January 10: First Flame of the Industrial Revolution
2016/01/10 § Leave a comment
On this day in 1709 Abraham Darby (1678-1717) inaugurated his furnace at Coalbrookdale, England.
Although not wholly responsible for the Industrial Revolution, Darby is of extraordinary significance in its history, especially in the development of this region as a center of industrial production. Although Darby’s process was not new (he based it on established traditions to make metal pots), he innovated within it by using coke instead of charcoal to produce pig iron in order to facilitate and thus cheapen the production of of iron goods of all sorts. It was left to Darby’s grandson, Abraham Darby III (1750–1791), to build the first great architecturally scaled monument to his grandfather’s innovation, the great iron bridge at Coalbrookdale of 1778.
If you think about it long enough, it’s hard to be lukewarm about the Industrial Revolution. Either way you go–was it the best thing to happen to mankind, or the start of all degradation–the Darby family is at its center, to praise as heroes or blame as villains.
image: painting by Philip James de Loutherbourg, “Coalbrookdale by Night,” 1801 (from this source)