Republic Steel Corp. Sign Shop

Warren, O. - In the days before vinyl graphics and digital printers, sign makers used a brush, One Shot sign paint, and a steady hand. Republic Steel had a sign shop in their Warren works that hand lettered safety signs, trucks and locomotives among other things. Their work could be seen at the Warren plant, as well as the Youngstown mills, Niles works and Newton Falls plant. The photo below was taken by Rick Rowlands of Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation during an auction of former Republic/WCI/RG Steel equipment as the new owner was preparing to scrap the mill. I wish that sign shop sign could have been preserved damn it, it is a testament to the dying art form of hand lettered signs. And basic steelmaking. 

By night I am a guerrilla historian, but day I am a mild mannered project manager for a commercial sign company. I enjoy the work, it pays the bills and lets me travel, but the projects that really excite me are the ones that involve a real live sign painter. It is truly an art form that is dying before my eyes. These people (wall dogs and letterheads they call themselves) are incredibly difficult to find. I am up to the challenge of finding a painter when a customer requests it, I feel like I am doing something to preserve the craft. Some of the work can be emulated with a vinyl plotter and a decent graphic designer but it is just not the same. 

Case in point: the hard hats below. I had been looking for the man that lettered the 35 or 40 years of service anniversary hard hats that were given to Republic Steel employees in the Youngstown district.

Thanks to this website, and the power of the internet, I was able to locate the man who is not only still alive, but still practicing his craft!! I was excited just to talk to him for a moment, but when he agreed to letter a hard hat for me like the ones he used to do down the mill I was ecstatic. This is now one of my prize possessions, one that I will keep for the rest of my life. Hand lettered and signed by the man himself, Jack Tolson. Below are photos of my new hat next to the one he wore in the mill for years. 

Since my time working in the steel industry consisted of a half a shift cutting tube rounds down the former Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill works, I didn't think it would be right to ask him to put 30 years of service on the hat. Instead, he included The Rust Jungle logo, which is a tribute to the YST hook and bucket logo. He was also kind enough to put on some origioanl Republic Steel, WCI Steel, and RG Steel stickers on it that he still had from his time down there. Jack worked there that long, starting in the 50's in the galvanized department. He's a great guy with great stories to tell. I must have been at his house for an hour and a half shooting the shit with him.

"Sign Painter - Paint Shop"

When I heard they were tearing down the blast furnace, I frantically starting calling the demo company in an effort to purchase the remaining signage in the mill. I had seen the hand painted signs on the exterior, assumed the same guy that lettered the hats painted them, and was on a mission to see them preserved. 

As I was offering cash, the contractor allowed me access to the entire blast fce. side of the mill. My requests since that day requesting a quote to purchase the signs have gone unanswered. I am only looking to buy a small amount of scrap metal, not tons, so the sons of bitches don't have time to reply. To hell with em. 

I planned on donating most of the signs to the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation to be displayed, but to no avail. I did photograph them, and they can't sell that to the Chinese as scrap. See below for some examples of Jack's handiwork. 

 

 

"DANGER - DO NOT STAND IN FRONT OF CANNON" This safety sign was referencing an air cannon that would keep migratory birds out of some holding pond. It also did a great job of keeping residents of Warren awake. It was some EPA regulation. The pond is gone, the cannon is gone, the BOF side of the mill is gone, but this sign Jack painted remians. 

Copyright Paul Grilli - The Rust Jungle 2017

"TRUCKS OVER 5 TON - STOP - STAY ON R.R. TRACK" -  This sign was just before the hot metal bridge that ran over Main Ave. that would take molten iron from the blast fce. side over to basic oxygen furnace to be converted to steel. The bridge is to the right, the cold blast furnace peeks up to the left. 

Copyright Paul Grilli - The Rust Jungle 2017

"MAHONING VALLEY DISTRICT - FIRE BRIGADE COMPETITION" - I found this years ago inside a boxcar across Pine Ave. from Republic. Apparently it referred to a competition between the fire departments in different Republic mills in the Steel Valley. 

Copyright Paul Grilli - The Rust Jungle 2017

Another example of Jack's work. 

