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Steel worker checking precision made hot rolled bars in a Warren plant
Steel worker in a Warren plant checking precision-made hot rolled bars Photo: courtesy CSC, Ltd.

The Rise and Fall of the Steel Industry in the Mahoning Valley

"Dumping" of cheap foreign steel into the United States during the 1990s and into the 2000s is having a direct impact on Mahoning Valley, which has four steel manufacturing companies: CSC Limited, WICK Steel Incorporated, the North Star Steel Tubular Division, and McDonald Steel Corporation.

Both a U.S. House of Representatives resolution and a bill that would limit foreign steel imports were passed by the House, but defeated by the U.S. Senate. In the fall of 1998, the House approved a non-binding resolution by a vote of 345 to 44, authored by U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. (D-OH), urging the Clinton Administration to impose a temporary ban on steel import from countries that are found to be in violation of anti-dumping laws. In March of 1999, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Bipartisan Steel Recovery Act (H.R. 975) by a vote of 259-141, to ensure that the volume of steel imported into the U.S. during any month does not exceed the volume of steel imports during the thirty-six month period preceding July 1997.

Mahoning Valley's history of steel production reaches back to the mid-1800s. Primarily a center of iron production after the Civil War, the valley began converting to steel manufacturing during the depression of the 1890s. The Ohio Steel Company was the first Mahoning Valley business to convert. It sold out to the National Steel Company in 1899, and converted the Brown-Bonnell iron plant into a steelworks with Bessemer converters. J.P. Morgan, head of one of the largest U.S. investment firms in the United States, purchased numerous companies, including the Carnegie Steel Company, which led to outside control of much of Youngstown's steel industry.

In 1900, local investors James A. Campbell and George D. Wick created the Youngstown Iron Sheet and Tube Company (eventually dropping the word "tube") to head off complete outside ownership of Youngstown plants. The company quickly grew into one of the largest concerns in Ohio, and the largest locally owned steel company in the United States. Steel mills were also important to the local economy because they support ancillary businesses, such as companies that provide limestone from nearby mines for iron smelting, or construct equipment for the mills, such as blast furnaces, steel ladles and slag cars. Youngstown was also headquarters for a number of companies that fabricated steel products.

The growth of the industry attracted foreign immigration, particular from Great Britain, Germany, and eastern and southern Europe. During World War II, the valley accounted for 10 percent of national steel production, some ten million tons per year.

Project documentation includes a partial text from the book, Mahoning Memories, press releases, other text and descriptive information about steel companies in Mahoning and their products.

Originally submitted by: James A. Traficant, Jr., Representative (17th District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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