Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Ulster Iron Works Records, 1816-1874

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, October 1992

Summary Information
Title: Ulster Iron Works records
Creator: Ulster Iron Works
Inclusive dates: 1816-1874
Bulk dates: 1825-1844
Extent: 1 volume, plus 98 loose manuscripts
Abstract:
The Ulster Iron Works records consist of documentation of the financial, management, and technical aspects of iron production during the 1830s and 1840s, and correspondence between the owners of the company and John Simmons, the on-site manager.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1982. M-2010.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Preferred Citation:

Ulster Iron Works Records, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


History

The Ulster Iron Works Company was an iron foundry and manufactory situated on the Hudson River near the iron deposits of Ulster County, 100 miles north of New York City. The company was a financially successful and fairly long-lived operation having been established before the mid-1820's, and continuing in operation through at least the end of the Civil War. The works was involved in most phases of iron production, from smelting through the manufacture of wrought iron and cast iron products for industrial and military use.

Among the factors that contributed to the success of the Ulster Iron Works was the ability of the owners of the corporation to arrange for government contracts, especially contracts with the Navy, for providing iron products for use in rockets, ships, and other materials. In civilian applications, Ulster was an important purveyor of iron products for railroads and shipping. Also contributing to the success of the works was the unusual diligence of the owners in importing foreign technologies for use at Ulster, and in soliciting the emigration of highly skilled workmen from Welsh and English foundries to fill their employment demands, particularly during the 1830s when skilled labor was at a premium. The owners appear to have been quite successful at using high wages as a lure to skilled workers during such periods, but they were equally ruthless at cutting wages when labor was abundant. At the same time, there is some evidence for the persistence of a more patriarchal attitude on the part of the foundry owners toward their employees, and the on-site manager, John Simmons, at least maintained a personalized, face-to-face relationship with his workers.


Collection Scope and Content Note

The Ulster Iron Works records consist of two parts, a bound volume that includes retained copies of out-going correspondence, and a series of approximately 100 miscellaneous items, mostly consisting of correspondence between the owners of the company and John Simmons, the on-site manager. The collection provides documentation of the financial, management, and technical aspects of iron production during the 1830s and 40s, with particularly interesting information on governmental contracting and on technology transfer from English and Welsh mills.

Both the bound volume and loose manuscripts include sets of technical specifications, and some plans and figures for various aspects of refining and iron production. The owners of the iron works were keen on importing the latest English and Welsh technology to make Ulster more efficient in production, with a specific interest in improving the rolling operations, furnace technology, steam power, and -- as might be expected for a works situated not far from the coal regions of Pennsylvania -- integrating anthracite into the operation as a fuel source. Among the miscellaneous manuscripts at the end of the collection are yield estimates and statements of production costs for various manufacturing processes, some production records, price comparisons with products from other works in the United States and Britain, and tests and specifications for various iron products.

The collection contains a number of items relating to labor and labor relations at the Saugerties mills. Scattered throughout the collection is correspondence relating to the hiring of both skilled and unskilled hands, with some particularly items relating to efforts to locate highly skilled English and Welsh workers and persuade them to emigrate, both to fill labor needs and to bring workers experienced with new technologies. In 1839, when William Young was traveling in Britain to examine iron works, Simmons argued that compared to English mills, Ulster could offer higher wages for several positions for boys, and argued that this might be an effective tool for luring emigrants in the face of an expected shortage of labor. There are also a number of items relating to workmen's wages, including some vouchers, receipts, and labor contracts for individual workers. Of a more personal nature, the collection includes a subscription list forwarded by John Simmons to provide relief to the widow of a mill hand (1830 August 25), and a letter from a former mill employee, Walter Kearny, requesting a loan to help purchase the business of a deceased partner. There are several references, though none terribly substantive, to "disturbance and dissatisfaction" among the employees of the mill in 1831. An 1842 letter relating to the New Jersey Iron Works, another operation managed by the owners of the Ulster Iron Works, contains even greater evidence of labor unrest. The unidentified writer insists that the workers accept a 25% reduction in wages without negotiation, and concludes, "we have orders on hand to execute, which may take another month to complete. We shall then stop, until the Workmen submit to our terms" (1842 January 16). A few letters relate to Simmons' own dissatisfaction with his position at the iron works and his feeling that his authority was being undermined by the actions of the owners.

Like many "business" collections from the early Republic, the Ulster Iron Works Records contain some personal correspondence of the mill owners and executives, particularly of the supervisor, John Simmons. Among the most poignant letters in the collection is a letter from Simmons to a bar owner, Samuel Oaks, in which Simmons writes that his father had been frequenting Oaks' "works" and been seen "in Places and in Condition highly Discreditable to the humane race" (1834 August 8). Simmons professed to finding the situation "mortifying" and pleaded with Oaks to persuade his father to return home.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • Apprentices.
    • Blast furnaces.
    • Debt.
    • Employees recruiting.
    • Great Britain.
    • Industrial relations.
    • Iron--Analysis.
    • Iron and steel workers.
    • Iron founding.
    • Iron industry and trade.
    • Iron industry and trade--Prices.
    • Lumber trade.
    • New York.
    • Public contracts.
    • Puddling.
    • Rolling (Metal-work)
    • Shingles.
    • Technology.
    • United States. Navy.
    • Wages--Iron and steel workers.
    • Wales.
    Genre Terms:
    • Business records.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   1  
    Ulster Iron Works records (loose manuscripts),  1829 January 25-1844 May 13 [series]
    Volume   1  
    Ulster Iron Works records (bound volume),  1816 May-1874 January [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Partial Subject Index
    Alcoholism
    • 1834 August 8
    Anchors
    • 1839 October 1
    Anthracite
    • 1841 March 2
    • 1841 March 18
    • 1842 February 3
    Anvils
    • 1831 March 16
    Apprentices
    • 1829 April 17
    • 1829 October 5
    • 1837 January 30
    • 1839 February 21
    Blacksmiths
    • 1831 September 9
    Blast furnaces
    • 1839 February 18
    • 1841 March 18
    • 1840
    • 1840
    Blenavon Iron Works, Wales
    • 1839 March 29
    Blowers
    • 1840
    Bolters-down
    • 1839 April 15
    Bricklayers
    • 1831 February 3
    Bricks
    • 1839 February 18
    • 1840 August 13
    Carriages
    • 1831 November 28
    Cast iron
    • 1841 - 1842
    Catchers
    • 1839 March 6
    Charity
    • 1830 August 25
    Child labor
    • 1839 February 21
    • 1839 March 6
    • 1839 April 15
    Clay
    • 1840 August 13
    Coal
    • 1831 July 20
    Contract negotiation
    • 1839 December 25
    • 1840 January 30
    Contractors
    • 1843 September 26
    • 1843 September 26
    Contracts
    • 1834 September 23
    • 1843 September 26
    Death
    • 1830 August 25
    • 1839 March 18
    Debauchery
    • 1834 August 8
    Debts
    • 1834 June 14
    • 1834 June 17
    • 1841 October 18
    • 1841 October 18
    Defense contracts
    • 1839 October 1
    Delph Clay Works
    • 1839 February 18
    Dowlais Iron Works
    • 1841
    Employees
    • 1831 September 9
    Employment
    • 1829 April 21
    • 1829 October 5
    • 1831 April 14
    • 1839 February 21
    • 1839 March 18
    Family life
    • 1834 August 8
    Fildsby & Simms
    • 1839 February 18
    Fire
    • 1841 January 2
    Floods
    • 1839 February 18
    • 1839 March 6
    • 1841 January 2
    Foremen
    • 1840 March 11
    Foster Co.
    • 1839 February 18
    Freight
    • 1831 July 18
    • 1831 September 26
