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Independence and Industry: A 4th of July Canal Milestone

National Canal Museum - Independence and Industry: A 4th of July Canal Milestone
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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.

Ironmaster David Thomas

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.

The Lehigh Crane furnace

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.

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