•COMING IN SEPTEMBER, 2015•

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

by Emery Roth

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sooted and Still



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: The truth of the foundry is its darkness. To enter it is to find oneself in a haze of 19th century industrial noir, to breathe soot. The foundry seems to call for its own special photo processing. In a photograph, atmosphere and grit tend to be mutually exclusive. In foundry images I often want both.

Mike led me here to this broken down balcony from which I could look down the axis of the foundry and the end of a line of eight furnaces, or the remnants of them, that once cast copper day and night, seven days a week. There is another long axis like the axis of furnaces on the other side of the balcony, out of site. There, incoming scrap was received for processing, twin aisles. The twin axes are crossed by a dome of skylights like a weird transept near the southern end of the shed, but little of the old ritual continues today.

I asked Mike what the balcony was for. He said it held many smaller furnaces; that once there may have been as many as 40 furnaces in all keeping the flow of copper and brass moving back into production.

Everything has been halted while the only furnace still operating is refitted and repaired. The shed is oddly still. Missing is the sound of rushing air and water and the motors of the furnace. As the shed fills with scrap from the manufacturing line upstream, the factory upstream slows almost to a stop. Everything waits for repair of the foundry and the flow of brass billets back into production.