George H. (George Henry) Thurston.

Allegheny county's hundred years online

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the Brownsville Steel Factory, carried on by Truman & Co. For the foregoing
data in relation to the early efforts to make steel in the United States the writer
is indebted to " Swank's Iron in All Ages," a comprehensive and valuable work,
written with great care.

The steel produced in the establishments quoted was of the grade called blister
or German steel. Although, as previously mentioned, there was a steel works at
Pittsburgh as early as 1813, there are no records of any production of what
would then be called steel there, or mention of any attempt to make it, although,
possibly, some experiment may have been made. Whatever steel was produced
by Tuper &. McKowan was probably a low grade of blister steel. Of the steel
factory at Brownsville, Wm. Darby, in an " Emigrant Guide," published in 1778,

" At Brownsville many years past a steel factory has been established, which
has been a success."

Of the early manufacture of steel at Pittsburgh, the following extract from
"Pittsburgh and Allegheny in the Centennial Year" says:


" The introduction of blister steel made at Pittsburgh was attended with con-
siderable difBculty. Consumers could not be made to believe that the blister steel
■of Pittsburgh was in any way equal to that brought across the Atlantic, although
expert workmen were sent to visit consumers to prove to them the fact. It was
only after Pittsburgh blister steel, which had been rusted by throwing salt water
over it, so as to make it appear of English manufacture, was sold to consumers
that it was found to be all that could be desired."

The gradual progress of making steel at Pittsburgh is so fully told in the sub-
joined extract from Pittsburgh's Progress, Industries and Kesourses (1886), that
it is here quoted in preference to a recapitulation of the same facts.

"In 1841 Patrick and James Dunn began making steel for J. H. Shoenberger.
The works erected by them had some twenty holes or furnaces but six only were
used steadily. The enterprise was abandoned in the course of a year or so. Some-
where about this date a firm under the style of Tingle & Sugden began making
cast steel on a small scale for their own use in manufacturing files, in which they

were engaged. In 1845 Isaac Jones and Quigg, under the firm style of Jones

& Quigg, built the Pittsburgh Steel Works and began the manufacture of blister
spring and plow steel, in which line Coleman, Hailman & Co. at the same date
embarked in the business.

" From about 1844 most of the iron manufacturers of Pittsburgh made blister
and plow steel, but Coleman, Hailman & Co. and Jones & Quigg were the only
two establishments that could then be classified as " steel works." These establish-
ments in making cast steel, although producing it to a considerable extent, failed
to make a first class article. The isolation of Pittsburgh from labor skilled in
that line of treating metals and various other difficulties, made the production of
a bar of good quality more the result of accident than skill. Though the pro-
ducers of steel and for a considerable period alterward made occasional batches
which nearly approached a first-class grade, the chief quality of a good article, re-
liability, was wanting. That quality is now the great characteristic of Pittsburgh

"In 1848 a new firm. Singer, Nimick & Co., now among the heaviest steel pro-
ducers of Pittsburgh, was formed for the production of blister spring and German
steel, and in 1853 turned their attention to the making of cast steel, for saws and
agricultural purposes, and having largely increased their works began the manu-
facture of the finer grades of steel.

"A year previous to this, however, the firm of McKelvy & Blair, which retired
from the business in 1854, made hammered and rolled steel, and introduced it into
the eastern markets. This firm was formed in 1850 to make files on a large scale,
and began the making of steel for their own file works, but, as stated, in 1854 en-
tered the field as makers of hammered and rolled steel for the general trade, and
retired from financial causes in 1854.

" Two years after, when Singer, Nimick & Co began the production of the finer
grades of cast steel, Isaac Jones, the successor of Jones & Quigg, also commenced
making it. From 1851 up to 1860 the manufacture for the higher grades of cast
steel for saws, machinery and agricultural purposes, occupied the attention of the
Pittsburgh steel manufacturers. Although in these classes of steel great success was
attained and a reputation for those steels made for Pittsburgh, yet the conviction
was strong among the firms carrying on the business that a yet higher standard
was to be attained, and Pittsburgh becomes a formidable rival in edge tool steel to
the English manufacture. This feeling led to the formation in 1860 of the firm of
Hussey, Wells & Co., now Hussey, Howe & Co., for the express purpose of manu-
facturing cast steel for edge tool purposes; (this firm became, in 1888, Brown,


Howe & Co.) ; and the firm of Singer, Nimick & Co. at that date turned a part of
their force of steel maimers into the same direction. In 1862 the firm of Park
Brothers & Co. was formed for the same object, which firm has continued in the
same line and style until recently, when it became Park Brothers & Co., Limited.
These were followed in 1865 by Barr & Parkin, now Miller, Metcalf & Parkin,
manufacturers of high grades of tool steel. The results have been a complete vic-
tory of the Pittsburgh steel manufacturers over foreign makers, and to-day Pitts-
burgh steel is the standard of the market, and has supplanted that of English
make in the edge tool factories of the United States. The very best qualities of
English tool and cutlery steel being more than equalled by that produced in the
steel works of Pittsburgli.

" To what yet higher perfection the making of steel under the use of gas fuel
will be brought, under the enterprise and ambition of Pittsburgh steel manufac-
turers, is yet in the future. When such success as has been recorded has been
achieved in the past, what may not be reasonably expected in the future. What-
ever higher qualities are attainable in steel the past is a guarantee that they will
be put into its composition by the skill and perseverance of Pittsburgh's manufac-

"In the 34 years since the effort was made to manufacture cast steel in the
United States to any extent, the facts show that our manufacturers have secured
nearly all of the American market, and that the quality and finish of American
steel is conceded to be fully equal to any imported. In the article of homogenous
crucible cast steel boiler and fire plate, that made by the Pittsburgh manufac-
turers is unequalled. Shipments of this description of steel that have been made
from Pittsburgh to railroad companies and steam boiler manufacturers across the
Atlantic, has been pronounced superior in every respect to any produced in Eu-

The making of various qualities of various grades of steel, other than crucible,
has become part of the business of a large proportion of the rolling mills. It
would make but a perplexing tangle of dates and names to indicate by what iron
making firms, and just when, the manufacture of steel was by them made a feature
of their business, and a geneology of the firms would be almost a repetition of
those previously recorded of the iron firms. The style of the firms who were
pioneers in steel manufacturing having already been mentioned in the extract
quoted from the publi^'ation of 1886.

In addition to the crucible steel works already noticed, in 1882 Anderson,
Dupuy & Co. built the Pittsburgh Steel Works for making that description of
steel, also the Linden Steel Co., Limited, a steel v-^orks the same year, and the
Sterling Steel Co., Limited, a plant about 1884.

In the progress of steel manufacturing in Pittsburgh the low duties on steel
were great discouragements ; and even with the amendments that had been made
from time to time it is questionable if, without the accidental high tariff produced
by the increased rates of gold during the war, the manufacturers of edge-tool steel
would have succeeded. The fact suggests the natural inquiry : If the country af-
fords the material that produces steel that has nothing to fear by comparison with
the best sent from English works, and if, in attaining that point, labor has alsa
been educated to a degree of skill that insures such success, why not give Ameri-
can manufacturers the benefit of the American market, and the ores of the country


the advantages of further experiments among the great variety existing? Is there
any reason why the art of steel making, having through numerous difficulties be-
come one of the fixed facts belonging to the resources of the nation, should not be-
encouraged to greater efforts ?

Our legislators if they would find the policy best adapted to spread prosperity'^
over the land, should carefully take up the histories of the industrial pursuits o
the American people, and learn how the fostering of them by protection has de-
veloped the resources of the nation, and given employment and homes to the peo-
ple. Not only that will be found, but that in all cases the result of home compe-
tition has been to reduce the cost to the consumer of those articles where protec-
tion against foreign manufacturers has been accorded. Cast steel is an instance^
and in proof of this fact Pittsburgh steel is being furnished of equal qualities to
English steel at rates much below what was formerly paid for the foreign article.

There are now in Pittsburgh 23 steel works, of which 8 are strictly crucible
tool steel works. The reported capacity of all of them for the production of steel
is given at 215,700 tons. As this virtually agrees with the returns of the same
mills to the American Iron and Steel Association, it is probably correct. This is
exclusive of the Bessemer plants and rail mills and the steel casting works.

The complete statistics of this class of Pittsburgh industries cannot be here
given, from a reasonable and natural reluctance to open up the details of their
business to be found elsewhere as well as at Pittsburgh. From such data as could
be obtained the figures of the estimates are given. In the matter of the product
of crucible steel figures given show that in round numbers about 48,000 net tons-
are turned out, the capacity reported being 102,000 tons. By the statistics collated
from the steel manufacturers by the American Iron and Steel Association 42,139
net tons of crucible steel ingots is given as the output of 1885, which probably
amount closely to 50,000 tons in 1888. In that, as in the data collated for this-
volume, there were probably declinations to furnish information. In either case
it is fair to assume that the product given is below the actuality, although it
necessarily varies with the condition of trade from year to year, and the capacity
of the works is the best factor for their possible output of steel. The fluctuations-
are shown by the following figures from a report of the American Iron and Steel
Association, before cited, and may be the result of varying conditions of trade, or
the reluctance before noted to give details of business. From that report it would
appear that the make of crucible steel ingots Avas for

27,866 tons.
40,142 "
52,136 "
61,256 "

From this it would appear there was a steady increase for nine years of the
twelve cited, in which time there was an increase of nearly 250 per cent. In the
two succeeding years a decline of not quite 3 per cent., and in the succeeding year
a decrease of nearly 33 per cent., a showing of decline of output hardly attributa-

1874, . . 17,915 tons. 1878,

1875, . . 22,942 " 1879,

1876, . . 25,009 " 1880,

1877, . . 24,747 " 1881,

1882, .

. 59,596 tons

1883, .

. 59,128 "

1884, .

. 38,885 "

1885, .

. 42,139 "


•ble to trade fluctuations, and more probably caused by incomplete returns. By
this notably the statistics of the output for 1885, as collated at that date, are
dwarfed, but as they are in reasonable sympathy with those of the Iron and Steel
Association report, it is to be assumed that the same causes work in its data.
"These statistics, it will be noted, are only those of crucible steel. A report of Mr.
"Gilbert Follansbee to the Bureau of Statistics of the Treasury Department gives
•the whole product of steel at Pittsburgh in 1882 at 211,417 tons, of which 139,073
•tons were steel rails and 73,344 tons other forms of steel, and the value of the
-product for that year is named at $18,378,836.

The reluctance from fear of exposure of details of private business, as before
-noted, to furnish the data, prevents absolute data of the values of the output of
1888. Taking, however, the 48,000 tons of crucible steel as previously named, the
value would be at present rates from $8,000,000 to $8,500,000, and proportionately
rgreater as the actual output is to the approximate data obtained, of crucible
«teel only.

In the tabulated list of steel works and rolling mills producing steel there are
-several whose statistics of hands employed, wages, area, value of plant, etc., are
included in the data of the iron rolling mills, and should not be here repeated.
"There are in the exclusively steel producing works now at Pittsburgh, whose
statistics are not included in those of the iron mills, an average of 4,500 hands
employed, whose wages will average from $3,500,000 to $4,000,000 a year. The
:area of ground covered by these strictly steel works is about 65 acres, and the
•value of the plants, viz.; ground, building and machinery, is estimated at between
$6,000,000 and $7,000,000.

It is difficult to compress into the few pages that can be spared in this condensed
sketch of AUeglieny county's hundred years the full history of its experiments in
-steel making. Of the triumphs in crucible steel enough has been stated, briefly as
•it has been done, to inform the reader of its growth and its present status.

It has not, however, in crucible steels alone that great strides have been made
in the manufacture of steel in Allegheny county. In Bessemer steel great progress
has been made, and a large output reached. There are now in Pittsburgh the fol-
lowing establishments having Bessemer steel works erected in the order of their
naming : —

Edgar Thomson Steel Works, first blow 1875 ; Carnegie, Phipps & Co., first
blow 1881 ; Pittsburgh Steel Casting Co., first blow 1881; Oliver Bros. & Phillips,
<first blow 1884: Jones & Laughlins, 1886; Shoenberger & Co., 1886. The entire
product at the present time is about 400,000 tons.

The growth and the present bulk of the steel product of Pittsburgh seems al-
oiost incredible when we recall how but a few years since the steel of the Pitts-
t)urgh mills was struggling for a recognition even among the mechanics of the
-city. Sufficient has herein been written to enable a satisfactory idea of the pro-
gress to be had, and an opinion to be formed as to Pittsburgh's greatness in the fu-
ture as a steel producing center. Its present value in all its departments of steel



manufacture is from $22,000,000 to $25,000,000, and might possibly sum up yet
more if full statistics could be had.

As mentioned in the pages of the general history of the county, the first step
in the direction of making the famous* iron manufacturing center it is, was the
building of the blast furnace of 1792. It seems singular that over sixty years
should have elapsed before another blast furnace was erected in the county ; since

Blast Furnaces

have become a prominent feature in the progress in iron making in Allegheny
county. The development of the Connellsville coke region, elsewhere exhibited,
has had much to do with this, while in reaction the growth of the blast furnace
industry has stimulated the making of coke. This is illustrative of how compre-
hensive accumulations of resources at any point creates aggregations of power, and
forcibly presents the position before taken, that in eighty years Pittsburgh has
developed so powerful and varied manufacturing powers as to render her impreg-
nable as a controller of the market, even if at a future day some other location
with as great manufacturing resource should be found. From the very aggregation
of facilities and resources Pittsburgh has acquired her magnetic force will increase,
while another location of similar natural force, if any there be, must be long years
accumulating Pittsburgh's present facilities, during which it must be compounding
upon its powers.

There are now at Pittsburgh the following blast furnaces :



Owned by.



Graff, Bennett & Co.,


Eliza No. 1,

Laughlins & Co.,


Eliza No. 2,

Laughlins & Co.,



National Tube Co.,


Shoenberger, No. 1,

Shoenberger, Speer & Co.,


Shoenbei'ger, No. 2,

Shoenberger, Speer & Co.,


Isabella No. 1,

Isabella Furnace Co.,


Isabella No. 2,

Isabella Furnace Co.,



Moorhead, McCleane Co.,


Lucy No. 1,

Carnegie, Phipps & Co., Ltd,


Lucy No. 2,

Carnegie, Phipps & Co., Ltd,



Carnegie Bros. & Co., Ltd,



« u u



« « u



il ii ii



(i Ii u



Pittsburgh Furnace Co.,



Carnegie Bros. & Co., Ltd,


Eliza No. 3,

Laughlins & Co.,



Carnegie Bros. & Co., Ltd,



Net tons.























































From this it will be noted that where in 1859-61 the capacity for pig iron pro-
<I action at Pittsburgh was 75,000 tons, it had increased in 1886 to 835,000 tons, or
over one thousand per cent. Of that, in the four years from 1861 to 1865, the in-
crease was about 65 per cent. In the seven years from 1865 to 1872 there was an
increase in seven years on the capacity of 1865 of about 214 per cent., and on the
capacity of 1871 of 350 per cent. In the seven years from 1872 to 1879 the in-
crease on the capacity of 1872 was about 60 per cent., and on that of 1861 of 600
per cent. In the seven years from 1879 to 1886 the increase on the capacity was
about 40 per cent., and on that of 1861 over 1,000 per cent. In these increases in
capacity in septuple periods it should not be overlooked that the percentages are
calculated at each recurrence on immensely increased multiplicands indicating
great activity when such large percentages are continued on continuously increas-
ing capacities.

There are also, having offices at Pittsburgh but the furnaces in the vicinage,
the following additional furnaces, which are virtually a portion of the blast fur-
nace business of the city :

Built. Name. Owned by Height. Bosh. Net tons.

-1 0^70 n\ ^ 4-i. f Charlotte Furnace Co., Limited, ") nr- -,/>i oo nr>n

1872. Charlotte, | Office, Lewis Block. | ^^ ^^^ ^2,000

1876. Oliphant, Fayette Coke and Furnace Co., 50 9,000

1876. Lemont, E. Hogsett & Co., 65 ...... 14,000

1880. Dunbar, No. 1, "» -p. ^ -n, ^ 77 \ .^ ^^^

1880. Dunbar,No.2;|^^^°^^^'^^^"^^^^«°^P^^^' 78 | 52,000

These add a further capacity of 97,000 tons, making the total capacity of what
may be classed as Pittsburgh's out-put of pig iron — 922,000 tons.

Less than fifty years ago the American blast furnace making from six to ten
tons a day was doing good work. What a contrast between that and 303 tons a
day as some of the furnaces at Pittsburgh have done.

There is a branch of the steel mannfacture, and to a certain extent connected
with both the blast furnace and foundry business, that although of later origin
than other classes of industries, find its proper mention at this point ; the more
especially that from the casting of a solid steel cannon by one of the .establish-
ments, it may possibly become a factor in inducing the location of a governmental
cannon foundry in Allegheny county.

The cannon alluded to in the previous paragraph was a

Steel Casting.

The making of steel castings from crucible steel at Pittsburgh was established
in 1871, by the Pittsburgh Steel Casting Co., under which title the works stiU
continue. The establishment furnished a part of the work for the celebrated
Davis Island Dam, and at their own cost cast and finished a steel cannon for the
purpose of convincing the government that the steel manufacturers of Pittsburgh
have the ability to compete with European makers of heavy cast steel guns. This
was the first attempt to make a high power rifled steel gun, although some small


steel guns had been made some twenty years since by Singer, Nimick & Co. High
power means the force to drive the misile 2,000 feet per second. In the making
of this cannon 17,000 pounds of Bessemer metal was used, and when rough turned
and bored, weighed 10,600 pounds. The cannon was sent to Washington, D. C, to
be rifled and fitted with a breech-loading apparatus, all of which could be done at
Pittsburgh as well as it is done at Krupp's celebrated cannon works in Germany.
In a communication on this subject to the Ordnance Commission, this firm says:

"Let the government offer three prizes, large enough to enlist the confidence of
manufacturers, to be given to those who succeed in making the best 6-inch cast
steel guns, this size being within the limits of present capacity of nearly all our
steel plants. Three prizes also for 12-inch guns, to be given to the successful com-
petitors for the first prize. This plan would save millions of dollars to the govern-
ment and give the best attainable results Let the guns be made according to the
method deemed best by the manufacturers, all the guns to be submitted to the
same destructive tests, and classed according to endurance, as 1, 2, 3. etc. There
should be no efibrt made to keep our mechanics within the circle of the experi-
ments of the English, German or French, but leave them free to act as they think
best ; and in five years' time the results obtained will show a progress in the man-
ufacture of heavy ordnance that would astonish the world."

On this point the firm of Mackintosh, Hemphill & Co., who also make castings
of steel, say in a communication to the same commission :

" We propose the manufacture of a cannon of large caliber and great weight
by the process of steel casting, by departing from the usual process of casting in a
sand mold, substituting a case of sheet iron roughly approximating the contour of
the gun, allowance being made for the finishing; trunnions being cast with the
gun. The steel ingot after becoming cold will be taken to the lathe, rough bored
and turned, and then put in an annealing furnace and thoroughly annealed. By
thoroughly annealing such casting a remarkable change is effected in the structure
of the material ; what was a coarse, open grain becomes a fine, silky one, equal to
good hammered steel, and its toughness will be vastly increased. By this mode of
manufacture the cost of a large gun will be reduced very much below that of a
coiled or forged gun, and we claim it will be fully equal in strength and soundness."

The genealogy of this latter firm is more properly given in the historic resume
of the foundries of Allegheny county. To a better understanding of the general
reader of the ability of the steel works of Allegheny county in its centennial
year, and as the best expression that can be made as to the capabilities of its steel
mills, the following opinions of some of its most prominent manufacturers are
quoted, being extracts from letters to the Ordnance Commission :

Singer, Nimick & Co. say :

" We can roll a plate of steel 78 inches wide, 6 inches thick and 12 feet long.
The daily capacity of this train of rolls, 24 hours, on plates that size, would be

Online LibraryGeorge H. (George Henry) ThurstonAllegheny county's hundred years → online text (page 21 of 43)