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Blacksmith Shop

A blacksmith shop was built on at Monticello about 1793. Here enslaved individuals, including Little George, Moses, and Joe Fossett, shoed horses, repaired the metal parts of plows and hoes, replaced gun parts, and made the iron portions of the carriages that Jefferson designed. Neighboring farmers brought work to the shop as well, and the slave blacksmiths were given a percentage of the profits of their labor.

In 1794, Jefferson added a nailmaking operation to the shop, in an effort to provide an additional source of income. Nailrod was shipped to Monticello by water from Philadelphia and was hammered into nails by as many as fourteen young male slaves, aged ten to sixteen.

On a typical day in 1796, the fires of the Mulberry Row nailery produced about 5,000 to 10,000 nails in seven different sizes, including fourpenny brads cut from hoop iron by a nail-cutting machine.

The nails were sold in the neighborhood and in stores in the towns of Charlottesville and Staunton. In its first years the nailery was quite profitable, grossing over $2,000 in 1796, but Jefferson soon encountered competition from cheaper imported nails as well as difficulties in management. By the time the War of 1812 cut off the shipment of nailrod, the nailery had ceased to be a profitmaking operation.

Additional information about nail-making at Monticello is available.

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