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British Industrial History

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Thomas Rutter

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Thomas Rutter (1664-1730)

Born in England in 1664, emigrated to Philadelphia in 1684 as an ironworker and blacksmith.

Rutter was a Quaker, and opposed slavery.

In 1715 he bought land by Manatawny Creek, and by 1716 he and his son-in-law, Samuel Savage, had erected a bloomery - the first in Pennsylvania. c.1720 he erected Pennsylvania's first blast furnace, 'Colebrookdale Furnace', fuelled by charcoal, and replaced the bloomery forge by a finery. After 1725 the furnace was leased to another Quaker, Thomas Potts, Senior. Rutter had obtained the services of Potts, as ironmaster, and he had taken on the management of the enterprises before Rutter's death in 1730. Each of Potts' three sons, John (1710-1768), Thomas (1720-1762), and David (1722-1752), married granddaughters of Rutter. After Rutter's death, his finery forge was renamed 'Pine Forge'. It continued operating into the 1840s, when it was demolished and replaced by a rolling and slitting mill.[1][2]

Another source provides additional, and in some respects, slightly different information. This gives the date of Rutter's arrival as 1682, aboard the Amity. Rutter was attracted by the iron ore deposits in the Manatawny region, and William Penn was keen to encourage the smelting of iron in the region. In 1718 he started to build his blast furnace and finery. The furnace was named Colebrookdale after Abraham Darby's famous ironworks. It was blown in in 1720.[3]

Note: 'Finery' in the foregoing text replaces the terms 'refinery' or 'refinery forges' used in the referenced US sources. A finery was a hearth used to make wrought iron from pig iron before the introduction of Henry Cort's puddling process. Here, pig iron was heated in a charcoal fire, and air blast used to decarburize it. It superseded the bloomery. The refinery was a much later development, used to prepare iron for puddling. It also had a hearth and an air blast, but it was used to convert grey into white cast iron suitable for puddling, by remelting.[4]

Note that a long time elapsed between Rutter arriving in America and the construction of his first bloomery (which produced small quantities of wrought iron from ore by a very labour-intensive process). It seems that he spent many years seeking deposits of suitable iron ore, and presumably continuing to work as a blacksmith. Thereafter his progress as an ironmaster was relatively rapid. The iron from his bloomery was well-regarded, presumably reflecting the quality of his ore.

For a scholarly account of Rutter's activities, focused on the Pine Forge Iron Plantation, see thesis by Melissa Pilar LaValley[5]

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. [1] Explore Pa. History website - Thomas Rutter Historical Marker
  2. [2] WikiTree - Thomas Rutter (1664 - 1730)
  3. [3] 'Early Ironmasters of Pennsylvania' by Arthur C. Bining, Pennsylvania History, April 1951
  4. 'The Black Country Iron Industry' by W K V Gale, The Iron and Steel Institute, London, 1966
  5. [4] Melissa Pilar LaValley, M.Sc Thesis, 2002: 'Pine Forge Iron Plantation: History, Building Chronology, and Recommendations for Preservation'