Book Review: Chronicling Historic Western Maryland Foundries

Andrew G. Sparber is a psychologist and part-time historian who has written nine books about the historical development of western Maryland. His latest book, titled “Full Steam Ahead: Allegany County, Maryland’s Industrial Revolution,” published in late 2023, will be of interest not only to local residents, but also to those with an interest in the history of America’s metal foundries.

Sparber focuses on the pivotal era from 1840 – when the young nation began industrializing at a rapid pace – through the 1930s. His historical accounts explain how Cumberland, situated on the railroad line and the C&O Canal, became for many years the second largest city in Maryland, trailing only Baltimore.

The foundries in that region were involved in the manufacture of stoves, engines, locomotives, boilers, man hole covers, plumbing supplies, gears, hardware and many other types of castings. They also specialized in repairing much of the equipment in use at the area’s factories.

The 230-page book is replete with historic maps, graphics showing the layouts of early foundries, vintage advertising from industrial concerns, as well as black and white as well as color photographs. The book also includes a list of local foundries from that period. Sparber’s compelling narrative brings to life such influential manufacturing leaders whose names might otherwise be lost to history, including Thomas Footer, T.H. Paul, Walter Muncaster, Horatio Blasdell, Thomas Beall, and the McKaig family.

The book is available through Amazon. The author, who also delivers historical lectures, can be reached at