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   Chapter 1 IRON AND CIVILIZATION.

Industrial Biography: Iron Workers and Tool Makers By Samuel Smiles Characters: 54843

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Iron is not only the soul of every other manufacture, but the main spring perhaps of civilized society."-FRANCIS HORNER.

"Were the use of iron lost among us, we should in a few ages be unavoidably reduced to the wants and ignorance of the ancient savage Americans; so that he who first made known the use of that contemptible mineral may be truly styled the father of Arts and the author of Plenty."-JOHN LOCKE.

When Captain Cook and the early navigators first sailed into the South Seas on their voyages of discovery, one of the things that struck them with most surprise was the avidity which the natives displayed for iron. "Nothing would go down with our visitors," says Cook, "but metal; and iron was their beloved article." A nail would buy a good-sized pig; and on one occasion the navigator bought some four hundred pounds weight of fish for a few wretched knives improvised out of an old hoop.

"For iron tools," says Captain Carteret, "we might have purchased everything upon the Freewill Islands that we could have brought away. A few pieces of old iron hoop presented to one of the natives threw him into an ecstasy little short of distraction." At Otaheite the people were found generally well-behaved and honest; but they were not proof against the fascinations of iron. Captain Cook says that one of them, after resisting all other temptations, "was at length ensnared by the charms of basket of nails." Another lurked about for several days, watching the opportunity to steal a coal-rake.

The navigators found they could pay their way from island to island merely with scraps of iron, which were as useful for the purpose as gold coins would have been in Europe. The drain, however, being continuous, Captain Cook became alarmed at finding his currency almost exhausted; and he relates his joy on recovering an old anchor which the French Captain Bougainville had lost at Bolabola, on which he felt as an English banker would do after a severe run upon him for gold, when suddenly placed in possession of a fresh store of bullion.

The avidity for iron displayed by these poor islanders will not be wondered at when we consider that whoever among them was so fortunate as to obtain possession of an old nail, immediately became a man of greater power than his fellows, and assumed the rank of a capitalist. "An Otaheitan chief," says Cook, "who had got two nails in his possession, received no small emolument by letting out the use of them to his neighbours for the purpose of boring holes when their own methods failed, or were thought too tedious."

The native methods referred to by Cook were of a very clumsy sort; the principal tools of the Otaheitans being of wood, stone, and flint. Their adzes and axes were of stone. The gouge most commonly used by them was made out of the bone of the human forearm. Their substitute for a knife was a shell, or a bit of flint or jasper. A shark's tooth, fixed to a piece of wood, served for an auger; a piece of coral for a file; and the skin of a sting-ray for a polisher. Their saw was made of jagged fishes' teeth fixed on the convex edge of a piece of hard wood. Their weapons were of a similarly rude description; their clubs and axes were headed with stone, and their lances and arrows were tipped with flint. Fire was another agency employed by them, usually in boat-building. Thus, the New Zealanders, whose tools were also of stone, wood, or bone, made their boats of the trunks of trees hollowed out by fire.

The stone implements were fashioned, Captain Cook says, by rubbing one stone upon another until brought to the required shape; but, after all, they were found very inefficient for their purpose. They soon became blunted and useless; and the laborious process of making new tools had to be begun again. The delight of the islanders at being put in possession of a material which was capable of taking a comparatively sharp edge and keeping it, may therefore readily be imagined; and hence the remarkable incidents to which we have referred in the experience of the early voyagers. In the minds of the natives, iron became the representative of power, efficiency, and wealth; and they were ready almost to fall down and worship their new tools, esteeming the axe as a deity, offering sacrifices to the saw, and holding the knife in especial veneration.

In the infancy of all nations the same difficulties must have been experienced for want of tools, before the arts of smelting and working in metals had become known; and it is not improbable that the Phoenician navigators who first frequented our coasts found the same avidity for bronze and iron existing among the poor woad-stained Britons who flocked down to the shore to see their ships and exchange food and skins with them, that Captain Cook discovered more than two thousand years later among the natives of Otaheite and New Zealand. For, the tools and weapons found in ancient burying-places in all parts of Britain clearly show that these islands also have passed through the epoch of stone and flint.

There was recently exhibited at the Crystal Palace a collection of ancient European weapons and implements placed alongside a similar collection of articles brought from the South Seas; and they were in most respects so much alike that it was difficult to believe that they did not belong to the same race and period, instead of being the implements of races sundered by half the globe, and living at periods more than two thousand years apart. Nearly every weapon in the one collection had its counterpart in the other,-the mauls or celts of stone, the spearheads of flint or jasper, the arrowheads of flint or bone, and the saws of jagged stone, showing how human ingenuity, under like circumstances, had resorted to like expedients. It would also appear that the ancient tribes in these islands, like the New Zealanders, used fire to hollow out their larger boats; several specimens of this kind of vessel having recently been dug up in the valleys of the Witham and the Clyde, some of the latter from under the very streets of modern Glasgow.[1] Their smaller boats, or coracles, were made of osiers interwoven, covered with hides, and rigged with leathern sails and thong tackle.

It will readily be imagined that anything like civilization, as at present understood, must have been next to impossible under such circumstances. "Miserable indeed," says Carlyle, "was the condition of the aboriginal savage, glaring fiercely from under his fleece of hair, which with the beard reached down to his loins, and hung round them like a matted cloak; the rest of his body sheeted in its thick natural fell. He loitered in the sunny glades of the forest, living on wild fruits; or, as the ancient Caledonians, squatted himself in morasses, lurking for his bestial or human prey; without implements, without arms, save the ball of heavy flint, to which, that his sole possession and defence might not be lost, he had attached a long cord of plaited thongs; thereby recovering as well as hurling it with deadly, unerring skill."

