The importance of British Iron to US Railroads

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
4,163
#1
British Railroad Iron exports to the US

Year / UK exports in 1000s of tons / US production / % of US production
1853 / 410 / 88 / 465%
1854 / 337 / 108 / 312%
1855 / 195 / 139 / 140%
1856 / 165 / 180 / 92%
1857 / 156 / 162 / 96%
1858 / 30 / 164 / 18%
1859 / 125 / 195 / 64%
1860 / 138 / 205 / 67%
1861 / 28 / 190 / 15%

Even as late as 1871

1871 / 505 / 692 / 73%

Imports of railroad products was very important to American lines. Germany (Krupp) also exported a tremendous amount of supplies to the US. In 1851, one of Krupp's most profitable products (because of exports to the US) was their seamless railway tyres - which is the symbol of the company...

Drei_Ringe_von_Krupp.jpg


Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
Last edited:

Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!

Harvey Johnson

First Sergeant
Joined
Oct 22, 2014
Messages
1,116
#3
British Railroad Iron exports to the US

Year / UK exports in 1000s of tons / US production
1853 / 410 / 88
1854 / 337 / 108
1855 / 195 / 139
1856 / 165 / 180
1857 / 156 / 162
1858 / 30 / 164
1859 / 125 / 195
1860 / 138 / 205
1861 / 28 / 190

Even as late as 1871

1871 / 505 / 692

Imports of railroad products was very important to American lines. Germany (Krupp) also exported a tremendous amount of supplies to the US. In 1851, one of Krupp's most profitable products (because of exports to the US) was their seamless railway tyres - which is the symbol of the company...

View attachment 175274

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
Once the Republicans dominated the federal government they tried to cut off foreign competition for domestic iron producers with high protective tariffs that were basically a form of corporate welfare.

Chief among the proponents was Thaddeus Stevens who owned a poorly run iron foundry. As a condition for supporting the wartime Pacific Railway Acts that authorized government benefits for the first transcontinental railroads, he insisted that the railroads be required to use only iron “of American manufacture of the best quality”—meaning the highest price.

According to Ida Tarbell, “[Import] duties were never too high for [Stevens], particularly for iron, for he was a manufacturer and it was often said in Pennsylvania that the duties he advocated in no way represented the large iron interests of the state, but were hoisted to cover the needs of his own . . . badly managed works."

While admitting Stevens's commitment to racial minorities Tarbell adds, "That there was discrimination possible against your white fellow-man in applying a protective tariff, Stevens seems never to have understood."

Sources: Ludwell Johnson, Division and Reunion, 110; Ida Tarbell, Tariff in our Times, 15
 
Last edited:

Carronade

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Aug 4, 2011
Messages
4,405
Location
Pennsylvania
#4
British Railroad Iron exports to the US

Year / UK exports in 1000s of tons / US production
1853 / 410 / 88 - 498
1854 / 337 / 108 - 445
1855 / 195 / 139 - 334
1856 / 165 / 180 - 345
1857 / 156 / 162 - 318
1858 / 30 / 164 - 194
1859 / 125 / 195 - 320
1860 / 138 / 205 - 333
1861 / 28 / 190 - 218

Even as late as 1871

1871 / 505 / 692 - 1197
I've plugged in the totals, hope it comes through reasonably legibly. The totals are remarkably consistent even as the shares of imports and domestic changed. 1858 presumably reflects the Panic of 1857 and 1861 the blockade of southern ports which were likely major importers of rail.

Also note the massive increase in rail construction in 1871, and this was after completion of the transcontinental railroad.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
4,163
#5
@TinCan

Sir, edited OP to show %s

And based upon that it appears that British exports had a significant impact on the growth and maintenance of American rails.

And quite a few of these were bought by floating RR and state bonds as payment. This is significant to the US railroad system.

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
Last edited:

Waterloo50

Major
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 7, 2015
Messages
4,484
Location
England.
#6
British Railroad Iron exports to the US

Year / UK exports in 1000s of tons / US production / % of US production
1853 / 410 / 88 / 465%
1854 / 337 / 108 / 312%
1855 / 195 / 139 / 140%
1856 / 165 / 180 / 92%
1857 / 156 / 162 / 96%
1858 / 30 / 164 / 18%
1859 / 125 / 195 / 64%
1860 / 138 / 205 / 67%
1861 / 28 / 190 / 15%

Even as late as 1871

1871 / 505 / 692 / 73%

Imports of railroad products was very important to American lines. Germany (Krupp) also exported a tremendous amount of supplies to the US. In 1851, one of Krupp's most profitable products (because of exports to the US) was their seamless railway tyres - which is the symbol of the company...

