfork 15/ 2..7..0
22nd laying 2 large Chissels 18/. April 11th spreading a Hoe 8/ 1..6..0
April 24th 2 teeth for a Rake 12/. May 10th pointg a Harrowhoe 30/ 2..2..0
June 1st laying 2 large Harrowhoes 14 ½ lb @ 18/ 13..1..0
9th laying large Flukehoe 10 lb @ 18/. 13th laying broad Ax 60/ 12..0..0
15th a spindle for Wheel 15/. 24th pointg Harrowhoe 36/ 2.11..0
July 3rd pointg Harrowhoe 36/. 13th pointg Harrowhoe 36/ 3.12..0
15th new handle for a Skillet 60/ 3..0..0
Octor 10th handle & bolt for Mill 7 ½ lb @ 20/ 13th screw & nob for Mill 42/ 9.12..0
13th lengthg bares for 4 Andirons 20 ½ lb @ 20/ 20.10..0
putg hoop on a Barrel 12/ .12..0
Novem 1st mendg Coffee Mill 50/ 2.10..0 [3]
William Russell Dr
May 25 To putg ears to 2 Oyster clamps 30/
June 1st putg ears to Oyster Clamps 24/ 2.14..0
June 14th 1 pr Briching Chains 70/
18th 3 Tier Nailes for Faeton 18/ 4..8..0
July 12th 6 Tier nailes for Waggon 36/
27th mendg a Scyth 24/ 3..0..0
Augt 12th 2 Axes 10 lb @ 24/
2 Staples & hooks for Swingletree of a plough 50/ 14.10..0
17th 9 fronts for Gridiron 60/
1 rib for do 18/ 5..4..0
24th pointg a Plough 36/
repairg wing of do 18/
repairg the coulter 6/
mendg Hames 12/ 1.16..0
Sept 1st new hook for Coulter 18/
22nd mendg a trace 12/ 1.10..0
Novem 1st hooping a half Bushel 40/ 2..0..0 [4]
James McClurg Dr
Janry 19th To 8 shoes for 2 Horses 60/. April 10th 2 shoes for a Horse 24/ 4..4..0
June 15th 4 shoes for 2 Horses 90/. July 12th new eye for broad Hoe 30/ 6..0..0
July 15th 8 shoes for 2 Horses £9. Septr 15th shoeing a Horse 50/ 11.10..0
Septr 15th 1 Hinge & 4 Hooks 12 ½ lb @ 20/ 32 Dognailes for do @ 2/ 15.14..0
22nd 4 Clamppins for Cart @ 5/ Grate &c 80 lb @ 20/ 81..0..0
Octor 5th 2 half staples 40/. 18th 2 pr Hinges 35 lb @ 20/ 37..0..0
40 Nailes @ 2/ 4..0..0
Novr 23 2 Shoes for a horse 60/. Decr 18 2 horseshoes
By Cash in full of the above [5]
Col. James Innis Dr
August 20th To 2 pr large pothooks 7 ½ lb @ 18/ 1 pot Rack 13 ½ lb @ 18/ 18.18..0
24th 50 spikes 108/ 1 pr Flatirons 10 lb @ 20/ 15..8..0
Septr 1st 40 feet chain for well 45 lb Iron Nett 24 ½ lb @ 18/ 22..1..0
small gardenhoe 24/. 15th 1 grate 75 lb @ 18/ 68.14..0
1 large Rake 120/. 26th 1 Broad Hoe £7.10 13.10..0
Novemr 1st a new Spade £8 8..0..0 [6]
The Lunatic Hospital
August 25 To taken down and putting up the Conductor 0.10..0
To altering Do 2/6 0..2..6
By 69 cwt of old Iron @
31 To a new boe for a door lock key 0..1..3
To Mending a lock 1/8 Do a key 1/3 0..2..6
Sepr 1 To four Stays for Windows @ 2/6 0.10..0
To Eighteen Dogg Nails for Do @ 1 d 0..1..6
2 To four Stays for two Windows @ 2/6 0.10..0
To twenty Dogg Nails for Do @ 1 d 0..1..8
To Mending a Bar and putting on Do 0..1.10 ½
8 To Mending a door lock key 0..1..3
9 To putting a boe to one Do 1/3 Mending one Do 1/3 0..2..6
