Mushet And Bessemer
That Mushet was "used" by Ebbw Vale against Bessemer is, perhaps, only
an assumption; but that he was badly treated by Ebbw Vale is subject to
no doubt. Mushet's business capacity was small but it is difficult to
believe that he could have been so foolish as to assign an interest in
his patents to Ebbw Vale without in some way insuring his right of
consultation about their disposition. He claims that even in the
drafting of his specifications he was obliged to follow die demands of
Ebbw Vale, which firm, believing, "on the advice of Mr. Hindmarsh, the
most eminent patent counsel of the day," that Martien's patent
outranked Bessemer's, insisted that Mushet link his process to
Martien's. This, as late as 1861, Mushet believed to be in effective
operation. His later repudiation of the process as an absurd and
impracticable patent process "possessing neither value nor utility"
may more truly represent his opinion, especially as, when he wrote his
1861 comment, he still did not know of the disappearance of his
 The Engineer, 1861, vol. 12, p. 189.
 Ibid., p. 78.
 Mushet, op. cit. (footnote 46), p. 9.
Mushet's boast that he had never been into an ironworks other than
his own in Coleford is a clue to the interpretation of his behavior in
general and also of his frequent presumptuous claims. When, for
instance, the development of the Uchatius process was publicized, he
gave his opinion that the process was a useless one and had been
patented before Uchatius "understood its nature"; yet later he
could claim that the process was "in fact, my own invention and I had
made and sold the steel thus produced for some years previously to the
date of Captain Uchatius' patent". Moreover, he claims to have
instructed Uchatius' agents in its operation! He may, at this later
date, have recalled his challenge (the first of many such) in which he
offered Uchatius' agent in England to pay a monetary penalty if he
could not show a superior method of producing "sound serviceable cast
steel from British coke pig-iron, on the stomic plan and without any
mixture of clay, oxide of manganese or any of these pot destroying
 Ibid., p. 25.
 Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 27, p. 755.
 Mushet, op. cit. (footnote 46), p. 28. The Uchatius
process became the "You-cheat-us" process to Mushet (Mining
Journal, 1858, vol. 28, p. 34).
 Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 27, p. 755 (italics supplied).
It was David Mushet (or Robert, using his brother's name) who
accused Bessemer, or rather his patent agent, Carpmael, of sharp
practice in connection with Martien's specification, an allegation
later supported by Martien's first patent agent, Avery. The story
was that for the drafting of his final specification, Martien,
presumably with the advice of the Ebbw Vale Iron Works, consulted the
same Carpmael, as "the leading man" in the field. The latter advised
that the provisional specification restricted Martien to the
application of his method to iron flowing in a channel or gutter from
the blast furnace, and so prevented him from applying his aeration
principle in any kind of receptacle. In effect, Carpmael was acting
unprofessionally by giving Bessemer the prior claim to the use of a
receptacle. According to Mushet, Martien had in fact "actually and
publicly proved" his process in a receptacle and not in a gutter, so
that his claim to priority could be maintained on the basis of the
 See footnote 22.
 Mining Journal, 1856, vol. 26, pp. 583, 631.
This, like other Mushet allegations, was ignored by Bessemer, and
probably with good reason. At any rate, Martien's American patent is in
terms similar to those of the British specification; he or his advisers
seem to have attached no significance to the distinction between a
gutter and a receptacle.
Mushet's claim to have afforded Bessemer the means of making his own
process useful is still subject to debate. Unfortunately, documentation
of the case is almost wholly one sided, since his biggest publicizer
was Mushet himself. An occasional editorial in the technical press and
a few replies to Mushet's "lucubrations" are all the material which
exists, apart from Bessemer's own story.
Mushet and at least five other men patented the use of manganese in
steel making in 1856; his own provisional specification was filed
within a month of the publication of Bessemer's British Association
address in August 1856. So it is strange that Robert Mushet did not
until more than a year later join in the controversy which followed
that address. In one of his early letters he claims to have made of
"his" steel a bridge rail of 750 pounds weight; although his brother
insists that he saw the same rail in the Ebbw Vale offices in London in
the spring of 1857, when it was presented as a specimen of Uchatius
steel! Robert Mushet's indignant "advertisement" of January 5,
1858, reiterating his parentage of this sample, also claimed a
double-headed steel rail "made by me under another of my patent
processes," and sent to Derby to be laid down there to be "subjected to
intense vertricular triturations." Mushet's description of the
preparation of this ingot shows that it was derived from "Bessemer
scrap" made by Ebbw Vale in the first unsuccessful attempts of that
firm to simulate the Bessemer process. This scrap Mushet had remelted
in pots with spiegel in the proportions of 44 pounds of scrap to 3 of
melted spiegel. It was his claim that the rail was rolled direct from
the ingot, something Bessemer himself could not do at that time.
