Hiram S. Chamberlain, a founder of the modern iron industry in the South, was born in Franklin, Ohio, on August 6, 1835, to Vermont natives Leander and Susanna Chamberlain. The fourth of eight children, Chamberlain attended the Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College), where he was a student and friend to future president James A. Garfield. With the outbreak of war in 1861, Chamberlain enlisted as a private in the Second Ohio Volunteer Cavalry and was stationed in Kansas and Missouri for two years. He was appointed quarter-sergeant during his first month of enlistment and was commissioned second lieutenant and regimental quartermaster. He served as divisional quartermaster under General Ambrose Burnside in Knoxville when the city was taken from the Confederates in September 1863. In May 1864 President Abraham Lincoln promoted him to captain and assistant quartermaster, and he served out the war in that position.
Chamberlain entered the iron industry in 1871, when he and five Welsh ironmasters created the Knoxville Iron Company. The Knoxville Iron Company collected pig iron from small furnaces and mills all over East Tennessee and manufactured railroad spikes, nails, and iron bars. In 1868 Chamberlain also entered into partnership with A. J. Albers in a retail drug store. Eventually the business became completely wholesale and exists today as the Albers Drug Company. These industrial and commercial ventures represented early southern revitalization and the success of northern business investment in building the New South.
In 1871 Chamberlain left his enterprises in Knoxville and moved to Chattanooga to become vice-president and general manager of the Roane Iron Company, a pig iron manufacturing plant that Chamberlain organized with fellow ex-Union officer John T. Wilder in 1867. He ascended to the presidency of Roane Iron in 1880 and served in that capacity until his death in 1916. Through Roane Iron and other endeavors and responsibilities, Chamberlain quickly became a leading citizen of Chattanooga. In 1882, he founded and directed the Citico Furnace Company, and was vice-president of the Chickamauga Trust Company and the Columbian Iron Works, along with his thirty-year service as vice-president of the First National Bank of Chattanooga. Chamberlain served many years as the president of the board of trustees of the University of Chattanooga and as president of the school board of Chattanooga.
Chamberlain died on March 15, 1916, at the age of eighty-one. He married Amelia I. Morrow of Knoxville, and they had six children.