Archibald McLeish’s Vulcan Iron Works in Charleston

This photo often appears in the Charleston chapter of those “photo books” sitting on your bookshelf:

The sign reads, “Arch’d McLeish // Vulcan Iron Works.”  The main attraction here is the ornate, eye-catching display above the sign attesting to the firm’s skill with iron work.


Archibald McLeish owned the works.  He’d owned and operated companies in the vicinity of Cumberland Street.  The address given for this shop was 4 Cumberland Street.  That address was just outside the area burned in the fire of December 11, 1861 (what is it with that day and fires in Charleston?)  Despite the cannon figure perched out there, I can find no evidence of cannon or ordnance produced by Vulcan Iron Works.  But the company produced everything else but the proverbial  kitchen sink for the Confederacy:

Page 3

McLeish also did a lot of service on wagons and other rolling stock.  Other items appearing in receipts include tools, implements, and fittings.  Around 150 years ago, the firm provided axe heads – eleven of them at $15:

Page 11

Evidence of the wagon repair work appears in the photo parked along Cumberland Street.  A heavy sling cart is also parked along the street.


Perhaps the sling cart was there for repairs.  There is a third wheel, with missing spokes, leaning behind the sling cart.  On the other hand, at the end of the street was Frazier’s Wharf Battery.  So we can’t rule out that sling cart was there for other reasons.  The photo was taken just after the fall of Charleston in 1865.  Thus the gathering of uniformed and civilian Federals on the balcony.


Looking down the street, there’s a telegraph pole.  If you look close there are a couple of wires there.


My suggestion is that one of those ran to the Frazier’s Wharf Battery.  Looking further down the street, there’s Frazier’s Wharf Battery.  Or at least part of it.


Recall that Frazier’s Wharf Battery had one of the 12.75-inch Blakely rifles. I have, somewhere, a couple of photos of that battery looking back towards the city, and Cumberland Street.  But have misplaced them.  I was hoping to see those prominent ornamental works from the river side view.  That will have to wait.  What I would call attention to the rails sitting just in front of the earth mound.  Are those the same rails seen in this wartime photo?

I want to review a couple other angles before making that suggestion too loudly.

For now, here’s a modern view from roughly where Vulcan Iron Works stood:

Less “militant” things down at the river side now days.


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