My watch list  

Isaac Tyson

Isaac Tyson, Jr. (1792–1861) was a Quaker businessman from Baltimore, Maryland, who held a virtual monopoly on world supplies of chromium minerals during the mid-19th century.

The son of Baltimore flour merchant Jesse Tyson and his wife Margaret, Tyson studied geology, mineralogy, and chemistry in France, skills which he would use to great advantages during his industrial career.

He first began mining chromite on his farm at Bare Hills some time after 1808. The sight of a piece of chromite being used to prop a barrel at a Bel Air market led him to investigate its source. Tyson was among the first to make the connection between the occurrence of chromite and serpentine barrens, areas of sparse vegetation on metal-rich and inhospitable serpentine deposits. One of these was Soldiers Delight, near Owings Mills, named ironically for the Revolutionary War soldiers who had been given this sterile land in grants for their service. Tyson began mining chromite here in 1827. He commenced buying up serpentine barrens wherever he could find them. The primary belt extended from Maryland into the southern counties of Pennsylvania, including the Nottingham serpentine barrens and the Wood Farm in Lancaster County, which would become the world's largest single chromite mining site during his ownership. Having bought up all the significant chromite sites in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, Tyson found himself with a world monopoly on chromite as the original chromium sources in Siberia petered out.

Not content to confine his efforts to chromium ores, he also prospected for copper, and investigated the South Strafford copper mines in 1828. He was involved in the Ely Mine, and by 1830, had become a partner with the local Binney family in working copper deposits on Copperas Hill, near South Strafford. He personally supervised the construction and operation of six small furnaces nearby in 1833 and 1834, hoping to introduce hot blast techniques, using anthracite coal, to refining copper from the refractory pyrrhotite ores of the deposit. This was a very novel venture for the time, as hot blast was only just being considered for iron smelting. The furnaces were shut down in 1835 or 1837 due to financial difficulties (though not any particular deficiency of his smelting methods), but he retained a half-share in mineral rights at the site, which was worked sporadically for the remainder of his life.

While prospecting for copper in Vermont, he also discovered iron ore in the valley of the Black River in 1835. He set up Tyson Furnace near Plymouth to smelt it, and the furnace operated until his retirement in 1855.

In 1845, he established the Baltimore Chrome Works at Fells Point to refine the chromite into pigments, the primary use of the mineral at the time. Until then, this work had largely been done abroad, in Liverpool and elsewhere, and he continued to export chromite to manufacturers there. The expansion into pigment production helped cushion the shock when chromite deposits were discovered in Asia Minor in 1848 and began to supplant U.S. chromium ores. He continued iron and copper explorations, opening the Springfield Mine for those two metals in Sykesville in 1849.

Tyson married Hannah A. Wood, by whom he had at least four children:

  • Rachel Tyson (1807?–1883), married John Jackson and established the Sharon Female Academy in Sharon
  • Richard W. Tyson
  • Jesse Tyson (1826–1906)
  • James Wood Tyson (1828–1900)

In the 1850s, he bought Elba Furnace in Maryland for James to operate, and both James and Jesse followed him into the metallurgical profession.

Tyson was posthumously inducted into the National Mining Hall of Fame 1996.


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Isaac_Tyson". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
Your browser is not current. Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 does not support some functions on Chemie.DE