 October 17, 1857, writing as "Sideros" (Mining Journal,
1857, vol. 27, p. 723).
 Mining Journal, 1857, vol. 27, p. 871, and 1858, vol. 28,
 Ibid. (1858), p. 34.
 Mushet, op. cit. (footnote 46), p. 12. The phrase quoted
is typical of Mushet's style.
This was the beginning of a series of claims by Mushet as to his
essential contributions to Bessemer's invention. The silence of the
latter during this period is impressive, for according to Bessemer's
own account his British Association address was premature, and
although the sale of licenses actually provided him with working funds,
the impatience of those experimenting with the process and the flood of
competing "inventions" all embarrassed him at the most critical stage
of this development of the process: "It was, however, no use for me to
argue the matter in the press. All that I could say would be mere talk
and I felt that action was necessary, and not words."
 Bessemer, op. cit. (footnote 7), pp. 161 ff. and 256 ff.
 Ibid., p. 171.
Action took the form of continued experiments and, by the end of 1857,
a decision to build his own plant at Sheffield. An important
collateral development resulted from the visit to London in May 1857 of
G. F. Goransson of Gefle, Sweden. Using Bessemer equipment, Goransson
began trials of the process in November 1857 and by October 1858 was
able to report: "Our firm has now entirely given up the manufacture of
bar iron, and our blast furnaces and tilt mills are now wholly employed
in making steel by the Bessemer process, which may, therefore, be now
considered an accomplished commercial fact."
 This enterprise, started in conjunction with Galloway's of
Manchester, one of the firms licensed by Bessemer to make his
equipment, was under way by April 1858 (see Mining Journal,
1858, vol. 28, p. 259).
 Mining Journal, 1858, vol. 28, p. 696. Mushet commented
(p. 713) that he had done the same thing "eighteen months ago."
Goransson was later to claim considerable improvements on the method of
introducing the blast, and, in consequence, the first effective
demonstration of the Bessemer method--this at a time when Bessemer
was still remelting the product of his converter in crucibles, after
granulating the steel in water. If Mushet is to be believed, this
success of Goransson's was wholly due to his ore being "totally free
from phosphorous and sulphur." However, Bessemer's own progress was
substantial, for his Sheffield works were reported as being in active
operation in April 1859, and a price for his engineers' tool and
spindle steel was included in the Mining Journal "Mining Market"
weekly quotations for the first time on June 4, 1859.
 Swank, op. cit. (footnote 42), p. 405.
 The Engineer, 1859, vol. 7, p. 350.
 Mining Journal, 1859, vol. 29, pp. 396 and 401. The price
quotation was continued until April 1865.
In May 1859 Bessemer gave a paper, his first public pronouncement since
August 1856, before the Institution of Civil Engineers. The early
process, he admitted, had led to failure because the process had not
reduced the quantity of sulphur and phosphorous, but his account is
vague as to the manner in which he dealt with this problem:
Steam and pure hydrogen gas were tried, with more or less success
in the removal of sulphur, and various flues, composed chiefly of
silicates of the oxide of iron and manganese were brought in
contact with the fluid metal, during the process and the quantity
of phosphorous was thereby reduced.
 The Engineer, 1859, vol. 7, p. 437.
But the clear implication is that the commercial operation at Sheffield
was based on the use of the best Swedish pig iron and the hematite pig
from Workington. The use of manganese as standard practice at this time
is not referred to, but the rotary converter and the use of
ganister linings are mentioned for the first time.
 Jeans, op. cit. (footnote 5), p. 349 refers to the
hematite ores of Lancashire and Cumberland as "the ores hitherto
almost exclusively used in the Bessemer process."
A definitive account of the Swedish development of the Bessemer
process, leading to a well-documented claim that the first
practical realization of the process was achieved in Sweden in
July 1858, was recently published (Per Carlberg, "Early
Production of Bessemer Steel at Edsken," Journal of the Iron and
Steel Institute, Great Britain, July 1958, vol. 189, p. 201).