The injunction given to man to "replenish the earth and subdue it" could not possibly be fulfilled with implements of stone. To fell a tree with a flint hatchet would occupy the labour of a month, and to clear a small patch of ground for purposes of culture would require the combined efforts of a tribe. For the same reason, dwellings could not be erected; and without dwellings domestic tranquillity, security, culture, and refinement, especially in a rude climate, were all but impossible. Mr. Emerson well observes, that "the effect of a house is immense on human tranquillity, power, and refinement. A man in a cave or a camp-a nomad-dies with no more estate than the wolf or the horse leaves. But so simple a labour as a house being achieved, his chief enemies are kept at bay. He is safe from the teeth of wild animals, from frost, sunstroke, and weather; and fine faculties begin to yield their fine harvest. Inventions and arts are born, manners, and social beauty and delight." But to build a house which should serve for shelter, for safety, and for comfort-in a word, as a home for the family, which is the nucleus of society-better tools than those of stone were absolutely indispensable.

Hence most of the early European tribes were nomadic: first hunters, wandering about from place to place like the American Indians, after the game; then shepherds, following the herds of animals which they had learnt to tame, from one grazing-ground to another, living upon their milk and flesh, and clothing themselves in their skins held together by leathern thongs. It was only when implements of metal had been invented that it was possible to practise the art of agriculture with any considerable success. Then tribes would cease from their wanderings, and begin to form settlements, homesteads, villages, and towns. An old Scandinavian legend thus curiously illustrates this last period:-There was a giantess whose daughter one day saw a husbandman ploughing in the field. She ran and picked him up with her finger and thumb, put him and his plough and oxen into her apron, and carried them to her mother, saying, "Mother, what sort of beetle is this that I have found wriggling in the sand?" But the mother said, "Put it away, my child; we must begone out of this land, for these people will dwell in it."

M. Worsaae of Copenhagen, who has been followed by other antiquaries, has even gone so far as to divide the natural history of civilization into three epochs, according to the character of the tools used in each. The first was the Stone period, in which the implements chiefly used were sticks, bones, stones, and flints. The next was the Bronze period, distinguished by the introduction and general use of a metal composed of copper and tin, requiring a comparatively low degree of temperature to smelt it, and render it capable of being fashioned into weapons, tools, and implements; to make which, however, indicated a great advance in experience, sagacity, and skill in the manipulation of metals. With tools of bronze, to which considerable hardness could be given, trees were felled, stones hewn, houses and ships built, and agriculture practised with comparative facility. Last of all came the Iron period, when the art of smelting and working that most difficult but widely diffused of the minerals was discovered; from which point the progress made in all the arts of life has been of the most remarkable character.

Although Mr. Wright rejects this classification as empirical, because the periods are not capable of being clearly defined, and all the three kinds of implements are found to have been in use at or about the same time,[2] there is, nevertheless, reason to believe that it is, on the whole, well founded. It is doubtless true that implements of stone continued in use long after those of bronze and iron had been invented, arising most probably from the dearness and scarcity of articles of metal; but when the art of smelting and working in iron and steel had sufficiently advanced, the use of stone, and afterwards of bronze tools and weapons, altogether ceased.

The views of M. Worsaae, and the other Continental antiquarians who follow his classification, have indeed received remarkable confirmation of late years, by the discoveries which have been made in the beds of most of the Swiss lakes.[3] It appears that a subsidence took place in the waters of the Lake of Zurich in the year 1854, laying bare considerable portions of its bed. The adjoining proprietors proceeded to enclose the new land, and began by erecting permanent dykes to prevent the return of the waters. While carrying on the works, several rows of stakes were exposed; and on digging down, the labourers turned up a number of pieces of charred wood, stones blackened by fire, utensils, bones, and other articles, showing that at some remote period, a number of human beings had lived over the spot, in dwellings supported by stakes driven into the bed of the lake.

The discovery having attracted attention, explorations were made at other places, and it was shortly found that there was scarcely a lake in Switzerland which did not yield similar evidence of the existence of an ancient Lacustrine or Lake-dwelling population. Numbers of their tools and implements were brought to light-stone axes and saws, flint arrowheads, bone needles, and such like-mixed with the bones of wild animals slain in the chase; pieces of old boats, portions of twisted branches, bark, and rough planking, of which their dwellings had been formed, the latter still bearing the marks of the rude tools by which they had been laboriously cut. In the most ancient, or lowest series of deposits, no traces of metal, either of bronze or iron, were discovered; and it is most probable that these lake-dwellers lived in as primitive a state as the South Sea islanders discovered by Captain Cook, and that the huts over the water in which they lived resembled those found in Papua and Borneo, and the islands of the Salomon group, to this day.

These aboriginal Swiss lake-dwellers seem to have been succeeded by a race of men using tools, implements, and ornaments of bronze. In some places the remains of this bronze period directly overlay those of the stone period, showing the latter to have been the most ancient; but in others, the village sites are altogether distinct. The articles with which the metal implements are intermixed, show that considerable progress had been made in the useful arts. The potter's wheel had been introduced. Agriculture had begun, and wild animals had given place to tame ones. The abundance of bronze also shows that commerce must have existed to a certain extent; for tin, which enters into its composition, is a comparatively rare metal, and must necessarily have been imported from other European countries.

