Catoctin Furnace Historical Society has won a $7,500 grant from Americana Corner to restore a 19th century bellows.

CFHS was one of 171 historic preservation organizations across the country to receive a grant in honor of George Washington’s birthday.

The restored bellows will be used in the blacksmithing demonstration program held in Catoctin Furnace’s newly constructed blacksmith shop.

The bellows was manufactured circa 1875 to 1885 by J. C. Onions company in Birmingham, England, the preeminent bellows manufacturer of the day. The giant bellows measures five feet by three feet and is constructed of wood, tin, and leather. Blacksmiths use bellows to deliver a constant supply of oxygen to the fire, allowing for the high temperatures, which are required to heat iron to the point that it can be worked.

With the addition of the bellows, Catoctin Furnace has a full complement of 19th century blacksmithing tools.

Just as iron was arguably the most critical industry in the development of the early United States, blacksmiths were essential to the production of equipment and supplies, such as nails, hinges, hooks, wagon parts, and tools.

Late 18th and early 19th century blacksmiths in Catoctin Furnace were primarily enslaved and free Africans and African Americans. Research into the African American owned Moses Jones (1787-1868) blacksmith shop in Carroll County and the Felicity or Oakland Mills blacksmith shop in Howard County informed the design of Catoctin Furnace’s new blacksmith shop.

With the addition of this restored bellows, the blacksmith shop will become a platform to honor the contribution of blacksmithing to our history, revive the practice of the craft, and educate visitors about its importance. In addition, it will become an essential part of Catoctin Furnace’s Heritage at Work program geared toward work skills training for at-risk students.

Catoctin Furnace Historical Society shares the history of ironmaking through special events throughout the year, including an annual commemoration of black history month’s “In Their Own Voices,” an autumn performance of Spirits of the Furnace, now in its 21st year, and the Maryland Iron Festival.

The 6th Annual Maryland Iron Festival will take place on Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, 2024, in the village of Catoctin Furnace, and throughout Cunningham Falls State Park and Catoctin Mountain Park. For more information, contact

Share →