Shot Towers are another interesting industry of yesteryear and another application of transforming raw ore into a useful item. The basic process for creating ammunition is deceptively simple - molten iron or lead was passed through a sieve and dropped by force of gravity to a tub of water. The process of descent results in the formation of a spherical object, creating round musket balls suitable for use in firearms. The method was patented by an Englishman named William Watts in 1769. He actually expanded his existing three story house to a six story structure, knocked holes through each floor, and then passed molten lead through a sieve, which then dropped to the tub of water on the ground level. Zoning laws were a bit more relaxed in those days!

I became interested in shot towers after visiting the site in Wythe County, Virginia while on an iron furnace trip. The site is easily accessible from the freeway, and what industrial archeologist could resist another type of historical manufacturing?

Shot Towers are not well documented, despite their conspicuous location in towns. The prominent towers were notable landmarks in each city, and production continued well into the 20th century for a number of sites. Unfortunately few remain in existance today, as new methods of centrifugual processing are now utilized to produce shot.

The pictures of the Jackson Ferry site are from my trip, for the other towers I have included links to a number of websites I found while reseaching the Jackson tower.

Shot Tower Sites - USA

Jackson Ferry, Virginia

Sparks Shot Tower, Pennsylvania

Peters Shot Tower, Ohio

Phoenix Shot Tower, Maryland

Another picture of the Phoenix Shot Tower is located at Shot Tower, Baltimore, Maryland

Debuque Shot Tower, Iowa

A great deal of information on the history of shot towers can be located at the Trapshooting Hall of Fame and Museum including information about:

Shot Tower Sites - World

I was not able to find information on these shot towers other than a brief mention of thier existence. Any additional information on these sites would be greatly appreciated!