The Swiss antiquarians are of opinion that the men of bronze suddenly invaded and extirpated the men of flint; and that at some still later period, another stronger and more skilful race, supposed to have been Celts from Gaul, came armed with iron weapons, to whom the men of bronze succumbed, or with whom, more probably, they gradually intermingled. When iron, or rather steel, came into use, its superiority in affording a cutting edge was so decisive that it seems to have supplanted bronze almost at once;[4] the latter metal continuing to be employed only for the purpose of making scabbards or sword-handles. Shortly after the commencement of the iron age, the lake-habitations were abandoned, the only settlement of this later epoch yet discovered being that at Tene, on Lake Neufchatel: and it is a remarkable circumstance, showing the great antiquity of the lake-dwellings, that they are not mentioned by any of the Roman historians.

That iron should have been one of the last of the metals to come into general use, is partly accounted for by the circumstance that iron, though one of the most generally diffused of minerals, never presents itself in a natural state, except in meteorites; and that to recognise its ores, and then to separate the metal from its matrix, demands the exercise of no small amount of observation and invention. Persons unacquainted with minerals would be unable to discover the slightest affinity between the rough ironstone as brought up from the mine, and the iron or steel of commerce. To unpractised eyes they would seem to possess no properties in common, and it is only after subjecting the stone to severe processes of manufacture that usable metal can be obtained from it. The effectual reduction of the ore requires an intense heat, maintained by artificial methods, such as furnaces and blowing apparatus.[5] But it is principally in combination with other elements that iron is so valuable when compared with other metals. Thus, when combined with carbon, in varying proportions, substances are produced, so different, but each so valuable, that they might almost be regarded in the light of distinct metals,-such, for example, as cast-iron, and cast and bar steel; the various qualities of iron enabling it to be used for purposes so opposite as a steel pen and a railroad, the needle of a mariner's compass and an Armstrong gun, a surgeon's lancet and a steam engine, the mainspring of a watch and an iron ship, a pair of scissors and a Nasmyth hammer, a lady's earrings and a tubular bridge.

The variety of purposes to which iron is thus capable of being applied, renders it of more use to mankind than all the other metals combined. Unlike iron, gold is found pure, and in an almost workable state; and at an early period in history, it seems to have been much more plentiful than iron or steel. But gold was unsuited for the purposes of tools, and would serve for neither a saw, a chisel, an axe, nor a sword; whilst tempered steel could answer all these purposes. Hence we find the early warlike nations making the backs of their swords of gold or copper, and economizing their steel to form the cutting edge. This is illustrated by many ancient Scandinavian weapons in the museum at Copenhagen, which indicate the greatest parsimony in the use of steel at a period when both gold and copper appear to have been comparatively abundant.

The knowledge of smelting and working in iron, like most other arts, came from the East. Iron was especially valued for purposes of war, of which indeed it was regarded as the symbol, being called "Mars" by the Romans.[6] We find frequent mention of it in the Bible. One of the earliest notices of the metal is in connexion with the conquest of Judea by the Philistines. To complete the subjection of the Israelites, their conquerors made captive all the smiths of the land, and carried them away. The Philistines felt that their hold of the country was insecure so long as the inhabitants possessed the means of forging weapons. Hence "there was no smith found throughout all the land of Israel; for the Philistines said, Lest the Hebrews make them swords or spears. But the Israelites went down to the Philistines, to sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and his axe, and his mattock." [7]

At a later period, when Jerusalem was taken by the Babylonians, one of their first acts was to carry the smiths and other craftsmen captives to Babylon.[8] Deprived of their armourers, the Jews were rendered comparatively powerless.

It was the knowledge of the art of iron-forging which laid the foundation of the once great empire of the Turks. Gibbon relates that these people were originally the despised slaves of the powerful Khan of the Geougen. They occupied certain districts of the mountain-ridge in the centre of Asia, called Imaus, Caf, and Altai, which yielded iron in large quantities. This metal the Turks were employed by the Khan to forge for his use in war. A bold leader arose among them, who persuaded the ironworkers that the arms which they forged for their masters might in their own hands become the instruments of freedom. Sallying forth from their mountains, they set up their standard, and their weapons soon freed them. For centuries after, the Turkish nation continued to celebrate the event of their liberation by an annual ceremony, in which a piece of iron was heated in the fire, and a smith's hammer was successively handled by the prince and his nobles.

We can only conjecture how the art of smelting iron was discovered. Who first applied fire to the ore, and made it plastic; who discovered fire itself, and its uses in metallurgy? No one can tell. Tradition says that the metal was discovered through the accidental burning of a wood in Greece. Mr. Mushet thinks it more probable that the discovery was made on the conversion of wood into charcoal for culinary or chamber purposes. "If a mass of ore," he says, "accidentally dropped into the middle of the burning pile during a period of neglect, or during the existence of a thorough draught, a mixed mass, partly earthy and partly metallic, would be obtained, possessing ductility and extension under pressure. But if the conjecture is pushed still further, and we suppose that the ore was not an oxide, but rich in iron, magnetic or spicular, the result would in all probability be a mass of perfectly malleable iron. I have seen this fact illustrated in the roasting of a species of iron-stone, which was united with a considerable mass of bituminous matter. After a high temperature had been excited in the interior of the pile, plates of malleable iron of a tough and flexible nature were formed, and under circumstances where there was no fuel but that furnished by the ore itself." [9]

The metal once discovered, many attempts would be made to give to that which had been the effect of accident a more unerring result. The smelting of ore in an open heap of wood or charcoal being found tedious and wasteful, as well as uncertain, would naturally lead to the invention of a furnace; with the object of keeping the ore surrounded as much as possible with fuel while the process of conversion into iron was going forward. The low conical furnaces employed at this day by some of the tribes of Central and Southern Africa, are perhaps very much the same in character as those adopted by the early tribes of all countries where iron was first made. Small openings at the lower end of the cone to admit the air, and a larger orifice at the top, would, with charcoal, be sufficient to produce the requisite degree of heat for the reduction of the ore. To this the foot-blast was added, as still used in Ceylon and in India; and afterwards the water-blast, as employed in Spain (where it is known as the Catalan forge), along the coasts of the Mediterranean, and in some parts of America.

