Tuesday, June 4, 2013

John Snowdon and Son's Vulcan Iron and Machine Works: 2013 Field Season

Hello Everyone,

           It sure has been a while since my last post, and much has been going on. For one, we reached above and beyond our Kickstarter goal raising over $1700! That allowed us to buy the required liability insurance and some much needed tools to continue excavations at the Snowdon and Son's Foundry. The second thing that has been going on is the excavation, with the help of volunteers. I'll briefly refresh everyone why the foundry is important not only locally, but nationally as well. 
           The Vulcan Iron and Machine Works has a rich history in our nation's early industrialization. It patterned and cast the first iron bridge in the United States, the Dunlap Creek Bridge in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. The foundry cast the half of the iron obelisk markers on the National Road, now Route 40. The foundry also built numerous steamboats and stationary steam engines some of which were used in the Mexican American War. 
           I want to share the first weeks field season photos with you, and hope you enjoy them.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Brownsville archaeology dig’s future at stake Group needs cash to continue at Brownsville site

Brownsville archaeology dig’s future at stake
Group needs cash to continue at Brownsville site

by Scott Beveridge
Staff Writer
Published Apr 2, 2013 at 11:17 pm (Updated Apr 2, 2013 at 11:17 pm)

Volunteer Sean Rothaar cleans part of a foundation uncovered last year at the site of the old Snowden Iron Works in Brownsville.

(Photos courtesy Marc Henshaw)

An old postcard shows Snowden Iron Works before it was razed to pave the way for Monongahela Railway in Brownsville in the early 1900s.

BROWNSVILLE – Volunteer archaeologists looking for clues about workers who built the nation’s first cast iron bridge, along with steamboats used during the Civil War, may have to call off a dig at the site of the foundry in Brownsville.

Marc Henshaw, lead archaeologist at the former John Snowdon Vulcan Iron & Machine Works, said he needs to raise about $1,000 to purchase liability insurance for the job or Fayette County, which owns the property, won’t led him continue to work at the site.

“The preservation is really excellent,” Henshaw said. “We’d like to get a sample of the whole complex.”

Armed with volunteers, some from nearby California University of Pennsylvania, Henshaw began excavating the property behind the Flatiron Building on Market Street last May and uncovered part of a building’s foundation three feet under the surface. The foundation will serve as a starting point to assist in locating other buildings on the property alongside the Monongahela River.

The team also found a 1906 penny, peanut shells, leather items, peach pits, bricks marked with the name Vulcan, part of an old wheelbarrow, failed iron castings and broken pieces of glass and ceramics.

The site is significant to U.S. history because it is where Snowdon cast Dunlap’s Creek Bridge in downtown Brownsville between 1836 and 1839, a span along an older section of the National Road that is still traveled to this day.

The foundry, which employed 110 workers, also created half of the mile markers along the National Road.

Bridge enthusiasts from across the country are drawn to the 80-foot-long span because it is a national landmark recognized as a breakthrough in technology by the American Society of Materials International, a distinction it also bestowed on the Statue of Liberty and Eiffel Tower.

Henshaw planned to spread the archaeology project over several years until the liability issue was raised. He also wants to raise another $500 for supplies through the website Kickstarter, a program that has experienced much success in funding mostly technology-related projects.

The dig has been challenging because workers need to chisel through stone and grit covering the property, remnants from the years it served as Monongahela Railways’ headquarters, beginning in the early 1900s.

The plant closed in 1889, and part of it later reopened as a tenement building for immigrant coal miners.

Henshaw is in Arizona finishing his doctoral degree and hopes to begin work again in Brownsville after he returns in May to teach an introduction to anthropology course at Cal U.

He said the dig would help to attract people to downtown Brownsville and serve to educate the public, hands on, about the region’s rich industrial heritage.

He also wants to create a mobile photograph and artifact exhibit on Snowdon to take to area historical societies to provide a broader awareness of local history.

For more information about the project, visit http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/casearchaeology/brownsville-archaeology-festival

Friday, March 22, 2013

Hello Everyone,

      Today we started our own Kickstarter to help fund excavations at the John Snowdon and Son's Vulcan Iron and Machine Works. As many of you who follow me have read, this site is of national significance especially in the realm of industrial archaeology and heritage. Please click on the link and check out our Kickstarter, then if you would like, please donate. Help us change the model for how archaeological projects get funded by placing the public at the forefront. Let's crowd source this project and get a green light to start digging this season!


Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Plea for Help!

Hello Everyone,

  I know that we are still aways off from Brownsville Archaeology Month
in May, but the Mon/Yough Chapter for the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology is in desperate need of volunteers, members, and donations. At the present rate, the cost of insurance and the excavations cost over $1300. We need all of the help we can get to continue this project at the Snowdon Foundry. If you would like to join our club, the dues are $20 per year and we meet the 3rd Thursday of each month at California University Frich Hall Room #203. If you would like to donate to our organization so that we may keep educating the public about its rich heritage, please mail a check or money order to:

Mon-Yough Chapter #3
Carl Maurer Treasurer

45 Acheson Ave
Washington PA 15301

For information about our chapter and its activities, please contact me at: nemacolin.archaeology@gmail.com.

Thank all of you for your continued support!

Marc Henshaw
President Mon-Yough Chapter #3

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

New Mon-Yough Chapter #3 Brochure

Hello Everyone,

          I thought I would post the updated Mon-Yough Chapter #3 brochure. We are an archaeology club out of Southwestern Pennsylvania. For those of you who read my blog, the Mon-Yough has excavated various sites I talk about here such as the Gormley and Cox Houses, and the John Snowdon and Son's Vulcan Iron and Machine Works. Our specialization is integrating and educating local non-profit organizations who focus on historic preservation and the local community to come together and participate in archaeology at the "hands on" level. We also provide education resources to college students who are pursuing careers in Anthropology or Archaeology. Please download the brochure, and join up if you are passing through the area. The field season starts in May! Click on an image to enlarge it!