An Accidental Engineer

Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Company and birthhome of Mary Hegeler

Matthiessen and Hegeler Zinc Company (left) and birth home of Mary (right)

Employees of Matthiessen & Hegeler Zinc Company

Employees of M&H Zinc Company

“An accidental engineer” is the endearing moniker Kate Carus gave Mary while reflecting on the unusual childhood of her great grandmother. Living in close quarters with her father’s company since birth, Mary from a young age began regularly accompanying her father around the zinc smelting factory. She was given the serious task of inspecting the flames of the Belgian (Siemens) furnaces and making recommendations for adjustments. At the age of 16, she began work in the important assay office that measured the purity of metallurgical content. While wearing long Victorian dresses, she would have worked alongside the factory men who performed the dangerous tasks required to operate furnaces charged to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit containing molten rock.