It is worthy of remark, that the ruder the method employed for the reduction of the ore, the better the quality of the iron usually is. Where the art is little advanced, only the most tractable ores are selected; and as charcoal is the only fuel used, the quality of the metal is almost invariably excellent. The ore being long exposed to the charcoal fire, and the quantity made small, the result is a metal having many of the qualities of steel, capable of being used for weapons or tools after a comparatively small amount of forging. Dr. Livingstone speaks of the excellent quality of the iron made by the African tribes on the Zambesi, who refuse to use ordinary English iron, which they consider "rotten." [10] Du Chaillu also says of the Fans, that, in making their best knives and arrow-heads, they will not use European or American iron, greatly preferring their own. The celebrated wootz or steel of India, made in little cakes of only about two pounds weight, possesses qualities which no European steel can surpass. Out of this material the famous Damascus sword-blades were made; and its use for so long a period is perhaps one of the most striking proofs of the ancient civilization of India.

The early history of iron in Britain is necessarily very obscure. When the Romans invaded the country, the metal seems to have been already known to the tribes along the coast. The natives had probably smelted it themselves in their rude bloomeries, or obtained it from the Phoenicians in small quantities in exchange for skins and food, or tin. We must, however, regard the stories told of the ancient British chariots armed with swords or scythes as altogether apocryphal. The existence of iron in sufficient quantity to be used for such a purpose is incompatible with contemporary facts, and unsupported by a single vestige remaining to our time. The country was then mostly forest, and the roads did not as yet exist upon which chariots could be used; whilst iron was too scarce to be mounted as scythes upon chariots, when the warriors themselves wanted it for swords. The orator Cicero, in a letter to Trebatius, then serving with the army in Britain, sarcastically advised him to capture and convey one of these vehicles to Italy for exhibition; but we do not hear that any specimen of the British war-chariot was ever seen in Rome.

It is only in the tumuli along the coast, or in those of the Romano-British period, that iron implements are ever found; whilst in the ancient burying places of the interior of the country they are altogether wanting. Herodian says of the British pursued by Severus through the fens and marshes of the east coast, that they wore iron hoops round their middles and their necks, esteeming them as ornaments and tokens of riches, in like manner as other barbarous people then esteemed ornaments of silver and gold. Their only money, according to Caesar, consisted of pieces of brass or iron, reduced to a certain standard weight.[11] It is particularly important to observe, says M. Worsaae, that all the antiquities which have hitherto been found in the large burying places of the Iron period, in Switzerland, Bavaria, Baden, France, England, and the North, exhibit traces more or less of Roman influence.[12] The Romans themselves used weapons of bronze when they could not obtain iron in sufficient quantity, and many of the Roman weapons dug out of the ancient tumuli are of that metal. They possessed the art of tempering and hardening bronze to such a degree as to enable them to manufacture swords with it of a pretty good edge; and in those countries which they penetrated, their bronze implements gradually supplanted those which had been previously fashioned of stone. Great quantities of bronze tools have been found in different parts of England,-sometimes in heaps, as if they had been thrown away in basketfuls as things of little value. It has been conjectured that when the Romans came into Britain they found the inhabitants, especially those to the northward, in very nearly the same state as Captain Cook and other voyagers found the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands; that the Britons parted with their food and valuables for tools of inferior metal made in imitation of their stone ones; but finding themselves cheated by the Romans, as the natives of Otaheite have been cheated by Europeans, the Britons relinquished the bad tools when they became acquainted with articles made of better metal.[13] The Roman colonists were the first makers of iron in Britain on any large scale. They availed themselves of the mineral riches of the country wherever they went. Every year brings their extraordinary industrial activity more clearly to light. They not only occupied the best sites for trade, intersected the land with a complete system of well-constructed roads, studded our hills and valleys with towns, villages, and pleasure-houses, and availed themselves of our medicinal springs for purposes of baths to an extent not even exceeded at this day, but they explored our mines and quarries, and carried on the smelting and manufacture of metals in nearly all parts of the island. The heaps of mining refuse left by them in the valleys and along the hill-sides of North Derbyshire are still spoken of by the country people as "old man," or the "old man's work." Year by year, from Dartmoor to the Moray Firth, the plough turns up fresh traces of their indefatigable industry and enterprise, in pigs of lead, implements of iron and bronze, vessels of pottery, coins, and sculpture; and it is a remark

able circumstance that in several districts where the existence of extensive iron beds had not been dreamt of until within the last twenty years, as in Northamptonshire and North Yorkshire, the remains of ancient workings recently discovered show that the Roman colonists were fully acquainted with them.

