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.