Lives Wrought in the Furnace: New Research on the Labor Force at Catoctin Furnace

Author(s): Elizabeth A. Comer

Year: 2015


Starting in 1776, Catoctin Furnace was a thriving iron-making community at the base of the Catoctin Mountains in northern Frederick County, Maryland. Enslaved blacks and European immigrants comprised the labor force. The growth of large iron-making corporations ultimately doomed this rural industrial complex, and it ceased operation in 1903.

We know much about the owners of the complex. However, the story of the laborers is only beginning to emerge. Several archaeological reports and a recent history have all touched upon them, but a focused history of the people who carried out vital daily operations has yet to emerge, as is the case at many industrial sites in Maryland. This paper surveys the results of recent research on this hidden population that has utilized data from new excavations, Lidar data, X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analysis, dendrochronological research, geophysics, forensic skeletal examination, craniometric analysis, stable isotope analysis, and mitochondrial DNA analysis.

Cite this Record

Lives Wrought in the Furnace: New Research on the Labor Force at Catoctin Furnace. Elizabeth A. Comer. Presented at Society for Historical Archaeology, Seattle, Washington. 2015 ( tDAR id: 433760)


Temporal Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -129.199; min lat: 24.495 ; max long: -66.973; max lat: 49.359 ;

Individual & Institutional Roles

Contact(s): Society for Historical Archaeology

Record Identifiers

PaperId(s): 567