Historical Markers
Stiegel Mansion [Iron] Historical Marker
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Stiegel Mansion [Iron]

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
1 N. Main St. (Pa. 72), Manheim

Dedication Date:
May 13, 1962

Behind the Marker

Color photograph of the side and partial front of the Mansion.
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The Stiegel Mansion, Manheim, PA.
                                             "Baron Stiegel is the cove
                                           That can cast your iron stove"

Baron Henry William Stiegel had these words cast into iron stoves made at his Elizabeth Furnace. These words boasted about his iron furnace's principal product and repeated the title "Baron" that he and local people attached to his name. Stiegel also intended these words to bolster his ironworks and the larger industrial empire he sought to build. For a few years his iron works flourished, but his ironworks and glass manufactory soon came crashing down in financial ruin. Stiegel was one of many ironmasters who failed in the iron business before 1800. His ruin, however, was particularly spectacular.

Photograph of a Cast-iron stove plate features the words "Wilhelm/Steigels".
Cast-iron stove plate made at Elizabeth Furnace, circa 1760.
Stiegel had grand ambitions, which he pursued first in the iron industry and then in glass manufacturing. Born in Germany in 1730, Stiegel immigrated to Pennsylvania in 1750 with his widowed mother and younger brother. In 1752 he married Elizabeth Huber, daughter of Jacob Huber, a Lancaster County ironmaster. Stiegel became an ironmaster through his marriage; in 1756 with three partners, he took over the operation of Jacob Huber's furnace. He and his partners then bought the furnace, tore it down, and built a new one, Elizabeth Furnace, named after his wife. This furnace prospered by 1760, with about seventy-five employees making kettles, pots, pans, funnels, and grate bars as well as stoves.

Stiegel purchased hundreds of acres of land and built tenant houses for furnace workers, a mansion for himself, an office, and stores. In 1763 he also acquired a half interest in markerCharming Forge. With Elizabeth Furnace partners, he constructed the first of three glass works in 1763 and laid out the adjacent town of Manheim. He also manifested his ambitions and pretensions in the opulence of his mansion, which had roof-top platform where his orchestra of workmen played music, and in two towers mounted with cannon to announce his comings and goings.

Photograph of a common Stiegel Stove.
Stiegel Stove
Stiegel's prosperity and pretensions died quickly. In 1768 and 1770 he borrowed heavily against his property to finance a new, larger glass works and to buy out his partners" shares in his business. However, income from his forge, furnace, and glass works did not begin to pay off his mountainous debts. In the early 1770s he petitioned the Pennsylvania Assembly and friends for assistance and organized a lottery to generate money, but his efforts came to no avail. His creditors pressed him for payments he could not make, and in 1773 and 1774 they forced sheriff's sales of all of his property.

These foreclosures left Stiegel destitute, but still he could not repay all his debts; in late 1774 he was thrown in jail for debt. While imprisoned, he blamed his travails not on his actions but on enemies who spread lies about him. In a prayer he asked God to "Deliver me from the bad people and the misfortune they utter about me may recoil on them. Smite the slanderers and let all lying mouths be stopped of those who delight in our misfortunes and when we are caught in snares so they may repent and return to Thee." He petitioned the Assembly again, this time for his freedom. Within a few months the Assembly delivered him from jail. During his remaining years, he lived in poverty, first teaching and then clerking for his nephew by marriage, George Ege, at Charming Forge. He died in 1785.

Buildings remaining from the Elizabeth Furnace iron plantation. The home of Baron Henry William Stiegel, the first ironmaster, is on the far left.
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Elizabeth Plantation core area.
Stiegel's rise and fall were exceptionally meteoric, but he joined a legion of ironmasters who failed one way or another before 1840. Ironmasters came from a variety of backgrounds, especially merchants, to invest in ironworks as a way to make profits and diversify investments. Successful furnaces and forges showed that ironmasters could make profits in the industry. However, a host of obstacles stood in the way of success. Furnaces especially required large capital investments and some ironmasters could not generate the needed capital. Some ironmasters such as Stiegel fell deeply into debt. Ironmasters also often had difficulty getting payment for their products, particularly in an economy that was not cash rich.

Some ironmasters could not overcome their ironworks" remoteness from markets and lack of economical transportation. Others located furnaces near poor-quality iron ore deposits or found they had to go farther and farther a field for wood to make charcoal. Furnaces and forges also required considerable management skills to operate, and some ironmasters lacked these skills. And still other ironmasters fell victim to repeated downswings in the economy and demand for their products. The litany of failure continued long after Stiegel died. From 1832 to 1850 only about one out of four iron firms survived.
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