Tannehill and the Growth of the Alabama Iron Industry

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9780967445519: Tannehill and the Growth of the Alabama Iron Industry

"Tannehill and the Growth of the Alabama Iron Industry" is a beautiful 8" x 11 1/2" book, lavishly illustrated with over 260 photographs and maps. The story begins with Daniel Hillman, an experienced furnaceman from New Jersey, who located a forge on the banks of Roupes Creek in 1830. Hillman's Forge would give way to a larger bloomery under management of noted Southern ironmaster Moses Stroup, then to three charcoal blast furnaces that would make the Tannehill site an important center of pig iron production for the Confederacy during the Civil War.

As the war drew to an end, units of the 8th Iowa Cavalry raced into the furnace yard on March 31, 1865 and knocked from production one of the Selma Arsenal's most productive iron suppliers. The battery of high stone furnaces, equipped with hot blast stoves and steam power, was rated at 22 tons a day.

When Croxton's Raiders left the site in flames moving on to Tuscaloosa, the work place where 600 slaves and white mechanics had been busily engaged the day before, fell strangely silent. From its toppled stones, however, would emerge in the 1870s a place called Birmingham, the "Pittsburgh of the South."

The Tannehill site, subject of six major archaeological investigations from 1956 to 1995, would reveal important advances in furnace design conflicting with earlier assumptions that southern iron making during the Civil War was technologically backward.

The story then is not an account of magnolias, jasmine and the folkways fiction writers like to use to describe antebellum Alabama. It is rather a hard look at the struggling iron industry that would bridge one era of iron manufacture to another and in the end give Birmingham the distinction of becoming the South's most heavily industrialized city.

In 1976, as part of the American Bicentennial Celebration, Tannehill Furnace No. 1 was re-fired. It marked the first time in U.S. history, reported the Smithsonian Institute, that an iron furnace, out of blast for over a century, had ever been put back into production. Today, the Tannehill site is a national metallurgical engineering landmark.

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About the Author:

James R. Bennett is Alabama's 49th Secretary of State. A former state senator from Birmingham, he was instrumental in the development of the Tannehill Ironworks Historical State Park into one of Alabama's top ten tourist attractions. Recipient of the Jefferson Davis Medal from the United Daughters of the Confederacy, he also wrote "Old Tannehill, A History of the Pioneer Ironworks in Roupes Valley" in 1986. He is a graduate of Jacksonville State University and the University of Alabama. In 1999, he was elected president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. In 2000, he received the prestigious Coley Award from the Alabama Historical Association for writing "Tannehill and the Growth of the Alabama Iron Industry."

Review:

Bennett has produced a prodigiously-researched labor of love, a significant contribution to historical literature on Alabama's antebellum industries. -- Martin T. Oliff, Gulf South Historical Review, Spring 2001

Tannehill is an important book, one every Alabamian should own and read and show their friends. -- Jake York, First Draft, Winter 2001

Tannehill is destined to be an important book in telling the history of Alabama. -- Jerry D. Snead, The Alabama Review, January 2002

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Bennett, James R.
Published by Alabama Historic Ironworks Commission (1999)
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