Historical Markers
Thomas Rutter Historical Marker
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Thomas Rutter

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
Pine Forge Academy off SR 2063, Pine Forge

Dedication Date:
October 4, 1982

Behind the Marker

"This last Summer one Tho Rutter a Smith who Lives not farr from Jerman Town hath removed farther up in the Country and of his own Strength hath Sett upon making Iron…. All the Smiths here say that the best of Sweeds Iron Doth not Exceed it and we have accot of others that are going on wh Iron works…. marker The first projectors may open ye Way…."
                                                                                       Jonathan Dickinson, 1717

From 1715 to 1721, Jonathan Dickinson, a Jamaican-born Quaker who served two terms as the mayor of Philadelphia in the early 1700s, kept a letter book that included his observations about the growing Pennsylvania colony, including marker the beginnings of its iron industry.  Among those he mentioned was Thomas Rutter, built and operated the first iron forge in the colony.
Photo of the cast iron plate made by John Potts at Warwick or Pottsgrove Furnace, 1751; stove plate features German words that translate "the Life of Jesus was a light".
Warwick Furnace Cast-iron stove plate, 1751.

Rutter emigrated from England to Philadelphia in 1684, and later moved to Germantown. Crucially, Rutter was a blacksmith who understood the young colony's need for iron and had skills to make iron. In 1715 he bought land in what was then the backcountry of Pennsylvania–along Manatawny Creek, a tributary of the Schuylkill River. The land had iron ore, water for power, and forest for fuel. By 1716 he and his son-in-law, Samuel Savage, who was a mason, erected a bloomery forge, where workers heated ore and hammered iron into small iron blooms.   There, Rutter operated the first forge in Pennsylvania.

Rutter had other traits in common with early ironmasters and Pennsylvanians. When he immigrated, he was a Quaker (he later became a Sabaterian Baptist), and arrived with the first waves of Quaker immigrants. Like other early ironmasters, he was a British immigrant. And similar to some others, he rose through the ranks, starting as a blacksmith before becoming an ironmaster. Like Dickinson and other Pennsylvanians, he was also aware of the role that Swedish iron (or "Sweeds Iron," as Dickinson put it) played in England and Pennsylvania.

Until 1715 Sweden was the principal source of iron for England and Pennsylvania. But in 1715 England joined a war against Sweden, blockading Swedish ports and cutting off Swedish iron imports. Rutter intended to gear his forge production for export to England. Although this export trade did not materialize, Dickinson recorded that Rutter's iron did compare favorably with the quality of Swedish iron in the local market.

In addition to starting the iron industry, Rutter was the first in Pennsylvania to join a refinery forge with an iron furnace. Like later ironmasters, including John Potts at markerPottsgrove Manor, Rutter invested in an iron furnace to supply a refinery forge. Backed by Philadelphia merchant investors, he erected Pennsylvania's first furnace, markerColebrookdale Furnace, about 1720. At the same time, he tore down the bloomery forge and erected a refinery forge in its place to work the iron produced at the furnace. Iron furnaces made better-quality iron more efficiently than bloomery forges could, so Colebrookdale Furnace superseded Rutter's bloomery forge.

In 1725 Rutter rented the furnace and refinery forge to Philadelphia investors, who in turn leased the furnace to Thomas Potts.  After Rutter died in 1730, the Potts family acquired shares in Rutter's refinery forge and renamed it Pine Forge. The forge continued operating into the 1840s, when it was torn down and a rolling and slitting mill were built in its place.
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