Copyright Rick Rowlands

So that's it. Even if the demolition company wouldn't sell me the signs and is content to let them go to the scrap heap, I still have a piece of our history. 

Stop 5 Riot

Youngstown, O. - Today, 6/19/2017, marks the 80 year anniversary of the Stop 5 Riot at the gates of Republic Steel on Poland Avenue. This event is one that should never be forgotten. 

Below is an eyewitness account of the bloodshed that took place that day, which was called ladies day where the picket lines were manned by wives of the striking workers. There are other accounts out there, from the police and the chairman of the board of Repbulic at that time, but we should start here. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

The most important passage from this account, in my opinion, is this: "Soon thereafter, the sky was lit up with flares fired from the plant and was followed with a fusillade of machine gun fire from the overhead cranes in the old tube mill". Jesus Criminelli. 

The Vindicator reported that over 160,000 rounds of ammunition were purchased for the strike between Youngstown Sheet & Tube and Republic Steel. Let that sink in. 

The photos of National Guard machine gunners below were taken in Warren not long after the Stop 5 incident. 

 Machine gunners on hot metal bridge in Warren. Trumbull Cliffs furnace in background. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Machine gunners on hot metal bridge in Warren. Trumbull Cliffs furnace in background. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Machine gunners on Pine Avenue in Warren. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Machine gunners on Pine Avenue in Warren. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

The strikers were not innocent in all of this, at least some of them were waging warfare against the company. I'm not saying this should have given the company a license to kill, but they used it as justification. Photos of sabotage below.

 Derailed box cars on Pine Avenue in Warren. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Derailed box cars on Pine Avenue in Warren. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Pennsylvania Rail Road cars with hoppers opened up. Looks like they were hauling in limestone for the Blast Fce. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Pennsylvania Rail Road cars with hoppers opened up. Looks like they were hauling in limestone for the Blast Fce. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

There was so much tension at the Republic mills becuase they refused to close them, and still had employees working inside that didn't support the union. See below for telegraphs that were sent to holdouts in the Warren works.

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Segregated religious services were held for the holdouts in the mills, who were forced to live in the plants for fear of reprisal as they left the gates. 

 Employee housing near the stainless mill. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Employee housing near the stainless mill. Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Images below show how strong the tensions were between both sides. The holdouts in the mill hung an effigy of a CIO striker at the No. 1 hot strip mill, the strikers prepared a gate ramming car to breach the line.

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

All of this fighting and bloodshed was all for naught. The union still was unable to organize, and after the murders at Stop 5 the National Guard was deployed and put the strike down for good. The union may have gained some ground, but 80 years later these mills are either demolished, in the process of being demo'd, or sitting there rusting. The photo below was taken days after the killings in Youngstown. They repealed the beer ban that was in place during the strike, and it was back to business as usual. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

 Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Courtesy of Ohio Memory Connection. 

Republic Steel Corp. - Little Steel Strike

Warren, O. - As the Little Steel Strike heated up, many Republic Steel Corp. mills closed due to the pickets, but others remained operating with a skeleton crew of employees loyal to the company. The Warren works was one of these mills. The pickets were preventing food and supplies from being brought into the mills for the (scabs) men that stayed on, so the company improvised. 

Republic management initially used one biplane to drop supplies into the Niles mill. After a few failed attempts where the packages fell outside of the gates and were taken by pickets, they were eventually successful. Republic's president bought four more planes that day, and the fleet evenutally numbered 9 planes. A makeshift airfield was set up at the Warren works. 

It didn't take long for the strikers to realize the flights were effective. The planes launched from a secret airfield, and were reported to have altered their identification numbers. The strikers took matters into their own hands, and started hunting for the airfield and allegedly attempting to shoot down the planes as they flew into the mill. This was war, right in the middle of the Steel Valley. See the Vindicator headlines from 80 years ago today below. 

6/1/1937

6/2/1937 -  This plane was rumored to have been shot down.

5/31/1937

Even with the supposed anti-aircraft fire, the airdrops kept the mills running. The illustration on the envelope sent to the Trumbull Cliff Furnace (Republic Warren works) seems to indicate the S.W.O.C/C.I.O. was losing the battle, judging by the plane and the smoke still coming from the stacks. 

