Pittsburgh – The Steelmakers
There is no shortage of historians willing to tell you that Pittsburgh story is closely related to steel and iron and they would be right to do so. The state experienced one of the greatest economic booms as a commercial city just right after the American Revolution. It was meant to be, after all the city had the intersection of three major rivers flowing from the east through the west. The converging Allegheny, the Monongahela, and the Ohio were the perfect site for one of the most active ports that helped travelers and merchants to move freely in the waters to other states such as Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana. It also brought a lot of settlers who found the state livable enough to set roots.
The Birth of the City of Metal
Pittsburgh grew as an industrial city as well when the terminal of the Pennsylvania Mainline Canal was finally open for business in 1830. Four years before the canal was completed, the location was a core for industrial growth that spread upstream quickly along the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers. The arrival of the railroad in 1852 made things easier as more manufacturers set shop to factories across the river in Allegheny City. A lot of immigrants brought their crafts with them. One of them was Andrew Carnegie. This man and his family founded iron and glass factories on the south side of the Monongahela River well into the 1870s. Business was so good that more inhabitants moved to the region.
The Companies that Handled the Metal
The Carnegie businesses helped to increase Pittsburgh’s role in crucible steel. It was the first steel industry in the USA. As it happens in these things, new competitors wanted a piece of the pie, and new technology came with open market competition. Bessemer converters and oversized rolling mills became the norm back then. Before that crucible steel manufacturers depended on skilled workers from offshore locations. Their work was craftier, hence pretty solid: they melted carbon blister steel and iron bars together at extreme heat. After that, they hefted clay or graphite crucibles and filled them with at least a hundred pounds of molten metal. They proceed to make fine grade steel that was the best choice for tools, hoops, cutlery, edge instruments, and piano wire.
The Players that Came Later
For a long time, Pittsburgh’s principal steelmakers were the Hussey – Wells partnership. Their success made Curtis Hussey into a millionaire, the first in the city. There was also Black Diamond Steel, a company run by James and David Park, both native Pittsburghers. You could also find the Sheffield Steel Works, a business owned by many partners based on Pittsburgh. The last player was Crescent Steel, a company owned by Pittsburghers, but run by an Englishman. On 1877 it was determined that the city’s crucible steel factories produced at least three-fourths of the metal needed in the country. Metal-shaping factories started to work with cutting tools made of crucible steel through most of the 1920s. By that time electric steel furnaces were a hot item in all regards.
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The Consequences of a Thriving Industry
As Pittsburgh was growing stronger, a new competitor stole their lighting in 1901, the year when U.S. Steel was formed. The company established their headquarters at 71st Broadway in New York City. Pittsburgh still managed to keep the honorary title as the center of the steel industry since everything started there. Since those days Pittsburgh had the chance to reinvent themselves as a postindustrial location after World War II ended in 1945. All these accomplishments came with a cost: for many years the industrial smoke had taken a toll on the residents of the city and made the buildings unsightly and deplorable. Many seem to remember how Pittsburgh was dark at noon because of the high levels of contamination. This all changed in 1940 then elected Mayor Marker David Lawrence did the impossible to clean up its air. The city stopped using coal on ten years of conversion, by 1950 natural gas was the fuel of choice for these companies.