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Title: The Beginnings of Cheap Steel
Author: Bishop, Philip W.
Language: English
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_Philip W. Bishop_

STEEL BEFORE THE 1850's                    29


ROBERT MUSHET                              33


MUSHET AND BESSEMER                        37


CONCLUSIONS                                46


By Philip W. Bishop

_Other inventors claimed a part in the invention of the Bessemer
process of making steel. Here, the contemporary discussion in the
technical press is re-examined to throw light on the relations of these
various claimants to the iron and steel industry of their time, as
having a possible connection with the antagonism shown by the
ironmasters toward Bessemer's ideas._

THE AUTHOR: _Philip W. Bishop is curator of arts and manufactures,
Museum of History and Technology, in the Smithsonian Institution's
United States National Museum._

The development of the world's productive resources during the 19th
century, accelerated in general by major innovations in the field of
power, transportation, and textiles, was retarded by the occurrence of
certain bottlenecks. One of these affected the flow of suitable and
economical raw materials to the machine tool and transportation
industries: in spite of a rapid growth of iron production, the methods
of making steel remained as they were in the previous century; and
outputs remained negligible.

In the decade 1855-1865, this situation was completely changed in Great
Britain and in Europe generally; and when the United States emerged
from the Civil War, that country found itself in a position to take
advantage of the European innovations and to start a period of growth
which, in the next 50 years, was to establish her as the world's
largest producer of steel.

This study reviews the controversy as to the origin of the process
which, for more than 35 years[1] provided the greater part of the steel
production of the United States. It concerns four men for whom priority
of invention in one or more aspects of the process has been claimed.

      [1] From 1870 through 1907, "Bessemer" production accounted for
      not less than 50 percent of United States steel production. From
      1880 through 1895, 80 percent of all steel came from this source:
      Historical Statistics of the United States 1789-1945 (Washington,
      U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, 1949), Tables
      J. 165-170 at p. 187.

The process consists in forcing through molten cast iron, held in a
vessel called a converter, a stream of cold air under pressure. The
combination of the oxygen in the air with the silicon and carbon in the
metal raises the temperature of the latter in a spectacular way and
after "blowing" for a certain period, eliminates the carbon from the
metal. Since steel of various qualities demands the inclusion of from
0.15 to 1.70 percent of carbon, the blow has to be terminated before
the elimination of the whole carbon content; or if the carbon content
has been eliminated the appropriate percentage of carbon has to be put
back. This latter operation is carried out by adding a precise quantity
of manganiferous pig-iron (spiegeleisen) or ferromanganese, the
manganese serving to remove the oxygen, which has combined with the
iron during the blow.

The controversy which surrounded its development concerned two aspects
of the process: The use of the cold air blast to raise the temperature
of the molten metal, and the application of manganese to overcome the
problem of control of the carbon and oxygen content.

Bessemer, who began his experiments in the making of iron and steel in
1854, secured his first patent in Great Britain in January 1855, and
was persuaded to present information about his discovery to a meeting
of the British Association for the Advancement of Science held at
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, in August 1856. His title "The Manufacture
of Iron without Fuel" was given wide publicity in Great Britain and in
the United States. Among those who wrote to the papers to contest
Bessemer's theories were several claimants to priority of invention.

Two men claimed that they had anticipated Bessemer in the invention of
a method of treating molten metal with air-blasts for the purpose of
"purifying" or decarbonizing iron. Both were Americans. Joseph Gilbert
Martien, of Newark, New Jersey, who at the time of Bessemer's address
was working at the plant of the Ebbw Vale Iron Works, in South Wales,
secured a provisional patent a few days before Bessemer obtained one of
his series of patents for making cast steel, a circumstance which
provided ammunition for those who wished to dispute Bessemer's somewhat
spectacular claims. William Kelly, an ironmaster of Eddyville,
Kentucky, brought into action by an American report of Bessemer's
British Association paper, opposed the granting of a United States
patent to Bessemer and substantiated, to the satisfaction of the
Commissioner of Patents, his claim to priority in the "air boiling"

A third man, this one a Scot resident in England, intervened to claim
that he had devised the means whereby Martien's and Bessemer's ideas
could be made practical. He was Robert Mushet of Coleford,
Gloucestershire, a metallurgist and self-appointed "sage" of the
British iron and steel industry who also was associated with the Ebbw
Vale Iron Works as a consultant. He, like his American contemporaries,
has become established in the public mind as one upon whom Henry
Bessemer was dependent for the origin and success of his process. Since
Bessemer was the only one of the group to make money from the expansion
of the steel industry consequent upon the introduction of the new
technique, the suspicion has remained that he exploited the inventions
of the others, if indeed he did not steal them.

In this study, based largely upon the contemporary discussion in the
technical press, the relation of the four men to each other is
re-examined and an attempt is made to place the controversy of
1855-1865 in focus. The necessity for a reappraisal arises from the
fact that today's references to the origin of Bessemer steel[2] often
contain chronological and other inaccuracies arising in many cases from
a dependence on secondary and sometimes unreliable sources. As a
result, Kelly's contribution has, perhaps, been overemphasized, with
the effect of derogating from the work of another American, Alexander
Lyman Holley, who more than any man is entitled to credit for
establishing Bessemer steel in America.[3]

      [2] See especially material distributed by the American Iron and
      Steel Institute in connection with its celebration of the
      centennial of Steel: "Steel centennial (1957), press
      information," prepared by Hill and Knowlton, Inc., and released
      by the Institute as of May 1, 1957.

      [3] Holley's work is outside the scope of this paper. Belatedly,
      his biography is now being written. It can hardly fail to
      substantiate the contention that during his short life
      (1832-1882) Holley, who negotiated the purchase of the American
      rights to Bessemer's process, also adapted his methods to the
      American scene and laid a substantial part of the foundation for
      the modern American steel industry.

Steel Before the 1850's

In spite of a rapid increase in the use of machines and the
overwhelming demand for iron products for the expanding railroads, the
use of steel had expanded little prior to 1855. The methods of
production were still largely those of a century earlier. Slow
preparation of the steel by cementation or in crucibles meant a
disproportionate consumption of fuel and a resulting high cost.
Production in small quantities prevented the adoption of steel in uses
which required large initial masses of metal. Steel was, in fact, a
luxury product.

The work of Réaumur and, especially, of Huntsman, whose development of
cast steel after 1740 secured an international reputation for
Sheffield, had established the cementation and crucible processes as
the primary source of cast steel, for nearly 100 years. Josiah Marshall
Heath's patents of 1839, were the first developments in the direction
of cheaper steel, his process leading to a reduction of from 30 to 40
percent in the price of good steel in the Sheffield market.[4] Heath's
secret was the addition to the charge of from 1 to 3 percent of
carburet of manganese[5] as a deoxidizer. Heath's failure to word his
patent so as to cover also his method of producing carburet of
manganese led to the effective breakdown of that patent and to the
general adoption of his process without payment of license or royalty.
In spite of this reduction in the cost of its production, steel
remained, until after the midpoint of the century, an insignificant
item in the output of the iron and steel industry, being used
principally in the manufacture of cutlery and edge tools.

      [4] Andrew Ure, _Dictionary of arts, manufactures and mines_, New
      York, 1856, p. 735.

      [5] See abridgement of British patent 8021 of 1839 quoted by
      James S. Jeans, _Steel_, London, 1880, p. 28 ff. It is not clear
      that Heath was aware of the precise chemical effect of the use of
      manganese in this way.

The stimulus towards new methods of making steel and, indeed, of making
new steels came curiously enough from outside the established industry,
from a man who was not an ironmaster--Henry Bessemer. The way in which
Bessemer challenged the trade was itself unusual. There are few cases
in which a stranger to an industry has taken the risk of giving a
description of a new process in a public forum like a meeting of the
British Association for the Advancement of Science. He challenged the
trade, not only to attack his theories but to produce evidence from
their own plants that they could provide an alternative means of
satisfying an emergent demand. Whether or not Bessemer is entitled to
claim priority of invention, one can but agree with the ironmaster who
said:[6] "Mr. Bessemer has raised such a spirit of enquiry throughout
... the land as must lead to an improved system of manufacture."

      [6] _Mining Journal_, 1857, vol. 27, p. 465.

Bessemer and his Competitors

Henry Bessemer (1813-1898), an Englishman of French extraction, was the
son of a mechanical engineer with a special interest in metallurgy. His
environment and his unusual ability to synthesize his observation and
experience enabled Bessemer to begin a career of invention by
registering his first patent at the age of 25. His active experimenting
continued until his death, although the public record of his results
ended with a patent issued on the day before his seventieth birthday. A
total of 117 British patents[7] bear his name, not all of them, by any
means, successful in the sense of producing a substantial income.
Curiously, Bessemer's financial stability was assured by the success of
an invention he did not patent. This was a process of making bronze
powder and gold paint, until the 1830's a secret held in Germany.
Bessemer's substitute for an expensive imported product, in the then
state of the patent laws, would have failed to give him an adequate
reward if he had been unable to keep his process secret. To assure this
reward, he had to design, assemble, and organize a plant capable of
operation with a minimum of hired labor and with close security
control. The fact that he kept the method secret for 40 years, suggests
that his machinery[8] (Bessemer describes it as virtually automatic in
operation) represented an appreciation of coordinated design greatly in
advance of his time. His experience must have directly contributed to
his conception of his steel process not as a metallurgical trick but as
an industrial process; for when the time came, Bessemer patented his
discovery as a process rather than as a formula.

      [7] _Sir Henry Bessemer, F.R.S., an autobiography_, London, 1905,
      p. 332.

      [8] _Ibid._, p. 59 ff.