Press photos below, coutesy of the Ohio Memory Collection, that show the airfield at Warren and the urgency they unloaded the planes with. They say the men on the ground were under fire as well. 

The strike continued to rage on, and would evenutally escalate to more bloodshed and the loss of life on the steelworker's side at a Republic mill in Youngstown. More to come on that, don't change that dial.

Identification Badges - Copperweld Steel Co.

Warren, O. - I found my way into a Facebook group for Copperweld Steel retirees, where my grandpa worked for 33 years. He was hired in 1946, not long after he came home from fighting in Europe with a theater medal with five bronze campaign stars on it (fought in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland and two other major battles) and a beautiful Scottish war bride, who was a nurse in the British Army when they met. 

I posted a photo of his original ID badge in the group, and other people began to post their father's or grandfather's badges. Several of these guys worked at Copperweld also, they had followed their fathers into the mill much like my uncle did with my grandpa. There is some great history in the photos below. 

The first two digits on the badge represent the department. In my grandpa's case, 17 means the 35" mill department. The second series of digits is your hire number, meaning my gramps was the 4,610th person hired on.

Mr. Desantis also worked in the 35" mill complex. I am told he knew my grandpa well. He was hired much earlier, and actually rolled the first heat of steel in 1939. He and a man named Vic Masio were the only local boys, the rest of the crew was from Canton or Massilon, and were brought down to start up the mill. 

Mr. Ware

Mr. Hodgkiss

Mr. Miller

Sculpture

Industrial themed sculptures in the Steel Valley.

I really wish I had a photo of the sculpture of the two guys in hardhats carrying a length of pipe that stood in front of what is now the LB Foster plant on Salt Springs in Mineral Ridge. It is gone now, why they tore it out is beyond me. The sculpture used to scare the hell out of me as a kid as we drove from Youngstown to my grandparents in Warren. I remember thinking they were going to throw the pipe into the car as we drove by. We would drive past there to Main Avenue, under the three ancient stone railroad trestles (gotta beep under each one!) and then ride up Main between the hot and cold ends of the former Republic Steel Warren Works, which was running at that time. The sights/sounds/smells you would experience on that ride were fascinating for a little kid. To an adult too if were being honest. 

 

 

Warren, O. - Steelworker sculpted from steel in front of the United Steel Workers Local 1375 union hall. I don't know much about this one except it stands in front of the local that represented the former Republic Steel Warren Works. The sculpture has a a strange texture to it, almost like it is rusting away.

Detail of the sculpture's feet. He is standing on scattered expanded metal, which is all that remains of portions of the mill where the men who were represented by this local used to work.

Niles, O. - "STEELWORKER"

The 20' sculpture of a steelworker that stands in front of Niles Iron and Metal, which is a scrapyard. This piece was crafted by Sidney Rackoff.

Youngstown, O. "THE STEEL MAKERS" 

This sculpture of two steelworkers stands in front of the Youngstown Historical Center of Labor and Industry. The men stand in front of what I am told is an actual portion of an Open Hearth furnace from US Steel's Ohio Works. The men depicted were part of the USWA Local 1462, which may have been a Youngstown Sheet and Tube local, but I have not found confirmation on that. Inscription text below.

*UPDATE* Per Rick Rowlands, of www.todengine.org, "The sculpture in front of the YHCIL is made of components from Brier Hill's open hearth and the two workers are actual YS&T steelworkers. An interesting note. Originally both had bronzed hard hats. A few years ago someone pried one of the bronze hardhats off, so I grabbed a real hardhat out of my collection and glued it on the guy's head."

THE STEEL MAKERS (1980)
By George Segal (1924 - 2000)
By United Steelworkers of America, District 1
Model Steelworkers:
Peter Kolby, Jr. (right) - Wayman Paramore (left)
Members of Local 1462

Youngstown, O. - A relief detailing an industrial scene on the wall of Saint Anthony's Church, in Brier Hill. Saint Joe is helping a steelworker sample hot metal, to the left of a detail of a Blast Furnace and what looks like Open Hearths. This church, which still has a congregation of mostly Italians, was located right up the hill from the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Brier Hill works. 

Youngstown, O. - The Peanut Bridge, as it is locally known. They say the Ironworkers that built this bridge welded a steel sculpture of Mr. Peanut up on the struts. Took this some years ago when the bridge was green and rusty. They have since refinished the bridge, and painted Mr. Peanut in his familiar yellow and black. 

*Updated 12/13/2016*

Youngstown, O. - Almost forgot this guy, out front of Youngstown Bolt. I'm sure it is a sculpture of a dapper screw, but it looks like a piece of pizza to me. Maybe that's my Youngstown talking. This place had an awesome shop dog. I would go there and pick up materials when I was a helper/gopher for a mechanical contractor in Youngstown, and the dog would just be lounging by the counter. I think all shops like this should have a chill dog that lays around in the shop all day.

*Updated 3/11/2017*

New Castle, PA - Sculpture of a ladle pouring metal in front of the former Pennsylvania Engineering Corporation (PECor) on Moravia Street in south New Castle. I took this photo a decade ago. The sculpture is gone, the rollers behind it are gone, the entire plant is gone.  This company built hot metal carrying equipment: ladles, hot metal rail cars, the Bessemer converter that still stands at Station Square in Pittsburgh. 

Industrial Recreation

Steel Valley, O. - Let's talk baseball. At one point, company sanctioned or sponsored sports teams were the norm in the Valley.

I started looking into this because my mom knew a friend of mine's mother from playing with her for General Electric's softball team. She played for a team made up of employee's from GE's Youngstown Lamp plant and Austintown Coil. Not sure if the Warren plants, where she worked originally, had their own teams or what.

Warren, O. - I thought my mom's mom was in a Copperweld Steel Co. ladies bowling league for some reason but apparently I was wrong. What I did find out was that my grandpa played for Copperweld's ball club. The 35" mill kittyballers!!! Man I wish I had that shirt. My gramps is second from the right, squatting down. See below. Thanks to Aunt Denise for this photo.

Youngstown, O. - Carnegie-Illinois Steel Co's ball team. This photo is from the 1920s. Carnegie controlled the Ohio Works, the Upper Union Mills (Crescent St area) and the Lower Union Mills (near West Ave on the north side of the river). I wonder if each mill fielded it's own team, or if they all played as the Youngstown district. The "Lower Union Mills" jerseys throw me off. The block C on their hats reminds me of the Indians logo, which reminds me of the phrase "We're underway, at the corner of Carnegie and Ontario!" - Tom Hamilton, best announcer in baseball. Image below courtesy of the Ohio History Collection.

Youngstown, O. - Found this in a General Fireproofing company bulletin I acquired. Looks like they had a pretty mean softball team. Lots of familiar last names in this one. Maloney's, Palermo's, Tyndall's, Russo's, Zarlenga's. I posted something on FB about GF, and people were telling me they had a beautiful ball field down off Logan Avenue. Image below.

Youngstown, O. - Labor Day, 1939. Two years after the deadly Stop 5 riot during the Little Steel Strike. The boys from the Youngstown Sheet and Tube ball club posing for a photo at Idora Park. Image below courtesy of the Ohio History Collection.

Struthers, O. - An iconic image of a Youngstown Sheet and Tube ballgame at Campbell Park dated 1926. The blast furnaces at the Campbell works, and all of their beautiful soot, across Poland Avenue in the background. Image below courtesy of the Ohio History Collection.

YST Ball Game Campbell Park 1926.jpg

Republic Steel Warren Works - Flyover

Warren, O. 

A sample of the drone footage I commissioned upon hearing of the approved demolition permit for the last blast furnace in the valley. 

I want people to see what an integrated steel mill looked like before they are all scrapped. Unfortunately the basic oxygen furnace side of the mill (where they turned the iron into steel, and then processed it) was already in a scrap heap somewhere at this time. If you look in the background, you see the coke plant, where coal was (and still is) baked into coke. At one time, both plants were part of Republic Steel. They brought raw materials (coal, iron ore, limestone) in one end, and processed steel came out the other. 