But the principal iron mines worked by that people were those which were most conveniently situated for purposes of exportation, more especially in the southern counties and on the borders of Wales. The extensive cinder heaps found in the-Forest of Dean-which formed the readiest resource of the modern iron-smelter when improved processes enabled him to reduce them-show that their principal iron manufactures were carried on in that quarter.[14] It is indeed matter of history, that about seventeen hundred years since (A.D. 120) the Romans had forges in the West of England, both in the Forest of Dean and in South Wales; and that they sent the metal from thence to Bristol, where it was forged and made into weapons for the use of the troops. Along the banks of the Wye, the ground is in many places a continuous bed of iron cinders, in which numerous remains have been found, furnishing unmistakeable proofs of the Roman furnaces. At the same time, the iron ores of Sussex were extensively worked, as appears from the cinder heaps found at Maresfield and several places in that county, intermixed with Roman pottery, coins, and other remains. In a bed of scoriae several acres in extent, at Old Land Farm in Maresfield, the Rev. Mr. Turner found the remains of Roman pottery so numerous that scarcely a barrow-load of cinders was removed that did not contain several fragments, together with coins of the reigns of Nero, Vespasian, and Dioclesian.[15] In the turbulent infancy of nations it is to be expected that we should hear more of the Smith, or worker in iron, in connexion with war, than with more peaceful pursuits. Although he was a nail-maker and a horse-shoer-made axes, chisels, saws, and hammers for the artificer-spades and hoes for the farmer-bolts and fastenings for the lord's castle-gates, and chains for his draw-bridge-it was principally because of his skill in armour-work that he was esteemed. He made and mended the weapons used in the chase and in war-the gavelocs, bills, and battle-axes; he tipped the bowmen's arrows, and furnished spear-heads for the men-at-arms; but, above all, he forged the mail-coats and cuirasses of the chiefs, and welded their swords, on the temper and quality of which, life, honour, and victory in battle depended. Hence the great estimation in which the smith was held in the Anglo-Saxon times. His person was protected by a double penalty. He was treated as an officer of the highest rank, and awarded the first place in precedency. After him ranked the maker of mead, and then the physician. In the royal court of Wales he sat in the great hall with the king and queen, next to the domestic chaplain; and even at that early day there seems to have been a hot spark in the smith's throat which needed much quenching; for he was "entitled to a draught of every kind of liquor that was brought into the hall."

The smith was thus a mighty man. The Saxon Chronicle describes the valiant knight himself as a "mighty war-smith." But the smith was greatest of all in his forging of swords; and the bards were wont to sing the praises of the knight's "good sword" and of the smith who made it, as well as of the knight himself who wielded it in battle. The most extraordinary powers were attributed to the weapon of steel when first invented. Its sharpness seemed so marvellous when compared with one of bronze, that with the vulgar nothing but magic could account for it. Traditions, enshrined in fairy tales, still survive in most countries, illustrative of its magical properties. The weapon of bronze was dull; but that of steel was bright-the "white sword of light," one touch of which broke spells, liberated enchanted princesses, and froze giants' marrow. King Arthur's magic sword "Excalibur" was regarded as almost heroic in the romance of chivalry.[16] So were the swords "Galatin" of Sir Gawain, and "Joyeuse" of Charlemagne, both of which were reputed to be the work of Weland the Smith, about whose name clusters so much traditional glory as an ancient worker in metals.[17] The heroes of the Northmen in like manner wielded magic swords. Olave the Norwegian possessed the sword "Macabuin," forged by the dark smith of Drontheim, whose feats are recorded in the tales of the Scalds. And so, in like manner, traditions of the supernatural power of the blacksmith are found existing to this day all over the Scottish Highlands.[18] When William the Norman invaded Britain, he was well supplied with smiths. His followers were clad in armour of steel, and furnished with the best weapons of the time. Indeed, their superiority in this respect is supposed to have been the principal cause of William's victory over Harold; for the men of both armies were equal in point of bravery. The Normans had not only smiths to attend to the arms of the knights, but farriers to shoe their horses. Henry de Femariis, or Ferrers, "prefectus fabrorum," was one of the principal officers entrusted with the supervision of the Conqueror's ferriery department; and long after the earldom was founded his descendants continued to bear on their coat of arms the six horse-shoes indicative of their origin.[19] William also gave the town of Northampton, with the hundred of Fackley, as a fief to Simon St. Liz, in consideration of his providing shoes for his horses.[20] But though the practice of horse-shoeing is said to have been introduced to this country at the time of the Conquest, it is probably of an earlier date; as, according to Dugdale, an old Saxon tenant in capite of Welbeck in Nottinghamshire, named Gamelbere, held two carucates of land by the service of shoeing the king's palfrey on all four feet with the king's nails, as oft as the king should lie at the neighbouring manor of Mansfield.

Although we hear of the smith mostly in connexion with the fabrication of instruments of war in the Middle Ages, his importance was no less recognized in the ordinary affairs of rural and industrial life. He was, as it were, the rivet that held society together. Nothing could be done without him. Wherever tools or implements were wanted for building, for trade, or for husbandry, his skill was called into requisition. In remote places he was often the sole mechanic of his district; and, besides being a tool-maker, a farrier, and agricultural implement maker, he doctored cattle, drew teeth, practised phlebotomy, and sometimes officiated as parish clerk and general newsmonger; for the smithy was the very eye and tongue of the village. Hence Shakespeare's picture of the smith in King John:

"I saw a smith stand with his hammer, thus,

The whilst his iron did on the anvil cool,

With open mouth swallowing a tailor's news."

The smith's tools were of many sorts; but the chief were his hammer, pincers, chisel, tongs, and anvil. It is astonishing what a variety of articles he turned out of his smithy by the help of these rude implements. In the tooling, chasing, and consummate knowledge of the capabilities of iron, he greatly surpassed the modern workman; for the mediaeval blacksmith was an artist as well as a workman. The numerous exquisite specimens of his handicraft which exist in our old gateways, church doors, altar railings, and ornamented dogs and andirons, still serve as types for continual reproduction. He was, indeed, the most "cunninge workman" of his time. But besides all this, he was an engineer. If a road had to be made, or a stream embanked, or a trench dug, he was invariably called upon to provide the tools, and often to direct the work. He was also the military engineer of his day, and as late as the reign of Edward III. we find the king repeatedly sending for smiths from the Forest of Dean to act as engineers for the royal army at the siege of Berwick.