In the light of subsequent developments, it is necessary to consider
Bessemer's attitude toward the patent privilege. He describes his
secret gold paint as an example of "what the public has had to pay for
not being able to give ... security to the inventor" in a situation
where the production of the material "could not be identified as having
been made by any particular form of mechanism."[9] The inability to
obtain a patent over the method of production meant that the disclosure
of his formula, necessary for patent specification, would openly invite
competitors, including the Germans, to evolve their own techniques.
Bessemer concludes:[10]

    Had the invention been patented, it would have become public
    property in fourteen years from the date of the patent, after which
    period the public would have been able to buy bronze powder at its
    present [_i.e._, _ca._ 1890] market price, viz. from two shillings
    and three pence to two shillings and nine pence per pound. But this
    important secret was kept for about thirty-five years and the
    public had to pay excessively high prices for twenty-one years
    longer than they would have done had the invention become public
    property in fourteen years, as it would have been if patented. Even
    this does not represent all the disadvantages resulting from secret
    manufacture. While every detail of production was a profound
    secret, there were no improvements made by the outside public in
    any one of the machines employed during the whole thirty-five
    years; whereas during the fourteen years, if the invention had been
    patented, there would, in all probability have been many improved
    machines invented and many novel features applied to totally
    different manufactures.

      [9] _Ibid._, p. 82.

      [10] _Ibid._, p. 83.

While these words, to some extent, were the rationalizations of an old
man, Bessemer's career showed that his philosophy had a practical
foundation; and, if this was indeed his belief, the episode explains in
large measure Bessemer's later insistence on the legal niceties of the
patent procedure. The effect of this will be seen.

Bessemer's intervention in the field of iron and steel was preceded by
a period of experiments in the manufacture of glass. Here Bessemer
claims to have made glass for the first time in the open hearth of a
reverberatory furnace.[11] His work in glass manufacture at least gave
him considerable experience in the problems of fusion under high
temperatures and provided some support for his later claim that in
applying the reverberatory furnace to the manufacture of malleable iron
as described in his first patent of January 1855, he had in some manner
anticipated the work of C. W. Siemens and Emil Martin.[12]

      [11] _Ibid._, p. 108 ff.

      [12] _Ibid._, p. 141. Bessemer's assertion that he had approached
      "within measurable distance" of anticipating the Siemens-Martin
      process, made in a paper presented at a meeting of the American
      Society of Mechanical Engineers (_Transactions of the American
      Society of Mechanical Engineers_, 1897, vol. 28, p. 459), evoked
      strong criticism of Bessemer's lack of generosity (_ibid._, p.
      482). One commentator, friendly to Bessemer, put it that
      "Bessemer's relation to the open-hearth process was very much
      like Kelly's to the Bessemer process.... Although he was
      measurably near to the open-hearth process, he did not follow it
      up and make it a commercial success...." (_ibid._, p. 491).

The general interest in problems of ordnance and armor, stimulated by
the Crimean War (1854-1856), was shared by Bessemer, whose ingenuity
soon produced a design for a projectile which could provide its own
rotation when fired from a smooth-bore gun.[13] Bessemer's failure to
interest the British War Office in the idea led him to submit his
design to the Emperor Napoleon III. Trials made with the encouragement
of the Emperor showed the inadequacy of the cast-iron guns of the
period to deal with the heavier shot; and Bessemer was presented with a
new problem which, with "the open mind which derived from a limited
knowledge of the metallurgy of war," he attacked with impetuosity.
Within three weeks of his experiments in France, he had applied for a
patent for "Improvements in the Manufacture of Iron and Steel."[14]
This covered the fusion of steel with pig or cast iron and, though this
must be regarded as only the first practical step toward the Bessemer
process,[15] it was his experiments with the furnace which provided
Bessemer with the idea for his later developments.

      [13] British patent 2489, November 24, 1854.

      [14] Bessemer, _op. cit._ (footnote 7), p. 137 He received
      British patent 66, dated January 10, 1855.

      [15] See James W. Dredge, "Henry Bessemer 1813-1898,"
      _Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers_,
      1898, vol. 19, p. 911.

These were described in his patent dated October 17, 1855 (British
patent 2321). This patent is significant to the present study because
his application for an American patent, based on similar
specifications, led to the interference of William Kelly and to the
subsequent denial of the American patent.[16] In British patent 2321
Bessemer proposed to convert his steel in crucibles, arranged in a
suitable furnace and each having a vertical tuyère, through which air
under pressure was forced through the molten metal. As Dredge[17]
points out, Bessemer's association of the air blast with the increase
in the temperature of the metal "showed his appreciation of the end in
view, and the general way of attaining it, though his mechanical
details were still crude and imperfect."

      [16] See U.S. Patent Office, Decision of Commissioner of Patents,
      dated April 13, 1857, in Kelly vs. Bessemer Interference. This is
      further discussed below (p. 42).

      [17] Dredge, _op. cit._ (footnote 15), p. 912.

IN U.S. PATENT 16082. This patent, dated November 11, 1856, corresponds
with British patent 356, dated February 12, 1856. The more familiar
design of converter appeared first in British patent 578, March 1,
1860. The contrast with Kelly's schematic drawing in Fig. 2 (p. 42) is

Experiments were continued and several more British patents were
applied for before Bessemer made his appearance before the British
Association on August 13, 1856.[18] Bessemer described his first
converter and its operation in some detail. Although he was soon to
realize that he "too readily allowed myself to bring my inventions
under public notice,"[19] Bessemer had now thrown out a challenge which
eventually had to be taken up, regardless of the strength of the vested
interests involved. The provocation came from his claims that the
product of the first stage of the conversion was the equivalent of
charcoal iron, the processes following the smelting being conducted
without contact with, or the use of, any mineral fuel; and that further
blowing could be used to produce any quality of metal, that is, a steel
with any desired percentage of carbon. Yet, the principal irritant to
the complacency of the ironmaster must have been Bessemer's attack on
an industry which had gone on increasing the size of its smelting
furnaces, thus improving the uniformity of its pig-iron, without
modifying the puddling process, which at best could handle no more than
400 to 500 pounds of iron at a time, divided into the "homeopathic
doses" of 70 or 80 pounds capable of being handled by human labor.[20]
Bessemer's claim to "do" 800 pounds of metal in 30 minutes against the
puddling furnace's output of 500 pounds in two hours was calculated to
arouse the opposition of those who feared the loss of capital invested
in puddling furnaces and of those who suspected that their jobs might
be in jeopardy. The ensuing criticism of Bessemer has to be
interpreted, therefore, with this in mind; not by any means was it
entirely based on objective consideration of the method or the

      [18] Bessemer's paper was reported in _The Times_, London, August
      14, 1856. By the time the Transactions of the British Association
      were prepared for publication, the controversy aroused by
      Bessemer's claim to manufacture "malleable iron and steel without
      fuel" had broken out and it was decided not to report the paper.
      Dredge (_op. cit._, footnote 15, p. 915) describes this decision
      as "sagacious."

      [19] Bessemer, _op. cit._ (footnote 7), p. 164.

      [20] _The Times_, London, August 14, 1856.

      [21] David Mushet recognized that Bessemer's great feature was
      this effort to "raise the after processes ... to a level
      commensurate with the preceding case" (_Mining Journal_, 1856, p.

Within a month of his address, Bessemer had sold licenses to several
ironmasters (outside Sheffield) and so provided himself with capital
with which to continue his development work; but he refused to sell his
patents outright to the Ebbw Vale Iron Works and by this action, as
will be seen, he created an enemy for himself.

The three years between 1856 and 1859, when Bessemer opened his own
steel works in Sheffield, were occupied in tracing the causes of his
initial difficulties. There was continued controversy in the technical
press. Bessemer (unless he used a _nom-de-plume_) took no part in it
and remained silent until he made another public appearance before the
Institution of Civil Engineers in London (May 1859). By this time
Bessemer's process was accepted as a practical one, and the claims of
Robert Mushet to share in his achievement was becoming clamorous.

Robert Mushet

Robert (Forester) Mushet (1811-1891), born in the Forest of Dean,
Gloucestershire, of a Scots father (David, 1772-1847) himself a noted
contributor to the metallurgy of iron and steel, is, like the American
William Kelly, considered by many to have been a victim of Bessemer's
astuteness--or villainy. Because of Robert Mushet's preference for the
quiet of Coleford, many important facts about his career are lacking;
but even if his physical life was that of a recluse, his frequent and
verbose contributions to the correspondence columns of the technical
press made him well-known to the iron trade. It is from these letters
that he must be judged.

In view of his propensity to intervene pontifically in every discussion
concerning the manufacture of iron and steel, it is somewhat surprising
that he refrained from comment on Bessemer's British Association
address of August 1856 for more than fourteen months. The debate was
opened over the signature of his brother David who shared the family
facility with the pen.[22] Recognizing Bessemer's invention as a
"congruous appendage to [the] now highly developed powers of the blast
furnace" which he describes as "too convenient, too powerful and too
capable of further development to be superseded by any retrograde
process," David Mushet greeted Bessemer's discovery as "one of the
greatest operations ever devised in metallurgy."[23] A month later,
however, David Mushet had so modified his opinion of Bessemer as to
come to the conclusion that the latter "must indeed be classed with the
most unfortunate inventors." He gave as his reason for this turnabout
his discovery that Joseph Martien had demonstrated his process of
"purifying" metal successfully and had indeed been granted a
provisional patent a month before Bessemer. The sharp practice of
Martien's patent lawyer, Mushet claimed, had deprived him of an
opportunity of proving priority of invention against Bessemer. Mushet
was convinced that Martien's was the first in the field.[24]

      [22] See _Mining Journal_, 1857, vol. 27, pp. 839 and 855. David
      Mushet withdrew from the discussion after 1858 and his relapse
      into obscurity is only broken by an appeal for funds for the
      family of Henry Cort. A biographer of the Mushets is of the
      opinion that Robert Mushet wrote these letters and obtained
      David's signature to them (Fred M. Osborn, _The story of the
      Mushets_, London, 1952, p. 44, footnote). The similarity in the
      style of the two brothers is extraordinary enough to support this
      idea. If this is so, Robert Mushet who disagreed with himself as
      "Sideros" was also in controversy with himself writing as

      [23] _Mining Journal_, 1856, vol. 26, p. 567.

