Blog post by: Martha Capwell Fox, Historian and Archives Coordinator
This Fourth of July is the 180th anniversary of the birth of the American Industrial Revolution.
On that day in 1840, ironmaster David Thomas cast the first iron that had been produced in an American blast furnace fueled by coal. Hired by the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Company to use its anthracite coal and its water power from the canal, Thomas built the furnace alongside Lock 36 in what is now Catasauqua.
On July 4, 1840, the Lehigh Crane furnace turned out more iron in one day—just over four tons—than a charcoal-fired furnace could make in a week. Thomas’ breakthrough meant that large quantities of high-quality iron—the key ingredient of industrial development—could be produced quickly for the first time in the U.S. This led to the Lehigh Valley becoming the nation’s leader in iron production for about the next thirty years.