STEEL TIMES JULY 2000
During the second half of the 18th Century, the operation of blast furnaces and forges in the Hunedoara region of modern day Romania declined in out-put and quality as a result of the obsolete technologies still in use. Compared with the other major iron producing regions within the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, BanetStyria (Austria) and lower Hungary, Hunedoara's output was low and inferior.
Vienna took measures to study the situation and introduced rapid changes to improve the socio-economic conditions following adverse reports about the region in 1774 - 1778.
In 1778, a commission was sent from Vienna lead by the official, Szeleczky who appointed Franz Joseph Muller von Reichenstein to reform the social and economic relations in the Hunedoara estate.
Franz Muller was a well known personality in the Austrian-Hungarian Empire, he had studied law at Vienna University and later became Professor of Mining at the Schemnitz Mining Academy. He also performed functions as an administrator in Tyrol.
The order appointing Franz Muller stated precisely what he was expected to do to improve iron production. His role was to inspect the mines, blast furnaces and forges and propose improvements.
Muller's 980 page report presented 221 years ago is an example of his meticulous approach and pragmatism in analysing the situation. It presents solutions, including better training and the use of consultants, which are still relevant today. In the second half of the 17th Century and 18 Century, the Hunedoara district had 13 shops for iron smelting and processing, each driven by water power from the rivers Cerna, Govajdie and Runc. There were also two shops at Sibisel which were pan of the estate. The total output from all ironmaking in the district was 21500 -22500 ‘majas’ a year (about 1200 - 1260t) In addition, there was one shop at Cerna owned by the Prince of Transylvania (Baia Cerna).
Every iron shop had to pay some bar iron to the Hunedoara city administration; this was used to pay Court employees. For example, a document of 1665 records the salary paid to a magistrate, Gheorghe Nagy of Alpestes as: - 32 florins; 14 ‘coti’ of cloth, 2 pigs of iron or 4 iron ‘maja’ for clothes, 2 pigs of iron, 8 small buckets of corn and 2 loafs of white bread and a pint of wine a day. Working in the fields and the iron shops was part of a ‘serfs’ duties. Unlike other forms of work, wages were paid each week to ironwork- ers, the amounts being summarised in Table 1Equipment
Inventories of equipment used in ironmaking have survived from 1672 to 1710 for the five largest ironshops, Plosca, Baia Noua (Baia Doamnei), Toplita, Nadrab and Limpert. Each shop had the following:
- two furnaces for melting iron-
- two heating furnaces for forging;
- water wheels and drives;
- two pairs of bellows driven by water
- tongs for taking out hot iron;
- hoes and hooks for pulling out slag;
- iron rakes for charcoal;
- an iron stake to release the slagand
- eight pairs of baskets to cari ore.
The forge was located near the blast furnace and was either of the ‘German’ type with separate buildings for the blast furnace and forge, or the Romanian type with both housed in a single building (See Steel Times October 1999 p392). Other buildings were houses for the furnace workers, the furnace foreman and the forge foreman, and a store forthe iron. Livestock was also kept with 12-16 horses with harnesses used to transport the ore, charcoal and iron. Quoting from a text of 1700:‘if the shop is to work properly', it will need 16 horses, in case a horse begins to limp, another will take its place’.Working season
Usually iron production took place for 26 weeks of the year, within an 8 month period from 20th March until 23 November, with short breaks at Easter and Whitsuntide, and an 8 week break from 13 July to 8th September when the workforce worked in the fields to fulfil their duties as surfs. The miners and wagoners began work from one to several weeks earlier. A document of 1681-1682 states that if summer work is finished early, the iron shopsshould begin work again so that the estate will not suffer too much loss. During this summer break, the horses would have rested and shouldbe properly browsed and taken care of.
Franze Joseph Muller submitted his extensive report in March 1780 with 14 main rec-ommendations for improving the method of working:- To introduce new processes of ironmaking and improve the training of the workforce;- To bring specialists in from Tyrol (Schwatz) to assist in the start up and smooth operation of new equipment;
- To send local workers to Banat and Styria to learn the new methods;
- To invite foreman from Resita, Tyrol and a Hunedoarian foreman who was working at Eisenarzt (Styria) to come to Hunedoara;
Personnel in iron shops
Using the same documentary description (the inventories drawn up in 1681-1682, 1695, 1874) the personnel employed in an iron shop was:
1 founder foreman
1 manager, 2 vice-managers
4 hammer foremen
1 ore waggoners and 2 charcoal waggoners
1 worker who cut the ore in the mine
5 miners and 15 workers who prepared the charcoal.
There were 30 workers in an iron shop with the exception of the five main iron shop where 150 workers were employed.
- To improve the methods of mining and furnace design (based on a more efficient blast furnace already working at Toplita in Hunedoara);
- The appointment ofvon Prugger from Kifer, Tyrol as administrator of iron shops (he had experience in reforming the industry there);
-The appointment of Joseph Leitner, an accountant in laria, Austria, as superintendent of the Hunedoara estate so as to eliminate suspicions which had fallen on the previous administration;
- The introduction of hired labour rather than surfs to work the mines and furnaces;
- Improve standards and quality of workmanship (traders had refused to buv some Hunedoarian iron because of poor quality);
- Remunerate personnel according to their ability and competence:
- To install new forge hammers for flattening bar and also undertake the manufacture of some tools to add value to the iron sold;
- Introduce production time tables and plans;
- Correlate time worked with wages paid; and - Reorganise the marketing of iron including the export of some for sale outside the region.
Most of the recommendations were implemented by the Diet of Vienna, the success of the reorganisation being confirmed by Muller's participation in the installation of the seventh largest forge in Plosca on June 21st 1800.
Function Weekly quantity paid
Founder foreman 1’maja' and 1 flat iron bar of 8 fonts
Administrator ½ ‘maia’
Viceadministrator ¼ ‘maja’
Founders ¼ ‘maia’ and 2 iron bars of 8 fonts for every three founders
Charcoal waggoners ¼ ‘maia’ and 1 iron bar of 8 fonts for every two waggoners
Ore waggoners ¼ ‘maia’ and 1 iron bar of 8 fonts
Miners 4 iron bars of 8 fonts
Workers in charcoal For 33 ‘burdens’ they received - iron ‘maia’ (the value of 33
Burden’ of charcoal = 2.5FI)
Table 1 Wages paid to employees (per week)
Units of Measure
• the ‘font’ = 0.56kg
• the Hungarian ‘maja’ = 80 ‘fonts’, the Viennese ‘maja’ = 102 ‘fonts’ the German ‘maja’ = 100 ‘fonts’ the‘maja’ for iron ore = 115 ‘fonts’, ‘maja’ for dead man = 110 ‘fonts’ and for bars = 92 ‘fonts’ (the hammer maja = Hammerzenter) as they admitted 18 fonts of losses during forging.
Beginning with the year 1779 the German ‘maja’ is generalised.
1 ‘sust’ of ore = 100 ‘maja’, 1 ‘sust’ of forged bars = 22 ‘maja’ but weighing 92 fonts/‘maja’.
• The ‘burden’ used mainly for charcoal.
• The currency used in that time was the silver Rhenish ‘florin’ subdivided into 60 ‘cruceri’ of 4 ‘pfenings’ each: 1FI = 60cr = 240Pf. The Hungarian florin was subdivided into 100 ‘dinars’.
*The author is a lecturer at the Engineering Faculty of
Hunedoara SC and member of the cultural foundation, lancu of Hunedoara.