Iron Smelting in the Industrial Revolution Alexandra Lakkis

What is Iron Smelting?

Iron Smelting is the process of making iron ore into iron. The smelters heat up the iron ore to melting point using charcoal as fuel. They then cast the heated iron ore into ingots called pigs. The ingots were either reheated and cast into moulds or they were heated and hammered into wrought iron which is more malleable. This job was usually done by adult males.

Uses in the Industrial Revolution

There was an increase in iron smelting from 12,000 metric tonnes in 1700 to 2,000,000 metric tonnes during 1850. This increase happened during Industrial Revolution because of the needs for more factories and ships. Iron was used to build ships and there were more needed because of the Industrial Revolution to transport raw materials to factories. This meant that there had to be an increase in iron smelting to accommodate for the increase.

Iron need was also increased as there were more factories being built. Iron was used for building and manufacturing products, infrastructure, and buildings. This meant that when there was an increase in the building of factories, manufacturing goods in factories, and building infrastructure to accommodate for the changes in society, there was more of a need for iron smelters.

Who Suffered?

The people who suffered most because of iron smelting were the men who were doing the job. They would have to work long hours during the Industrial Revolution due to the increase in the need of iron. There are also some very toxic fumes that are emitted during the smelting process causing diseases such as Metal Fume Fever. This causes flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, nausea, fatigue, muscle pains and joint pains. There are also many other diseases that are caused by toxic metal fumes.

Who Benefited?

The people who were benefiting from iron smelting were the employers for the smelters. They had a lot more people who wanted the iron and because of the lack of workers rights, the employers could overwork the smelters to produce and sell more iron. This meant that they were being more efficient in producing iron so that they could earn more money in sales.

Iron Smelting Today

Today, iron smelting is still such a needed job as a lot of our infrastructure is created using iron. It is also used to build parts of cars Iron is also an important component in the alloy stainless steel which is widely used around the world in many products. Iron also is a component in some paints and dyes. Without iron smelters today, we wouldn't have a lot of the products that we use everyday.


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Metal Fume Fever 2017, Wikipedia, accessed 11 March 2017, <>.

The Industrial Revolution n.d., accessed 9 March 2017, <>.

What are the Uses of Iron n.d., accessed 12 March 2017, <>.

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