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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/475

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459
AMERICAN INDUSTRIES SINCE COLUMBUS.

regarded as the commencement of the use of raw bituminous coal as a blast-furnace fuel in the United States.

Coke is the fuel by which over one half of the pig iron made in America at the present time is smelted.[1] The first public mention of coke as a possible substitute for charcoal in American blast-furnaces is contained in an advertisement which appeared in the Pittsburg Mercury of May 27, 1813. This is quoted by Weeks,[2] as follows, viz.:

 

"To Proprietors of Blast-furnaces:
"John Beal, lately from England, being informed that all the blast-furnaces are in the habit of melting iron-ore with charcoal, and knowing the great disadvantage it is to proprietors, is induced to offer his services to instruct them in the method of converting stone coal into coak. The advantage of using coak will be so great that it can not fail to become general if put to practice. He flatters himself that he has had all the experience that is necessary in the above branch to give satisfaction to those who feel inclined to alter their mode of melting their ore.

"John Beal, Iron Founder.

"N. B.—A line directed to the subscriber, post-paid, will be duly attended to."

 

There is no evidence that Mr. Beal was ever called upon to "instruct" the Pittsburg iron-masters of seventy-seven years ago in the art and mystery of making "coak" but doubtless his advertisement may have stimulated inquiring minds; for, four years after its appearance, we find that Colonel Isaac Meason used coke in the "refinery" of his mill at Plumsock, Fayette County, Pa. This mill went into operation in September, 1817, and it was the first mill west of the Alleghany Mountains in which iron was puddled and rolled into bars. Weeks, speaking of the use of coke in this mill, says, "This is the first definite statement that I have been able to find of the use of coke in this country." A short time after this first use of coke in America there were several attempts to employ it in a blast-furnace, but there is no record of any success in this direction until the building of the Lonaconing furnace, Alleghany County, Md., in 1837. This fur-


  1. This fact is a good illustration of the realization of great value from a material that was at first regarded with disfavor. Overman, writing in 1849 (The Manufacture of Iron, p. 179), says: "As we have previously remarked, there is but little prospect of seeing coke furnaces in successful operation in the United States. Nearly every State in the Union has good raw coal in sufficient quantity, as well as of proper quality, to supply its furnaces."
  2. Report on the Manufacture of Coke. By Joseph D. Weeks, Special Agent. New York: David Williams, 1385.