As I mentioned before, the glow from the furnaces in Youngstown could be seen at night in Akron, around fifty miles away. Perhaps more than anything that fact sums up the giant crucible that was one of the greatest industrial powerhouses in America for one hundred years. And it’s all gone now, except for a few buildings from one of the largest, Republic Steel. It then became LTV, and even though it was founded in Youngstown, it no longer had a presence here as the third largest steel corporation in the world. It then merged one or two more times–it’s confusing–and it’s today part of an Indian steel company. On top of it, there’s an unrelated company today based in Canton, Ohio with the same name. Whew!
There were other steel companies in Youngstown, of course, but the historic photographs I could find, as well as extant buildings, are of Republic Steel. It’s actually totally mind-boggling how far the mills all stretched along the Mahoning River–it must have been at least ten miles. Imagine when they were all operating at full capacity, especially during World War II. The Axis didn’t stand a chance.
We even have some color photographs, which are a little hard to make out, but it looks like there is some molten steel about ready to be poured out fresh from the blast furnace.
The man below might have been working nearby.
Below, an open hearth furnace was the most common, and dirtiest method of producing steel for much of the history of the industry.
Molten iron below is being poured into the furnace; combined with a little bit of carbon and aided with limestone, it will form steel.
I can’t even imagine how dangerous this job must have been.
Slag is the run-off of the excess carbon, impurities and the limestone that is skimmed off the top; if you’ve seen pictures before of the black gunk floating on the surface, that’s slag.
Molten steel is loaded into these buckets for transport to the blooming and rolling mills elsewhere on the grounds.
And with the exception of some of the Republic Steel buildings, it’s almost all completely gone today. There is one of those bucket cars sitting over there on the left.
When the mills closed, the interiors were all sold off for scrap.
I took these photos near the Center Street Bridge, where strikers clashed with vigilantes one hundred years ago, and then turned and rioted through East Youngstown.
Now the memory of those mill workers is fading.
Various businesses have set up shop in the old mill buildings.
What has happened to the descendants of these men who once worked in the mills? Have they moved on to big cities, gone on to lucrative jobs in the “New Economy?” Or do they still live around here, fallen victim to the despair and rampant opiate abuse that is now so common in former industrial centers such as Youngstown? Far too few people in America seem to care.