TwHP Lessons

Hopewell Furnace: A Pennsylvania Iron-making Plantation

[Photo] Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site.
(National Park Service)


he splash and creak of the turning water wheel and the swishing roar of the furnace "blast" never stopped. By day, black charcoal dust swirled from the furnace and blanketed the whole village; by night, only a flickering red glow lit the sky. The rhythmic noises, the ever-present soot and dust, and the unpleasant smell emanating from the furnace were reassuring to workers at Hopewell Furnace during its years of operation (1771-1883). As long as the furnace was "in blast," their jobs were safe. In many ways, these ironworkers were better off than industrial workers in the cities. Here in rural Pennsylvania, they could escape to the woods, fields, and creeks. And, although their work was often dangerous, they were relatively well paid.

Hopewell Furnace, now a national historic site, lies in a setting of forested hills and valleys along French Creek in Berks County in southeastern Pennsylvania. It provides a glimpse into the early days of the iron and steel industry that played a central role in the growth of America as an industrial nation.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Pennsylvania and surrounding area
 2. Southeastern Pennsylvania

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Work at Hopewell Furnace
 2. Owner and Ironmaster
 3. The Hopewell Furnace Community

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. 19th-century blast furnace in operation
 2. "Jumping the Pit," 1936
 3. Artist's view of Hopewell Furnace, 1950s
 4. Ironmaster's house with outbuildings
 5. Tenant houses
 7. Typical Hopewell Furnace products

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Working at Hopewell
 2. Economic History in the Local Community

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Hopewell Furnace
National Historic Site

The lesson is based on Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.



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