In colonial times, the items made by blacksmiths included hardware for household and farm use, tools for tradesman's work and weaponry for use in battle. The blacksmith made nails, swords, hatchets, axe heads, bullets, anchors, anchor chains, hooks, iron hoops, shipwright tools, anvils, horse shoes, hinges, hammer heads, gates, gate locks and wheel barrows. They would also make repairs to tools required by other tradesmen.
Colonial blacksmiths used such tools as the forge, anvil, hammer, tongs, vise and file. Because the list of items made by blacksmiths encompassed such a wide expanse of uses, the blacksmith was an essential part of the community in colonial times. Prior to the industrial revolution, a blacksmith, or village smithy, was a staple in every town. Many blacksmith shops had apprentices, who would assist the blacksmith and learn the blacksmith trade. In the South, many blacksmiths were enslaved African Americans.
During the American Revolutionary War, their skills were integral in supporting the American militia. Before and during the American Revolutionary War, blacksmiths such as James Anderson, who later became the public armourer to the Commonwealth of Virginia, played an important role as a government armourer. They worked in cooperation with other tradesmen to support the American war effort.