      [24] _Ibid._, pp. 631 and 647. The case of Martien will be
      discussed below (p. 36). David Mushet had overlooked Bessemer's
      patent of January 10, 1855.

Robert Mushet's campaign on behalf of his own claims to have made the
Bessemer process effective was introduced in October 1857, two years
after the beginning of Bessemer's experiment and after one year of
silence on Bessemer's part. Writing as "Sideros"[25] he gave credit to
Martien for "the great discovery that pig-iron can, whilst in the fluid
state, be purified ... by forcing currents of air under it ...," though
Martien had failed to observe the use of temperature by the "deflation
of the iron itself"; and for discovering that--

    when the carbon has been all, or nearly all, dissipated, the
    temperature increases to an almost inconceivable extent, so that
    the mass, when containing only as much carbon as is requisite to
    constitute with it cast steel ... still retains a perfect degree of

      [25] _Mining Journal_, 1857, vol. 27, p. 723. Robert Mushet was a
      constant correspondent of the _Mining Journal_ from 1848. The
      adoption of a pseudonym, peculiar apparently to 1857-1858 (see
      _Dictionary of national biography_, vol. 39, p. 429), enabled him
      to carry on two debates at a time and also to sing his own

This, says "Sideros," was no new observation; "it had been before the
metallurgical world, both practical and scientific, for centuries," but
Bessemer was the first to show that this generation of heat could be
attained by blowing cold air through the melted iron. Mushet goes on to
show, however, that the steel thus produced by Bessemer was not
commercially valuable because the sulphur and phosphorous remained, and
the dispersion of oxide of iron through the mass "imported to it the
inveterate hot-short quality which no subsequent operation could
expel." "Sideros" concludes that Bessemer's discovery was "at least for
a time" now shelved and arrested in its progress; and it had been left
"to an individual of the name of Mushet" to show that if "fluid
metallic manganese" were combined with the fluid Bessemer iron, the
portion of manganese thus alloyed would unite with the oxygen of the
oxide and pass off as slag, removing the hot-short quality of the iron.
Robert Mushet had demonstrated his product to "Sideros" and had
patented his discovery, though "not one print, literary or scientific,
had condescended to notice it."

"Sideros" viewed Mushet's discovery as a "spark amongst dry faggots
that will one day light up a blaze which will astonish the world when
the unfortunate inventor can no longer reap the fruits of his life-long
toil and unflinching perseverance." In an ensuing letter he[26] summed
up the situation as he saw it:

Nothing that Mr. Mushet can hereafter invent can entitle him to the
merit of Mr. Bessemer's great discovery ... and ... nothing that Mr.
Bessemer may hereafter patent can deprive Mr. Robert Mushet of having
been the first to remove the obstacles to the success of Mr. Bessemer's

      [26] _Ibid._, p. 823. Mushet's distinction between an inventor
      and a patentee is indicative of the disdain of a son of David
      Mushet for an amateur (see also p. 886).

Bessemer still did not intervene in the newspaper discussion; nor had
he had any serious supporters, at least in the early stage.[27]

      [27] One William Green had commented extensively on David
      Mushet's early praise of the Bessemer process and on his sudden
      reversal in favor of Martien soon after Bessemer's British
      Association address (_Mechanics' Magazine_, 1856, vol. 65, p. 373
      ff.). Green wrote from Caledonian Road, and the proximity to
      Baxter House, Bessemer's London headquarters, suggests the
      possibility that Green was writing for Bessemer.

Publication in the _Mining Journal_ of a list of Mushet's patents,[28]
evidently in response to Sideros' complaint, now presented Bessemer
with notice of Robert Mushet's activity, even if he had not already
observed his claims as they were presented to the Patent Office.
Mushet, said the _Mining Journal_--

    appears to intend to carry on his researches from the point where
    Mr. J. G. Martien left off and is proceeding on the Bessemer plan
    of patenting each idea as it occurs to his imaginative brain. He
    proposes to make both iron and steel but does not appear to have
    quite decided as to the course of action ... to accomplish his
    object, and therefore claims various processes, some of which are
    never likely to realize the inventor's expectations, although
    decidedly novel, whilst others are but slight modification of
    inventions which have already been tried and failed.

      [28] _Mining Journal_, 1857, vol. 27, p. 764.

The contemporary attitude is reflected in another comment by the
_Mining Journal_:[29]

    Although the application of chemical knowledge to the manufacture
    of malleable iron cannot fail to produce beneficial results, the
    quality of the metal depends more upon the mechanical than the
    chemical processes.... Without wishing in any way to discourage the
    iron chemists, we have no hesitation in giving this as our opinion
    which we shall maintain until the contrary be actually proved. With
    regard to steel, there may be a large field for chemical research
    ... however, we believe that unless the iron be of a nature adapted
    for the manufacture of steel by ordinary processes, the purely
    chemical inventions will only give a metal of a very uniform

      [29] _Ibid._, p. 764.

Another correspondent, William Green, was of the opinion that Mushet's
"new compounds and alloys," promised well as an auxiliary to the
Bessemer process but that "the evil which it was intended to remove was
more visionary than real." Bessemer's chief difficulty was the
phosphorus, not the oxide of iron "as Mr. Mushet assumes." This,
Bessemer no doubt would deal with in due course, but meanwhile he did
well "to concentrate his energies upon the steel operations," after
which he would have time to tackle "the difficulties which have so far
retarded the iron operations."[30]

      [30] _Ibid._, p. 791.

Mushet[31] claims to have taken out his patent of September 22, 1856,
covering the famous "triple compound," after he--

    had fully ascertained, upon the ordinary scale of manufacture that
    air-purified cast-iron, when treated as set forth in my
    specifications, would afford tough malleable iron ... I found,
    however, that the remelting of the coke pig-iron, in contact with
    coke fuel, hardened the iron too much, and it became evident that
    an air-furnace was more proper for my purpose ... [the
    difficulties] arose, not from any defect in my process, but were
    owing to the small quantity of the metal operated upon and the
    imperfect arrangement of the purifying vessel, which ought to be so
    constituted that it may be turned upon an axis, the blast taken
    off, the alloy added and the steel poured out through a spout ...
    _Such a purifying vessel Mr. Bessemer has delineated in one of his

      [31] _Ibid._, p. 770 (italics supplied).

Mushet also claimed to have designed his own "purifying and mixing"
furnace, of 20-ton capacity, which he had submitted to the Ebbw Vale
Iron Works "many months ago," without comment from them. There is an
intriguing reference to the painful subject of two patents not
proceeded with, and not discussed "in the avaricious hope that the
parties connected with the patents will make me honorable amends ...
these patents were suppressed without my knowledge or consent." Lest
his qualifications should be questioned, Mushet concludes:

    I do not profess to be an iron chemist, but I have undoubtedly made
    more experiments upon the subject of iron and steel than any man
    now living and I am thereby enabled to say that all I know is but
    little in comparison with what has yet to be discovered.

So began Mushet's claim to have solved Bessemer's problem, a claim
which was to fill the correspondence columns of the engineering
journals for the next ten years. Interpretation of this correspondence
is made difficult by our ignorance of the facts concerning the control
of Mushet's patents. These have to be pieced together from his
scattered references to the subject.

His experiments were conducted, at least nearly up to the close of the
year 1856, with the cooperation of Thomas Brown of the Ebbw Vale Iron
Works.[32] The price of this assistance was apparently half interest in
Mushet's patents, though for reasons which Mushet does not explain the
deed prepared to effect the transfer was never executed.[33] Mushet
continued, however, to regard the patents as "wholly my own, though at
the same time, I am bound in honor to take no unfair advantage of the
non-execution of that deed." A possible explanation of this situation
may be found in Ebbw Vale's activities in connection with Martien and
Bessemer, as well as with an Austrian inventor, Uchatius.

      [32] _Ibid._, p. 770.

      [33] _Ibid._, p. 823.

Ebbw Vale and the Bessemer Process

After his British Association address in August 1856, Bessemer had
received applications from several ironmasters for licenses, which were
issued in return for a down payment and a nominal royalty of 25 pence
per ton. Among those who started negotiations was Mr. Thomas Brown of
Ebbw Vale Iron Works, one of the largest of the South Wales plants. He
proposed, however, instead of a license, an outright purchase of
Bessemer's patents for £50,000. Bessemer refused to sell, and according
to his[34] account--

    intense disappointment and anger quite got the better of [Brown]
    and for the moment he could not realize the fact of my refusal....
    [He then] left me very abruptly, saying in an irritated tone ...
    "I'll make you see the matter differently yet" and slammed the door
    after him.

      [34] Bessemer, _op. cit._ (footnote 7), p. 169.

David Mushet's advocacy of Martien's claim to priority over Bessemer
has already been noticed (p. 33). From him we learn[35] that Martien's
experiments leading to his patent of September 15, 1855, had been
carried out at the Ebbw Vale Works in South Wales, where he engaged in
"perfecting the Renton process."[36] Martien's own process consisted in
passing air through metal as it was run in a trough from the furnace
and before it passed into the puddling furnace.

      [35] _Mining Journal_, 1856, vol. 26, p. 631.

      [36] James Renton's process (U.S. patent 8613, December 23, 1851)
      had been developed at Newark, New Jersey, in 1854. It was a
      modification of the puddling furnace, in which the ore and carbon
      were heated in tubs, utilizing the waste heat of the
      reverberatory furnace (see the _Mechanics' Magazine_, vol. 62, p.
      246, 1855). Renton died at Newark in September 1856 (_Mechanics'
      Magazine_, 1856, vol. 65, p. 422).