October 29 To Mending a legg Iron 1/6 Repairg a Screw 7 ½ d 0..2..1 ½
To 3 Screw'd locks @ 3/ 0..9..0
Novembr 4 To a Spring for a lock pr Door 0..1..3
17 To lengthing a half Staple 7 ½ d large Round Do 9 d 0..1..4 ½
January 29 To a large Round Staple 0..0..9
March 13 To Repairg a Rake 0..2..6
15 To Six teeth for a Rake 0..1..6
April 28 To mending a key for a lock 0..1..3
May 21 To three large Spikes @ 3 d 0..0..9
22 To putting a boe to a key 0..1..6
July 24 To a leg Iron & Chain 2/6 A Staple 7 ½ 0..3..1 ½
To putting Irons on a Man 0..1..3
26 To two Stays for windows @ 3/ 0..6..0
To eight Nails 8d Repairing a Screw'd lock 1/3 0..1.11
To a key for a door lock 0..2..6
29 To Six knees for Windows @ 2/6 - 15/ twenty four Nails 2/ 0.17..0
August 2 To Six knees for Do @ 2/6 15/ twenty four Nails 2/ 0.17..0
4 To a Side for a leg Iron 1/6 One foot of Chain & a Swivle 2/6 0..4..0
To putting them on 0..1..3
5 To a hook and two Staples for a door 0..1..0
11 To a pair of large kitchen tongs 0.12..6
12 To Repairg a leg Iron 1/6 Do a Chain 1/3 0..2..9
23 To putting a handle in a flat Iron 0..1..6
September 17 To putting a bit to a key for a lock 0..1..6
November 3 To mending a lock 1/3 A Staple 7 ½ d 0..1.10 ½
23 To four Rivets for a lock 0..1..3
January 31 To a Spring for a lock 0..1..3
March 3 To mending a pair of large hinges for a door 0..3..9
To ten large Spikes @ 2d 0..1..8 [7]
Robert Greenhow Dr
Sepr 2 To laing two Axes @ 5/ 0.10..0
8 To mending a key 7 ½ d 0..0..7 ½
October 8 To lengthing a bairer & a New Middle foot pr Andiron 0..4..9
10 To pointing two large hooks for Doors 0..0..6
Novr 17 To putting a bit to a press key 0..1..3
February 25 To a handle for a brass Skillet 0..3..9
March 27 To a Sett of Iron Work for a dressing table 0.15..0
June 4 To Shoeing a horse Round pr brother Samuel 0..6..0
8 To putting an eye to a broad hoe 0..1..3
12 To Shoeing a horse Round pr Brother Samuel 0..6..0
28 To mending a Scythe 0..1..6
November 1 To two palm Staples & nails for a Cart 0..2..6
23 To laing an Ax 5/ 0..5..0
December 15 To Repairing the blade of an Ax 1/3 A poll Do 1/3 0..2..6
January 3 To lengthing one Strike of tier for Cart Wheel 3/ One Nail 2d 0..3..2
11 To laing a plough 5/ Do a Colter7/3 0..6..3
14 To four brest plate buckles 3/ four trace eyes 2/8 0..5..8
To eight Deas @ 3 d 2/ two brest Do @ 6 d 1/ 0..3..0
23 To Mending the eye of an Ax 0..1..3
February 1 To laing a large broad Ax 0..7..6
5 To laing a Culter for a plough 0..1..6
10 To putting a heel to a Colter 0..1..3
March 3 To Repairing and Altering a Wedge 0..1..3
5 To two buckles for pole peices for a faton 0..1..4
August 18 To drilling gun 2/6 mending the pan 1/3 0..3..9
To a side pin 9 d a Cupe for ramrod 1/3 0..2..0
To Mending an Umbrella 0..2..0 [8]
The Rev. James Madison Dr
