The Catoctin Furnace Historical Society Presents The Maryland Iron Festival (Virtual Edition): Mountains, Metal and Malt

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Blacksmithing, period music, traditional food preparation, garden and trail tours, artisan demonstrations, children's activities, archaeology talks, and more. Some Live and Interactive Sessions!

The Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc. will present the second annual Maryland Iron Festival online during the weekend of August 22 and 23. In partnership with Cunningham Falls State Park, Catoctin Mountain Park, Frederick County Public Libraries, Visit Frederick, and PopUp Frederick this will be a virtual festival. Register via in advance to be part of the Q&A and interactive sessions via Zoom. The event will also stream on the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc. Facebook & YouTube channels which are not interactive, but will allow you to follow along and watch all the content streaming on Zoom. This free event will “transport” you to historic Catoctin Furnace, Maryland where you can experience demonstrations, lessons, music, artisans, craftspeople, archaeology, and history.

The Maryland Iron Festival, virtual edition, will commemorate the state as a center for the craft of ironmaking. The festival will feature traditional blacksmithing, period music, traditional food preparation demonstrations, garden and trail tours, artisan demonstrations, children's activities, fascinating archaeology talks about the amazing discoveries at Catoctin Furnace, and more. There will be some Live and Interactive Sessions!

Visitors can also enjoy a virtual tour of the newly installed Catoctin Furnace African American Cemetery Interpretive Trail wayside panels. The trail links the furnace to the historic village and to an overlook near the Catoctin Furnace Cemetery.

The Catoctin Furnace was built by workers owned or employed by the four Johnson brothers in order to produce iron from the rich deposits of iron ore found in the nearby mountains. At least 271 enslaved people of African ancestry made up the bulk of Catoctin Furnace’s earliest workers. In the decade before the Civil War, European immigrants began replacing the enslaved and freed African American workers as it was more economical to hire cheap labor than support an enslaved workforce. Descendants of the immigrants still live in the village.

The iron furnace at Catoctin played a pivotal role during the industrial revolution in the young United States. The furnace industry supported a thriving community, and company houses were established alongside the furnace stack. Throughout the nineteenth century, the furnace produced iron for household and industrial products. After more than one hundred years of operation, the Catoctin Furnace ceased production in 1903.

In 1973, the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc., was formed by G. Eugene Anderson, Clement E. Gardiner, J. Franklin Mentzer, and Earl M. Shankle to “foster and promote the restoration of the Catoctin Furnace Historic District…and to maintain the same exclusively for educational and scientific purposes…to exhibit to coming generations our heritage of the past.”

Today, the Catoctin Furnace Historical Society, Inc. is undertaking groundbreaking research, including bioarchaeological research of the African American cemetery in Catoctin Furnace. In partnership with the Smithsonian Institution and the Reich Laboratory for Medical and Population Genetics at Harvard University, this project is analyzing ancient DNA and the human genome of revolutionary-era enslaved African American workers at Catoctin Furnace. Such research, in conjunction with other technologies such as stable isotope analysis, could tell us where these workers were born, where they lived throughout their lives, and what constituted their diet. We believe that every life mattered, and every past matters now. By studying and disseminating the results of this research, we hope that people everywhere will get to meet some of these early workers and understand the critical roles they played in the development of our young nation, as well as appreciate the rich, varied trajectories of their lives.

Mark your calendar now for the third annual Maryland Iron Festival in 2021. On Saturday, May 22 and Sunday, May 23, we hope to be sharing the rich history of ironmaking in person within the historic village and buildings, in Cunningham Falls State Park, and throughout Catoctin Mountain Park.

Special thank you to event sponsors: First Energy, Visit Frederick, PNC Bank, & Woodsboro Bank.

The event is free but donations are welcome. All proceeds will be used for the ongoing restoration of the historic village structures, a critical need. For more information contact

Please visit for registration and event schedule.

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