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.

Memorial Day Massacre

Chicago, IL. - Today marks the 80th anniversary of the Memorial Day Massacre, the day that the Chicago Police Department killed 10 men attempting to picket the gates of Republic Steel's south Chicago plant. 

This was part of the Little Steel Strike, the effort of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee to organize the mills of Republic Steel, Youngstown Sheet and Tube and Inland Steel among others. Basically the major steel producers that were smaller than US Steel, who had recently signed a contract with the S.W.O.C.. Although this particular slaughter happened in Chicago, this same strike was effecting Youngstown, Warren, and Niles Ohio as well as other cities in the state. See the headline from the Youngstown Vindicator below, which was published on that same Memorial Day. I will talk more about the use of aircraft in the Youngstown area during this strike in a coming post, but you should know that this was war, on the ground, in the air, and also through the use of propaganda. 

5/30/1937

There were a total of 8 strikers permitted in front of Republic's main gate. On Memorial Day there was a rally near by the mill with hundreds of steel workers and others in attendance. A decision was made to march on the gates at Republic, and once they arrived all hell broke loose. 

There are some very different theories for why this slaughter took place. Some say there were communist agitators placed in these mills to incite the strike/violence, some say the companies and police were out to crush the strike with no concern for the spilled blood of a few steelworkers. I am reading the autobiography of the man who was the head of Republic at that time for perspective, but it seems very pro company. Almost biased hah. At the same time, so do the socialist websites that tell the story from the other side. I'm sure the truth is somewhere in the middle.

Chicago Tribune - 1937

Either way, this event happened. 10 men killed in the street. Kids were shot. Men were shot in the back. No cops were shot. Some policemen were injured, I'll give them that, but shit. Shoot to kill! This wasn't even 100 years ago! 

A picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll stop talking now. Scroll past the images for a two part newsreel from the time that shows some of the riot. Please watch the video. The actual start of the shooting is blatantly missing. They say Paramount Pictures had a cameraman there that filmed the police opening fire with no warning, but the video was suppressed because it was may have caused widespread rioting. Or support for the union. Who knows. 

Click the following links for Part 1 and Part 2 of the newsreel footage regarding the massacre. 

Automatic Sprinkler Co. of America

Youngstown, O. - The remains of the Automatic Sprinkler Co. of America. This firm was incorporated in 1919, and the headquarters was moved to Youngstown in 1936, which was the location of their main plant. Automatic was sold to Harry Figgie, Jr in 1963 and continued to manufacture fire suppression equipment in Youngstown up until 1967. There was an ongoing strike, and a decision was made by  Figgie to move the production out of state with no warning to the employees. According to the Vindicator photo below, they were informed by the newspaper's photographer that they were out of a job. This decision was touted in his biography as a shrewd business move, but I say it was a good reason to get punched in the mouth. He did go on to be successful, but so did Art Model. This was the beginning of major companies being sold off to out of town interests that had little to no concern for the workers in the Valley. 

1/16/1967

I don't know if the water was off or what, but the reason this place is in such bad shape is that it burned repeatedly in 2012. The sprinklers did't appear to do their job.

Sprinkler Head.

Sprinkler Head.

I was aware of this building for some years, but never made it over to shoot it before the fires. While looking at a Sanborn Fire Insurance map of the area, I noticed this factory and the fact that it was noted to have wood block floors (see below). That is what peaked my interest. Also of note is the fact that there are three houses left on Brittain Street, one of which is burned out.

Below are photos of the nearly 100 year old wood block floor. They are really bricks that are made from some type of treated lumber instead of clay. It looks like the floor buckled a bit during the fire here, but was surprisingly in tact other than that. Especially for the fact that the building that used to shelter it was long gone, and the floor was exposed to the elements. 

Found the names written below in the concrete that butted up against the block floor. 

