John Armstrong Wright, circa 1865.
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John Armstrong Wright

Credit: Courtesy of the Greenwood Furnace State Park, Paul Fagley

A surveyor for the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR)and then a founding board member, John Armstrong Wright laid out the PRR's new yards on the eastern slopes of the Alleghenies and named them Altoona, after a Cherokee word he had heard in Georgia. Recognizing the impact that railroads would have on the iron industry, Wright in 1849 purchased the Freedom Iron Works at Lewistown, PA, and there erected one of the nation's first Bessemer works. Wright, however, was a bit before his time. His long and costly experiment with Bessemer furnaces failed, but did pave the way for Andrew Carnegie and others.

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