Quote from Richard Smith in 1830 about 2 steam engines at Pictou, Nova Scotia being at work for 3 years

Notes and Queries, No.2: Sources of English Engines for Export in 1826-7?

Encouraging Early Engines Research

The Early Engines site is always seeking to share knowledge and encourage new research. As part of its ongoing Notes & Queries series for researchers, our second query (and note) comes from David Rollinson, Research Assistant at the Nova Scotia Museum group, in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Answer from Richard Smith in evidence to a Parliamentary inquiry "Have you steam engines there? - Not at Sidney; there are two at Pictou. It is only three years since steam engines have been introduced into that country."
Richard Smith, in evidence given on 18th January 1830. Parliamentary Papers. Copy of such portions of the Evidence taken before the Commissioners of Revenue Inquiry as is complete referring to the Western Harbours of Ireland, Return to an Order of the Honourable The House of Commons, dated 23 July 1834

Tracing Technology Transfer in North America

The Nova Scotia Museum of Industry, at Stellarton, Pictou County, Nova Scotia was opened in 1995, being built on the reclaimed site of a pioneering coal mining settlement and foundry complex dating back to the 1820s, and originally known as Albion Mines. Archaeological investigation of parts of the site has continued over the last 40 years. Combined with archival research and further interpretation, this should help to enhance the visitor experience at the museum and increase understanding of early Nineteenth century mining and ironworking in North America.

From Staffordshire to Nova Scotia

In 1827 the General Mining Association (GMA) of London began mining at Albion Mines, the first metal and mineral complex of its type in North America. The manager chosen by the GMA in London was the mineral surveyor and civil engineer Richard Smith (1783-1868) from Tipton, South Staffordshire. Much of the early skilled labour in the pits and at the foundry at Albion Mines also came from the Black Country. Although coal mining was not the financial success its British investors had hoped, it did help establish the iron and manufacturing industries in Eastern Canada.

Engines for Export

They brought with them two beam engines described as being ‘Newcomen-type condensing engines‘. One engine was used for winding and pumping and the other to power machinery in the foundry and drive an air pump blowing the cupolas and blast furnace. The foundry engine, and its haystack boiler survived until the late 1890s.

Extract from first issue of the Colonial Patriot, 7th December 1827 quoted in Patterson, George, A History of the County of Pictou, Nova Scotia, Dawson brothers, 1877, p.401

Given that the GMA imported engineers and artisans from the West Midlands in England using the local contacts of their General Manager, it is possible and even quite probable that the exported engines were also built in the South Staffordshire area. The ships bringing the engines came out of Liverpool, so the engines could have been made in that area, but local to the Black Country seems the best bet right now.

The question is then: Do you know of any companies building this type of engine (they were a 20HP and a 30HP) in 1826 or ’27?

Please get in touch with any suggestions, or information to respond to this query.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *