Stories from PA History
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Making Steel
For just over 100 years, Pennsylvania was truly "the steel capital of the world." Making steel was a great drama of wealth and poverty, of soaring skyscrapers and gritty mill towns, of the clash between the imperatives of profit and human dignity. Pennsylvania's steel built the Brooklyn Bridge, the George Washington Bridge, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State building.

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Overview: "Making Steel"
Chapter 1: Masters and Men
Chapter 2: Steel City and Mill Towns
Chapter 3: Building a Union
Chapter 4: Waves of Technology

Historical Markers In the Story
marker icon 1909 McKees Rocks Strike (Allegheny) marker icon Eugene Gifford Grace (Northampton)
marker icon Fannie Sellins (Westmoreland) marker icon Founding Convention of the AFL (Allegheny)
marker icon Founding Convention of the CIO (Allegheny) marker icon Founding of Ironworkers Union (Allegheny)
marker icon Frances Perkins (Allegheny) marker icon Gifford Pinchot [Great Depression] (Pike)
marker icon Homestead Strike (Allegheny) marker icon Mary Harris "Mother Jones" [Steel] (Allegheny)
marker icon Morewood Massacre (Westmoreland) marker icon NLRB v. Jones and Laughlin Supreme Court Ruling (Beaver)
marker icon The Great Steel Strike of 1919 (Allegheny) marker icon United Steelworkers of America (Allegheny)

Lesson Plans for this Story
Take your students back in history with these discussions and activities for the classroom

Story Bibliography

Original Documents
icon full text John Fitch, On the Repression of Steel Workers in Western Pennsylvania, 1910.
icon full text Mary Harris Jones, "The Steel Strike of 1919," The Autobiography of Mother Jones, 1925.
icon full text Narrative of an unnamed rank and file union leader, 1940.
icon full text Employment in the Steel Industry, by country, 1980-2003.
icon full text Ranking of Major Steel Producing Countries, 2010.

1848 Andrew Carnegie and family emigrate to US, settle in Pittsburgh
1860 Lehigh Valley Railroad founds Bethlehem Iron; managers hire John Fritz from Cambria
1865 Andrew Carnegie "retires" from Pennsylvania Railroad and takes up career as investor and capitalist
1875 Carnegie opens Edgar Thomson steel rail mill, in Braddock, Pennsylvania
1876 Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers founded
1877 Railroad strike in Pittsburgh
1883 Carnegie buys rival Homestead Steel Works (built 1881)
1886 Founding of American Federation of Labor led by Samuel Gompers
1891 Carnegie buys rival Duquesne Steel Works (built 1886)
1892 Homestead strike at Carnegie
1899 Carnegie reorganizes his several steel companies to form Carnegie Steel; annual profit next year reaches $40 million
1901 Banker J.P. Morgan forms U.S. Steel Corporation from Carnegie holdings; strike in steel industry
1904 Charles Schwab merges Bethlehem with United States Shipbuilding Co. to form Bethlehem Steel Corp.
1917 Pittsburgh area supplies 80% of the munitions steel during World War I
1917 - 1918 U.S. in World War I; forms (temporary) War Labor Board
1919 Three-month nationwide steel strike; "red scare"; deaths of both Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick
1925 U.S.S. Lexington, America's first aircraft carrier, launched at Bethlehem's Fore River (Quincy, Mass.) shipyard
1929 Stock Market crashes; Great Depression begins
1931 Bethlehem Steel forms Fabricated Steel Construction division from McClintic-Marshall erecting company
1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt elected president
1933 President Roosevelt signs National Industrial Recovery Act, setting up industrial "codes" with labor-friendly section 7(a)
1933 Pennsylvania unemployment reaches 37%
1935 John L. Lewis forms Congress of Industrial Organizations
1935 National Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act) passes, giving workers the right to bargain collectively
1936 CIO forms Steel Workers Organizing Committee in Pittsburgh, headed by Philip Murray
1937 SWOC signs contract with Carnegie-Illinois division of U.S. Steel
1937 Memorial Day massacre in Chicago's Republic Steel plant during "Little Steel" strike
1937 Supreme Court upholds 1935 Wagner Act in NLRB v. Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp.
1941 U.S. enters World War II; U.S. government forces Bethlehem Steel to recognize SWOC union; at wartime peak Bethlehem employs 300,000
1942 SWOC becomes United Steelworkers of America; Philip Murray elected president
1945 World War II ends
1947 Congress passes Taft-Hartley Act restricting union activities
1950 Pittsburgh city population peaks at 677,000; Korean War begins
1952 President Truman intervenes in national steel strikes
1953 David J. McDonald becomes president of USWA
1955 Merger of the AFL and CIO
1959 540,000 steelworkers begin 116-day strike, longest in industry's history
1964 Bethlehem opens large Burns Harbor, Indiana, complex; installs first BOF furnaces at Lackawanna, NY.
1965 I.W. Abel elected president of USWA
1975 Bethlehem operates first "continuous caster" at Burns Harbor Mill
1976 Bethlehem Steel closes Fabricated Steel Construction division, owned since 1931
1982 Bethlehem Steel begins shutdown of Lackawanna Steel in Buffalo, New York
1986 U.S. Steel, having bought Marathon Oil in 1982, changes name to "USX Corporation"
1991 Walt Disney Co. replaces USX Corp. in Dow Jones Industrial Average
1992 Bethlehem Steel shuts down Cambria plant at Johnstown
1995 Bethlehem Steel begins shutdown of flagship steelmaking plant in Bethlehem
1997 Bethlehem Steel dropped from Dow Jones Industrial Average
2000 Bethlehem Steel dropped from S and P 500 Index of leading companies
2001 United States Steel reorganized as free-standing corporation, independent from Marathon Oil
2003 Bethlehem Steel ends corporate existence, assets purchased by International Steel Group
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