Original Document
Original Document
Alexander Holley's description of a Bessemer blow, 1865.

Bessemer Blow

The cavernous room is dark, the air sulphurous, the sounds of suppressed power are melancholy and deep. Half-revealed monsters with piercing eyes crouch in the corners, spectral shapes ever flit about the wall, and lurid beams of light anon flash in your face as some remorseless beast opens its red-hot jaws for its iron ration. Then the melter thrusts a spear between the joints of its armor and a glistening, yellow stream spurts out for a moment, and then all is dark once more. Again and again he stabs it, till six tons of its hot and smoking blood fill a great caldron to the brim. Then the foreman shouts to a thirty-foot giant in the comer, who straightway stretches out his iron arm and gently lifts the cauldron away up into the air and turns out the yellow blood in a hissing, sparkling stream, which dives into the white-hot jaws of another monster, - a monster as big as an elephant, with a head like a frog, and scaly hide. The foreman shouts again, at which up rises the monster on its haunches, growling and snorting sparks and flame.

What a conflict of the elements is going on in that vast laboratory! A million balls of melted iron, tearing away from the liquid mass, surging from side to side, and plunging down again, only to be blown out more hot and angry than before - column upon column of air, squeezed solid like rods of glass by the power of five hundred horses, piercing and shattering the iron at every point, chasing it up and down, robbing it of its treasures, only to be itself decomposed, and hurled out into the night in roaring blaze.

As the combustion progresses, the surging mass grows hotter, throwing out splashes of liquid slag; and the discharge from its mouth changes from sparks and streaks of red and yellow gas to thick, full, white, howling, dazzling flame. But such battles cannot last long. In a quarter of an hour the iron is stripped of every combustible alloy, and hangs out the white flag. The converter is then turned upon its side, the blast shut off, and the recarburizer run in. Then for a moment the war of the elements rages again; the mass boils and flames with higher intensity, and with a rapidity of chemical reaction, sometimes throwing it violently out of the converter mouth; then all is quiet, and the product is steel - liquid, milky steel, that pours out into the ladle from under its roof of slag, smooth, shining, and almost transparent.

Credit: Troy Daily Times, 1865; reprinted in John Fritz, The Autobiography of John Fritz (New York: Wiley, 1912), 159-60.
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