Henry Burden was born in Dunblane, Scotland, on April 22, 1791, and a talent for inventing led him to the University of Edinburgh, where he studied drawing; though he did not receive a degree, he later became quite successful. In 1819, he emigrated to the United States, and worked with the agricultural manufacturer Townsend & Corning in Albany, New York, until 1822, when he and his wife, Helen McOuat, moved to Troy, New York. In Troy, he joined the Troy Iron and Nail Factory, and quickly rose through the ranks with his talent for suggesting ways to increase efficiency; under his leadership, the factory built a locally famous, giant waterwheel. In addition to his work at the factory, he patented several machines used throughout the iron industry, and his success at transforming the Troy Iron and Nail Factory into a leading manufacturer allowed him to become its sole owner in 1848; he renamed the company "H. Burden & Sons." Along with his iron-working inventions, Burden also took an interest in steamboat innovation, though he proved less successful in this endeavor. Following his death on January 19, 1871, his sons William and Townsend took over the business, although the increased use of steel meant a decline in its revenues. Burden's other sons included Peter, James, and Jesse; Peter also worked for his father, selling his machines throughout the United States.