Our interest in the topic of Boston blacksmiths came from a conversation about the term "smithing." One thing led to another and soon Penny was on the trail of historical photos of Boston blacksmiths.
This group of shops were on Rutherford Avenue. (Photo: "Creation date: Since 1925?" from the Boston Public Library Collection.)
Clearly, there was a collection of places that served horses in that section of town. It seems that like stables, blacksmiths with their fiery forges tended to be clumped in areas away from residences.
As you can see from this location in the 1922 G.W. Bromley & Co. fire insurance atlas of Charlestown, the crossed out properties were insurance risks.
This photo of Lally Bros., Blacksmiths & Wheelwrights came from the Boston Wharf Company Collection. (Photo: circa 1898-1907 from the Boston Public Library Collection.) This firm announced their specialty in wheels and the wagon in the photo speaks to that.
Here's the Croce Blacksmith shop on Atlantic Avenue. (Photo: 1962 from the Boston Public Library, Leslie Jones Collection.)
Blacksmith shops in different areas may have found themselves specializing in different tasks. Welding was on the sign here but with their waterfront location, this shop may have also specialized in the needs of boats and ships in the harbor.
You may very well pass the still existing work of some 19th Century smithies when you walk through Boston's historic districts. In Ornamental Ironwork, authors Susan and Michael Southworth say that of the ironworking techniques, "... blacksmithery is by far the most common technique used in architectural wrought ironwork."
Back to where this all started. The term smith as in Blacksmith, goldsmith, silversmith and so on has an interesting origin.
Wikipedia says, "The name refers to a smith, originally deriving from smið or smiþ, the Old English term meaning one who works in metal related to the word smitan, the Old English form of smite, which also meant strike (as in early 17th century Biblical English: the verb "to smite" = to hit). The Old English word smiþ comes from the Proto-Germanic word smiþaz. Smithy comes from the Old English word smiðē from the Proto-Germanic smiðjon. The use of Smith as an occupational surname dates back to Anglo-Saxon times, when inherited surnames were still unknown: Ecceard Smith of County Durham, North East England, was recorded in 975."
Do you have an Amazon Gift Certificate to use? Or do you need to buy one for a gift? Remember to click over to Amazon from here to support this site!
Words: Penny & Ed Cherubino
Photography: Ironwork photo © 2011 Penny Cherubino. Historic photos are from and are linked to the Boston Public Library collection.