The main reasons behind the substantial investments in industry that began during the reign of Sultan Mahmud II and continued after the Tanzimat can be summarised as meeting the basic needs of the army and the bureaucracy, ending the dependency on European goods, and decreasing the amount of exported resource1. The most important establishment that came into activity during this period is the Zeytinburnu Iron Factory whose construction began in 1843. The factory was designed to supply all kinds of iron materials for industrial, agricultural, infrastructural use, for the construction works of new public buildings and also for providing blacksmiths with wrought iron. Even though it was not as effectual as was originally intended, the factory was a significant investment example of its era in terms of its capital and facility.
Ohannes Dadyan, who, in 1827 in the Imperial Armoury (Tüfenkhane-i Amire), developed a turning lathe to drill the rifle barrels2 and became the chief powder maker, led the way for the establishment of the factory.3 Upon the order of Sultan Mahmud II in 1835, he went on a long journey to Europe and when he returned, he reported to the Sultan the need for an iron factory within the Imperial Gunpowder Factory at Bakırköy. With the approval of the Minister of War, it was found appropriate to award the contract to a businessman in Britain in 1837. A small iron workshop was founded to make specimen production within the Imperial Gunpowder Factory. The goal of the factory was to perform the manufacture and repair works of boilers and machinery of the state-owned steamers in Istanbul and by doing so to save time and prevent resource exportation. An armoured ship, which the Sultan decreed this factory to build in 1842, was launched in 1848 in a ceremony that the Sultan attended.
Ohannes Dadyan, who was sent to London in 1842 to purchase machinery for the Izmit Broad-cloth (Çuka) Factory, which belonged to the Sultan, was also assigned the task of founding a newer and bigger iron factory. Having already done a feasibility study in Dersaadet with British engineer William Ferrin, Ohannes visited many factories in Britain. Ferrin first planned to build the factory in Haskoy Foundry and prepared a detailed cost sheet accordingly; however, he later suggested that the Haskoy Foundry was not suitable for the job and would cause extra costs, that it was not convenient for annexes that might be needed to be built in the future, and he therefore suggested building the factory at a more convenient place. Subsequently, materials were purchased in accordance with the contract made between Ohannes Dadyan, Ali Efendi, who was working at the Ottoman Embassy in London, and the businessman Ferrin, and the building of the factory was awarded to this same businessman. Required technical employees were brought from Britain. At the time, it was not yet clear where the factory would be built and it was an option to build it in Izmit.4 It was decided that the formation costs of the factory would be paid with the 20.000 purses of qurush from the tax revenues sent from the province of Egypt in instalments; accordingly, those instalments would be allocated to the factory. 5
Ohannes came back to Dersaadet and started looking for an appropriate place for the factory with the Imperial Palace’s Kalfabaşı (head of the kalfas) Karabet Usta and British engineers. Baltalimanı, Istinye Körfezi (Gulf of Istinye), Sultaniye and Beykoz meadows, which were considered possible, were not deemed suitable at the end. 6 Finally, they had to make a choice between Çubuklu in Beykoz and Zeytinburnu. According to their report, Çubuklu was deemed disadvantageous because it was “much frequented”, there was no lodging for the workers and it was further from the iron mineral spring in Büyükada (Prinkipo) than Zeytinburnu. Zeytinburnu, on the other hand, could be seen as disadvantageous in that it required a pier to be built by the coast, it was open to lodos (SW wind) and around 200-300 meters of the area where the harbour would be built was covered in waste. However, it was close to Suriçi and Yedikule and it was an open field, there were inns where the workers could stay and it was more advantageous with regards to transportation cost of raw materials because it was closer to Büyükada. It was also close to the Gunpowder Factory, so the idea of taking advantage of the Gunpowder Factory during the construction was also influential in choosing Zeytinburnu. The plan was to provide iron minerals from Büyükada, pit coal from Karaburun and Eregli and oak charcoal from Silivri.7
Construction began in 1843. Meanwhile, machinery and tools, steam boilers, wheels and machinery that were required for the iron factory were bought from London and stored in the Imperial Armoury warehouses in the Dolmabahce Palace. Additionally, the engineers who would build the factory were brought from London and they were signed for one year.
