The Crane Iron Works, Catasauqua, Pa.

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The following is a selection of articles published on the history of the Crane Iron blast furnace operations on the Lehigh River in Catasauqua, Pa. where the first successful commercial manufacture of pig iron using anthracite coal was conducted by David Thomas in 1840.


The Lehigh Coal & Navigation Co. Annual Report for 1839 provides information on the activities conducted by the LC&N in early years to promote the formation of a company to smelt iron ore using anthracite coal.


The financial records of the Crane Iron Works are available at the Hagley Museum and Library (Wilmington, DE) under Call Number 1198. LEHGH CRANE IRON CO., Catasauqua (formerly Craneville), Lehigh Co., Pa., miscellany, 1839-1908: minutes of stockholders' meetings, 1839-93 (2 vols.); minutes of meetings of directors (from 1868 called board of managers), 1839-93 (3 vols.); two annual reports, 1878, 1884; agreement between creditors and the company, 1893; report on the Crane Iron Works for the three-year period ending 31 Dec 1907, made by the Audit Co., New York, 1908. This company was organized at Philadelphia in 1839 by Josiah White (1781-1850), Erskine Hazard (1789-1865), and others. It was the first in the United States to make a commercial success of the manufacture of pig iron with anthracite, having brought from Wales an expert in this process, David Thomas (1794-1882), who had been associated with George Crane, proprietor of the Ynyscidwin Works in Brecknockshire. These financial records have been searched and there is little to be found on the day-to-day operations of the Crane..


Labor strife in the anthracite coal industry causes a downturn in activity in 1875.


Matthews and Hungerford Article, 1884, including the agreements between David Thomas and the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Co.


Roberts et al, History of Lehigh County contains a review of the Crane written by W. H. Glace in 1914.


A detailed description of the construction of the furnaces at the Crane Iron Works and of the early operations was presented to the American Society of Mining Engineers in 1899 by Samuel Thomas, son of David Thomas. This is the most detailed account that was published on this subject.


A decline in the anthracite iron industry began in the 1870s. A New York Times article published in 1893 reports the failure of the company.


Many iron furnaces idle. A New York Times article published in 1898, quotes Leonard Peckitt on the continued closure of furnaces in eastern Pennsylvania.


In an aside to the main operations of the company, Leonard Peckitt, who had taken over as president of the Crane, undertook a cooperative effort with famed inventor, Thomas A. Edison, to evaluate the effectiveness of the use of electromagnetism to enrich the ore used in the furnaces.


The Empire Steel and Iron Company, Greater America, Vol. 3, 1900. Empire Steel was the operator of the former Crane furnaces at the turn of the century.


A History of Catasauqua in the Lehigh County, written in 1914, By Lambert and Reinhard contains a History of the Crane Iron Works until it's acquisition by the Empire Steel and Iron Company at the turn of the 20th century.  Included is a concise summary of the activities conducted by other organizations prior to the founding of the Crane relative to efforts to utilize anthracite coal in the production of pig iron.


In April 1922, the Reading Eagle reports that Empire Steel is acquired by the Replogle Company.


Several sources (e.g., Wikipedia, David Thomas) state that “the last furnace at the Crane Iron Company ceased operation in 1921; by 1935, most of the plant had been demolished. Little remains of the buildings where the great Industrial Revolution was first begun”.


A succinct history of the Crane Ironworks is given in Wikipedia – the August 2010 version is reproduced here.





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Rev. Nov. 2015