It is known that Martien's patent was in the hands of the Ebbw Vale
Iron Works by March 1857.[37] This fact must be added to our knowledge
that Mushet's patent of September 22, 1856 was drawn up with a specific
reference to the application of his "triple compound" to "iron ...
purified by the action of air, in the manner invented by Joseph Gilbert
Martien,"[38] and that this and his other manganese patents were under
the effective control of Ebbw Vale. It seems a reasonable deduction
from these circumstances that Brown's offer to buy out Bessemer and his
subsequent threat were the consequences of a determination by Ebbw Vale
to attack Bessemer by means of patent infringement suits.

      [37] _Mining Journal_, 1857, vol. 27, p. 193.

      [38] British patent 2219, September 22, 1856.

Some aspects of the Ebbw Vale situation are not yet explained. Martien
came to South Wales from Newark, New Jersey, where he had been manager
of Renton's Patent Semi-Bituminous Coal Furnace, owned by James Quimby,
and where he had something to do with the installation of Renton's
first furnace in 1854. The first furnace was unsuccessful.[39] Martien
next appears in Britain, at the Ebbw Vale Iron Works. No information is
available as to whether Martien's own furnace was actually installed at
Ebbw Vale, although as noted above, David Mushet claims to have been
invited to see it there.

      [39] Joseph P. Lesley, _The iron manufacturer's guide_, New York,
      1859, p. 34. Martien's name is spelled Marteen. A description of
      the furnace is given in _Scientific American_ of February 11,
      1854, (vol. 9, p. 169). In the patent interference proceedings
      referred to below, it was stated that the furnace was in
      successful operation in 1854.

Martien secured an American patent for his process in 1857 and to file
his application appears to have gone to the United States, where he
remained at least until October 1858.[40] He seems to have taken the
opportunity to apply for another patent for a furnace similar to that
of James Renton. This led to interferences proceedings in which Martien
showed that he had worked on this furnace at Bridgend, Glamorganshire
(one of the Ebbw Vale plants), improving Renton's design by increasing
the number of "deoxydizing tubes." This variation in Renton's design
was held not patentable, and in any case Renton's firm was able to show
that they had successfully installed the furnace at Newark in
1852-1853, while Martien could not satisfy the Commissioner that his
installation had been made before September 1854. Priority was
therefore awarded to Quimby, Brown, Renton, and Creswell.[41]

      [40] U.S. patent 16690, February 22, 1857. A correspondent of the
      _Mining Journal_ (1858, vol. 28, p. 713) states that Martien had
      not returned to England by October 1858.

      [41] U.S. Patent Office, Decision of Commissioner of Patents,
      dated May 26, 1859 in the matter of interference between the
      application of James M. Quimby and others ... and of Joseph

Since Renton had not patented his furnace in Great Britain, Martien's
use of his earlier knowledge of Renton's work and of his experience at
Bridgend in an attempt to upset Renton's priority is a curious and at
present unexplainable episode. Perhaps the early records of the Ebbw
Vale Iron Works, if they exist, will show whether this episode was in
some way linked to the firm's optimistic combination of the British
patents of Martien and Mushet.

That Ebbw Vale exerted every effort to find an alternative to
Bessemer's process is suggested, also, by their purchase in 1856 of the
British rights to the Uchatius process, invented by an Austrian Army
officer. The provisional patent specifications, dated October 1, 1855,
showed that Uchatius proposed to make cast steel directly from pig-iron
by melting granulated pig-iron in a crucible with pulverized "sparry
iron" (siderite) and fine clay or with gray oxide of manganese, which
would determine the amount of carbon combining with the iron. This
process, which was to prove commercially successful in Great Britain
and in Sweden but was not used in America,[42] appeared to Ebbw Vale to
be something from which, "we can have steel produced at the price
proposed by Mr. Bessemer, notwithstanding the failure of his process to
fulfil the promise."[43]

      [42] J. S. Jeans, _op. cit._ (footnote 5), p. 108. The process is
      not mentioned by James M. Swank, _History of the manufacture of
      iron in all ages_, Philadelphia, American Iron and Steel
      Association, 1892.

      [43] _Mining Journal_, 1856, vol. 26, p. 707.

So far as is known only one direct attempt was made, presumably
instigated by Ebbw Vale, to enforce their patents against Bessemer, who
records[44] a visit by Mushet's agent some two or three months before a
renewal fee on Mushet's basic manganese patents became payable in 1859.
Bessemer "entirely repudiated" Mushet's patents and offered to perform
his operations in the presence of Mushet's lawyers and witnesses at the
Sheffield Works so that a prosecution for infringement "would be a very
simple matter." That, he says, was the last heard from the agent or
from Mushet on the subject.[45] The renewal fee was not paid and the
patents were therefore abandoned by Ebbw Vale and their associates, a
fact which did not come to Mushet's knowledge until 1861, when he
himself declared that the patent "was never in my hands at all [so]
that I could not enforce it."[46]

      [44] Bessemer, _op. cit._ (footnote 7), p. 290.

      [45] The American Iron and Steel Institute's "Steel centennial
      (1957) press information" (see footnote 2), includes a pamphlet,
      "Kelly lighted the fireworks ..." by Vaughn Shelton (New York,
      1956), which asserts (p. 12) that Bessemer paid the renewal fee
      and became the owner of Mushet's "vital" patent.

      [46] Robert Mushet, _The Bessemer-Mushet process_, Cheltenham,
      1883, p. 24; _The Engineer_, 1861, vol. 12, pp. 177 and 189.

Further support for the thesis that Ebbw Vale's policy was in part
dictated by a desire to make Bessemer "see the matter differently" is
to be found in the climatic episode. Work on Martien's patents had not
been abandoned and in 1861 certain patents were taken out by George
Parry, Ebbw Vale's furnace manager. These, represented as improvements
of Martien's designs, were regarded by Bessemer as clear infringements
of his own patents.[47] When it came to Bessemer's knowledge that Ebbw
Vale was proposing to "go to the public" for additional capital with
which to finance, in part, a large scale working of Parry's process, he
threatened the financial promoter with injunctions and succeeded in
opening negotiations for a settlement. All the patents "which had been
for years suspended" over Bessemer were turned over to him for £30,000.
Ebbw Vale, thereupon, issued their prospectus[48] with the significant
statement that the directors "have agreed for a license for the
manufacture of steel by the Bessemer process which, from the peculiar
resources they possess, they will be enabled to produce in very large
quantities...." So Bessemer became the owner of the Martien and Parry
patents. Mushet's basic patents no longer existed.

      [47] _The Engineer_, 1862, vol. 14, p. 3. Bessemer, _op. cit._
      (footnote 7), p. 296.

      [48] _Mining Journal_, 1864, vol. 34, p. 478.

Mushet and Bessemer

That Mushet was "used" by Ebbw Vale against Bessemer is, perhaps, only
an assumption; but that he was badly treated by Ebbw Vale is subject to
no doubt. Mushet's business capacity was small but it is difficult to
believe that he could have been so foolish as to assign an interest in
his patents to Ebbw Vale without in some way insuring his right of
consultation about their disposition. He claims that even in the
drafting of his specifications he was obliged to follow die demands of
Ebbw Vale, which firm, believing, "on the advice of Mr. Hindmarsh, the
most eminent patent counsel of the day,"[49] that Martien's patent
outranked Bessemer's, insisted that Mushet link his process to
Martien's. This, as late as 1861, Mushet believed to be in effective
operation.[50] His later repudiation of the process as an absurd and
impracticable patent process "possessing neither value nor utility"[51]
may more truly represent his opinion, especially as, when he wrote his
1861 comment, he still did not know of the disappearance of his

      [49] _The Engineer_, 1861, vol. 12, p. 189.

      [50] _Ibid._, p. 78.

      [51] Mushet, _op. cit._ (footnote 46), p. 9.

Mushet's boast[52] that he had never been into an ironworks other than
his own in Coleford is a clue to the interpretation of his behavior in
general and also of his frequent presumptuous claims. When, for
instance, the development of the Uchatius process was publicized, he
gave his opinion[53] that the process was a useless one and had been
patented before Uchatius "understood its nature"; yet later[54] he
could claim that the process was "in fact, my own invention and I had
made and sold the steel thus produced for some years previously to the
date of Captain Uchatius' patent". Moreover, he claims to have
instructed Uchatius' agents in its operation! He may, at this later
date, have recalled his challenge (the first of many such) in which he
offered Uchatius' agent in England to pay a monetary penalty if he
could not show a superior method of producing "sound serviceable cast
steel from British coke pig-iron, _on the stomic plan_ and without any
mixture of clay, oxide of manganese or any of these pot destroying

      [52] _Ibid._, p. 25.

      [53] _Mining Journal_, 1857, vol. 27, p. 755.

      [54] Mushet, _op. cit._ (footnote 46), p. 28. The Uchatius
      process became the "You-cheat-us" process to Mushet (_Mining
      Journal_, 1858, vol. 28, p. 34).

      [55] _Mining Journal_, 1857, vol. 27, p. 755 (italics supplied).

It was David Mushet (or Robert, using his brother's name)[56] who
accused Bessemer, or rather his patent agent, Carpmael, of sharp
practice in connection with Martien's specification, an allegation
later supported by Martien's first patent agent, Avery.[57] The story
was that for the drafting of his final specification, Martien,
presumably with the advice of the Ebbw Vale Iron Works, consulted the
same Carpmael, as "the leading man" in the field. The latter advised
that the provisional specification restricted Martien to the
application of his method to iron flowing in a channel or gutter from
the blast furnace, and so prevented him from applying his aeration
principle in any kind of receptacle. In effect, Carpmael was acting
unprofessionally by giving Bessemer the prior claim to the use of a
receptacle. According to Mushet, Martien had in fact "actually and
publicly proved" his process in a receptacle and not in a gutter, so
that his claim to priority could be maintained on the basis of the
provisional specification.

      [56] See footnote 22.

      [57] _Mining Journal_, 1856, vol. 26, pp. 583, 631.

