At the turn of the 20th century, iron foundries were commonplace around the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, here, one of the first furnaces in the United States—Principio Ironworks—supplied cannons and cannon balls to American troops during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 before creating products based on its stone’s throw proximity to some of the world’s best waterfowl hunting grounds: cast-iron decoys.
Looking out over our backyard on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, there is a quiet creek where the past, present, and future of the Chesapeake Bay converge. By the first of November, most local watermen have traded their crabbing pots for a single iron oyster dredge, and their deadrise workboats will now ply the brackish waters in search of an iconic keystone species.
We know he’s not exactly a household name, but we owe a lot to Benjamin Thompson. Sir Benjamin Thompson, to be exact, though known by most as Count Rumford is the man to thank for most of our modern meals, our 21st century kitchens, and—without a doubt—our cast iron. (He was also a bit of a turncoat, but that’s another story.)
When the calendar flips and the mercury climbs, the brief season of spring brings forward a thousand fleeting treasures of the Chesapeake Bay. It is a time of emergence, then abundance, and before we know it, the ephemeral.