J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Sunday, January 03, 2016

Peter Hasenclever and His Ironworks

Yesterday’s posting introduced Peter Hasenclever, manager of a big ironworks in New Jersey from 1764 to 1769. This extensive article at Immigrant Entrepreneurship tells a lot more about him.

Hasenclever was born in the German city of Remscheid in 1716 and as a young businessman worked in many parts of Europe. In 1763 he moved to London and began to promote a scheme to mine and refine iron in New Jersey. A year later he was in America to set up the manufactory.

A relative recruited miners and other specialized workers in Germany to come to America, their passages paid in exchange for years of work. In the 16 June 1766 New-York Mercury Hasenclever advertised for nine workers who had run away from his employment, asking for them to be “secur’d in any of his Majesty’s Goals.”

In his History of Printing in America, Isaiah Thomas wrote that newspaper hawker Lawrence Sweeny told New York officials that the anti-Stamp Act Constitutional Courant was printed “At Peter Hassenclever’s iron-works, please your honor.”

Hasenclever’s letters show he was opposed to the Stamp Act. Whether he had anything to do with that fake newspaper is uncertain. He might have provided printers James Parker and William Goddard with workspace, he might have provided financial support, or he might have been a convenient red herring.

Thomas also wrote:
Peter Hassenclever was a wealthy German, well known as the owner of extensive iron works in Newjersey. Afterward, other publications of a like kind frequently appeared with an imprint—“Printed at Peter Hassenclever’s iron-works.”
“Frequently” is an overstatement at best. Not one publication with that line has been identified.

The ironworks did not succeed as the investors hoped, and Hasenclever fell out with his partners in 1769. He slipped away to Charleston, then sailed back to Europe. Lawsuits over the American enterprise dragged on in British courts. In 1773, after publishing a pamphlet to promote his side of the story, Hasenclever moved to Silesia in Prussia.

Hasenclever promoted connections to America both before and after the War for Independence, but King Frederick II was uninterested. The businessman died in 1793. Six months later, the Chancery Court in London issued a final ruling for his side in the dispute over the ironworks.

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