This, like other Mushet allegations, was ignored by Bessemer, and
probably with good reason. At any rate, Martien's American patent is in
terms similar to those of the British specification; he or his advisers
seem to have attached no significance to the distinction between a
gutter and a receptacle.

Mushet's claim to have afforded Bessemer the means of making his own
process useful is still subject to debate. Unfortunately, documentation
of the case is almost wholly one sided, since his biggest publicizer
was Mushet himself. An occasional editorial in the technical press and
a few replies to Mushet's "lucubrations" are all the material which
exists, apart from Bessemer's own story.

Mushet and at least five other men patented the use of manganese in
steel making in 1856; his own provisional specification was filed
within a month of the publication of Bessemer's British Association
address in August 1856. So it is strange that Robert Mushet did not
until more than a year later join in the controversy which followed
that address.[58] In one of his early letters he claims to have made of
"his" steel a bridge rail of 750 pounds weight; although his brother
insists that he saw the same rail in the Ebbw Vale offices in London in
the spring of 1857, when it was presented as a specimen of Uchatius
steel![59] Robert Mushet's indignant "advertisement" of January 5,
1858,[60] reiterating his parentage of this sample, also claimed a
double-headed steel rail "made by me under another of my patent
processes," and sent to Derby to be laid down there to be "subjected to
intense vertricular triturations." Mushet's description of the
preparation of this ingot[61] shows that it was derived from "Bessemer
scrap" made by Ebbw Vale in the first unsuccessful attempts of that
firm to simulate the Bessemer process. This scrap Mushet had remelted
in pots with spiegel in the proportions of 44 pounds of scrap to 3 of
melted spiegel. It was his claim that the rail was rolled direct from
the ingot, something Bessemer himself could not do at that time.

      [58] October 17, 1857, writing as "Sideros" (_Mining Journal_,
      1857, vol. 27, p. 723).

      [59] _Mining Journal_, 1857, vol. 27, p. 871, and 1858, vol. 28,
      p. 12.

      [60] _Ibid._ (1858), p. 34.

      [61] Mushet, _op. cit._ (footnote 46), p. 12. The phrase quoted
      is typical of Mushet's style.

This was the beginning of a series of claims by Mushet as to his
essential contributions to Bessemer's invention. The silence of the
latter during this period is impressive, for according to Bessemer's
own account[62] his British Association address was premature, and
although the sale of licenses actually provided him with working funds,
the impatience of those experimenting with the process and the flood of
competing "inventions" all embarrassed him at the most critical stage
of this development of the process: "It was, however, no use for me to
argue the matter in the press. All that I could say would be mere talk
and I felt that action was necessary, and not words."[63]

      [62] Bessemer, _op. cit._ (footnote 7), pp. 161 ff. and 256 ff.

      [63] _Ibid._, p. 171.

Action took the form of continued experiments and, by the end of 1857,
a decision to build his own plant at Sheffield.[64] An important
collateral development resulted from the visit to London in May 1857 of
G. F. Goransson of Gefle, Sweden. Using Bessemer equipment, Goransson
began trials of the process in November 1857 and by October 1858 was
able to report: "Our firm has now entirely given up the manufacture of
bar iron, and our blast furnaces and tilt mills are now wholly employed
in making steel by the Bessemer process, which may, therefore, be now
considered an accomplished commercial fact."[65]

      [64] This enterprise, started in conjunction with Galloway's of
      Manchester, one of the firms licensed by Bessemer to make his
      equipment, was under way by April 1858 (see _Mining Journal_,
      1858, vol. 28, p. 259).

      [65] _Mining Journal_, 1858, vol. 28, p. 696. Mushet commented
      (p. 713) that he had done the same thing "eighteen months ago."

Goransson was later to claim considerable improvements on the method of
introducing the blast, and, in consequence, the first effective
demonstration of the Bessemer method[66]--this at a time when Bessemer
was still remelting the product of his converter in crucibles, after
granulating the steel in water. If Mushet is to be believed, this
success of Goransson's was wholly due to his ore being "totally free
from phosphorous and sulphur."[67] However, Bessemer's own progress was
substantial, for his Sheffield works were reported as being in active
operation in April 1859, and a price for his engineers' tool and
spindle steel was included in the _Mining Journal_ "Mining Market"
weekly quotations for the first time[68] on June 4, 1859.

      [66] Swank, _op. cit._ (footnote 42), p. 405.

      [67] _The Engineer_, 1859, vol. 7, p. 350.

      [68] _Mining Journal_, 1859, vol. 29, pp. 396 and 401. The price
      quotation was continued until April 1865.

In May 1859 Bessemer gave a paper, his first public pronouncement since
August 1856, before the Institution of Civil Engineers.[69] The early
process, he admitted, had led to failure because the process had not
reduced the quantity of sulphur and phosphorous, but his account is
vague as to the manner in which he dealt with this problem:

    Steam and pure hydrogen gas were tried, with more or less success
    in the removal of sulphur, and various flues, composed chiefly of
    silicates of the oxide of iron and manganese were brought in
    contact with the fluid metal, during the process and the quantity
    of phosphorous was thereby reduced.

      [69] _The Engineer_, 1859, vol. 7, p. 437.

But the clear implication is that the commercial operation at Sheffield
was based on the use of the best Swedish pig iron and the hematite pig
from Workington. The use of manganese as standard practice at this time
is not referred to,[70] but the rotary converter and the use of
ganister linings are mentioned for the first time.

      [70] Jeans, _op. cit._ (footnote 5), p. 349 refers to the
      hematite ores of Lancashire and Cumberland as "the ores hitherto
      almost exclusively used in the Bessemer process."

      A definitive account of the Swedish development of the Bessemer
      process, leading to a well-documented claim that the first
      practical realization of the process was achieved in Sweden in
      July 1858, was recently published (Per Carlberg, "Early
      Production of Bessemer Steel at Edsken," _Journal of the Iron and
      Steel Institute, Great Britain_, July 1958, vol. 189, p. 201).

Mushet had, with some intuition, found opportunity to reassert his
contributions to Bessemer a few days before this address, describing
his process as perhaps lacking "the extraordinary merit of Mr.
Bessemer," being "merely a vigorous offshoot proceeding from that great
discovery; but, combined with Mr. Bessemer's process, it places within
the reach of every iron manufacturer to produce cast steel at the same
cost for which he can now make his best iron."[71]

      [71] _The Engineer_, 1859, vol. 7, p. 314. Bessemer's intention
      to present his paper had been announced in April.

One of Mushet's replies to the paper itself took the form of the
announcement of his provisional patent for the use of his triple
compound which, in the opinion of _The Mining Journal_ appeared to be
"but a very slight modification of several of Mr. Bessemer's
inventions." Another half dozen patents appeared within two months, "so
that it is apparent that Mr. Mushet's failure to make the public
appreciate his theories has not injured his inventive faculties."[72]
These patents include, besides variations on his "triple compound"
theme, his important patent on the use of tungsten for cutting tools,
later to be known as Mushet steel.[73]

      [72] _Mining Journal_, 1859, vol. 29, p. 539 and 640. Another
      Mushet patent is described as so much like Uchatius' process that
      it would seem to be almost unpatentable.

      [73] See Jeans, _op. cit._ (footnote 5), p. 532.

Mushet's formal pronouncement on Bessemer's paper, dated June 28, 1859,
is perhaps his most intelligible communication on the subject. He alone
"from the first consistently advocated the merits and pointed out the
defects of the Bessemer process," and within a few days of the British
Association address he had shown Ebbw Vale "where the defect would be
found and what would remedy" it. It was not, in fact, the presence of
one-tenth of a percent of sulphur or phosphorous which affected the
result if the Bessemer process were combined with his process by adding
a triple compound of iron, carbon, and manganese to the pig. "There
never was a bar of first-rate cast steel made by the Bessemer process
alone"; (and that included Goransson's product) "and there never can
be, but a cheap kind of steel applicable to several purposes may be
thus produced." After emphasizing the uniqueness of his attempt to make
Bessemer's process successful, he asserts:[74]

    In short, I merely availed myself of a great metallurgical fact,
    _which has been for years_ before the eyes of the metallurgical
    world, namely that the presence of metallic manganese in iron and
    steel conferred upon both an amount of toughness either when cold
    or when heated, which the presence at the same time of a notable
    amount of sulphur and phosphorous could not overcome.

      [74] _The Engineer_, 1859, vol. 8, p. 13 (italics supplied). It
      is noted that Mushet's American patent (17389, of May 26, 1857)
      prefers the use of iron "as free as possible from Sulphur and

The succeeding years were enlivened, one by one, by some controversy in
which Mushet invoked the shadow of his late father as support for some
pronouncement, or "edict," as some said, on the subject of making iron
and steel. In 1860, on the question of suitable metal for artillery,
later to be the subject of high controversy among the leading experts
of the day, Mushet found a ready solution in his own gun metal. This he
had developed fifteen years before. It was of a tensile strength better
even than that of Krupp of Essen who was then specializing in the
making of large blocks of cast steel for heavy forgings, and
particularly for guns. Indeed, he was able publicly to challenge Krupp
to produce a cast gun metal or cast steel to stand test against
his.[75] A year later his attack on the distinguished French
metallurgist Fremy, whom he describes as an "ass" for his interest in
the so-called cyanogen process of steel making, did little to enhance
his reputation, whatever the scientific justification for his attack.
His attitude toward the use of New Zealand (Taranaki) metalliferous
sand, which he had previously favored and then condemned in such a way
as to "injure a project he can no longer control,"[76] was another
example of a public behavior evidently resented.

      [75] _The Engineer_, 1860, vol. 9, pp. 366, 416, and _passim_.

      [76] _The Engineer_, 1861, vol. 11, pp. 189, 202, 290, 304.