    • 1831 October 29
    Funerals
    • 1830 August 25
    • 1841 October 19
    Furnacemen
    • 1839 March 6
    Furnaces
    • 1841 March 2
    • 1842 February 3
    Greenwich Iron Works
    • 1842
    Hinton, Lewis
    • 1830 August 25
    Horses
    • 1832 January 11
    • 1839 January 30
    Industrial relations
    • 1831 September 10
    • 1834 November 20
    • 1836
    • 1839 February 21
    • 1840 March 11
    • 1841 December 8
    Iron and steel trade--New York
    • 1831 February 3
    Iron and steel workers
    • 1836 January 30
    • 1841 March 2
    • 1841 December 8
    • [1843]
    • 1842 January 16
    • 1835 August 17 - 1835 September 14
    Iron and steel workers--New York
    • 1837 January 30
    Iron founding
    • 1829 January 25
    • 1831 August 23
    • 1834 November 15
    • 1841
    • 1841 January 8
    • 1836 - 1843
    • 1839 October 1
    Iron founding--Great Britain
    • 1840
    Iron founding--New York
    • 1843 July 25
    Iron industry and trade
    • 1839 December 25
    • 1840 January 21
    • 1840 January 30
    • 1841 March 2
    • [1843]
    Iron industry and trade--Connecticut
    • 1842
    Iron industry and trade--Great Britain
    • 1834 September 23
    • 1839 February 18
    • 1839 February 21
    • 1839 March 6
    • 1839 April 15
    • 1839 April 18
    • [1828]
    • 1842 January
    Iron industry and trade--New Jersey
    • 1842 January 16
    Iron industry and trade--New York
    • 1831 August 10
    • 1831 September 9
    • 1831 September 10
    • 1834 November 20
    • 1836
    • 1839 February 21
    • 1839 March 6
    • 1843 September 26
    • 1843 September 26
    • 1843 September 29
    • n.d.
    • 1831 - 1842
    • 1837 September 30 - 1841 September 30
    • 1835 - 1842
    • 1836 - 1843
    • 1843 July 25
    • 1836 January and February
    • 1842 January
    • 1842 February 3
    • 1833 June 30 - 1833 July 14
    Iron industry and trade--Pennsylvania
    • 1841 March 18
    • 1843 March 21
    Iron industry and trade--Prices
    • 1833 March 30
    • 1834 September 23
    • 1840 February 7
    • 1841 March 18
    • 1837 September 30 - 1841 September 30
    • 1836 - 1843
    • [1828]
    • 1836 January and February
    • 1842
    • 1842 January
    • 1843 March 21
    Iron industry and trade--Virginia
    • 1841 January 2
    Iron industry and trade--Wales
    • 1839 March 29
    • 1839 April 15
    • 1839 April 18
    • 1840
    • n.d.
    Iron--Analysis
    • 1829 January 25
    • 1829 April 18
    • 1831 November 28
    • 1834 November 15
    • 1841 - 1842
    • 1836 January and February
    Iron-works--Great Britain
    • 1839 February 18
    • 1839 April 15
    Iron-works--New Jersey
    • 1841 March 2
    • 1842 January 16
    Iron-works--New York
    • 1835 - 1842
    Iron-Works--Wales
    • 1839 March 29
    • 1841
    Jenkins, George
    • 1839 April 15
    Juniata Iron Works
    • 1843 March 21
    Kemble, William
    • 1831 September 26
    Labor disputes--Iron industry and trade
    • 1831 September 10
    Labor relations
    • 1842 January 16
    Laundry
    • 1843 September 23 - 1844 May 13
    Lawsuits
    • 1831 September 19
    Lightning rods
    • 1841 June 14
    Loans
    • 1841 December 8
    Lumber trade
    • 1831 November 1
    • 1831 November 3
