Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Hot Time in a Small Town

Not many people check out the Cornwall Iron Furnace this time of year, but since my great-grandfather John Johnston was an iron mine supervisor in Cornwall I found myself on a private family tour of the Gothic revival structure.

Of course, the casting of iron was a skilled trade for many centuries, as was the making of charcoal in the woods surrounding the foundry. I also discovered that the pieces of popular iron stoves, often inscribed in words written in the German of the region's residents and decorated with appropriate ethnic style, were made in Corwall, although they often were marked with the elaborate designs that characterized the intellectual property of other manufacturers, in an early version of what is now known as OEM.

I found out that YouTube carries an impressive number of DIY videos about iron smelting and forging as well, and that people have posted footage even about making steel in your backyard.

Update: As though the intellectual property history of these stove plates wasn't complicated enough, I learned that they also served as inspiration for famed artisanal tile-maker Henry Mercer of the Moravian Tile Works during a tour of his eclectic mansion at Fonthill. Mercer often appropriated images of figures and architectural elements from the 18th century iron pieces for his anti-industrial products.

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