Bubba

Bill

Larry

There was a vault onsite that had seen better days. Not sure what they stored in here, but I live in a 105 year old factory, and 3' from my front door is a similar vault marked Tools & Dies. I keep my rolling cooler in there. 

Exterior of Door

Inside Vault

Lock Exterior

Lock Interior

Below are images of the results of the fires/partial demolition. Think about the people that live in the house in the background. How would you like to wake up to this view every day?

Structural Issues - See Below.

Below are some detail shots that I thought were interesting, beginning with the oldest UL sticker I have ever seen in the wild.

Underwriters Laboratories 

Blinds

Hot seat

Hot seat

Made in China

Fish Eyes

Fish Eyes

End of Turn

Handwriting No. 1

Handwriting No. 2

All photos copyright Paul Grilli 2017

William Tod Co.

Youngstown, O. - The works of the William Tod Co., which became United Engineering & Foundry Co., and most recently Wean United. They manufactured steel mill equipment (see attached), including some of the worlds most powerful rolling mill engines, which at one time could be found throughout the world. Two examples that I know of still exist. One is rusting away on the grounds of Weirton Steel, and has been since they tore the blooming mill building down around it. I actually had the opportunity to photograph it before it was left outside to rust, I'll post those photos eventually. IN THE MEANTIME, if you want to see the only preserved and restored example of the engines that came out of this plant, check out todengine.org or go see it at the museum on Hubbard Rd.

This facility that helped build America's infrastructure was torn down a few years ago to make way for a brownfield. My buddy Trillions, aka Squirrley Dan, used to work here as part of the OWE program (or work release as I called it) at Chaney High School. They would let you out of school early to go work; it was some occupational program I guess. A company called OH&R, or something to that effect, used part of the buildings to fab or sort or store steel bar. Or something, this was a long time ago, pardon the foggy details. Anyhow, I used to go pick this kid up from work at the main gates at the end of Phleps and he would come out to the car completely covered in soot, grease and grime. Everybody else that would walk out looked relatively clean, so I ask was he running a tow motor like he told me he was or working in a damn coal mine? He tells me that he really spent most of his time sleeping or looking for places to sleep on top of the stacks of bar haha. 

I think these photos are ten years old, give or take. I didn't care to photograph it when it was coming down like every Tom Dick and Harry with a camera, I was pretty unhappy with the fact that they were demolishing it. I want to say the downtown resident crowd was pushing to replace our heritage with a dog park at that time. 

I am almost positive I took these the day we met Spaceman. Trillions and I walked from downtown to Himrod on the railroad tracks that follow the river, with a pack of smokes and what appears to be a plastic camera based on the quality of these images. We come across this older guy that had built a deck that cantilevered out over the Mahoning down under the Market Street bridge. This guy was cool as hell. A little out there, but cool. Introduced himself as Spaceman and goes on to tell us he built the deck by hand using material he scavenged. I thought he had a pretty nice set up. The city was kicking him out and knocking down the deck as they were getting ready to build the Chevy Center. I hope they end up doing something with this land and build that amphitheater. It's either that, or Spaceman and I are going down there and building a new deck. 

Youngstown Car Manufacturing Co.

Youngstown, O. - This is a company you don't hear much about. Youngstown Car Mfg Co. manufactured the carts shown in this advertisement. With the amount of money run of the mill industrial carts go for today you would be sitting on a fortune if you had one of these to sell. I'd buy it. 

Below is a photo of their plant on Wilson Avenue, with Republic Steel's number 2, 3, and 4 blast furnaces in the background. This was part of the William Pollock Co. collection on Ohio Memory, so I assume they built the furnaces. The Youngstown Car Manufacturing Co. plant still stands today, and is now used by Industrial Mill Maintenance. 

I was working for an HVAC company in the early 2000s, and was on the roof of the church that sits across the street. I forget the name of the church but it was between Gladstone and Jackson Street . The maintenance man was telling me he went to school there as a kid, and remembered not being able to see across to Poland Ave. because of all the smoke from Republic. I remember trying to imagine what that scene looked like. Imagine no more, this would have been the exact same view I saw 80 years later when the furnaces were gone. 

