Sunday, May 10, 2020

The Sweat And Spirit of Free Men

Weirton Steel got it's start in 1905. Ernest Wier, with an 8th grade education, started with a tin mill. By the 1920s, his company was producing steel in West Virginia. They expanded, modernized, and in the 1960s had one of the most modern steel operations in the world. 14,000 people worked in the mill at the height of operations.

I found the history of this company and videos of several stages in it's life. First up, and important to the overall theme I'm developing, is a video of WWII operations, making steel artillery projectiles designed to be filled with high explosives. Think about what this took. How much equipment and knowledge it took to set up this production this fast, this efficient, and this accurate. And wonder who would do it for us now if we needed it.

Next up, Weirton's modernization in the 1960s to create a high speed steel process capable of using raw materials and recycled steel to make new casts.

Now, the workers. They never had a strike. In fact, when a crisis happened in the 1980s, they took major pay cuts, banded together, and bought the plant. It was employee owned for several years until they offered stock to gain capital for improvements.

It wasn't enough. In spite of legal protections against "dumping", the sale of steel from overseas below the cost of manufacture, this practice was common as foreign companies deliberately drove U.S. steel manufacturing into bankruptcy. 41 of 43 steel manufacturers closed. Weirton was one of the last. It because a ghost, without the people and the work, it sat empty. A place for birds and urban explorers.

And finally, it was reduced to scrap.

One of the core strengths of this country was it's manufacturing. We built things. Beyond the loss of jobs and identity, the loss to the country is irreplaceable.


Tim Wolter said...

There's a line from the movie October Sky.

"When coal fails, steel fails. And when steel fails this country fails"

True in the 1950's in which the movie was set. Less true in more recent times. Maybe true again in the future.

T. Wolter

ASM826 said...


Possibly true all along, it just takes longer for the final collapse to become evident.

waepnedmann said...

Thank you.
We must not forget that we did these things and can and should do them again if we are to continue our place in the world and provide the largess that the new generations take for granted.

Old NFO said...

Thank you for this. It's a sad reminder of what has happened and continues to happen, not just steel, but also weaving/fabric/clothing plants... We NEED to bring those capabilities back here, not in the least, pharmaceuticals...

libertyman said...

Have a look at how the Nucor steel company has changed how and where steel is made in this country. They were the pioneers in mini mills and recycling and now they span the whole process.

selsey.steve said...

WWII was won because the USA could and did out-produce any and all other countries. It could produce ships, planes, tanks, shells and bullets at a rate which could not be beaten. The rise of the USA after the war was carried on the wave of sheer do-it-ability generated by the Allied victory.
Profiteering and the subsequent out-sourcing of jobs, combined with the rise of militant Unions, the creeping and insidious effects of ridiculous Health and Safety regulations and the Socialist-based generated 'disgust' for REAL blue-collar workers, the ones they said they were supporting, served to destroy the USA's once-great manufacturing base. It is despairingly obvious that the USA can no longer match the effort with which they met the challenges of WWII.
The countries to which the American jobs were exported can and will achieve that level. And those countries, China most especially, are now the enemies of the USA.
America has armed its own demise. Unless, that is, this latest set-back, this China-sourced virus, can provide sufficient impetus for the USA to reclaim its predominant position as the manufacturing giant of the world.
Having watched with ever growing despair at the farcical political shenanigans going on on Washington DC I doubt that those supposedly in power in the USA will grasp the opportunity now presented to them to reclaim their role as Leaders of the Western World.
I speak as an Englishman, living now in England after having worked for 28 years in China.

Richard said...

I am ready for show trials of corporate globalists. To encourage the others, of course.

Murphy's Law said...

I used to fly over the Weirton site a fair bit back when I was in WV. Very sad to look down on.