Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Shot Tower - And A Featured Authors Page - Nonfiction

Photo credit:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, PA,51-PHILA,195-1 via Wikimedia Commons

Members of my family were famous for spinning tales as we traveled down the Interstate. The tower in the picture can still be seen from I-95 near Philadelphia.  At various times I was told that this behemoth was:

A tower used to train firefighters. They had to practice running up and down the inside stairwell with their hoses and equipment, and rescuing people from the (now bricked up) windows in the sides.

A tower to train parachute jumpers. Even as a kid I was suspicious of this one;  it was too high to practice hitting the ground properly, but didn't look high enough to deploy a parachute before the jumper splatted on the ground.

A spotting tower to look for enemy aircraft during war. Plausible, I guess...

A prison tower.  What, Rapunzel was from Philly?

The Truth: It's the Sparks shot tower. Standing 142 feet high, and with a base diameter of 30 feet, the brick tower was built in 1808 for the manufacture of lead shot.  Molten lead from a reservoir (under the circular roof) dripped through mesh, forming into balls as it fell and landing in water to solidify.  The tower produced shot used during the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

The Mystery: I have yet to find out how they got a large quantity of molten lead to the top of the tower.

And that's today's fun bit 'o history.

Housekeeping stuff:  thank you for everyone who commented on the Trestle Press/Small Doses kerfuffle. As usual, you all came through for me with moral support. Now I intend to move on with writing. Next move?  You'll be the first to know  :-)

Also, check out my new and updated Featured Authors/Books Page (tab at top of blog).  I hope to introduce you to some new books and authors you might not know - but should!


  1. Ahh...I HAD seen this somewhere and never knew what it was. Thanks for the info, Li.

  2. Interesting. While it's intriguing to wonder how the tower worked for its true purpose, sometimes all the made up stories are more fun. There's a sort of kiva off the freeway near me that I've been making up stories about since middle school. I'm shocked it still stands, as everything around it is developed. I've always wanted to hike out to check it out, but I'm actually afraid of ruining the fun I've had with it all these years.

    Great ideas for publicizing the event, and ones I hadn't thought of, thanks!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  3. Yes, certainly a magnificent tower with multiple utilities, nice photo. Greetings.

  4. Very cool and I love the interesting stories to go with it. It's always fun to use your imagination when you're unsure of a place. :)
    I hope all is well with you!

  5. We have one of these shot towers that is a central feature of the Melbourne Central Shopping Centre. The centre is build around it. ^__^

  6. Neat! I'll bet I've driven past this tower. I like the real story as much as the made-up ones!

  7. Ha ha - no wonder you have such a great imagination! I definitely think i is Rapunzel's tower.