Shot Tower — for making lead musket balls

The Sparks Shot Tower is a historic shot tower located at 129-131 Carpenter Street in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Opened on July 4, 1808, it was one of the first shot towers in the United States, with the Jackson Ferry Shot Tower in Wythe County, Virginia possibly predating it by a year or so. It was built along the Delaware River waterfront at Front and Carpenter Streets by plumber Thomas Sparks, John Bishop, and James Clement.

The 142-foot (43 m) tall brick tower is 30 feet (9 m) in diameter at its base, tapering to 15 feet (5 m) at the top. Originally used to produce shot for hunters, the tower produced ammunition during the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

Four generations of the Sparks family kept the tower in operation until 1903. The City of Philadelphia bought the site in 1913. The tower, which is now managed by the Philadelphia Recreation Department, is now surrounded by a public playground and can be seen from I-95.

The way it worked is that molten lead was dropped from the top of the tower, on the inside, through a seive.  By the time the molten lead balls reached the gound, the lead had cooled down, and the balls had solidified.  This method made more perfect spherical balls than a mold which invariably produced a flat spot.  The more perfect the sphere, the more perfect the accuracy of the shot.


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