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1759-dated Iron Pig

1759
Origin: Europe
Overall: 17 1/4 x 3 1/2 x 2 3/4in. (43.8 x 8.9 x 7cm)
Cast iron, slag, and other impurities
Museum Purchase, David Munn
Acc. No. 1987-727
Finger-shaped iron pig with flat bottom, broken at one end. "1759" and other symbols and marks are cast into the rounded top surface.



Label:Once extracted from the metal-bearing rock known as ore, the first salable product of the process of iron refining has been known as a pig since the mid-17th century. This long-enduring nickname comes from the manner in which it was cast. Molten iron was flowed into simple channels cut directly into the sand floor of the furnace. Additional channels were dug at right angles to the main channel, and were filled with molten iron at the same time. To early furnace workers this large casting, before being broken up, resembled a mother hog suckling her piglets. Therefore, the castings from the offshoots of the main channel became known as pigs, while those from the main channel became known as sows.

It is in the form of pigs and sows that most iron travelled around the world. Heavy and compact, it was the perfect material to use as ballast in the hold of a ship. This pig was cast in Europe, and is smaller and more refined than many cast in America at this time.
Mark(s):"B 1759," preceeded by illegible letters, flanked by a fleur-de-lis on either side.