The place where the factory was going to be built belonged to the Minister of War, so the treasury decided to expropriate it and compensate him by giving land in Demirkapı in the vicinity of the Imperial Gunpowder Factory. Initially, the plan was to provide housing on a plot of four acres for around 700 – 800 employees with separate rooms for the engineers. However, there were inns in Zeytinburnu and it was deemed appropriate to use these inns and to be economical in this part of the project.
Iron pipes, steel rails, ploughs, tools for vineyards and orchards, harnesses, and war related equipment like rifle locks, spearheads, cannons, swords, bayonets, and various workshop kits and counters were manufactured in the factory, which began operating in 1846.8 Many materials such as moulds and iron equipment that were used in garden şadırvans (open water tank with a fountain), screw kits, scales and their accessories, various counters, column moulds for the palace, keys, bedsteads and heating stove kits, safe boxes and water pumps were also manufactured.9
The most serious problem the factory faced was the lack of qualified workforce. Failing to pay the salaries of foreign foremen and hundreds of workers in time caused crises and slowdown strikes from time to time between the factory workers and the management. The engineers and foremen were of British origin and there were also some Austrian and Prussian workers. The number of employees changed depending on the period; in 1849 April-June period, 27 officers, 100 European foremen and 220 workers were employed.10 During the months from July to October, the number of workers increased to 280.
The factory, which operated under the Private Purse, was handed over to the Imperial Arsenal in 1848. The Private Treasury’s receivable of 56.445 purses of qurush was going to be paid from future profits.11 After the factory was handed over to the Imperial Arsenal, it focused more on ammunition manufacture and the manufacturing of ammunitions like cannons for the Imperial Arsenal was transferred to this factory. 4 cannons, 3 howitzers or mortars, 50 cavalry and infantry rifles and pistols were sent to the Istanbul International Exposition in 1863 from the factory. Ahmed Süreyya Emin Bey manufactured the first quick firing field gun, which is now in display in Istanbul “Harbiye” Military Museum, in Zeytinburnu Iron Factory between the years 1866-1868.
Despite all of this effort, the factory could not sufficiently satisfy the country’s industrial and infrastructural needs. During the Abdulhamid II’s era, only war ammunition such as shafts, cannonballs with various features, steel shrapnel shells and cartridge shells were manufactured in the factory, which then operated under the Ministry of War. The factory operated until the Republican Era with a decreasing production volume.
1 Tevfik Güran, “Tanzimat Döneminde Devlet Fabrikaları”, 150. Yılında Tanzimat, prepared by Hakkı Dursun Yıldız, Ankara: Türk Tarih Kurumu, 1992.
2 Pars Tuğlacı, Dadyan Ailesi’nin Osmanlı Toplum, Ekonomi ve Siyaset Hayatındaki Rolü, Istanbul: Pars Yayın ve Tic. Ltd. Şti., 1993, p. 11.
3 BOA, HAT, 587/28872 (29 Z 1252).
4 BOA, İ.MSM, 24/611 (06 Ra 1259).
5 BOA, A.MKT, 5/53, (11 L 1258).
6 BOA, İ.MSM, 25/652 (29 Ş 1260).
7 BOA, İ.MSM, 24/612 (29 C 1261).
8 Rifat Önsoy, Tanzimat Dönemi Osmanlı Sanayii ve Sanayileşme Politikası, Ankara: Türkiye İş Bankası, 1988, p. 89.
9 Mücteba İlgürel, “Zeytinburnu’nda Bir Demir Fabrikası”, Tarih Boyunca İstanbul Semineri, prepared by Mübahat S. Kütükoğlu, Istanbul: İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Tarih Araştırmaları Enstitüsü, 1989.
10 Ömer Karaoğlu, “XIX. Yüzyıl Osmanlı Sanayileşme Teşebbüsleri ve Zeytinburnu Demir Fabrikasının Kuruluşu” (MA thesis), Istanbul University, 1994.
11 BOA, A.MKT, 131/102 (28 C 1264).