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Steel triangle
MFA # 17.2048a


16th c. steel daggar
MFA# 16.253

A high-strength Iron alloy containing not more than 2% Carbon. Steel may also contain small amounts of Phosphorus, Sulfur, Manganese, Silicon, Aluminum, Titanium, Copper, Molybdenum, and Nickel. Small amounts of steel were made into swords and cutting implements in antiquity in Japan and India. From 1855-1875, Bessemer, Kelly, Thomas, Gilchrist, Mushet and others developed manufacturing procedures to quickly and consistently produce good quality steel from pig iron. Steel, with its strength, resilience, hardness and formability was being produced in quantities of 25 million tons a year by the end of the 19th century. It was primarily used for construction of ships, bridges, building and skyscrapers. Steel was also used for smaller items, such as knives, weapons, decoration and architectural components (grilles, doors, windows, roofing, gutters, brackets, wire cloth, cables and hardware).

See also Carbon steel, Cor-Ten, and Stainless steel.

York Flats
MFA # 1981.285

Synonyms and Related Terms

acier (Fr.); Stahl (Deut.); acero (Esp.); staal (Ned.); aço (Port.)


Inhalation of dust or metal fumes is dangerous.

Additional Images

Resources and Citations

  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 771
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • Thomas C. Jester (ed.), Twentieth-Century Building Materials, McGraw-Hill Companies, Washington DC, 1995
  • Tom Rowland, Noel Riley, A-Z Guide to Cleaning, Conserving and Repairing Antiques, Constable and Co., Ltd., London, 1981
  • Michael McCann, Artist Beware, Watson-Guptill Publications, New York City, 1979
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Ivan Amato, Stuff: The Materials the World is Made of, Avon Books, New York, 1997 Comment: p. 46
  • Website address 1 Comment: Steel at