Nestled in an area rich with iron ore,
abundant woodland for charcoal, limestone, and waterways to provide
power, lies Joanna Furnace -- a historic remnant of Berks County's
thriving early iron industry. Unlike today's corporations with
their large buildings and complex hierarchies, the 19th century iron
industry at Joanna Furnace was the product of rugged individualism. From
the semi-wilderness of Robeson Township, in 1791, Joanna Furnace was
started by Samuel Potts, Thomas Rutter III, Thomas May and Thomas Bull.
The furnace was named in honor of Pott's wife Joanna Holland Potts.
Joanna's owners included Thomas Bull,
Thomas May, Samuel Potts, Thomas Rutter III, John Smith, Thomas Bull
Smith, Levi Bull Smith, William Darling and L. Heber Smith. The furnace
"blew out" in 1898, after L. Heber Smith's death.
Joanna was a cold blast, single stack,
charcoal iron furnace most of her life. Water powered until the mid
1850's, Joanna used steam power after that. Under the guidance of the
ironmaster (after 1800, one of the Smith family) and founder/keeper (or
manager), guttermen, fillers, and potters worked in twelve hour shifts
tapping the iron twice daily. The average blast was one year, but some
blasts lasted two or three years. During a blast, the fillers and
guttermen worked every day of the month, including Christmas and New
Year's Day. Woodcutters, colliers (charcoal makers) and teamsters added
to Joanna Furnace long and productive life.
The Charcoal Barn was rebuilt, after an 1856 fire, with additional
height and storage area.
A major technology change occurred in
1889. At this time, fifteen feet were added to the furnace stack height
(increasing it from 30 to 45 feet). A Weimer blowing engine, downcomer
pipe, blowout door, and bell and hopper (of which the derrick/crane is
still visible on the top of the furnace) were installed. In order to
facilitate getting the iron ore, limestone and charcoal to the top of
the stack, a water hoist was installed on the outside of the stack
between the Bridgehouse and Furnace Stack.
At the 1898 death of the ironmaster, L.
Heber Smith, the furnace was never again operated.
Joanna Furnace (1791 - 1898) [DVD]
This DVD takes you back to George Washington's time when Berks County was a major supplier of iron. Experience the story of Joanna Furnace like you could not possibly have imagined. The highlights of this video include: