Heart of Steel: 6 lessons learned from ArcelorMittal Cleveland’s ability to innovate and keep manufacturing alive. Full story »
ArcelorMittal Cleveland is the most productive steel mill in the world. This is proof that manufacturing has a future in the U.S. ArcelorMittal occupies the site of LTV Steel which went bankrupt and closed about 15 years ago. Full story »
Steel manufacturing doesn’t just keep paychecks coming for 1,900 workers at ArcelorMittal. For more than 100 years, it has kept the lights on at places such as Interlake Steamship Co. and W.H. Fay Co. Full story »
They’ve been making steel in Cleveland’s industrial Flats for more than a century. A look at how steel is made today at ArcelorMittal.Full story »
When China, and other nations, have surplus steel they need to unload — often at prices for less than it costs them to produce — the U.S. has served as a reliable dumping ground. This has contributed to U.S. job loss and factory closings. Full story »
Coming Sunday: Heart of Steel, Cleveland neighborhoods that sprouted around the mills (vintage photos)The steel story in Cleveland, told through the lens of ArcelorMittal Cleveland, the world’s largest steel maker and mining company formerly known as LTV, has been and continues to be a real-life example of many of the political issues surfacing during this year’s presidential election campaign – trade, trade agreements, jobs, skills and wages. Full story »
The steel story in Cleveland, told through the lens of ArcelorMittal Cleveland, the world’s largest steel and mining company, has been and continues to be a real-life example of many of the political issues surfacing during this year’s presidential election campaign – trade, trade agreements, jobs, skills and wages. Full story »
Read The Plain Dealer’s “Heart of Steel: A Cleveland Survival Story” this Sunday: 60-Second Know-It-All (video)Cleveland’s survival as a steel city required inventing and embracing not just new ways of manufacturing steel, but new ways of conducting labor-management relationships. Full story »
A two page biography on Henry Chisholm, the father of Cleveland’s Steel industry.
This is from “A History of Cleveland and Its Environs” 1918 Elroy McKendree Avery and is still one of the best essays on Chisolm.
or read below
Series from Plain Dealer about Steel Industry in Cleveland October, 2016
ArcelorMittal’s History of Steel Making in Cleveland
History of Ohio Steelmaking
From the Ohio Steel Council
THE HISTORY OF STEEL IN OHIO
Ohio has a proud tradition of steelmaking. Its access to the Great Lakes, network of navigable rivers, and rich deposits of coal and iron literally helped to build a nation.
Ohio‘s iron and steelmaking roots go back to 1802, the same year the state was admitted to the Union. In this year, the first blast furnace west of the Alleghenies was erected in Poland Township, near Youngstown. It averaged only two tons of iron a day.
During the first decades of the 19th century, ironmaking was a decentralized activity throughout the state. The abundance of low-grade iron ore in many regions of Ohio made the establishment of iron furnaces a relatively common occurrence, and there was a ready demand for the product by local blacksmiths, who turned the pig iron into farm and home utensils. Early furnaces used charcoal as fuel.
By mid-century, however, the picture had changed. The location of ironmaking furnaces became concentrated in southern Ohio, in Vinton, Jackson, Sciota and Lawrence counties. Of the 48 blast furnaces operating in the state at the time, 35 were located in this region. A secondary concentration of nine furnaces was found in the Mahoning Valley.
The iron industry had slowly switched its fuel source from charcoal to coke, a purified form of bituminous coal. The burning coke, when exposed to blasts of air (hence the name “blast furnace”), creates the high temperatures needed to melt iron ore for processing into ingots. These ingots originally were named “pigs” because of the molds’ resemblance to nursing piglets, and the name has stuck ever since.
Deposits of block coal, discovered near Youngstown in 1845, could be used in iron furnaces without being converted to coke. These coal deposits were a major catalyst for the growth of the iron industry in northeastern Ohio.
In 1850, Ohio was essentially rural, even though its major metropolis, Cincinnati, had become the nation’s third most important manufacturing city. But in these changing years, the roar of machinery and the smoke of the factory announced the coming of the Industrial Revolution. Cities grew, and railroads reached to the most isolated counties. Cincinnati, not well located with respect to iron ore and coke, watched as places like Akron and Cleveland became the industrial cities of the future. By 1853, Cleveland had rail connections with most eastern cities as well as with Cincinnati and Chicago. This technological advancement, combined with its coal and iron ore resources, transformed Cleveland into the third-largest iron and steel city in the country.
Yet, by 1880, more significant for the state’s industrial future was the rapid growth of little cities in the Cuyahoga and Mahoning valleys, like Akron, Canton and Youngstown. The Mahoning Valley was becoming one of the great iron and steel areas of the nation. Youngstown was a convenient meeting place for individuals looking for ore and coke. The first of the modern iron-clad blast furnaces was erected in Struthers in 1871, greatly expanding production.
The nation’s westward expansion increased demand for iron and guaranteed that Ohio’s iron furnaces would stay busy. Within the next decade, however, processes became widely available to produce large quantities of a new, superior product – steel. Steel is stronger and more flexible, making it better suited than iron for rails, beams and other products. The building of a vast national rail system after the Civil War made steel much more valuable than iron.
Ohio continued to be a pioneer in this emerging steel industry. The first Bessemer converter – the new device for steel manufacturers – was purchased by the Cleveland Rolling Mill Company, which eventually was absorbed by U.S. Steel Corporation. In 1875, the first open-hearth furnace built exclusively for the production of steel was constructed by the Otis Steel Company in Cleveland, which became Jones & Laughlin Steel Company in 1942. During the 1870s and continuing into the 1880s, steel replaced iron as the primary metal produced in Ohio. By 1892, Ohio ranked as the second-largest steel-producing state behind Pennsylvania.
In 1901, open-hearth furnaces began to overtake Bessemer converters as the primary method of making steel. The molten steel was poured into ingots, which were fabricated into rails, bars, wire, pipes, plates and sheets. Also, steel was structurally shaped in specialized rolling mills, often in separate establishments or forge shops.
Most steel companies in 1901 were not completely integrated, a term used to describe a steel producer that has ironmaking and steelmaking capabilities and can process finished and semi-finished steel products. Many companies operated only blast furnaces and sold their pig iron on the open market. Others combined ironmaking and steelmaking capabilities, but supplied fabricators that produced a single range of finished products.
The formation of the United States Steel Corporation in February 1901 capped a merger wave in the 1890s. In Ohio, mergers included the creation of Republic Iron and Steel Company, a “rolling mill trust” formed by combining 34 small companies in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Alabama.
U.S. Steel, created by combining J.P. Morgan’s Federal Steel with Andrew Carnegie’s Carnegie Steel, was the first billion-dollar company in American corporate history. It consisted of eight major and many smaller firms and some 200 plants. The situation forced competitors to build or acquire mills and mines in order to become integrated steelmakers.
Armco also began integrating in this period, incorporating in 1899 as the American Rolling Mill Company of Middletown, Ohio. Youngstown Sheet & Tube was created in late 1900, with the vision of a large, integrated steel producer.
In 1910, Elbert Gary, who ran U.S. Steel, redefined the goals, behavior and attitudes of the steel industry. Fears of antitrust action by the government in response to U.S. Steel’s stranglehold on the market led to a search for stability. One of these elements was a pricing formula that eliminated the advantages of geography. This and other initiatives of Gary – and the American Iron and Steel Institute, which he formed – helped Ohio steel to remain competitive.
Within Ohio, the Mahoning Valley was the leading pig iron production region, with 39 percent of the Ohio total and 9 percent of the national total in 1920.
Like other American industries, Ohio steel was devastated by the Great Depression. Markets shrunk precipitously, except for light-rolled sheet products used in automobiles and home appliances. This shift hit producers of primarily heavy structural shapes, like pipe and rails, especially hard.
Youngstown Sheet & Tube was poorly situated in the light flat-rolled market because it had delayed improvements during the 1920s. The company did not build hot-strip mills until 1935 and 1939, and it struggled through the decade. Armco struggled against geography, paying higher transportation costs for ore and coal because its Marion mill was not located on the lakes or the Ohio River. However, Armco at least was strong in light-rolled steel. Another asset was its research laboratory, which introduced a new galvanizing technique in 1937 that permitted shaping the steel after the tin coating had been applied.
Republic Steel shared Armco’s disadvantages, but managed to do better because of the company’s light-steel capacity. After 1935, Republic’s management turned aggressive and acquired several new firms.
Ohio remained one of the major focal points of the steel industry. Most of the national steel corporations operated facilities in Ohio during the 1930-1970 period. These included Armco, Cyclops, Jones & Laughlin, National, Pittsburgh, Republic, Sharon, U.S. Steel, Wheeling and Youngstown Sheet & Tube. Three of these firms – Armco, Republic and Youngstown Sheet & Tube – had their national corporate headquarters in Ohio.
One of the more amazing chapters in American industrial history was the performance of the steel industry during World War II. Firms that had struggled through the Depression operated at full capacity by 1942. Several major steel producers actually exceeded average annual capacities as the industry set new production records. Republic Steel hit 100.4 percent of its capacity in 1942. As a whole, the American steel industry produced almost 90 million tons of finished steel during the peak year of 1944, and 427 million tons from 1941 through 1945.
Equally significant, however, was the opportunity that the steel industry faced in the immediate postwar period. U.S. producers had no real rivals and enjoyed unprecedented superiority. Almost two-thirds of the world’s steel production in 1945 came from the United States. Because steelmakers confronted so few competitors in world markets, quantity became the driving concern. The industry’s self-assurance also manifested itself in a reluctance to invest in innovation and new technology.
But many of the roots of steel’s later problems were not created by the industry itself. American mills located in the Ohio and Mahoning river valleys paid the penalty of higher transportation costs compared to mills on the Great Lakes. Government policies were also partly responsible for the industry’s later problems. When the country did not sink back into depression after the war, steel executives hoped to discard wartime controls quickly. The government did not agree.
Nevertheless, a massive steel expansion program in the 1950s pushed capacity from 100 million ingot-tons in 1950 to 148.5 million in 1960. The revenue from this increase mostly bought existing technology for established plants. Blast furnaces grew taller and output was increased. Ohio companies followed this trend.
Two new technologies pioneered in the 1950s were the basic oxygen process and the continuous caster. Both innovations offered major economic benefits over existing processes. The basic oxygen furnace (BOF) uses a process that injects oxygen from the top into a vessel filled with molten iron and scrap, producing steel much more quickly than an open-hearth furnace. Continuous casting developed more slowly. Traditionally, steel ingots were transformed into shapes in several steps – first rolled into slabs or blooms, which were then rolled into beams, bars, pipe, wire, plates or sheets. A continuous caster produces slabs, blooms or billets directly from molten steel, saving time and energy. Republic Steel explored this process as early as the mid-1940s. But the industry as a whole was cautious and slow to integrate new technology, uncertain about the viability of the new procedures.
Smaller companies moved first to install both of these key innovations. “Big Steel,” for the most part, waited until the technologies were better developed. For oxygen furnaces, this had happened by 1963; continuous casting was proved by the end of the decade. In 1968, the first vertical caster in Ohio was constructed at Republic Steel in Canton.
The combination of limited profits, intense pressure for new technology and less-than-optimal installations was dangerous enough. But two other developments further complicated the Ohio steel picture. Foreign competitors began shipping significant quantities of steel to the United States. Imports rose from 5.4 million tons in 1963 to 18 million tons in 1968. This flood of imported steel prevented the industry from earning the capital necessary for investments in modernization.
In addition, another competitor had appeared on the domestic scene: the mini-mill. Initially, mini-mills were facilities with electric furnaces that melted scrap and produced up to 250,000 tons of steel a year. But the technological developments of the 1960s opened other avenues for enterprising small firms. By adding continuous casters and small bar mills to the electric furnaces, the mini-mills could produce reinforcing rods, small diameter bars and angles far less expensively than large firms could, using traditional technology.
The mid-1970s and early 1980s represented a period of substantial change. Through the 1970s, the industry struggled. It has been argued that excessive wage hikes were a central factor in the loss of competitiveness by American steel. Certainly, foreign competitors had the advantage of cheaper labor. They also, in many cases, had more modern, efficient facilities than their U.S. counterparts. But foreign companies were often subsidized by their governments. In addition, foreign-produced finished consumer products made from steel were being imported at a substantial increase, which shut out a market that had been open to U.S. producers. Finally, the period saw the introduction of new materials that served as substitutes for steel – namely aluminum, plastic and composites.
Voluntary import restrictions worked for a few years; but, after 1973, a surge in demand permitted foreign industry to ignore the system. And in 1977, imported steel totaled 21 million tons.
U.S. steel found its production capacity well beyond the demand for domestic steel. Consequently, the most inefficient mills were closed. Mergers of existing firms took place, and new investors entered the industry to purchase selected operations. In 1977, Youngstown Sheet & Tube was merged with Jones & Laughlin Steel Company, a harbinger of things to come.
Double-digit inflation hit the industry hard. However, the problems of the 1970s paled against the difficulties caused by a recession in 1982. In 1975, 20 fully integrated steel companies operated 47 full-scale mills. By 1985, only 14 companies remained, with 23 mills.
During the 1980s, both employment and raw steel production in Ohio fell to roughly one-half their respective highest years of the 1970s. However, new investment continued, a trend that continued in the 1990s and paid off handsomely in increases in Ohio employment and production.
Today’s Ohio steel industry has undergone more than 30 years of restructuring. During this period, many companies have closed or merged with other companies; union contracts and work rules have been revamped; and new technologies have been introduced as a result of millions of dollars that steel companies have invested in their facilities.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Ohio mills invested in quality and cost improvement. During this period, the industry began reaping the benefits of increased continuous casting capabilities, high-tech galvanizing lines, revamped hot-strip mills and continuous processing lines.
By the late 1980s, the news media was reporting exciting rejuvenation in the industry. In the 1990s, the steel market was stronger than it had been in decades.
However, at the dawn of the 21st century, the steel industry again faced significant challenges. The most recent period of upheaval occurred between 1998 and 2003 when, in the wake of a flood of unfairly traded steel imports from Asia, Russia and Brazil, many companies were forced into bankruptcy and many steelworkers were laid off.
In response to this crisis, the steel industry consolidated and union contracts were renegotiated to allow greater flexibility in response to trends in the market place.
Today, steelworkers are trained to work in a number of positions, and they have greater latitude and authority in responding to the needs of the steelmaking facility. In addition, there are fewer steel companies in the U.S., which enables the industry to respond swiftly to market changes. Larger companies are able to shift resources from one operation to the next quickly and efficiently in response to demand. At the same time, smaller steel companies still do very well by focusing on niche markets and specialties.
As a result of these changes, Ohio’s revitalized steel industry has returned to profitability. In fact, Ohio steel companies today produce as much steel as they did before the imports crisis of 1998, even though they employ fewer people. Technology and a more versatile and highly skilled workforce have made up the difference.
“Iron and Steel Industry” from the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
IRON AND STEEL INDUSTRY. Location has been Cleveland’s potent metallurgical advantage since the mid-19th century, when its situation on Lake Erie at the convergence of numerous railroad lines made it an ideal meeting place for iron ore and coal. In 1858 an article in the CLEVELAND LEADER claimed that Cleveland enjoyed advantages even greater than Pittsburgh for the manufacture of iron: “With [the cost of] transportation added, iron can be made $7 a ton cheaper in Cleveland than made at Pittsburgh and brought here. . . . Would it not be wise to start blast furnaces in Cleveland?”
In 1860 just 374 men were working in 3 bar and sheet iron establishments in Cuyahoga County. Twenty years later, the primary iron and steel industry in Cleveland employed almost 3,000 (about 200 of these “children and youths”) in 10 establishments. By 1900 that number had more than doubled; Cuyahoga County, which produced 968,801 tons of iron and steel in 1900, ranked fifth nationally (behind Allegheny County, PA, Cook County, IL, Mahoning County, OH, and Jefferson County, AL) in iron and steel production. The industry’s foothold in Cleveland was assured with the discovery in 1844 of iron ore in the Lake Superior region of Michigan. Because the Lake Superior ore districts were geographically isolated, without coal or major markets nearby, iron ore could not be smelted to pig or bar iron and sold at a profit. The only profitable way to exploit the ore was to transport it in bulk to distant blast furnaces on the lower Great Lakes–to places like Cleveland, Chicago, and Ashtabula, OH. The opening of the Sault Ste. Marie Canal in 1855 marked the beginning of ore shipment in quantity, and the movement of this raw material is the same today as it was then: ore mined in the Lake Superior region is carried by rail to the shipping ports, then by ship to lower lake ports, where it is rehandled into railroad cars for the trip to the blast furnace.
Clevelander SAMUEL LIVINGSTON MATHER† (1817-90) is usually credited with opening the rich iron ore resources of the Lake Superior region, which brought Cleveland to its position of supremacy in the iron industry. Mather was the driving force behind the Cleveland Iron Mining Co., one of the most important early mining companies on the Marquette Range and one of two “parents” (the other was the Iron Cliffs Co.) of the CLEVELAND-CLIFFS INC. Cleveland-Cliffs was the leading iron mining company on the Marquette Range when it was incorporated in 1891, a position it still held a century later. Mather, together with other Cleveland industrialists at the helm of such companies as M. A. HANNA CO. and PICKANDS MATHER & CO., dominated the ore trade on the Great Lakes, controlling 80% of the ore vessels plying the lakes and massive tracts of ore-rich land.
The manufacture of iron products preceded the basic industry, with railroads providing the impetus for Cleveland’s early forges and foundries. The CUYAHOGA STEAM FURNACE CO., incorporated in 1834 by JOSIAH BARBER†, RICHARD LORD†, and others, was among the earliest of such enterprises; by 1853 its Ohio City works was turning out two locomotives each month. In 1852 WILLIAM A. OTIS† and John N. Ford established the Lake Erie Iron Works in Ohio City to forge axles for railroad cars and locomotives, and heavy shafts for steamboats. In 1853-54 the Forest City Iron Works erected a rolling mill on the lakeshore at Wason (East 38th) St., producing the first “saleable manufactured iron” (boiler plate) in May 1855. That year, the Railroad Iron Mill Co., established by Albert J. Smith in partnership with others, erected a plant in the same location to reroll worn rails.
HENRY CHISHOLM† (1822-81), an immigrant Scottish construction contractor, was Cleveland’s pioneer ironmaster. Chisholm, with , built a rolling mill in 1857 at NEWBURGH, 6 miles southeast of PUBLIC SQUARE, to reroll worn rails. Two years later, taking advantage of new transportation routes, including the Sault Ste. Marie Canal and the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad, the firm invested in a blast furnace, feeding it with Lake Superior iron ore and coal from the Mahoning Valley (later Connellsville coke). Following an infusion of capital from Andros B. Stone, the enterprise expanded rapidly, reorganizing as the Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. in 1864. In 1868 the company installed a pair of Bessemer converters, the first such installation west of the Alleghenies and only the third successful one in the nation. Cleveland Rolling Mill became a major integrated producer of pig iron, Bessemer steel, and steel products, employing a work force of more than 8,000 at the height of its independent existence in the late 1890s.
Another important 19th-century Cleveland steelmaker was CHARLES AUGUSTUS OTIS† (1827-1905), whose father had established the Lake Erie Iron Works. Otis, who studied steelmaking in Europe, organized the Otis Iron & Steel Co. in 1873 and hired Samuel T. Wellman to oversee construction and serve as chief engineer and superintendent of its Lakeside Works on the lakefront at Lawrence (East 33rd) St. Wellman installed the first commercially successful basic open-hearth furnace in the U.S. (which soon eclipsed the Bessemer process) in 1886 and introduced mechanized charging, contributing to Otis’s rise as one of the nation’s most dynamic small producers.
By 1884, according to the annual report of the Cleveland Board of Trade, there were 147 establishments in Cleveland devoted to the manufacture of iron and steel and their products. Representing a combined capital investment of $21.5 million and an average work force of 14,000, these businesses produced products having a total value of $25.2 million. In addition to 11 manufacturers of iron and steel products (the primary industry) employing 5,665 workers, these figures included 30 establishments producing hardware and tools (employing 2,292), 4 producing sewing machines (1,110), 48 producing boilers and machinery (1,333), 13 foundries (1,217), and 9 producing nuts, bolts, and other fasteners (960).
By 1880 the annual output of the Superior mines had risen to almost 2 million gross tons. Cleveland’s strategic position as both a final destination and a transshipment point for iron ore underscored a vexing problem–how to unload it efficiently–that was solved by two Cleveland inventors. Until 1867 ore was unloaded entirely by hand labor. Between 1867 and 1880, portable steam engines were used to hoist tubs of ore out of the hold, but laborers still had the back-breaking job of filling the tubs by hand and wheeling the ore to the dock. In 1880 ALEXANDER E. BROWN† (1852-1911) developed a mechanical hoist consisting of 2 towers supporting a cableway; a steam-powered rope trolley suspended from the cableway traveled out over the vessel’s hold and carried hand-filled tubs of ore back to the dock. In 1899 GEORGE H. HULETT† (1846-1923) eclipsed Brown’s invention with his own. The Hulett unloader (see HULETT ORE UNLOADERS), consisting of a large-capacity grab bucket suspended from a stiff vertical leg mounted on a walking beam, did away with hand shoveling entirely. It drastically reduced labor costs and unloading times, and led to larger boats especially designed to accommodate the Huletts. By 1913 Hulett unloaders dotted Cleveland’s river and lakefront and could be found at almost every port on the lower Great Lakes.
Signaling the growing dominance of large firms, in 1899 the Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. was absorbed into the American Steel and Wire Co. of New Jersey, which was itself absorbed into J. P. Morgan’s giant U.S. STEEL CORP. combine when it was organized 2 years later. U.S. Steel substantially augmented its Cleveland facilities in 1907-08 with the construction of wire and strip mills on the OHIO AND ERIE CANAL south of Harvard Ave. Galvanizing and barbed fence departments were added later, and by 1932 the Cuyahoga Works was one of the largest wire mills in the country and boasted the world’s largest cold-rolling plant.
Two new plants established in the early 20th century would provide the foundation for the modern steel industry. In 1909 ore merchant Dalliba, Corrigan & Co. began construction of 2 blast furnaces on the east bank of the Cuyahoga River that became the nucleus of one of the nation’s important independent producers, the CORRIGAN-MCKINNEY STEEL CO. Between 1913 and 1916, Corrigan, McKinney built 2 additional furnaces and a steel works for the production of blooms, sheet bars, and billets. The problem of industrywide integration led the company to add merchant mills for the production of finished steel products in 1927. In 1935, under the aggressive leadership of chairman TOM M. GIRDLER† (1877-1965), the REPUBLIC STEEL CORP.acquired Corrigan, McKinney and moved its headquarters from Youngstown to Cleveland. Republic continuously enlarged the plant, making it the largest of the company’s 6 basic steelmaking plants and one of the 10 largest in the country.
Otis, meanwhile, greatly expanded its capacity with the construction in 1912 of a new Riverside Works on the west bank of the Cuyahoga River. (The plant was immortalized in 1929 when Otis hired a young photographer, MARGARET BOURKE-WHITE†, to document the drama of steelmaking for a company promotional book.) With the acquisition of the adjacent Cleveland Furnace Co. shortly after World War I, Otis became a completely integrated steel company, and on the eve of the Great Depression the company boasted a capacity of one million tons. In 1942 the Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. of Pittsburgh (seeJONES AND LAUGHLIN STEEL CORP. (CLEVELAND WORKS)), eager to enter the Midwest market, acquired Otis. J&L invested heavily during the next 2 decades, adding a new blast furnace (“Susan,” largest in the Cleveland district), 4 new steel furnaces, and other facilities.
The American steel industry historically has had a volatile relationship with labor, adopting from the beginning a staunch antiunion stance. In the 1880s the Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. endured a series of violent strikes in response to wage cuts and recruited Polish and Czech immigrants to replace striking workers (see CLEVELAND ROLLING MILL STRIKES). In 1937 Republic’s irascible Tom Girdler proclaimed that he would shut down the company’s mills and “raise apples and potatoes” before he would recognize a union. The bloody LITTLE STEEL STRIKE that year left 12 dead at Republic plants in Chicago and Youngstown. Not until 1942, at the order of the War Labor Board, was the CIO successful in organizing Republic workers.
Thanks to pent-up consumer demand, the industry enjoyed a long period of postwar prosperity. But by the early 1970s Cleveland’s steelmakers, like those nationwide, grappled with the problems of inflation, record imports of foreign steel, increasingly stringent environmental regulations, lagging productivity, and rising labor costs. In 1979 U.S. Steel abandoned its historic Central Furnaces plant, established by the Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. in 1881 for the production of pig iron. Five years later, the steel giant closed 6 plants, including its Cuyahoga Works in Cuyahoga Heights, after the United Steelworkers of America rejected concessions demanded by the company. The city’s two remaining integrated producers, Republic and Jones & Laughlin (the latter a subsidiary of LTV following a 1968 takeover), faced difficult conditions in the early 1980s as economic recession and the decline of the domestic automobile industry caused steel demand to plummet. In June 1984 Jones & Laughlin merged with Republic to form the LTV STEEL, with headquarters in Cleveland. Two years later, LTV had run up losses totaling nearly $1 billion, forcing it to file for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code.
With increased demand for its products, especially flat-rolled steel supplied to the automotive, appliance, and electrical equipment industries, LTV rebounded. Since 1984 the company has made more than $1.1 billion in new capital investments at its Cleveland Works. The centerpiece of its modernization efforts is a direct hot-charge complex, completed in 1993, which enables LTV to convert molten steel to a coil of hot-rolled steel in a continuous process. In 1994, with 2 integrated steel mills (at Cleveland and Indiana Harbor, IN), Cleveland’s only remaining integrated producer ranked as the nation’s 3rd-largest steelmaker and 2nd-largest producer of flat-rolled steel. Working at 99% capacity, the Cleveland Works in 1994 produced 4.8 million tons of raw steel. With 7,100 full-time employees, LTV was Cuyahoga County’s 2nd-largest nongovernmental employer.
Exemplifying the massive changes that have swept the industry in recent years, M. A. Hanna, an old-line mineral resources company whose history is rooted in iron mining, has transformed itself into a company focused on rubber and plastics. In 1986, meanwhile, a new steel fabricating company bought the former Cuyahoga Works of U.S. Steel, along with rights to the historic “American Steel & Wire” name, and resumed production as a non-union shop. A unit of Birmingham Steel Corporation of Birmingham, Alabama, since 1992, American Steel & Wire makes rod and wire for sale to the fastener industry.
The iron and steel industry continues to be an economic mainstay of Greater Cleveland. In 1992, the primary metal industries in Cuyahoga County employed 14,690 while almost twice that number (27,978) were employed in the manufacture of fabricated metal products.
Carol Poh Miller
Paskoff, Paul F., ed., Iron and Steel in the Nineteenth Century, Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography. New York: Facts on File, 1989.
Pendry, William R. “A History of the Cleveland District of the American Steel and Wire Co.” Cleveland: American Steel & Wire Co., 1937. Mimeographed.
Seely, Bruce E., ed., Iron and Steel in the Twentieth Century, Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography. New York: Facts on File, 1994.
Wellman, S. T. “The Early History of Open-Hearth Steel Manufacture in the U.S.” Transactions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers 23 (1902): 78-98.
“The State of Ohio’s Steel Industry” by Edward W. Hill, Iryna Lendel and Fran Stewart (9.1.12)
From Cleveland State University
“Little Steel Wars: The Union Strikes Back”
Vincent Prochoroff, Gus Hatch, George Schmidt
Shaker Heights High School (Terry Pollack and Timothy Mitchell advisors)
Winner of the 2014 Teaching Cleveland Documentary Award
Documentary produced for the 2014 National History Day Competition