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BLACKSMITHING. In colonial times, the blacksmith was an important part of the community. In 1607 the first colony at Jamestown brought over a blacksmith.

In 1810 Pennsylvania reported 2,562 blacksmith shops doing $1,572,627 worth of work. In 1850 the United States had 100,000 blacksmiths and whitesmiths, in addition to gunsmiths and machinists.

The basic equipment of the blacksmith shop was forge and bellows, anvil and slack tup, hammer and tongs, swage and cutter, chisel and punch, and file and drill. The blacksmith not only made shoes for horses and oxen and applied them but also made such hardware as latches, hinges, and irons, farm tools, nails, hammers, axes, chisels, and carving tools. In horse-drawn society he was the mainstay of transportation. He welded and fitted wagon tires and hub rings and made and fitted all metal parts of wagons, carriages, and sleighs. Moreover, he was the single source of decorative ironwork for fine houses. Most skilled of all blacksmiths were those who shaped iron to the precise and intricate needs of ships. Warships and whaling vessels usually carried their own blacksmiths to repair fittings and guns at sea and to make grappling hooks and harpoons.

In the latter part of the twentieth century, blacksmiths had all but disappeared from the American scene. A few dressed picks and mattocks, air drills, stone chisels, and various knives used in industry. Others, known as farriers, worked in rural areas caring for racing and riding horses, though these were more in demand for their veterinary practices than for their knowledge of ironworking.


Bayly, E. Marks. "Skilled Blacks in Antebellum St. Mary's County, Maryland." Journal of Southern History 53 (1987): 537–564.

Bezis-Selfa, John. "A Tale of Two Ironworks: Slavery, Free Labor, Work, and Resistance in the Early Republic." William and Mary Quarterly 56 (1999): 677–700.

Daniels, Christine. "Wanted: A Blacksmith Who Understands Plantation Work: Artisans in Maryland, 1700–1810." William and Mary Quarterly 50 (1993): 743–767.

HerbertManchester/a. e.

See alsoHardware Trade ; Industries, Colonial ; Iron and Steel Industry ; Metalwork ; Wagon Manufacture .