Cover: The Golden Age of Ironwork

The Golden Age of Ironwork

Text by Henry Jonas Magaziner
Photographs by Robert D. Golding

Hardbound. 224 pages, 173 photographs.

Ironwork - the word will conjure up different meanings to different people. The stereotypical images of ironwork will range from minor works to architectural landmarks of historical significance that have met all criteria for greatness. The time period presented in this edition, from roughly 1840-1930, is called the Golden Age. It was a boom time of building construction including mass quantities of ornamental and structural ironwork. Many iron manufacturing companies met the need for castings while gifted blacksmiths hand forged wonderful pieces. An outstanding accumulation of these works appears in The Golden Age of Ironwork.

A main theme of Magaziner's writing is to further a better appreciation of the inherent beauty of fine ironwork. His text begins with an excellent quote of Samuel Yellin and several wonderful pieces by Yellin are magnificent examples of wrought iron. As a casting counterpart, James Monroe's tomb is called "one of the finest pieces of ironwork ever cast in the United States". The textures of the iron, surrounded by stone and wood in the large sharp photos by Robert Golding, practically leap off the pages. Included with photos are detailed descriptions and street addresses to the examples, providing a tour guide type function.

From Samuel Yellin:

"Although iron is the least expensive of all metals, there is no other material which lends itself to more beautiful treatment. Neither is there a material which can be worked more quickly. But unfortunately there are many who do not understand these facts...."
He described the creation of artistic ironwork in the following way:
"First, draw a sketch to a small scale, so as to obtain the general composition, proportion, silhouette and harmony with the design of surrounding materials or conditions. This sketch should then be developed into full size to obtain details or ornament, various sections and sizes of material, and a general idea of the method of making. At this time careful consideration must be given to the practical use of the piece of work, so that it may serve its purpose in the best manner possible. Workers in iron should always attempt to make everything direct from a drawing, rather than from models. When working from a model, the object becomes more or less a reproduction, whereas the drawings allow a greater opportunity to express the craftsman's individuality. "Studies or experiments in the actual material are now made, for here many things are revealed which could not possibly be shown on paper. The character of a twisted member or the flexibility of the material might be used for example to show how difficult it would be to conceive many such things in the drawings. For this reason the true craftsman should often make a fragment or portion of the ornament in the actual material first, and make the drawings later."

The first chapters outline the production processes of wrought and cast iron. Applications are then detailed with fences, railings, gates, doors and window grills. One section on street, garden and park ironwork, displays some home items including gazebos, chairs and a beautiful deer. Iron structural items and facades may appear to be stone or plaster, but iron's advantages of strength and inexpensive large quantities are well described.

The Golden Age of Ironwork celebrates the wealth of architectural ironwork in Philadelphia. We are the beneficiaries of the fine conservation effort to preserve these treasures.

David W. Wilson
Associate Coordinator - Metalworking and Woodworking
Reviewers Consortium
Dallas, Texas

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ISBN: 1-879535149
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