The smith being thus the earliest and most important of mechanics, it will readily be understood how, at the time when surnames were adopted, his name should have been so common in all European countries.

"From whence came Smith, all be he knight or squire,

But from the smith that forgeth in the fire?" [21]

Hence the multitudinous family of Smiths in England, in some cases vainly disguised under the "Smythe" or "De Smijthe;" in Germany, the Schmidts; in Italy, the Fabri, Fabricii, or Fabbroni; in France, the Le Febres or Lefevres; in Scotland, the Gows, Gowans, or Cowans. We have also among us the Brownsmiths, or makers of brown bills; the Nasmyths, or nailsmiths; the Arrowsmiths, or makers of arrowheads; the Spearsmiths, or spear makers; the Shoosmiths, or horse shoers; the Goldsmiths, or workers in gold; and many more. The Smith proper was, however, the worker in iron-the maker of iron tools, implements, and arms-and hence this name exceeds in number that of all the others combined.

In course of time the smiths of particular districts began to distinguish themselves for their excellence in particular branches of iron-work. From being merely the retainer of some lordly or religious establishment, the smith worked to supply the general demand, and gradually became a manufacturer. Thus the makers of swords, tools, bits, and nails, congregated at Birmingham; and the makers of knives and arrowheads at Sheffield. Chaucer speaks of the Miller of Trompington as provided with a Sheffield whittle:-

"A Shefeld thwytel bare he in his hose." [22]

The common English arrowheads manufactured at Sheffield were long celebrated for their excellent temper, as Sheffield iron and steel plates are now. The battle of Hamildon, fought in Scotland in 1402, was won mainly through their excellence. The historian records that they penetrated the armour of the Earl of Douglas, which had been three years in making; and they were "so sharp and strong that no armour could repel them." The same arrowheads were found equally efficient against French armour on the fields of Crecy and Agincourt.

Although Scotland is now one of the principal sources from which our supplies of iron are drawn, it was in ancient times greatly distressed for want of the metal. The people were as yet too little skilled to be able to turn their great mineral wealth to account. Even in the time of Wallace, they had scarcely emerged from the Stone period, and were under the necessity of resisting their iron-armed English adversaries by means of rude weapons of that material. To supply themselves with swords and spearheads, they imported steel from Flanders, and the rest they obtained by marauding incursions into England. The district of Furness in Lancashire-then as now an iron-producing district-was frequently ravaged with that object; and on such occasions the Scotch seized and carried off all the manufactured iron they could find, preferring it, though so heavy, to every other kind of plunder.[23] About the same period, however, iron must have been regarded as almost a precious metal even in England itself; for we find that in Edward the Third's reign, the pots, spits, and frying-pans of the royal kitchen were classed among his Majesty's jewels.[24]

The same famine of iron prevailed to a still greater extent in the Highlands, where it was even more valued, as the clans lived chiefly by hunting, and were in an almost constant state of feud. Hence the smith was a man of indispensable importance among the Highlanders, and the possession of a skilful armourer was greatly valued by the chiefs. The story is told of some delinquency having been committed by a Highland smith, on whom justice must be done; but as the chief could not dispense with the smith, he generously offered to hang two weavers in his stead!

At length a great armourer arose in the Highlands, who was able to forge armour that would resist the best Sheffield arrow-heads, and to make swords that would vie with the best weapons of Toledo and Milan. This was the famous Andrea de Ferrara, whose swords still maintain their ancient reputation. This workman is supposed to have learnt his art in the Italian city after which he was called, and returned to practise it in secrecy among the Highland hills. Before him, no man in Great Britain is said to have known how to temper a sword in such a way as to bend so that the point should touch the hilt and spring back uninjured. The swords of Andrea de Ferrara did this, and were accordingly in great request; for it was of every importance to the warrior that his weapon should be strong and sharp without being unwieldy, and that it should not be liable to snap in the act of combat. This celebrated smith, whose personal identity[25] has become merged in the Andrea de Ferrara swords of his manufacture, pursued his craft in the Highlands, where he employed a number of skilled workmen in forging weapons, devoting his own time principally to giving them their required temper. He is said to have worked in a dark cellar, the better to enable him to perceive the effect of the heat upon the metal, and to watch the nicety of the operation of tempering, as well as possibly to serve as a screen to his secret method of working.[26] Long after Andrea de Ferrara's time, the Scotch swords were famous for their temper; Judge Marshal Fatten, who accompanied the Protector's expedition into Scotland in 1547, observing that "the Scots came with swords all broad and thin, of exceeding good temper, and universally so made to slice that I never saw none so good, so I think it hard to devise a better." The quality of the steel used for weapons of war was indeed of no less importance for the effectual defence of a country then than it is now. The courage of the attacking and defending forces being equal, the victory would necessarily rest with the party in possession of the best weapons.

