Louisiana Foundries and Antique Iron Beds

 

 Pittsburgh was the center of steel production in this country back in the 1800’s. So if you had a enterprise that relied on steel and iron ore, like antique iron beds, for the manufacturing of what you produced, it behooved you to locate that business as close to the source of those essential 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 prices and time were a particular issue for manufacturers back then. Profit margin was narrow and just about every penny counted in the manufacturing process. If you decided 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 acquire materials , when needed, often decided how financially effective they would be.

So if you choose to live in the south and manage a foundry, where would be a good place to locate? How about along side of the great Mississippi River which could deliver you the essential materials form those steel mills in the north. That’s precisely why from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, along the river, became a popular region for foundries back in the early to mid 1800’s. All the gorgeous railings and banisters throughout the French Quarter of New Orleans, were created in their local foundries . And after they filled New Orleans with those lovely 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 produced in that region had a French flare to them, along with stunning castings as did the banisters and railings they were producing. 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 responsibilities 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 felt to this day. The majority of the iron beds their foundries manufactured had what is known as a side French Curve. Also iron beds from this area had an abundance of scrolling and fine castings. In all probability because of the numerous foundries that did the fine detailed cast iron railings. This was a perfect pedigree for creating stunning 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 Orleansproduced some of the best  scrolled Victorian iron beds of that came out of the 1800’s.

 

 


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