By mid-1861, on the other hand, Bessemer was beginning to meet with
increasing respect from the trade. The Society of Engineers received a
dispassionate account of the achievement at the Sheffield Works from E.
Riley, whose firm (Dowlais) was among the earlier and disappointed
licensees of the process.[77] In August 1861, five years after the
ill-fated address before the British Association, the Institution of
Mechanical Engineers, meeting in Sheffield, the center of the British
steel trade, heard papers from Bessemer and from John Brown, a famous
ironmaster. The latter described the making of Bessemer rails, the
product which above all was to absorb the Bessemer plants in America
after 1865. After the meeting, the engineers visited Bessemer's works;
and later it was reported,[78] "at Messrs. John Brown and Company's
works, the Bessemer process was repeated on a still larger scale and a
heavy armor plate rolled in the presence of some 250 visitors...."

      [77] _The Engineer_, 1861, vol. 12, p. 10.

      [78] _Ibid._, p. 63.

These proceedings invited Robert Mushet's intervention. Still under the
impression that his patent was still alive and, with Martien's, in the
"able hands" of the Ebbw Vale Iron Company, he condemned Bessemer for
his "lack of grace" to do him justice, and took the occasion to indict
the patent system which denied him and Martien the fruits of their

      [79] _Ibid._, pp. 78 and 177.

_The Engineer_ found Mushet's position untenable on the very grounds he
was pleading--that patents should not be issued to different men at
different times for the same thing; and showed that Bessemer in his
patents of January 4, 1856, and later, had clearly anticipated Mushet.
In a subsequent article, _The Engineer_ disposed of Martien's and
Mushet's claims with a certain finality. The Ebbw Vale Iron Works had
spent £7,000 trying to carry out the Martien process and it was
unlikely that they would have allowed Bessemer to infringe upon that
patent if they had any grounds for a case. Bessemer was not imitating
Mushet. The latter's "triple compound" required manganese pig-iron
(with a content of 2 to 5 percent of manganese) at £13 per ton while
Bessemer used an oxide of manganese (at a 50 percent concentration): at
£7 per ton.

    The alloy of manganese and other materials now used in the
    atmospheric process contains 50 percent of manganese a proportion
    which could never be obtained from the blast furnace, owing to the
    highly oxidisable nature of that metal. And it is absolutely
    necessary, in order to apply any useful alloy of iron, carbon and
    manganese, in the manufacture of malleable iron and very soft steel
    that the manganese should be largely in excess of the carbon

      [80] _Ibid._, p. 208. There is an intriguing reference in this
      editorial to an interference on behalf of Martien against a
      Bessemer application for a U.S. patent. No dates are given and
      the case has not been located in the record of U.S. Patent
      Commissioner's decision.

Sufficient answer to Mushet was at any rate available in the fact that
many hundreds of tons of excellent "Bessemer metal" made without any
mixture of manganese or spiegeleisen in any form were in successful
use. And, moreover, spiegeleisen was not a discovery of Robert Mushet
or an exclusive product of Germany since it had been made for twenty
years at least from Tow Law (Durham) ores. If Bessemer had refused
Mushet a license (and this was an admitted fact), Bessemer's refusal
must have been made in self-defense:

    Mr. Mushet having set up a number of claims for "improvements" upon
    which claims, we have a right to suppose, he was preparing to take
    toll from Mr. Bessemer, but which claims, the latter gentleman
    discovered, in time, were worthless and accordingly declined any
    negotiations with the individual making them.[81]

      [81] _Ibid._, p. 254.

Mushet's claims were by this time rarely supported in the periodicals.
One interesting article in his favor came in 1864 from a source of
special interest to the American situation. Mushet's American
patent[82] had been bought by an American group interested in the Kelly
process at about this time,[83] and Bessemer's American rights had also
been sold to an American group that included Alexander Lyman
Holley,[84] who had long been associated with Zerah Colburn, another
American engineer. Colburn, who subsequently (1866) established the
London periodical _Engineering_ and is regarded as one of the founders
of engineering journalism, was from 1862 onward a frequent contributor
to other trade papers in London. Colburn's article of 1864[85] seems to
have been of some importance to Mushet, who, in the prospectus of the
Titanic Steel and Iron Company, Ltd., issued soon after, brazenly
asserted[86] that, "by the process of Mr. Mushet _especially when in
combination with the Bessemer process_, steel as good as Swedish steel"
would be produced at £6 per ton. Mushet may have intended to invite a
patent action, but evidently Bessemer could now more than ever afford
to ignore the "sage of Coleford."

      [82] U.S. patent 17389, dated May 26, 1857. The patent was not
      renewed when application was made in 1870, on the grounds that
      the original patent had been made co-terminal with the British
      patent. The latter had been abandoned "by Mushet's own fault" so
      that no right existed to an American renewal (U.S. Patent Office,
      Decision of Commissioner of Patents, dated September 19, 1870).

      [83] See below, p. 45. The exact date of the purchase of Mushet's
      patent is not known.

      [84] _Engineering_, 1882, vol. 33, p. 114. The deal was completed
      in 1863.

      [85] _The Engineer_, 1864, vol. 18, pp. 405, 406.

      [86] _Mining Journal_, 1864, vol. 34, pp. 77 and 94 (italics
      supplied). It has not yet been possible to ascertain if this
      company was successful. Mushet writes from this time on from
      Cheltenham, where the company had its offices. Research continues
      in this interesting aspect of his career.

The year 1865 saw Mushet less provocative and more appealing; as for
instance: "It was no fault of Mr. Bessemer's that my patent was lost,
but he ought to acknowledge his obligations to me in a manly,
straightforward manner and this would stamp him as a great man as well
as a great inventor."[87]

      [87] _Mining Engineer_, 1865, vol. 35, p. 86.

But Bessemer evidently remained convinced of the security of his own
patent position. In an address before the British Association at
Birmingham in September 1865 he made his first public reply to
Mushet.[88] In his long series of patents Mushet had attempted to

    almost every conceivable mode of introducing manganese into the
    metal.... Manganese and its compounds were so claimed under all
    imaginable conditions that if this series of patents could have
    been sustained in law, it would have been utterly impossible for
    [me] to have employed manganese with steel made by his process,
    although it was considered by the trade to be impossible to make
    steel from coke-made iron without it.

      [88] _The Engineer_, 1865, vol. 20, p. 174.

The failure of those who controlled Mushet's batch of patents to renew
them at the end of three years, Bessemer ascribed to the low public
estimation to which Mushet's process had sunk in 1859, and he had
therefore, "used without scruple any of these numerous patents for
manganese without feeling an overwhelming sense of obligation to the
patentee." He was now using ferromanganese made in Glasgow. Another
alloy, consisting of 60 to 80 percent of metallic manganese was also
available to him from Germany.

This renewed publicity brought forth no immediate reply from Mushet,
but a year later he was invited to read a paper before the British
Association. A report on the meeting stated that in his paper he
repeated his oft-told story, and that "he still thought that the
accident (of the non-payment of the patent stamp duties) ought not to
debar him from receiving the reward to which he was justly entitled."
Bessemer, who was present, reiterated his constant willingness to
submit the matter to the courts of law, but pointed out that Mushet had
not accepted the challenge.[89]

      [89] _Mechanics' Magazine_, 1866, vol. 16, p. 147.

Three months later, in December 1866, Mushet's daughter called on
Bessemer and asked his help to prevent the loss of their home: "They
tell me you use my father's inventions and are indebted to him for your
success." Bessemer replied characteristically:

    I use what your father has no right to claim; and if he had the
    legal position you seem to suppose, he could stop my business by an
    injunction tomorrow and get many thousands of pounds compensation
    for my infringement of his rights. The only result which followed
    from your father taking out his patents was that they pointed out
    to me some rights which I already possessed, but of which I was not
    availing myself. Thus he did me some service and even for this
    unintentional service, I cannot live in a state of indebtedness....

With that he gave Miss Mushet money to cover a debt for which distraint
was threatened.[90] Soon after this action, Bessemer made Mushet a
"small allowance" of £300 a year. Bessemer's reasons for making this
payment, he describes as follows: "There was a strong desire on my part
to make him (Mushet) my debtor rather than the reverse, and the payment
had other advantages: the press at that time was violently attacking my
patent and there was the chance that if any of my licensees were thus
induced to resist my claims, all the rest might follow the

      [90] Bessemer, _op. cit._ (footnote 7), p. 294.

      [91] _Ibid._

Mushet's Titanic Steel and Iron Company was liquidated in 1871 and its
principal asset, "R. Mushet's special steel," that is, his tungsten
alloy tool metal, was taken over by the Sheffield firm of Samuel Osborn
and Company. The royalties from this, with Bessemer's pension seem to
have left Mushet in a reasonably comfortable condition until his death
in 1891;[92] but even the award of the Bessemer medal by the Iron and
Steel Institute in 1876 failed to remove the conviction that he had
been badly treated. One would like to know more about the politics
which preceded the award of the trade's highest honor. Bessemer at any
rate was persuaded to approve of the presentation and attended the
meeting. Mushet himself did not accept the invitation, "as I may
probably not be then alive."[93] The President of the Institute
emphasized the present good relations between Mushet and Bessemer and
the latter recorded that the hatchet had "long since" been buried. Yet
Mushet continued to brood over the injustice done to him and eventually
recorded his story of the rise and progress of the "Bessemer-Mushet"
process in a pamphlet[94] written apparently without reference to his
earlier statements and so committing himself to many inconsistencies.

      [92] See Fred M. Osborn, _The story of the Mushets_, London,

      [93] _Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute_, 1876, p. 3.

      [94] Robert Mushet, _The Bessemer-Mushet process_, Cheltenham,

William Kelly's "Air-boiling" Process

An account of Bessemer's address to the British Association was
published in the _Scientific American_ on September 13, 1856.[95] On
September 16, 1856, Martien filed application for a U.S. patent on his
furnace and Mushet for one on the application of his triple compound to
cast iron "purified or decarbonized by the action of air blown or
forced into ... its particles while it is in a molten ... state."[96]
Mushet, by this time, had apparently decided to generalize the
application of his compound instead of citing its use in conjunction
with Martien's process, or, as he put it, he had been obliged to do for
his English specification by the Ebbw Vale Iron Works.

