Deere's plows also
had replaceable cutting edges and wear strips. Unlike the hand-forged iron
plow which was one piece and wore quickly along its edges, this steel plow
lasted longer and the wearing parts could be cheaply replaced. By 1853,
Deere & Co. was selling thousands of new steel plows, a significant
milestone of technological change--steel vs. iron and manufactured vs.
hand-forged. The American steel
industry was underdeveloped in 1840 and produced a poor quality product. Deere relied on imported steel
from England to make his plow successful.
1839, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow penned the famous poem, The
Village Blacksmith. We can assume, then, given the poem's success,
that the blacksmith was a revered craftsman. This period may have
been the zenith in American blacksmithing. Even today, our thoughts about
a blacksmith revolve around this poet's description. But this poem was a
fading dream. Even the chestnut tree that Longfellow wrote of later died
and the people of the town had a chair made from the wood as a gift to the
poet before his death in 1882.
this era, steam power would change the nation. The first steamboats and
packets vastly improved shipping, both on rivers and on the sea. Steam
power would begin to replace water power in grist mills and textile
plants. No longer would the miller rely on seasonal rains to grind corn
meal or flour. And of course, the steam-powered locomotive changed
transportation in ways never imagined. By 1860, the South had its Merrimac
and the North had its Monitor. And both had railroad networks.
blacksmith shop was starting to change as well. The bellows was replaced
with a rotary fan blower and the drill press became available for small
blacksmith shops. In larger shops and some of the fledgling factories, one
might find a steam-powered trip hammer.
were also moving westward. Being west of the Alleghenies in 1790 meant you
were still on the frontier. But as John Deere invented his plow in
Illinois, that alone shows how quickly the westward movement was taking
a perspective of this period, consider Salem, WV. Originally settled in
1792 by Seventh Day Baptist families who migrated south from Rhode Island,
Salem was itself an island in the wilderness. The first buildings were a
blockhouse and fort to protect the settlers from Indian raids. From that
beginning, log houses were built and the settlers developed farms. The
town grew and it did prosper as a farming community. Six decades after its
founding, Salem would find itself not on the frontier but in
mid-America--a rail stop on the Baltimore & Ohio's mainline. And on
the town's 100th anniversary, Salem was home to Salem College and sat
surrounded by oil and gas wells.