Iron Working, Madagascar, 1850s


William Ellis, Three visits to Madagascar during the years 1853-1854-1856 (New York, 1859; reprinted, Philadelphia, 1888), p. 294; also published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine (1858-59), vol. 18, p. 597. (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)


Caption, (left) iron smelting in Madagascar; (right) Malagasy forge and native smiths. Their smelting furnaces . . . are always fixed near a stream, and the ore . . is broken small, and the earth . . . removed by frequent washings. The sides of the furnaces, usually sunk two or three feet in the ground, are made of stones, covered outside with clay, . . . . The blast is supplied by two pairs of pistons working in wooden cylinders . . . From the bottom of each cylinder a tube, formed by a bamboo or an old gun-barrel, is inserted into a hole through the stones round the furnace. After the contents of the furnace have been kept some time at a white heat it is left to cool, and when opened the iron is found in pigs or lumps at the bottom. In this state, as well as when heated again, [it is] beaten into bars or rods.... (Ellis, 1888, p. 243).

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