    • 1831 November 21
    • 1831 November 29
    • 1834 November 2
    Mammoth Iron Works
    • 1839 February 18
    Management
    • 1831 August 10
    • 1834 November 20
    Masons
    • 1831 February 3
    Metals--refining
    • 1841
    Mills, Thomas
    • 1831 September 9
    Mount Savage Iron Works, NY
    • 1840 August 13
    New Jersey Iron Works
    • 1842 January 16
    Physical plant
    • 1831 January 20
    • 1831 March 16
    • n.d.
    Plant maintenance
    • 1834 December 22
    • [1843]
    Public contracts
    • 1834 November 15
    • 1839 December 25
    • 1840 January 21
    • 1840 January 30
    • 1840 February 7
    Puddlers
    • 1829 April 17
    • 1829 April 21
    • 1829 October 5
    • 1839 March 6
    • 1839 April 15
    • 1835 August 17 - 1835 September 14
    • 1836 - 1842
    Puddling
    • 1829 January 25
    • 1835 - 1842
    • n.d.
    • 1835 August 17 - 1835 September 14
    Puddling furnaces
    • 1841
    • 1843 July 25
    Railroad ties
    • 1841 January 8
    Recruiting of employees
    • 1836 January 30
    • 1839 February 21
    • 1839 March 6
    • 1839 March 29
    • 1839 April 15
    • 1839 April 18
    Reheaters
    • 1839 April 15
    • 1836 - 1842
    Reheating furnaces
    • 1843 July 25
    Richards, James
    • 1829 August 13
    Road construction
    • 1834 May 31
    Rockets
    • 1840 January 30
    Roll turners
    • 1837 January 30
    Rolling (Metal-work)
    • 1829 April 18
    • 1839 April 18
    • 1839 June 3
    • 1841 March 18
    • 1835 - 1842
    • 1842
    Scullion, Daniel
    • 1829 October 5
    Shingles
    • 1831 November 1
    • 1831 November 3
    • 1831 November 29
    • 1834 November 2
    Shipping
    • 1831 July 18
    • 1831 September 26
    • 1831 October 29
    Simmons, Ephraim
    • 1841 October 19
    Simmons, Lewis
    • 1841 October 19
    Steam engineering
    • 1841
    Steam engines
    • 1839 February 18
    • 1840
    Steel industry and trade
    • 1839 June 3
    Subcontracting
    • [1843]
    Tariffs
    • 1842 January
    Technology
    • 1831 August 23
    • 1839 February 18
    • 1841
    • 1835 - 1842
    • 1840
    • 1840
    • n.d.
    Ulster Iron Works
    • 1831 January 20
    • 1831 March 16
    • 1831 September 1
    • 1831 September 10
    • 1833 March 30
    • 1834 December 22
    • 1841 January 2
    • 1841 January 8
    • [1843]
    • n.d.
    • 1837 September 30 - 1841 September 30
    • 1835 - 1842
    • 1836 - 1843
    • 1843 July 25
    • [1828]
    • 1835 August 17 - 1835 September 14
    United States. Navy
    • 1840 January 21
    • 1840 January 30
    • 1840 February 7
    • 1839 October 1
    Varteg Iron Works, Wales
    • 1839 March 29
    Vice
    • 1834 August 8
    Wage negotiation
    • 1843 September 29
    Wages
    • 1829 April 17
    • 1839 March 6
    • 1843 September 29
    Wages--Iron and steel workers
    • 1831 February 3
    • 1839 March 6
    • 1843 September 30
    • n.d.
    • 1836 - 1843
    • 1842 January 16
    • 1836 - 1842
    Wages--Iron and steel workers--New York
    • 1831 September 1
    • 1840 March 11
    Wagons
    • 1832 January 11
    Wales
    • 1840
    Wine
    • 1831 August 25
    Wire
    • 1829 April 18
    Work schedules
    • 1835 August 17 - 1835 September 14
    Young, William
    • 1831 September 10