Pittsburgh was the focus of steel production in this country back in the 1800’s. So if you owned a enterprise that depended on steel and iron ore, like antique iron beds, for the production of what you created, it behooved you to locate that enterprise as close to the supply of those needed materials as possible. Hence the cluster of hundreds upon hundreds of small individually owned foundries that sprung up within a very close, one day trip of Pittsburgh. Freight costs and time were a definite issue for manufacturers back then. Profit margin was narrow and just about every penny counted in the production process. If you choose to live in New York or Vermont or some southern state, you had to count on having more of a stock pile of raw materials……which meant more cash was tied up in those materials. The ease with which a foundry could acquire materials , when needed, often determined how financially effective they would be.
So if you wanted to live in the south and run a foundry, where would be the best place to locate? How about along side of the great Mississippi River which could bring you the necessary materials form those steel mills in the north. That’s precisely why from Baton Rouge to New Orleans, along the river, became a preferred region for foundries back in the early to mid 1800’s. All the gorgeous railings and banisters throughout the French Quarter of New Orleans, were created in their local foundries . And after they filled New Orleans with those beautiful railings, it was natural for them to look toward other items their foundries could generate, that the public needed. What better item than “iron beds”. It’s no accident that many of the iron beds that were produced in that area had a French flare to them, along with stunning castings as did the banisters and railings they were creating. There was a very strong French population in Louisiana in the 1800’s. Louisiana was actually under French control from 1682 to 1763 and then again from 1800 to 1803. In 1803, strained by obligations in Europe, Napolean Bonaparte decided to sell the territory to the United States in what was known as the Louisiana Purchase……ending Frances presence in Louisiana. But their affect on design, furniture and architecture can still be felt to this day. Most of the iron beds their foundries manufactured had what is known as a side French Curve. Also iron beds from this area had an abundance of scrolling and detailed castings. Possibly because of the abundance foundries that did the fine detailed cast iron railings. This was a perfect pedigree for creating stunning iron beds.
Iron production and everything associated with it ,was taken for granted to have come from the Pennsylvania steel mills. Although this was the case for the population north of the Mason-Dixon Line, foundries as far south as New Orleans made some of the best scrolled Victorian iron beds of that came out of the 1800’s.
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