Industrial America from the American Steel Industry to the Early 1970's
The steel industry has been profoundly important to the development of
USA by its value of output, input to the American manufacturing
industries and in terms of the extent of its employment in the past.
It’s been important because of its political clout of its corporations
and finally it’s been important for strategic reasons.
Background to the American Steel Industry
The industry dates from mid 19th century when it grew out of the iron
industry. There was huge demand for steel following the end of the
Civil War and the building of the great trans-continental railway. The
industry centred in Pittsburgh where the classic locational
determinants of the steel industry were operative in the late 19th
century. Rich deposits of iron-ore, juxtaposed to metallurgical coking
coal, limestone as a flux for smelting, plentiful supply of water,
plentiful migrant and immigrant labour, proximity to the markets of
the American Manufacturing Belt, ease of transport to those markets
and finally entrepreneurial ability and capital for e.g. Carnegie. At
the end of the 19th century, many of the American manufacturing of
steel was produced by small firms of a total output of 10million tons.
The US Steel Industry 1900-1940
Output increased significantly during this time period from 10million
tons to approximately 70million tons. By the early 1920s, the US
produced 3/5 of global output. Production was reduced in the Great
Depression before recovering in the later 1930s. In the early part of
the 20th century, the steel industry experienced some important
Raw Materials: Technological advances in the production of coke
allowed poorer quality coals to be used thus reducing to some extent
the strong locational pull of the Connellsville coking coals of the
Appalachians. Appalachian deposits of iron ore become very much
depleted and development of ore deposits to the West of Lake Superior
was accelerated. The Mesabi Range ores has been worked by Rockefeller
since 1892. Open-cast production kept costs low, as did the great and
advances in ore-carriers which transported the ores east wards through
the Great Lakes. Technological advance allowed lower grade taconite
ores to be beneficiated and so enabled them to bear the transport
costs to the steel mills further east.
Demand for Steel: This continued to rise in aggregate throughout much
of the first half of the 20th century. The nature of the demand
altered however. Much less steel was now needed for rails, but
structural steel became increasingly important as did rods, wire,
tubes and pipes; steel was needed for tinplate and also very
significant amounts were demanded by the transport industries.
Organisation of the industry: At the turn of the century, there was...