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Fireback

Artist/Maker:
Tubal Furnace
Place Made:
Spotsylvania County Virginia United States of America
Date Made:
1725
Medium:
cast iron
Dimensions:
HOA: 24; WOA: 36 1/4; DOA: 7/8
Accession Number:
3956
Description:
This fireback was cast at the Tubal furnace, in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, in 1725. It was likely made for Rosewell, Mann Page I’s monumental Gloucester County, Virginia, home.
The Tubal ironworks were established by former governor Alexander Spotswood. Spotswood was interested in the settlement and economic development of Virginia’s western lands. He bought large tracts of iron-rich land west of present-day Fredericksburg. And he did his best to attract German miners to Virginia, even naming a city “Germanna.”

When the German miners failed to stay in Germanna, he turned to enslaved labor. When Spotswood died in 1740 he made special mention of the enslaved craftsmen working at the Tubal Furnace. “Whereas the said tract… called the mine tract is… appropriated for the carrying on an Iron work… it is necessary that at least Eight able working Slaves with twenty Children belonging to them should be annexed to the said Land and employed in the said Work…”.

The two angel heads on this fireback appear on a number of related Virginia castings associated with the Tubal furnace, among them the lintel over the entrance of John Spotswood’s 1758 burial vault.

HISTORY: DESCRIPTION: Cast iron fireback, with MP initials at top center, flanked by two stars and two angel heads, with second line of two stars and date 1725, all enclosed in a molded edge.

History:
This fireback was probably made for Mann Page, I (1691-1730), whose Gloucester County home, “Rosewell,” was the largest mansion in Virginia. Begun between 1721 and 1726 and still unfinished at Page’s death in 1730, the house reminds us of Page’s close friendship with Governor Alexander Spotswood and the grandeur of the “palace” at Williamsburg. Rosewell stands in ruins today.
Credit Line:
MESDA Purchase Fund