Interior of a Bessemer mill, Pennsylvania Steel Works, Steelton PA., 1883.
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Interior of Bessemer Mill, Pennsylvania Steel Works, Steelton Pa.

Credit: From Egle, William H.,History of the Counties of Dauphin and Lebanon. Phila.: Everts and Peck, 1883. Image courtesy of Accessible Archives

In the 1850s British inventor Henry Bessemer discovered how to make steel by blowing air through molten pig to eliminate the impurities. Adopted and improved in Pennsylvania, the Bessemer process gave rise to the modern steel industry. Opened in 1866, Steelton was the first mill in the United States dedicated exclusively to making steel. In its heyday, Steelton, near Harrisburg, was home to more than 16,000 residents from 33 different ethnic groups.

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