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13 Colonies Blacksmith

Ken Schwarz, Head Blacksmith at Colonial Williamsburg

The Blacksmith was an essential merchant and craftsman in a colonial town. He made indispensable items such as horseshoes, pots, pans, and nails. Blacksmiths (sometimes called ferriers) made numerous goods for farmers including axes, plowshares, cowbells, and hoes. They also made hammers, candleholders, tools, files, locks, fireplace racks, and anvils. Most of the blacksmith’s work was done in his personal forge in which scalding bars of iron were hammered with heavy sledges to fashion the iron into various shapes.

The road to becoming a successful blacksmith was long and hard. Apprenticeships started at age 14 or 15 and could last up to seven years. At first, an apprentice would simply observe his master before helping with easy tasks. Eventually, the apprentice would learn more complicated tasks like heating and bending iron. Finally, the apprentice would be tasked with fashioning some kind of metal “master piece” that would be judged by his master. If the piece was adequate, the apprentice would pass his apprenticeship and became a journeyman – a traveling blacksmith who would repair metal goods in nearby villages. If all went well, the journeyman would have earned enough money through his work to open his own shop.

13 Colonies Trades