Jump to Footer

Iron Industry Archeological Collection Donated to Adirondack Museum

PLATTSBURGH, NY__An important collection of artifacts associated with the 19th century iron industry in the Adirondacks has been donated by the State University of New York College at Plattsburgh to the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, N.Y.

Dr. Gordon Pollard The materials, from the Clintonville Lower Forge Site in the Ausable River Valley, were excavated by Dr. Gordon Pollard, professor of anthropology at SUNY Plattsburgh, and 50 of his students between 1994 and 2001.  The archaeological work had been carried out through the courtesy of the Clintonville site property owners Elizabeth King, Mary Lahut, and the late Marion Arthur.

Approximately two-and-a-half tons of iron and other artifacts were donated to the museum. Some of the materials included rare specimens of the heavy, cast iron plates that were part of the fireboxes of the bloomery forges used to smelt local iron ores and produce top quality wrought iron. 

Staff from the Adirondack Museum, including Curator Laura Rice and Conservator Doreen Alessi, visited the archaeology lab at SUNY Plattsburgh in early July to assess the materials and determine which items would be of interest to the museum. 

Rice said, "The gift of the Clintonville artifacts to the Adirondack Museum is an important one. Some of these artifacts are exceptionally rare, and they present us with an extraordinary opportunity to reconstruct a portion of the bloomery forge. All together, these objects will expand our understanding of 19th century ore processing technology and open a window into the daily routine of the people who worked there. We'll be able to interpret an important part of the Adirondack mining story in a new way."

The iron works at Clintonville were known by several company names between 1824 and 1890, including the Peru Iron Company (1824-1861), Saltus & Co. (1862-1865), Peru Steel and Iron Company (1865-1890), and Peru Steel Ore Co., Limited (1865-1890).  By the 1860s, most of the iron was shipped in the form of billets to Pittsburgh for conversion to steel. The works were also known as the largest bloomery forge installation in the world (a total of 20 bloomery forges) until the 1870s.

The remnants of a building that contained 16 of these forges were the focus of Pollard's seven-year archaeological investigations. Working with his students, Pollard revealed the lower portions of five of the forges, along with a blacksmith forge and foundations of one of the massive trip hammers that had shaped the iron into thick wrought iron billets.  Other finds were comprised of a wide array of the "nuts and bolts" associated with this industrial complex, including firebrick that had been imported from England and Scotland, as well as ones from Albany, N.Y. 

"Until last summer, the Adirondack Museum included a permanent exhibit on Adirondack mining and iron manufacturing," said Pollard.  "It is our hope that a future exhibit will include many of the Clintonville artifacts as visual reminders of this important component of our region's 19th century industrial pursuits."
-- 30 --

Back to top