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Legacies: Collecting America's History at the Smithsonian, by Steven Lubar and Kathleen M. Kendrick
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Kelly converter, 1860sKelly converter, 1860s

William Kelly, proprietor of an iron furnace in Kentucky, claimed to have invented the Bessemer process before Henry Bessemer did—a claim advantageous to American steel makers, who did not want to pay royalties on Bessemer's patents. Kelly built this converter in the 1860s, but although it was widely hailed—and displayed at the Smithsonian—as a great icon of American backwoods inventiveness, recent tests have shown that it was never successful. The Kelly converter was loaned to the Smithsonian in 1955 for the exhibition Iron and Steel in America and has been on display ever since.

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