Septembr 20 To two Removes for a horse 0..1..6
October 20 To putting a foot to a Andiron 0..1..6
December 3 To laing an Ax 5/ 0..5..0
January 7 To triming a horse 7 ½ 0..0..7 ½
11 To mending a Spade 2/6 Do a Chariot Spring 10/ 0.12..6
20 To Repairing a Andiron for a kitchen 0..3..9
February 27 To pointing a Chip plough &c 0..3..0
To laing Wing of Do 2/ laing a Colter 2/6 0..4..6
April 15 To triming a horse feet 0..0..7 ½
27 To Shoeing a horse Round 0..6..0
May 12 To pointing and laing a Chip plough 0..5..0
June 19 To triming a horse 0..0..7 ½
August 12 To mending a Scythe 0..2..6
October 12 To lengthing a pair of tuggs for hames 0..3..0
To two Staples for a Cart 1/3 mendg backband 1/3 0..2..6
To mending a pair of traces 0..1..3
December 22 To mending an Ax &c 0..2..6
January 1 To Mending a Cart tier 1/3 Seven tier Nails ½ 0..2..5
17 To four hooks and thimbles for Rope traces @ 7 ½ 0..5..0 [9]
The Jail
February 16 To Repairing a lock 0..2..6
March 25 To a pair of legg Irons & five feet of large Chain 0.15..6
To putting on a pair of legg Irons 1/3 two Rivets 6 d 0..1..9
27 To altering a lock 1/3 Repairing one Do 2/6 0..3..9
To mending a key 1/3 0..1..3
April 14 To a bar for a Door 9 3/4 lb @ 10 d 0..8..1 ½
To a large Round Staple 1/3 harsp & two Staples 2/6 0..3..9 29
To taken of two pair of legg Irons & putting on do 0..5..0
May 9 To taken of & putting on two pair legg Irons 0..5..0
14 To a pair of hand Cuffs 6/3 Ironing two men 2/6 0..8..9
27 To Ironing two men 0..2..6
July 2 To Repairing a Door &c 0..5..0
August 17 To taken of a pair of leg Irons 0..1..3
28 To taken of a pair of leg Irons 0..1..3
Septembr 20 To a harsp and two Staples &c 0..3..9
30 To taken of two pair of Irons 2/6 putting on Do 2/6 0..5..0
October 2 To mending a Chain for a leg Iron 0..1.10 ½
To lengthing Do 1/6 taken of & putting two pr leg Irons 5/ 0..6..6
6 To Repairing a large Iron door lock 10 Do two Do 15/ 1..5..0
To Six pins @ 9 d 4/6 two Irons pr Do 8 ½ lb @ 10 d 7/1 0.11..7
To four large Spikes @ 3 d 1/ two pair of large hand Cuffs 12/ 0.13..0
8 To taken off and putting on two pair of leg Irons 0..5..0
19 To taken of a pair of leg Irons 1/3 Mending a pr do 1/3 0..2..6
To putting on a pair of Do 1/3 hand Cuffing one do 1/3 0..2..6
30 To taken of a pair of leg Irons 1/3 Do handcuffs 1/3 0..2..6
November 13 To taken of a pair of leg Irons 0..1..3
January 25 To a pair of large hand Cuffs 0..6..0 [10]


^ 1 James Anderson, Ledger B, 1778-1785, 2 (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.).

^ 2 Ibid., 7.

^ 3 Ibid., 13.

^ 4 Ibid., 33.

^ 5 Ibid., 40.

^ 6 Ibid., 48.

^ 7 James Anderson, Ledger C, 1789-1799, 5 (Colonial Williamsburg, Inc.).

^ 8 Ibid., 15.

^ 9 Ibid., 21.

^ 10 Ibid., 41.




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