Every time I watch this video I think of the "Little Steel Strike" of 1937, when Republic had thousands of scabs that stayed in the mill, who had no food and basic essentials. The decision was made to airdrop supplies to them. They say the strikers tried to shoot down the planes that landed next to the rail yard in this very mill. I don't think anything was ever proven though. Here is an interesting quote from a pilot during the strike, and a link to the Smithsonian article below.

"Pilot Frank Groat, an electrician and part-time pilot hired by Republic, remembered volleys of gunfire as he eased his Waco toward the airstrip. “Every now and then you could hear the bullets whizzing by you as you flew into the mill,” he recalled from his home in Florida. “We never shut off the engines when we came in. We landed, men came out to unload the planes, and we took off. In Niles they used a big net to catch the supplies when we flew over. On those flights we took a second man along, a ‘bomber,’ we called him. He threw the supplies out through the door.”


 http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/oldies-amp-oddities-the-little-steel-strike-airlift-41977502/?no-ist=&page=1

Ghost Signs

Steel Valley, O. - I was in Youngstown a couple weekends back, and went ghost sign hunting. Found some gems I want people to see so here you go.

 

Youngstown, O. - The William B. Pollock Company.

Never thought I would find something this historically significant. I came across this on accident, was down the bottom of Himrod Avenue looking for this company, but was looking at the wrong building. Gave up and went next door to photgraph the old 10/90 warehouse (a dress factory converted to a semi legal skate park in the 90s), looked up and saw something painted on the wall of the building across the street. Sure and begorrah it was the logo for the William B. Pollock Co. You can barely make out the logo on the wall, but check out the Pollock ad below and compare the two. Founded in 1863, this company built America. They engineered and built blast furnaces and hot metal cars. This plant right at the end of Federal St. had a hand in revolutionizing the steel industry. They were responsible for engineering and building the Trumbull Cliffs furnace, which I believe at that time was the largest blast furnace in the world. This furnace was owned by Republic Steel, WCI Steel, Severstal and RG Steel. She is the last blast furnace in the Steel Valley, and is in the midst of demolition. 

Girard, O. - Youngstown Sheet and Tube Brier Hill Works. 

This is a two for one bonus. Behind the fading "Syro Steel Brier Hill Div" ghost sign, you can see the yellow and black sign they painted over peeking through. The original sign proudly read "Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company". I know this because there was an identical Sheet and Tube sign on the side of the Struthers works that faced the river/Wilson Ave. That building is gone, but I photographed it 15 years ago or so, see bottom photo (old photo, excuse poor quality). If you zoom in on the current photo, you will see the "Syro Steel Entrance" sign on the sloped building that is dwarfed by that roof vent that is sitting on the ground. This was an underground entrance into the mill, and man I want to go down there.  

Niles, O. - Republic Steel 

I took this photo just over 10 years ago. I went back recently to photograph it again with a better camera, only to find they painted it over. Glad I got this when I did.

Youngstown, O. - The Snyder-Bentley Co.

I don't know much about this company, except they are located across the street from what was Carnegie Steel's Upper Union Mills. The were an industrial distributor of some sort formed in the 20's, and they have a cool looking sign.

Youngstown, O.- Brier Hill Slag Co.

This isn't a ghost sign in the traditional sense I suppose, but it's gone so it applies to me. Damn I wish I would have preserved this thing. This sat in front of what was Sheet and Tube Brier Hill works. I took this as they were tearing down the YST office building in the background. I think Youngstown Steel Heritage ( http://www.todengine.org/ ) has the engraved stone sign that was at the top of the building that read "Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company".

Warren, O. - Copperweld Steel Co. 

This isn't a ghost sign either, but my grandpa worked here 33 years so you're going to have to deal with looking at it. Did you know during WWII Copperweld rolled and stretched uranium for the war effort? My grandpa was away fighting ze Germans, but when he came home he worked a rolling mill out there. Wonder if it was one that rolled the radioactive material for the Manhattan Project.

Republic Steel Warren Works

Warren, O. - I spent Labor Day in a freshly shuttered steel mill where 1,400 people labored until a month ago.

tumblr_m9sf6o7si01qfcoqdo1_1280.jpg
tumblr_m9sf6o7si01qfcoqdo2_1280.jpg