Mushet had, with some intuition, found opportunity to reassert his
contributions to Bessemer a few days before this address, describing
his process as perhaps lacking "the extraordinary merit of Mr.
Bessemer," being "merely a vigorous offshoot proceeding from that great
discovery; but, combined with Mr. Bessemer's process, it places within
the reach of every iron manufacturer to produce cast steel at the same
cost for which he can now make his best iron."
 The Engineer, 1859, vol. 7, p. 314. Bessemer's intention
to present his paper had been announced in April.
One of Mushet's replies to the paper itself took the form of the
announcement of his provisional patent for the use of his triple
compound which, in the opinion of The Mining Journal appeared to be
"but a very slight modification of several of Mr. Bessemer's
inventions." Another half dozen patents appeared within two months, "so
that it is apparent that Mr. Mushet's failure to make the public
appreciate his theories has not injured his inventive faculties."
These patents include, besides variations on his "triple compound"
theme, his important patent on the use of tungsten for cutting tools,
later to be known as Mushet steel.
 Mining Journal, 1859, vol. 29, p. 539 and 640. Another
Mushet patent is described as so much like Uchatius' process that
it would seem to be almost unpatentable.
 See Jeans, op. cit. (footnote 5), p. 532.
Mushet's formal pronouncement on Bessemer's paper, dated June 28, 1859,
is perhaps his most intelligible communication on the subject. He alone
"from the first consistently advocated the merits and pointed out the
defects of the Bessemer process," and within a few days of the British
Association address he had shown Ebbw Vale "where the defect would be
found and what would remedy" it. It was not, in fact, the presence of
one-tenth of a percent of sulphur or phosphorous which affected the
result if the Bessemer process were combined with his process by adding
a triple compound of iron, carbon, and manganese to the pig. "There
never was a bar of first-rate cast steel made by the Bessemer process
alone"; (and that included Goransson's product) "and there never can
be, but a cheap kind of steel applicable to several purposes may be
thus produced." After emphasizing the uniqueness of his attempt to make
Bessemer's process successful, he asserts:
In short, I merely availed myself of a great metallurgical fact,
which has been for years before the eyes of the metallurgical
world, namely that the presence of metallic manganese in iron and
steel conferred upon both an amount of toughness either when cold
or when heated, which the presence at the same time of a notable
amount of sulphur and phosphorous could not overcome.
 The Engineer, 1859, vol. 8, p. 13 (italics supplied). It
is noted that Mushet's American patent (17389, of May 26, 1857)
prefers the use of iron "as free as possible from Sulphur and
The succeeding years were enlivened, one by one, by some controversy in
which Mushet invoked the shadow of his late father as support for some
pronouncement, or "edict," as some said, on the subject of making iron
and steel. In 1860, on the question of suitable metal for artillery,
later to be the subject of high controversy among the leading experts
of the day, Mushet found a ready solution in his own gun metal. This he
had developed fifteen years before. It was of a tensile strength better
even than that of Krupp of Essen who was then specializing in the
making of large blocks of cast steel for heavy forgings, and
particularly for guns. Indeed, he was able publicly to challenge Krupp
to produce a cast gun metal or cast steel to stand test against
his. A year later his attack on the distinguished French
metallurgist Fremy, whom he describes as an "ass" for his interest in
the so-called cyanogen process of steel making, did little to enhance
his reputation, whatever the scientific justification for his attack.
His attitude toward the use of New Zealand (Taranaki) metalliferous
sand, which he had previously favored and then condemned in such a way
as to "injure a project he can no longer control," was another
example of a public behavior evidently resented.
 The Engineer, 1860, vol. 9, pp. 366, 416, and passim.
 The Engineer, 1861, vol. 11, pp. 189, 202, 290, 304.
By mid-1861, on the other hand, Bessemer was beginning to meet with
increasing respect from the trade. The Society of Engineers received a
dispassionate account of the achievement at the Sheffield Works from E.
Riley, whose firm (Dowlais) was among the earlier and disappointed
licensees of the process. In August 1861, five years after the
ill-fated address before the British Association, the Institution of
Mechanical Engineers, meeting in Sheffield, the center of the British
steel trade, heard papers from Bessemer and from John Brown, a famous
ironmaster. The latter described the making of Bessemer rails, the
product which above all was to absorb the Bessemer plants in America
after 1865. After the meeting, the engineers visited Bessemer's works;
and later it was reported, "at Messrs. John Brown and Company's
works, the Bessemer process was repeated on a still larger scale and a
heavy armor plate rolled in the presence of some 250 visitors...."
 The Engineer, 1861, vol. 12, p. 10.
 Ibid., p. 63.
These proceedings invited Robert Mushet's intervention. Still under the
impression that his patent was still alive and, with Martien's, in the
"able hands" of the Ebbw Vale Iron Company, he condemned Bessemer for
his "lack of grace" to do him justice, and took the occasion to indict
the patent system which denied him and Martien the fruits of their
 Ibid., pp. 78 and 177.
The Engineer found Mushet's position untenable on the very grounds he
was pleading--that patents should not be issued to different men at
different times for the same thing; and showed that Bessemer in his
patents of January 4, 1856, and later, had clearly anticipated Mushet.
In a subsequent article, The Engineer disposed of Martien's and
Mushet's claims with a certain finality. The Ebbw Vale Iron Works had
spent L7,000 trying to carry out the Martien process and it was
unlikely that they would have allowed Bessemer to infringe upon that
patent if they had any grounds for a case. Bessemer was not imitating
Mushet. The latter's "triple compound" required manganese pig-iron
(with a content of 2 to 5 percent of manganese) at L13 per ton while
Bessemer used an oxide of manganese (at a 50 percent concentration): at
L7 per ton.
The alloy of manganese and other materials now used in the
atmospheric process contains 50 percent of manganese a proportion
which could never be obtained from the blast furnace, owing to the
highly oxidisable nature of that metal. And it is absolutely
necessary, in order to apply any useful alloy of iron, carbon and
manganese, in the manufacture of malleable iron and very soft steel
that the manganese should be largely in excess of the carbon
 Ibid., p. 208. There is an intriguing reference in this
editorial to an interference on behalf of Martien against a
Bessemer application for a U.S. patent. No dates are given and
the case has not been located in the record of U.S. Patent
Sufficient answer to Mushet was at any rate available in the fact that
many hundreds of tons of excellent "Bessemer metal" made without any
mixture of manganese or spiegeleisen in any form were in successful
use. And, moreover, spiegeleisen was not a discovery of Robert Mushet
or an exclusive product of Germany since it had been made for twenty
years at least from Tow Law (Durham) ores. If Bessemer had refused
Mushet a license (and this was an admitted fact), Bessemer's refusal
must have been made in self-defense:
Mr. Mushet having set up a number of claims for "improvements" upon
which claims, we have a right to suppose, he was preparing to take
toll from Mr. Bessemer, but which claims, the latter gentleman
discovered, in time, were worthless and accordingly declined any
negotiations with the individual making them.
 Ibid., p. 254.
Mushet's claims were by this time rarely supported in the periodicals.
One interesting article in his favor came in 1864 from a source of
special interest to the American situation. Mushet's American
patent had been bought by an American group interested in the Kelly
process at about this time, and Bessemer's American rights had also
been sold to an American group that included Alexander Lyman
Holley, who had long been associated with Zerah Colburn, another
American engineer. Colburn, who subsequently (1866) established the
London periodical Engineering and is regarded as one of the founders
of engineering journalism, was from 1862 onward a frequent contributor
to other trade papers in London. Colburn's article of 1864 seems to
have been of some importance to Mushet, who, in the prospectus of the
Titanic Steel and Iron Company, Ltd., issued soon after, brazenly
asserted that, "by the process of Mr. Mushet especially when in
combination with the Bessemer process, steel as good as Swedish steel"
would be produced at L6 per ton. Mushet may have intended to invite a
patent action, but evidently Bessemer could now more than ever afford
to ignore the "sage of Coleford."
 U.S. patent 17389, dated May 26, 1857. The patent was not
renewed when application was made in 1870, on the grounds that
the original patent had been made co-terminal with the British
patent. The latter had been abandoned "by Mushet's own fault" so
that no right existed to an American renewal (U.S. Patent Office,
Decision of Commissioner of Patents, dated September 19, 1870).
 See below, p. 45. The exact date of the purchase of Mushet's
patent is not known.
 Engineering, 1882, vol. 33, p. 114. The deal was completed
 The Engineer, 1864, vol. 18, pp. 405, 406.