      [95] _Scientific American_, 1856, vol. 12, p. 6.

      [96] U.S. patent 17389, dated May 26, 1857. Martien's U.S. patent
      was granted as 16690, dated February 24, 1857.

FURNACE, FROM U.S. PATENT 17628. _A_ is "the flue to carry off the
carbonic gas formed in decarbonizing the iron," _B_ is the port through
which the charge of fluid iron is received, _C_ and _C'_ are the
tuyères, and _D_ is the tap hole for letting out the refined metal.]

The discussion in the _Scientific American_, which was mostly concerned
with Martien's claim to priority, soon evoked a letter from William
Kelly. Writing under date of September 30, 1856, from the Suwanee Iron
Works, Eddyville, Kentucky, he claimed to have started "a series of
experiments" in November 1851 which had been witnessed by hundreds of
persons and "discussed amongst the ironmasters, etc., of this section,
all of whom are perfectly familiar with the whole principle ... as
discovered by me nearly five years ago." A number of English puddlers
had visited him to see his new process. "Several of them have since
returned to England and may have spoken of my invention there." Kelly
expected "shortly to have the invention perfected and bring it before
the public."[97]

      [97] _Scientific American_, 1856, vol. 12, p. 43, Kelly's
      suggestion of piracy of his ideas was later enlarged upon by his
      biographer John Newton Boucher, _William Kelly: A true history
      of the so-called Bessemer process_, Greensburg, Pennsylvania,

Bessemer's application for an American patent was granted during the
week ending November 18, 1856, and Kelly began his interference
proceedings sometime before January 1857.[98]

      [98] _Ibid._, p. 82. Kelly's notice of his intention to take
      testimony was addressed to Bessemer on January 12, 1857. See
      papers on "Interference, William Kelly vs. Henry Bessemer
      Decision April 13, 1857." U.S. Patent Office Records. Quotations
      below are from this file, which is now permanently preserved in
      the library of the U.S. Patent Office.

Kelly's witnesses were almost wholly from the ranks of employees or
former employees. The only exception was Dr. Alfred H. Champion, a
physician of Eddyville. Dr. Champion describes a meeting in the fall of
1851 with "two or three practical Ironmasters and others" at which
Kelly described his process and invited all present to see it in
operation. He stated:

    The company present all differed in opinion from Mr. Kelly and
    appealed to me as a chemist in confirmation of their doubts. I at
    once decided that Mr. Kelly was correct in his Theory and then went
    on to explain the received opinion of chemists a century ago on
    this subject, and the present received opinion which was in direct
    confirmation of the novel theory of Mr. Kelly. I also mentioned the
    analogy of said Kelly's process in decarbonising iron to the
    process of decarbonising blood in the human lungs.

The Doctor does not say, specifically, if he or any of the "company"
went to see the process in operation.

Kelly obtained affidavits from another seventeen witnesses. Ten of
these recorded their recollections of experiments conducted in 1847.
Five described the 1851 work. Two knew of or had seen both. One of the
last group was John B. Evans who became forge manager of Kelly's Union
Forge, a few miles from Suwanee. This evidence is of interest since a
man in his position should have been in a position to tell something
about the results of Kelly's operations in terms of usable metal.
Unfortunately, he limits himself to a comment on the metal which had
chilled around a tuyère which had been sent back to the Forge ("it was
partly malleable and partly refined pig-iron") and to an account of a
conversation with others who had worked some of Kelly's "good wrought
iron" made by the new process.

Only one of the witnesses (William Soden) makes a reference to the
phenomenon which is an accompaniment of the blowing of a converter: the
prolonged and violent emission of sparks and flames which startled
Bessemer in his first use of the process[99] and which still provides
an exciting, if not awe-inspiring, interlude in a visit to a steel
mill. Soden refers, without much excitement, to a boiling commotion,
but the results of Kelly's "air-boiling" were, evidently, not such as
to impress the rest of those who claimed to have seen his furnace in
operation. Only five of the total of eighteen of the witnesses say that
they witnessed the operations. Soden, incidentally, knew of seven
different "air-boiling" furnaces, some with four and some with eight
tuyères, but he also neglected to report on the use of the metal.

      [99] Bessemer, _op. cit._ (footnote 7), p. 144.

As is well known, Kelly satisfied the Acting Commissioner that he had
"made this invention and showed it by drawings and experiment as early
as 1847," and he was awarded priority by the Acting Commissioner's
decision of April 13, 1857, and U.S. Patent 17628 was granted him as of
June 23, 1857. The _Scientific American_ sympathized with Bessemer's
realization that his American patent was "of no more value to him than
so much waste paper" but took the opportunity of chastising Kelly for
his negligence in not securing a patent at a much earlier date and
complained of a patent system which did not require an inventor to make
known his discovery promptly. The journal advocated a "certain fixed
time" after which such an inventor "should not be allowed to subvert a
patent granted to another who has taken proper measures to put the
public in possession of the invention."[100]

      [100] _Scientific American_, 1857, vol. 12, p. 341.

Little authentic is known about Kelly's activities following the grant
of his patent. His biographer[101] does not document his statements,
many of which appear to be based on the recollections of members of
Kelly's family, and it is difficult to reconcile some of them with what
few facts are available. Kelly's own account of his invention,[102]
itself undated, asserts that he could "refine fifteen hundredweight of
metal in from five to ten minutes," his furnace "supplying a cheap
method of making run-out metal" so that "after trying it a few days we
entirely dispensed with the old and troublesome run-out fires."[103]
This statement suggests that Kelly's method was intended to do just
this; and it is not without interest to note that several of his
witnesses in the Interference proceedings, refer to bringing the metal
"to nature," a term often used in connection with the finery furnace.
If this is so, his assumption that he had anticipated Bessemer was
based on a misapprehension of what the latter was intending to do, that
is, to make steel.

      [101] Boucher, _op. cit._ (footnote 97).

      [102] U.S. Bureau of the Census, _Report on the manufacturers
      of the United States at the tenth census (June 1, 1880) ...,
      Manufacture of iron and steel_, report prepared by James M.
      Swank, special agent, Washington, 1883, p. 124. Mr. Swank was
      secretary of the American Iron and Steel Association. This
      material was included in his _History of the manufacture of iron
      in all ages_, Philadelphia, 1892, p. 397.

      [103] _Ibid._, p. 125. The run-out fire (or "finery" fire) was a
      charcoal fire "into which pig-iron, having been melted and
      partially refined in one fire, was run and further refined to
      convert it to wrought iron by the Lancashire hearth process,"
      according to A. K. Osborn, _An encyclopaedia of the iron and
      steel industry_, New York, 1956.

This statement leaves the reader under the impression that the process
was in successful use. It is to be contrasted with the statement quoted
above (page 43), dated September 1856, when the process had, clearly,
not been perfected. In this connection, it should be noted that in the
report on the Suwanee Iron Works, included in _The iron manufacturer's
guide_,[104] it is stated that "It is at this furnace that Mr. Kelly's
process for refining iron in the hearth has been most fully
experimented upon."

      [104] J. P. Lesley, _op. cit._ (footnote 39), p. 129. The preface
      is dated April 6, 1859. The data was largely collected by Joseph
      Lesley of Philadelphia, brother of the author, during a tour of
      several months. Since Suwanee production is given for 44 weeks
      only of 1857 (_i.e._, through November 4 or 5, 1857) it is
      concluded that Lesley's visit was in the last few weeks of 1857.

A major financial crisis affected United States business in the fall of
1857. It began in the first week of October and by October 31 the
_Economist_ (London) reported that the banks of the United States had
"almost universally suspended specie payment."[105] Kelly was involved
in this crisis and his plant was closed down. According to Swank,[106]
some experiments were made to adapt Kelly's process to need of rolling
mills at the Cambria Iron Works in 1857 and 1858, Kelly himself being
at Johnstown, at least in June 1858. That the experiments were not
particularly successful is suggested by the lack of any American
contributions to the correspondence in the English technical journals.
Kelly was not mentioned as having done more than interfere with
Bessemer's first patent application. The success of the latter in
obtaining patents[107] in the United States in November 1856, covering
"the conversion of molten crude iron ... into steel or malleable iron,
without the use of fuel ..." also escaped the attention of both English
and American writers.

      [105] _Economist_ (London), 1857, vol. 15, pp. 1129, 1209.

      [106] Swank, _op. cit._ (footnote 42), p. 125. John Fritz, in his
      _Autobiography_ (New York, 1912, p. 162), refers to experiments
      during his time at Johnstown, _i.e._, between June 1854 and July
      1860. _The iron manufacturer's guide_ (see footnote 104) also
      refers to Kelly's process as having "just been tried with great
      success" at Cambria.

      [107] U.S. patents 16082, dated November 11, 1856, and 16083,
      dated November 18, 1856. Bessemer's unsuccessful application
      corresponded with his British patent 2321, of 1855 (see footnote

It was not until 1861 that the question arose as to what happened to
Kelly's process. The occasion was the publication of an account of
Bessemer's paper at the Sheffield meeting of the (British) Society of
Mechanical Engineers on August 1, 1861. Accepting the evidence of "the
complete industrial success" of Bessemer's process, the _Scientific
American_[108] asked: "Would not some of our enterprising manufacturers
make a good operation by getting hold of the [Kelly] patent and
starting the manufacture of steel in this country?"

      [108] _Scientific American_, 1861, new ser., vol. 5, pp. 148-153.

There was no response to this rhetorical question, but a further
inquiry as to whether the Kelly patent "could be bought"[109] elicited
a response from Kelly. Writing from Hammondsville, Ohio, Kelly[110]
said, in part:

    I would say that the New England states and New York would be sold
    at a fair rate.... I removed from Kentucky about three years ago,
    and now reside at New Salisbury about three miles from
    Hammondsville and sixty miles from Pittsburg. Accept my thanks for
    your kind efforts in endeavoring to draw the attention of the
    community to the advantages of my process.

