Iron Act

Parliament in the 1700's

The Act was passed in Parliament

This article on the Iron Act in Colonial America provides fast facts and information about the effects of these laws and taxes. 

  • What was the Iron Act?
  • The Meaning and Definition of the Act
  • The purpose of the Iron Act
  • The effect of the Act
  • The year the Iron Act was passed was 1750
  • Fast and easy to understand explanation of the Act,  suitable as an educational Social Studies resource for schools and kids
American Colonies Index
Taxation in the Colonies

History of the 13 Colonies and the laws & taxes that sparked rebellion against the British

The definition and purpose of the 1750 Iron Act and the cry of "No taxation without representation!"

Definition of the Iron Act
The Meaning and Definition of the Act: The Iron Act of 1750 was a British Law, passed by the Parliament of Great Britain, that was designed to encourage the American manufacture of more pig iron and iron bars by the American colonists in the 13 Colonies to be sent to England, tax free. But the Act of 1750 also prohibited the colonies from producing finished iron goods.

Mercantilism and the Iron Act
The Iron Act was part of the policy of Mercantilism that favored England in which materials from the colonies, in this case pig iron and iron bar, were used to make different products in England - finished goods had a higher value than the raw materials.

Triangular Trade and the Iron Act
The establishment of the 13 Colonies, with their surplus of raw materials, made it possible for Great Britain to engage in highly lucrative trading via the Triangular Trade routes across the Atlantic. Pig Iron, a type of crude iron shaped like a block, and the smaller iron bar were made from the raw materials provided by the colonies and were sent to England.


Map of Thirteen Colonies

Map of the Thirteen Colonies

Iron Act of 1750 - Which colonies produced Iron?
Which colonies produced Iron? Many colonies produced iron but the Middle Colonies of Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, and New Jersey are perhaps most strongly associated with this industry. However Virginia and then Maryland were the first colonies to export iron to England. In fact  the Maryland Legislature passed an “Act for the Encouragement of an Iron Manufacture within this Province” in 1719.

Iron Act - Background Information
Iron was an extremely important raw material available in the American colonies. To produce iron, the Ironworks required  two main elements - a source of iron ore and wood to make charcoal to fuel the furnace - the colonies had both of these raw materials in abundance. The terms relating to the manufacture of iron were:

  • Pig iron is the name used when it is directly produced from a blast furnace in the form of oblong blocks. When it is refined, through further melting and blending,  it produces wrought iron, cast iron and steel
    • Cast iron is brittle and was used to make items like cannon balls, frying pans and Dutch ovens
    • Wrought iron is very tough and was used to make anchor chains, wagon wheels, spikes, musket barrels and nails
    • Steel is hardened and was used to make swords, cutlery, knife blades, files and saws
  • Iron bar was a smaller size than pig-iron making it easier to handle by blacksmiths
    • Some Bar-iron went to rolling mills, which rolled the iron into much smaller thicknesses
    • Some bar-iron went to slitting mills, which made rods for products like nails or wire

A Reverberatory furnace OF 1647 used to melt iron

A Reverberatory furnace of 1647 used to melt iron in Colonial Times

Iron Act - Finished Products
Large blocks of iron were exported to England to enable their workers to make these finished goods in Colonial Times. It was used to make a number of items including barrel hoops, anchors and chains for the ships, wagon wheels, plows, tools, spikes and kettles. The smaller Iron bar was sent to England to make smaller items.

The Purpose of the Iron Act of 1750
The purpose of the Iron Act of 1750 was as follows:

  • To restrict the growth of finished goods made in the colonies and encourage the supply of raw metals to England
  • To permit Pig iron and iron bar to enter England duty free (not taxed)
  • To ban the direct export of iron to any other countries
  • The following were also prohibited:
    • The establishment of furnaces that produced steel for tools
    • The erection of rolling and slitting mills & plating forges for making steel
    • The manufacture of hardware (finished goods)
  • Colonial governors were required to certify what mills of these types already existed

The Effect of the Iron Act of 1750
The effect of the Iron Act of 1750 was to suppress the manufacture of finished goods and hardware in the colonies and to increase the production of iron and increase its export to England. The Act was so successful that by the start of the American War of Independence the furnaces and forges in the American colonies turned out one-seventh of the world's iron. In 1750 the colonies exported 3000 tonnage of iron, by 1770 exports increased to 8000 tonnage.

Iron Works


Iron Act - British Laws and Taxes
Discover interesting  facts and information about the Taxes in the 13 Colonies, including the Iron Act, which was imposed on the colonists of Colonial America by the British government via parliament. The Iron Act was one of a series of taxes that divided Great Britain and its colonies in America. The role of the legal systems and courts in the colonies included enforcing the laws of Great Britain.

The Colonists Reaction to the Iron Act of 1750
The Iron Act of 1750 was seen as detrimental to Colonial America and sewed the seeds of dissension and rebellion in the colonies. The colonists reaction to the Iron Act led to anger, resentment, dissension and ultimately revolution in Colonial America - the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) and the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain.

Iron Act

  • Meaning and Definition of the Act

  • History of the Iron Act of 1750

  • Fast Facts and info about Iron Act timeline

  • The Iron Act article is a great history resource for kids

  • Social Studies Homework help for kids on the Iron Act of 1750

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