Saturday Scenes

Thu 9 June 2011

Why do we never say fork and knife?

Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 09:13

On the 4th of June 1704, Benjamin Huntsman was born in Lincolnshire.

He ran a business as a clockmaker in Doncaster but a constant frustration to him was the quality of common German steel, which he considered unsuitable for his clockwork pieces. He experimented secretly and as a result, he invented cast steel. However, his peers in Sheffield disapproved and he exported all of his cast steel to France.

Even after it was clear that both the English and French consumers preferred cast-steel cutlery, the Sheffield manufacturers did not care to use the cast steel but instead attempted to prohibit Huntsman’s exportation to France. As they had no intention of using it themselves, it is likely that Sheffield would have lost the cast-steel industry completely. However, as the parliament refused to prohibit the exportation, the Sheffield cutlers instead tried to learn Huntsman’s secret.

As Huntsman had not patented his process, his only protection was in preserving it as much a mystery as possible. ‘All his workmen were pledged to secrecy, strangers were carefully excluded from the works, and the whole of the steel made was melted during the night.’ It is said that the person who first succeeded in copying Huntsman’s process was an ironfounder named Walker, who carried on his business at Greenside, near Sheffield, and it was certainly there that the making of cast steel was next begun. Walker, disguised as a tramp, appeared shivering at the door of Huntsman’s foundry late one wintry night, when the workmen were about to begin, obtained permission to warm himself by the furnace fire, and when supposed to be asleep watched the process.

After this, cast-steel manufacturers suddenly appeared all over Sheffield. Huntsman’s business remained successful despite this treachery. After his death in 1776, hundredweights of steel were found buried and hidden in various stages of failure as a result of his secret experiments.

Over 300 years later on the 4th of June 2011, people all over the world put down their cutlery (silverware for USians, even if they are cast steel) and took these lovely photographs:

Take a moment to look at the Twitter streams of our SatScene submitters and you’ll find lots of interesting people to follow:

Saturday Scenes is a great way to see the world from someone else’s point of view! Taking part is easy:

1. Take a photograph on a Saturday
2. Send it to @SatScenes on Twitter
3. Wait for the webpage to get updated
4. Oooh and aah over all the great submissions from all over the world!

So take a photograph this weekend and send it to @SatScenes!

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