      [109] _Ibid._, p. 310.

      [110] _Ibid._, p. 343.

This letter suggests that the Kelly process had been dormant since
1858. Whether or not as a result of the publication of this letter,
interest was resumed in Kelly's experiments. Captain Eber Brock Ward of
Detroit and Z. S. Durfee of New Bedford, Massachusetts, obtained
control of Kelly's patent. Durfee himself went to England in the fall
of 1861 in an attempt to secure a license from Bessemer. He returned to
the United States in the early fall of 1862, assuming that he was the
only "citizen of the United States" who had even seen the Bessemer

      [111] His claim is somewhat doubtful. Alexander Lyman Holley, who
      was later to be responsible for the design of most of the first
      Bessemer plants in the United States had been in England in 1859,
      1860, and 1862. In view of his interest in ordnance and armor, it
      is unlikely that Bessemer could have escaped his alert
      observation. His first visit specifically in connection with the
      Bessemer process appears to have been in 1863, but he is said to
      have begun to interest financiers and ironmasters in the Bessemer
      process after his visit in 1862 (_Engineering_, 1882, vol. 33, p.

In June, 1862, W. F. Durfee, a cousin of Z. S. Durfee, was asked by
Ward to report on Kelly's process. The report[112] was unfavorable.
"The description of [the apparatus] used by Mr. Kelly at his abandoned
works in Kentucky satisfied me that it was not suited for an experiment
on so large a scale as was contemplated at Wyandotte [Detroit]." Since
it was "confidently expected that Z. S. Durfee would be successful in
his efforts to purchase [Bessemer's patents], it was thought only to be
anticipating the acquisition of property rights ... to use such of his
inventions as best suited the purpose in view."

      [112] W. F. Durfee: "An account of the experimental steel works
      at Wyandotte, Michigan," _Transactions of the American Society of
      Mechanical Engineers_, 1884, vol. 6, p. 40 ff.

Thus the first "Bessemer" plant in the United States came into being
without benefit of a license and supported only by a patent "not
suited" for a large experiment. Kelly seems to have had no part in
these developments. They took some time to come to formation. Although
the converter was ready by September 1862, the blowing engine was not
completed until the spring of 1864 and the first "blow" successfully
made in 1864. It may be no more than a coincidence that the start of
production seems to have been impossible before the arrival in this
country of a young man, L. M. Hart, who had been trained in Bessemer
operations at the plant of the Jackson Brothers at St. Seurin (near
Bordeaux) France. The Jacksons had become Bessemer's partners in
respect of the French rights; and the recruitment of Hart suggests the
possibility that it was from this French source that Z. S. Durfee
obtained his initial technical data on the operation of the Bessemer

      [113] Research in the French sources continues. The arrival of L.
      M. Hart at Boston is recorded as of April 1, 1864, his ship being
      the SS _Africa_ out of Liverpool, England (Archives of the United
      States, card index of passenger arrivals 1849-1891 list No. 39).

During the organization of the plant at Wyandotte, Kelly was called
back to Cambria, probably by Daniel J. Morrell, who, later, became a
partner with Ward and Z. S. Durfee in the formation of the Kelly
Pneumatic Process Company.[114] We learn from John E. Fry,[115] the
iron moulder who was assigned to help Kelly, that--

    in 1862 Mr. Kelly returned to Johnstown for a crucial, and as it
    turned out, a final series of experiments by him with a rotative
    [Bessemer converter] _made abroad and imported for his purpose_.
    This converter embodied in its materials and construction several
    of Mr. Bessemer's patented factors, of which, up to the close of
    Mr. Kelly's experiments above noted, he seemed to have no knowledge
    or conception. And it was as late as on the occasion of his return
    in 1862, to operate the experimental Bessemer converter, that he
    first recognized, by its adoption, the necessity for or the
    importance of any after treatment of, or additions required by the
    blown metal to convert it into steel.

      [114] Swank, _op. cit._ (footnote 42), p. 409.

      [115] _Johnstown Daily Democrat_, souvenir edition, autumn 1894
      (italics supplied). Mr. Fry was at the Cambria Iron Works from
      1858 until after 1882.

Fry later asserted[116] that Kelly's experiments in 1862 were simply
attempts to copy Bessemer's methods. (The possibility is under
investigation that the so-called "pioneer converter" now on loan to the
U.S. National Museum from the Bethlehem Steel Company, is the
converter referred to by Fry.)

      [116] _Engineering_, 1896, vol. 61, p. 615.

William Kelly, in effect, disappeared from the record until 1871 when
he applied for an extension of his patent of June 23, 1857. The
application was opposed (by whom, the record does not state) on the
grounds that the invention was not novel when it was originally issued,
and that it would be against the public interest to extend its term.
The Commissioner ruled that,[117] on the first question, it was settled
practice of the Patent Office not to reconsider former decisions on
questions of fact; the novelty of Kelly's invention had been
re-examined when the patent was reissued in November 1857. Testimony
showed that the patent was very valuable; and that Kelly "had been
untiring in his efforts to introduce it into use but the opposition of
iron manufacturers and the amount of capital required prevented him
from receiving anything from his patent until within very few years
past." Kelly's expenditures were shown to have amounted to $11,500,
whereas he had received only $2,400. Since no evidence was filed in
support of the public interest aspect of the case, the Commissioner
found no substantial reason for denying the extension; indeed "very few
patentees are able to present so strong grounds for extension as the
applicant in the case."

      [117] See U.S. Patent Office, Decision of Commissioner of
      Patents, dated June 15, 1871.

In a similar application in the previous year, Bessemer had failed to
win an extension of his U.S. patent 16082, of November 11, 1856, for
the sole reason that his British patent with which it had been made
co-terminal had duly expired at the end of its fourteen years of life,
and it would have been inequitable to give Bessemer protection in the
United States while British iron-masters were not under similar
restraint. But if it had not been for this consideration, Bessemer
"would be justly entitled to what he asks on this occasion." The
Commissioner[118] observed: "It may be questioned whether [Bessemer]
was first to discover the principle upon which his process was founded.
But we owe its reduction to practice to his untiring industry and
perseverance, his superior skill and science and his great outlay."

      [118] U.S. Patent Office, Decision of Commissioner of Patents
      dated February 12, 1870.


Martien was probably never a serious contender for the honor of
discovering the atmospheric process of making steel. In the present
state of the record, it is not an unreasonable assumption that his
patent was never seriously exploited and that the Ebbw Vale Iron Works
hoped to use it, in conjunction with the Mushet patents, to upset
Bessemer's patents.

The position of Mushet is not so clear, and it is hoped that further
research can eventually throw a clearer light on his relationship with
the Ebbw Vale Iron Works. It may well be that the "opinion of
metallurgists in later years"[119] is sound, and that both Mushet and
Bessemer had successfully worked at the same problem. The study of
Mushet's letters to the technical press and of the attitude of the
editors of those papers to Mushet suggests the possibility that he,
too, was used by Ebbw Vale for the purposes of their attacks on
Bessemer. Mushet admits that he was not a free agent in respect of
these patents, and the failure of Ebbw Vale to ensure their full life
under English patent law indicates clearly enough that by 1859 the firm
had realized that their position was not strong enough to warrant a
legal suit for infringement against Bessemer. Their purchase of the
Uchatius process and their final attempt to develop Martien's ideas
through the Parry patents, which exposed them to a very real risk of a
suit by Bessemer, are also indications of the politics in the case.
Mushet seems to have been a willing enough victim of Ebbw Vale's
scheming. His letters show an almost presumptuous assumption of the
mantle of his father; while his sometimes absurd claims to priority of
invention (and demonstration) of practically every new idea in the
manufacturing of iron and steel progressively reduced the respect for
his name. Bessemer claims an impressive array of precedents for the use
of manganese in steel making and, given his attitude to patents and his
reliance on professional advice in this respect, he should perhaps, be
given the benefit of the doubt. A dispassionate judgment would be that
Bessemer owed more to the development work of his Swedish licensees
than to Mushet.

      [119] William T. Jeans, _The creators of the age of steel_,
      London, 1884.

Kelly's right to be adjudged the joint inventor of what is now often
called the Kelly-Bessemer process is questionable.[120] Admittedly, he
experimented in the treatment of molten metal with air blasts, but it
is by no means clear, on the evidence, that he got beyond the
experimental stage. It is certain that he never had the objective of
making steel, which was Bessemer's primary aim. Nor is there evidence
that his process was taken beyond the experimental stage by the Cambria
Works. The rejection of his "apparatus" by W. F. Durfee must have been
based, to some extent at least, upon the Johnstown trials. There are
strong grounds then, for agreeing with one historian[121] who

    The fact that Kelly was an American is evidently the principal
    reason why certain popular writers have made much of an invention
    that, had not Bessemer developed his process, would never have
    attracted notice. Kelly's patent proved very useful to industrial
    interests in this country as a bargaining weapon in negotiations
    with the Bessemer group for the exchange of patent rights.

      [120] Bessemer dealt with Kelly's claim to priority in a letter
      to _Engineering_, 1896, vol. 61, p. 367.

      [121] Louis C. Hunter, "The heavy industries since 1860," in H.
      F. Williamson (editor), _The growth of the American economy_, New
      York, 1944, p. 469.

Kelly's suggestion[122] that some British puddlers may have
communicated his secret to Bessemer can, probably, never be verified.
All that can be said is that Bessemer was not an ironman; his contacts
with the iron trade were, so far as can be ascertained, nonexistent
until he himself invaded Sheffield. So it is unlikely that such a
secret would have been taken to him, even if he were a well-known

      [122] Later developed into a dramatic story by Boucher, _op.
      cit._ (footnote 97).

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