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Louisiana and their Iron Bed Foundries

February 10th, 2013 · No Comments


 Pittsburgh was the center of steel production in this country back in the 1800’s. So if you had a business that relied on steel and iron ore, like antique iron beds, for the manufacturing of what you made, it behooved you to locate that company as close to the source of those necessary materials as possible. Hence the cluster of hundreds upon hundreds of small individually owned foundries that sprung up within a very close, one day trip of Pittsburgh. Freight fees and time were a clear issue for manufacturers back then. Profit margin was slim and each and every penny counted in the production process. If you choose to live in New York or Vermont or some southern state, you had to count on having more of a stock pile of raw materials……which meant more cash was tied up in those materials. The ease with which a foundry could get materials , when needed, often decided how financially productive they would be.

So if you wished to live in the south and run a foundry, where would be the best place to locate? How about along side of the great Mississippi River which could deliver you the necessary supplies form those steel mills located in the north. That’s specifically why from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, along the river, became a well-known region for foundries back in the early to mid 1800’s. All the stunning railings and banisters throughout the French Quarter of New Orleans, were made in their local foundries . And after they saturated New Orleans with those beautiful railings, it was normal for them to look toward other things their foundries could produce, that the public needed. What better item than “iron beds“. It’s no accident that many of the iron beds that were created in that region had a French flare to them, along with attractive castings as did the banisters and railings they were generating. There was a very strong French population in Louisiana in the 1800’s. Louisiana was actually under French control from 1682 to 1763 and then again from 1800 to 1803. In 1803, strained  by obligations in Europe, Napolean Bonaparte decided to sell  the territory to the United States in what was known as the Louisiana Purchase……ending Frances presence in Louisiana. But their affect on design, furniture and architecture can still be observed to this day. Most of the iron beds their foundries built had what is acknowledged as a side French Curve. Also iron beds from this area had an abundance of scrolling and detailed castings. Almost certainly because of the several foundries that did the beautifully detailed cast iron railings. This was a perfect pedigree for making gorgeous iron beds.

 Iron production and everything associated with it ,was assumed to have come from the Pennsylvania steel mills. Although this was the case for the population north of the Mason-Dixon Line, foundries as far south as New Orleansmade some of the best  scrolled Victorian iron beds of that came out of the 1800’s.



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