England herself has on more than one occasion been supposed to be in serious peril because of the decay of her iron manufactures. Before the Spanish Armada, the production of iron had been greatly discouraged because of the destruction of timber in the smelting of the ore-the art of reducing it with pit coal not having yet been invented; and we were consequently mainly dependent upon foreign countries for our supplies of the material out of which arms were made. The best iron came from Spain itself, then the most powerful nation in Europe, and as celebrated for the excellence of its weapons as for the discipline and valour of its troops. The Spaniards prided themselves upon the superiority of their iron, and regarded its scarcity in England as an important element in their calculations of the conquest of the country by their famous Armada. "I have heard," says Harrison, "that when one of the greatest peers of Spain espied our nakedness in this behalf, and did solemnly utter in no obscure place, that it would be an easy matter in short time to conquer England because it wanted armour, his words were not so rashly uttered as politely noted." The vigour of Queen Elizabeth promptly supplied a remedy by the large importations of iron which she caused to be made, principally from Sweden, as well as by the increased activity of the forges in Sussex and the Forest of Dean; "whereby," adds Harrison, "England obtained rest, that otherwise might have been sure of sharp and cruel wars. Thus a Spanish word uttered by one man at one time, overthrew, or at the leastwise hindered sundry privy practices of many at another." [27] Nor has the subject which occupied the earnest attention of politicians in Queen Elizabeth's time ceased to be of interest; for, after the lapse of nearly three hundred years, we find the smith and the iron manufacturer still uppermost in public discussions. It has of late years been felt that our much-prized "hearts of oak" are no more able to stand against the prows of mail which were supposed to threaten them, than the sticks and stones of the ancient tribes were able to resist the men armed with weapons of bronze or steel. What Solon said to Croesus, when the latter was displaying his great treasures of gold, still holds true:-"If another comes that hath better iron than you, he will be master of all that gold." So, when an alchemist waited upon the Duke of Brunswick during the Seven Years' War, and offered to communicate the secret of converting iron into gold, the Duke replied:-"By no means: I want all the iron I can find to resist my enemies: as for gold, I get it from England." Thus the strength and wealth of nations depend upon coal and iron, not forgetting Men, far more than upon gold.

Thanks to our Armstrongs and Whitworths, our Browns and our Smiths, the iron defences of England, manned by our soldiers and our sailors, furnish the assurance of continued security for our gold and our wealth, and, what is infinitely more precious, for our industry and our liberty.

[1] "Mr. John Buchanan, a zealous antiquary, writing in 1855, informs us that in the course of the eight years preceding that date, no less than seventeen canoes had been dug out of this estuarine silt [of the valley of the Clyde], and that he had personally inspected a large number of them before they were exhumed. Five of them lay buried in silt under the streets of Glasgow, one in a vertical position with the prow uppermost, as if it had sunk in a storm…. Almost every one of these ancient boats was formed out of a single oak-stem, hollowed out by blunt tools, probably stone axes, aided by the action of fire; a few were cut beautifully smooth, evidently with metallic tools. Hence a gradation could be traced from a pattern of extreme rudeness to one showing great mechanical ingenuity…. In one of the canoes a beautifully polished celt or axe of greenstone was found; in the bottom of another a plug of cork, which, as Mr. Geikie remarks, 'could only have come from the latitudes of Spain, Southern France, or Italy.'"-Sir C. LYELL, Antiquity of Man, 48-9.

[2] THOMAS WRIGHT, F.S.A., The Celt, The Roman, and The Saxon, ed. 1861.

[3] Referred to at length in the Antiquity of Man, by Sir C. Lyell, who adopts M. Worsaae's classification.

[4] Mr. Mushet, however, observes that "the general use of hardened copper by the ancients for edge-tools and warlike instruments, does not preclude the supposition that iron was then comparatively plentiful, though it is probable that it was confined to the ruder arts of life. A knowledge of the mixture of copper, tin, and zinc, seems to have been among the first discoveries of the metallurgist. Instruments fabricated from these alloys, recommended by the use of ages, the perfection of the art, the splendour and polish of their surfaces, not easily injured by time and weather, would not soon be superseded by the invention of simple iron, inferior in edge and polish, at all times easily injured by rust, and in the early stages of its manufacture converted with difficulty into forms that required proportion or elegance."-(Papers on Iron and Steel, 365-6.) By some secret method that has been lost, perhaps because no longer needed since the invention of steel, the ancients manufactured bronze tools capable of taking a fine edge. In our own time, Chantrey the sculptor, in his reverence for classic metallurgy, had a bronze razor made with which he martyred himself in shaving; but none were found so hardy and devoted as to follow his example.

[5] It may be mentioned in passing, that while Zinc is fusible at 3 degrees of Wedgwood's pyrometer, Silver at 22 degrees, Copper at 27 degrees, and Gold at 32 degrees, Cast Iron is only fusible at 130 degrees. Tin (one of the constituents of the ancient bronze) and Lead are fusible at much lower degrees than zinc.

[6] The Romans named the other metals after the gods. Thus Quicksilver was called Mercury, Lead Saturn, Tin Jupiter, Copper Venus, Silver Luna, and so on; and our own language has received a colouring from the Roman nomenclature, which it continues to retain.

[7] I. Samuel xiii. 19, 20.

[8] II. Kings xxiv. 16.

[9] Papers on Iron and Steel, 363-4.

[10] Dr. Livingstone brought with him to England a piece of the Zambesi iron, which he sent to a skilled Birmingham blacksmith to test. The result was, that he pronounced the metal as strongly resembling Swedish or Russian; both of which kinds are smelted with charcoal. The African iron was found "highly carbonized," and "when chilled it possessed the properties of steel."

[11] HOLINSHED, i. 517. Iron was also the currency of the Spartans, but it has been used as such in much more recent times. Adam Smith, in his Wealth of Nations (Book I. ch. 4, published in 1776), says, "there is at this day a village in Scotland where it is not uncommon, I am told, for a workman to carry nails, instead of money, to the baker's shop or the alehouse."

[12] Primeval Antiquities of Denmark. London, 1849, p. 140.

[13] See Dr. Pearson's paper in the Philosophical Transactions, 1796, relative to certain ancient arms and utensils found in the river Witham between Kirkstead and Lincoln.

[14] "In the Forest of Dean and thereabouts the iron is made at this day of cinders, being the rough and offal thrown by in the Roman time; they then having only foot-blasts to melt the ironstone; but now, by the force of a great wheel that drives a pair of Bellows twenty feet long, all that iron is extracted out of the cinders which could not be forced from it by the Roman foot-blast. And in the Forest of Dean and thereabouts, and as high as Worcester, there ave great and infinite quantities of these cinders; some in vast mounts above ground, some under ground, which will supply the iron works some hundreds of years; and these cinders ave they which make the prime and best iron, and with much less charcoal than doth the ironstone."-A. YARRANTON, England's Improvement by Sea and Land. London, 1677.

[15] M. A. LOWER, Contributions to Literature, Historical, Antiquarian, and Metrical. London, 1854, pp. 88-9.

[16] This famous sword was afterwards sent by Richard I. as a present to Tancred; and the value attached to the weapon may be estimated by the fact that the Crusader sent the English monarch, in return for it, "four great ships and fifteen galleys."

[17] Weland was the Saxon Vulcan. The name of Weland's or Wayland's Smithy is still given to a monument on Lambourn Downs in Wiltshire. The place is also known as Wayland Smith's Cave. It consists of a rude gallery of stones.

[18] Among the Scythians the iron sword was a god. It was the image of Mars, and sacrifices were made to it. "An iron sword," says Mr. Campbell, "really was once worshipped by a people with whom iron was rare. Iron is rare, while stone and bronze weapons are common, in British tombs, and the sword of these stories is a personage. It shines, it cries out-the lives of men are bound up in it. And so this mystic sword may, perhaps, have been a god amongst the Celts, or the god of the people with whom the Celts contended somewhere on their long journey to the west. It is a fiction now, but it may be founded on fact, and that fact probably was the first use of iron." To this day an old horse-shoe is considered a potent spell in some districts against the powers of evil; and for want of a horse-shoe a bit of a rusty reaping-hook is supposed to have equal power, "Who were these powers of evil who could not resist iron-these fairies who shoot STONE arrows, and are of the foes to the human race? Is all this but a dim, hazy recollection of war between a people who had iron weapons and a race who had not-the race whose remains are found all over Europe? If these were wandering tribes, they had leaders; if they were warlike, they had weapons. There is a smith in the Pantheon of many nations. Vulcan was a smith; Thor wielded a hammer; even Fionn had a hammer, which was heard in Lochlann when struck in Eirinn. Fionn may have borrowed his hammer from Thor long ago, or both may have got theirs from Vulcan, or all three may have brought hammers with them from the land where some primeval smith wielded the first sledge-hammer; but may not all these 'smith-gods be the smiths who made iron weapons for those who fought with the skin-clad warriors who shot flint-arrows, and who are now bogles, fairies, and demons? In any case, tales about smiths seem to belong to mythology, and to be common property."-CAMPBELL, Popular Tales of the West Highlands, Preface, 74-6.

[19] BROOK, Discovery of Errors in the Catalogue of the Nobility, 198.

[20] MEYRICK, i. 11.

[21] GILBERT, Cornwall.

[22] Before table-knives were invented, in the sixteenth century, the knife was a very important article; each guest at table bearing his own, and sharpening it at the whetstone hung up in the passage, before sitting down to dinner, Some even carried a whetstone as well as a knife; and one of Queen Elizabeth's presents to the Earl of Leicester was a whetstone tipped with gold.

[23] The early scarcity of iron in Scotland is confirmed by Froissart, who says,-"In Scotland you will never find a man of worth; they are like savages, who wish not to be acquainted with any one, are envious of the good fortune of others, and suspicious of losing anything themselves; for their country is very poor. When the English make inroads thither, as they have very frequently done, they order their provisions, if they wish to live, to follow close at their backs; for nothing is to be had in that country without great difficulty. There is neither iron to shoe horses, nor leather to make harness, saddles, or bridles: all these things come ready made from Flanders by sea; and should these fail, there is none to be had in the country."

[24] PARKER'S English Home, 77

[25] The precise time at which Andrea de Ferrara flourished cannot be fixed with accuracy; but Sir Waiter Scott, in one of the notes to Waverley, says he is believed to have been a foreign artist brought over by James IV. or V. of Scotland to instruct the Scots in the manufacture of sword-blades. The genuine weapons have a crown marked on the blades.

[26] Mr. Parkes, in his Essay on the Manufacture of Edge Tools, says, "Had this ingenious artist thought of a bath of oil, he might have heated this by means of a furnace underneath it, and by the use of a thermometer, to the exact point which he found necessary; though it is inconvenient to have to employ a thermometer for every distinct operation. Or, if he had been in the possession of a proper bath of fusible metal, he would have attained the necessary certainty in his process, and need not have immured himself in a subterranean apartment.-PARKES' Essays, 1841, p. 495.

[27] HOLINSHED, History of England. It was even said to have been one of the objects of the Spanish Armada to get the oaks of the Forest of Dean destroyed, in order to prevent further smelting of the iron. Thus Evelyn, in his Sylva, says, "I have heard that in the great expedition of 1588 it was expressly enjoined the Spanish Armada that if, when landed, they should not be able to subdue our nation and make good their conquest, they should yet be sure not to leave a tree standing in the Forest of Dean."-NICHOLS, History of the Forest of Dean, p. 22.

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