1700s Irish Forge

Exhibit Overview

Blacksmiths make and repair tools and implements from iron and steel. The fact that blacksmiths were among the most numerous craftsmen in a community shows their importance. The Irish Forge is a blacksmith shop that stood in County Fermanagh in the Irish province of Ulster, in what is now Northern Ireland. Like their farming customers in Ulster, blacksmiths and their skills immigrated to colonial America along with other Ulster Scots.

The Blacksmith

The eighteenth-century blacksmith was a businessman. Although the smith might be engaged in farming, his primary function in the local economy was his blacksmithing. An examination of the tools and furnishing on the Irish farm indicates the range of work performed by the rural smith. Around the kitchen hearth are such forged items as the crane, pot hooks, trammels, trivets, and perhaps a harnen stand. Flesh forks, spatulas, and skimmers hang from the crane. The smith crafted the fire tongs standing in the corner of the fireplace. He forged the hinges on the doors and meal ark. He produced the hardware supporting the table as well as the nails holding it together. Outside, the byre is filled with tools that include spades, hoes, and other iron implements. The iron parts of the cart, including the tires, were essential to the Irish farmer, as were the plow share and iron harrow teeth.

Just as important as the fabrication of new items was the repair of old ones. Much of the blacksmith’s business was the repair of iron implements and tools. Harrow teeth needed sharpened, broken plow shares needed repaired. Cart tires wore out, and horses needed new shoes.

The blacksmith was somewhat of a metallurgist as well. He knew how hot to heat his iron for which application. Sometimes white hot was too hot and red hot was too cold. He had to know how to weld steel to iron and how to temper knives axes and chisels.
Between crafting new items and repairing old ones, the blacksmith’s work was never done.