Iron Industry History

color engraving of cast iron furnace

Color lithograph from the West Shore, November 2, 1889. Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Public Library.

In the nineteenth-century, the discovery of iron ore in the hills surrounding Oswego transformed the small Oregon village into a bustling iron manufacturing center. William S. Ladd organized the initial company in 1865 with the backing of Portland financiers. In 1866, blast furnace construction began. One year later, the first iron was produced and the dream of freeing the West Coast from imported iron became a reality.

The manufacturing operation ran sporadically under different management, and in a second location, for about three decades before finally shuttering operations in 1894.

A Brief History of the Oregon Iron Industry (PDF 3.7 MB) was researched and written by Dr. Susanna Kuo and designed by Corinna Campbell-Sack.

Oregon Iron Chronicles A compilation of newspaper articles published between 1860 and 1930 compiled by Dr. Susanna Kuo. They document the colorful history of the Oregon iron industry, which opened the first iron mines and built the first iron furnace on the Pacific Coast.

Additional Print Resources:

Daniels, Joseph. Iron and Steel Manufacturing in Washington, Oregon, California, and
University of Washington Engineering Experiment Station Series. No. 2,
Dec. 15, 1929.

Foster, Laura O. Images of America: Lake Oswego. Charleston, S.C.: Arcadia Publishing, 2009.

Fulton, Ann. Iron, Wood & Water: An Illustrated History of Lake Oswego. San Antonio,
Texas: Historical Publishing Network and the Oswego Heritage Council, 2002.

Goodall, Mary. Oregon’s Iron Dream: A Story of Old Oswego and the Proposed Iron
Empire of the West.
Portland, Oregon: Binfords & Mort, 1958.

Hawkins, William John, III. The Grand Era of Cast-Iron Architecture in Portland.Portland: Binford & Mort, 1976.

Hergert, Herbert L. “Early Iron Industry in Oregon.” Reed College Bulletin 26, no. 2
(1948): 1-40.

Johansen, Dorothy O. “Organization and Finance of the Oregon Iron and Steel Company,1880-1895,” Paci c Northwest Historical Quarterly 31, no. 2 (1940): 123- 59.

Kellogg, Claire and Susanna Campbell Kuo, Eds. The Diary of Will Pomeroy: A Boy’s Life in 1883 Oswego, Oregon. Lake Oswego: Lake Oswego Public Library, 2009.

Kirby, Ed. “A Connecticut Yankee in Oregon’s Court,” Seldom Told Tales of Sharon, Book III. Sharon, CT: Sharon Historical Society, 2011: 73-97.

Lake Oswego Public Library staff and volunteers, Eds. In Their Own Words: A Collection
of Reminiscences of Early Oswego, Oregon.
2nd edition. Lake Oswego, Oregon: Lake Oswego
Public Library, 2010.

MacColl, E. Kimbark, Merchants, Money and Power: the Portland Establishment 1843-1913. The Georgian Press, 1988.

Minor, Rick. Archaeological Investigations for the Oswego Iron Furnace Restoration, Lake Oswego, Oregon. Report No. 342. Eugene, OR: Heritage Research Associates, 2010.

Minor, Rick. Archaeological Monitoring at the Historic Oswego Iron Furnace. Report No. 291. Eugene, OR: Heritage Research Associates, 2006. Minor, Rick. Structural Foundation Explorations at the Oswego Iron Furnace, Lake Oswego, Oregon: Final Archaeological Report. Eugene, Oregon: Heritage Research Associates Report No. 324, 2008.

Pumpelly, Raphael. Report on the Mining Industries of the United States. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1886.

Truchot, Theresa. Charcoal Wagon Boy. Portland, OR: Binfords & Mort, Publishers, 1952.

“Iron Manufacture at Oswego.” West Shore (magazine), Nov. 2, 1889, pp. 232-238.

“Oregon Iron and Steel Works.” Supplement to West Shore (magazine), [1888].

Additional Online Resources:

Fulton, Ann. “Oregon Iron & Steel Company,” Oregon Encyclopedia

[Kuo, Susanna] Oregon Iron Company Furnace, Oregon Historic Sites Database

Kuo, Susanna. “Oswego Iron Furnace,” Oregon Encyclopedia

[Kuo, Susanna and Corinna Campbell-Sack] “Oswego Iron Heritage Trail,” Lake Oswego Parks & Recreation

Kuo, Susanna. “The Oswego Iron Heritage Trail,” Society for Industrial Archaeology Newsletter,Vol. 41, no. 2, Spring 2012: 1-3

Lake Oswego Public Library Historic Photographs Collection