 Mining Journal, 1864, vol. 34, pp. 77 and 94 (italics
supplied). It has not yet been possible to ascertain if this
company was successful. Mushet writes from this time on from
Cheltenham, where the company had its offices. Research continues
in this interesting aspect of his career.
The year 1865 saw Mushet less provocative and more appealing; as for
instance: "It was no fault of Mr. Bessemer's that my patent was lost,
but he ought to acknowledge his obligations to me in a manly,
straightforward manner and this would stamp him as a great man as well
as a great inventor."
 Mining Engineer, 1865, vol. 35, p. 86.
But Bessemer evidently remained convinced of the security of his own
patent position. In an address before the British Association at
Birmingham in September 1865 he made his first public reply to
Mushet. In his long series of patents Mushet had attempted to
almost every conceivable mode of introducing manganese into the
metal.... Manganese and its compounds were so claimed under all
imaginable conditions that if this series of patents could have
been sustained in law, it would have been utterly impossible for
[me] to have employed manganese with steel made by his process,
although it was considered by the trade to be impossible to make
steel from coke-made iron without it.
 The Engineer, 1865, vol. 20, p. 174.
The failure of those who controlled Mushet's batch of patents to renew
them at the end of three years, Bessemer ascribed to the low public
estimation to which Mushet's process had sunk in 1859, and he had
therefore, "used without scruple any of these numerous patents for
manganese without feeling an overwhelming sense of obligation to the
patentee." He was now using ferromanganese made in Glasgow. Another
alloy, consisting of 60 to 80 percent of metallic manganese was also
available to him from Germany.
This renewed publicity brought forth no immediate reply from Mushet,
but a year later he was invited to read a paper before the British
Association. A report on the meeting stated that in his paper he
repeated his oft-told story, and that "he still thought that the
accident (of the non-payment of the patent stamp duties) ought not to
debar him from receiving the reward to which he was justly entitled."
Bessemer, who was present, reiterated his constant willingness to
submit the matter to the courts of law, but pointed out that Mushet had
not accepted the challenge.
 Mechanics' Magazine, 1866, vol. 16, p. 147.
Three months later, in December 1866, Mushet's daughter called on
Bessemer and asked his help to prevent the loss of their home: "They
tell me you use my father's inventions and are indebted to him for your
success." Bessemer replied characteristically:
I use what your father has no right to claim; and if he had the
legal position you seem to suppose, he could stop my business by an
injunction tomorrow and get many thousands of pounds compensation
for my infringement of his rights. The only result which followed
from your father taking out his patents was that they pointed out
to me some rights which I already possessed, but of which I was not
availing myself. Thus he did me some service and even for this
unintentional service, I cannot live in a state of indebtedness....
With that he gave Miss Mushet money to cover a debt for which distraint
was threatened. Soon after this action, Bessemer made Mushet a
"small allowance" of L300 a year. Bessemer's reasons for making this
payment, he describes as follows: "There was a strong desire on my part
to make him (Mushet) my debtor rather than the reverse, and the payment
had other advantages: the press at that time was violently attacking my
patent and there was the chance that if any of my licensees were thus
induced to resist my claims, all the rest might follow the
 Bessemer, op. cit. (footnote 7), p. 294.
Mushet's Titanic Steel and Iron Company was liquidated in 1871 and its
principal asset, "R. Mushet's special steel," that is, his tungsten
alloy tool metal, was taken over by the Sheffield firm of Samuel Osborn
and Company. The royalties from this, with Bessemer's pension seem to
have left Mushet in a reasonably comfortable condition until his death
in 1891; but even the award of the Bessemer medal by the Iron and
Steel Institute in 1876 failed to remove the conviction that he had
been badly treated. One would like to know more about the politics
which preceded the award of the trade's highest honor. Bessemer at any
rate was persuaded to approve of the presentation and attended the
meeting. Mushet himself did not accept the invitation, "as I may
probably not be then alive." The President of the Institute
emphasized the present good relations between Mushet and Bessemer and
the latter recorded that the hatchet had "long since" been buried. Yet
Mushet continued to brood over the injustice done to him and eventually
recorded his story of the rise and progress of the "Bessemer-Mushet"
process in a pamphlet written apparently without reference to his
earlier statements and so committing himself to many inconsistencies.
 See Fred M. Osborn, The story of the Mushets, London,
 Journal of the Iron and Steel Institute, 1876, p. 3.
 Robert Mushet, The Bessemer-Mushet process, Cheltenham,
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