View attachment 175274

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
Your graph shows a decline in Iron being imported towards the end of the 1860s, that would appear to coincide with the introduction of steel rails. Britain switched from Iron to steel rails around 1868 and I think that the Chicago steel industry started to mass produce steel rails around the same time. The Chicago steel mills had the added benefit that they had the first rail rolling machine in the USA.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
4,163
#8
...they tried to cut off foreign competition for domestic iron producers with high protective tariffs that were basically a form 0f corporate welfare.
...while the Railroads clamored for 'free markets' so that they could have unfettered access to cheaper and better English products.

You are an elected official from Pennsylvania - who do you support?

:sneaky:

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
4,163
#9
The totals are remarkably consistent even as the shares of imports and domestic changed.
British imports to America drastically increased after the 1840s boom of UK building peaked. Brit manufactures had excess capacity and an overseas market that couldn't get enough...

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
4,163
#10
While reading Fishlow, came across an interesting stat. After the 1840s boom of British building, UK manufactures had excess capacity and looked to the export market to for relief. "Assessed value per ton fell from $51.01 in 1847 to $26.32 in 1850." Source - 'American Railroad Journal, XXIX (1856) 490'
954

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
8,018
Location
Denver, CO
#11
The Soo locks were completed in 1855. This created low cost access to the Michigan and Wisconsin ores. Regardless of Thaddeus Stevens. Pittsburgh was the center of iron production in the US, because of its proximity to coal and to the Great Lakes.
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
8,018
Location
Denver, CO
#12
No. 2 consideration is that in order to produce its own iron rails, the US rail system had to reach Pittsburgh and Lake Ontario. That happened during the 1850's. Third consideration, the British were investing in many of those US railroads particularly so they make money of selling the equipment. The initial US railroads needed external assistance, especially in Virginia, and South Carolina.
 

Norm53

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 13, 2019
Messages
539
Location
Cape May, NJ
#13
No. 2 consideration is that in order to produce its own iron rails, the US rail system had to reach Pittsburgh and Lake Ontario. That happened during the 1850's. Third consideration, the British were investing in many of those US railroads particularly so they make money of selling the equipment. The initial US railroads needed external assistance, especially in Virginia, and South Carolina.
What is the importance of RRs to Lake Ontario?
 
Joined
Apr 4, 2017
Messages
8,018
Location
Denver, CO
#14
What is the importance of RRs to Lake Ontario?
The railroads had to reach either Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, in order to bring the ore as far as possible to Pittsburgh. Also, as long as the rails were being used to build links to urban centers on the Atlantic coast, the British mills were about as good as the US mills, and the economies of scale existed in Britain.
 

Norm53

Sergeant
Joined
Feb 13, 2019
Messages
539
Location
Cape May, NJ
#15
The railroads had to reach either Lake Ontario or Lake Erie, in order to bring the ore as far as possible to Pittsburgh. Also, as long as the rails were being used to build links to urban centers on the Atlantic coast, the British mills were about as good as the US mills, and the economies of scale existed in Britain.
Lake Erie makes sense, bringing ore from the Mesabi and other nearby ranges to Pitts. If they used Canadian ore, I would think that it would pass through the Welland Canal to Lake Erie and hence by rail to Pitts. w/o any direct rail link to Lake Ontario. Anyway, thanks for your splendid posts on the importance of RRs to the North and the US economy in general.
 

USS ALASKA

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
4,163
#16
1560345599003.png


Statistics of Iron and Cotton 1830-1860
Source: The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Vol. 2, No. 3 (Apr., 1888), pp. 379-384
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/1879423
Accessed: 12-06-2019 13:14 UTC

STATISTICS OF IRON AND COTTON 1830-1860.
THE PRODUCTION AND IMPORTS OF IRON IN THE UNITED STATES.
1093

Cheers,
USS ALASKA
 

Attachments




Fewer ads. Lots of American Civil War content!
JOIN NOW: REGISTER HERE!
Top