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

Youngstown, O. - *Edit* Although the photo was marked "Hot saws in YS&T blooming mill", I am told by multiple former employees of Sheet & Tube as well as the Director of the Youngstown Steel Heritage Foundation that this was the billet mill at the Campbell works. What a photo!!!!!!!!!!!!

Republic Steel Corp.

Youngstown, O. - We are coming up on the 100 year anniversary of the date this beautiful photograph was taken - 7/31/1917. This is a now demolished blast furnace at Republic Steel, in the Hazelton area. Think Poland Ave. and Center Street.

I was wandering around down there and found a brick marked Niles No. 1. Niles Firebrick was a manufacturer of refractory brick, so that piece of masonry I carried home may well have been used to line this furnace.

I wonder if this was taken by a company photographer or who? They made a gorgeous large format film photo I know that. Damn I was born 100 years too late. Wish that would have been me getting paid to take this. 

Photo courtesy of Ohio Memory collection. 

US Steel Ohio Works

Youngstown, O. Today marks the the 35th anniversary of not only my first memory as a child, but the end of one hell of an era in Youngstown history. The day the four remaining blast furnaces in Youngstown fell. 

Lookit these damn vultures

I vividly remember the day it happened. If you looked out of our front window, across the street you could see the tops of these monolithic structures peeking up over Jimmy Sebena's roof. Jimmy was awesome. His daughter saved my brother's life. Jimmy told me after they landed at Normandy they confiscated all this French money. Said he won so much in the dice games he came home damn near rich, but it was like Monopoly money over there. He called me Pauley and enjoyed sitting on his front porch and spitting. All night in the summer, between the sounds of the Harleys roaring up Hazelwood and the tube rounds clanging around down the former Sheet & Tube Brier Hill works, you would hear Jimmy hawker. But that's neither here nor there. 

Back to April 28th, 1982. My mom brought me to our picture window, and opened the front door so we could hear the explosion. I remember looking over the roof of the Sebena's and watching "the smokestacks" as I called them start to lean. You felt the house shake, and then you heard the explosion. It blew my young mind that the sound came later. I didn't know much about physics at just shy of 3 years old. I also didn't know much about the steel industry and how the fact they abandoned my hometown would effect the economy and my life in general either, but that would change.

I attended an old timers reunion at the Youngstown Historical Center of Labor and Industry last year, and got to sit down with one of the last US Steel employees in the Steel Valley. Tom was named Project Engineer, and was tasked with selling off the remaining USS properties, and oversaw the demolition of the Ohio Works. The demo company provided him a stack of photos of the demo, which was meant to be used as a flip book. Below is a video of him flipping through the shots at that event. 

Tom was nice enough to give me a copy of a transcript of a speech he had recently given, which details the fate of every damn US Steel property in the Valley. Definitly worth a read if you're into that subject. Which I sure as hell am. 

Location/Company Unknown

These photos appears to be from the early 1900's, judging by the use of steam power on the job site. These were sent in by Dave H., who's grandfather took these photos. He was born in Hillsville, PA, in 1895 and lived in Lowellville later in life, working in the mills until a fall broke both of his legs. I am told that he had a passion for photography, and shot and developed many photos of steel mill construction. I am looking for any input as to what mill is featured in these photos. It is possible that this is Youngstown Sheet & Tube Campell works or Sharon Steel Lowellville works. Lil help?

The William B. Pollock Co.

Youngstown, O. - This image from the early 1900s shows an employee of the William B. Pollock Co. posing with a new hot metal handling rail car that looks ready to ship. These cars were designed/engineered/built in Youngstown. Hopefully the man next to the car gives you an idea of the scale, and the amount of molten iron each of these cars moved around the mills.

Image courtesy of Ohio History Connection

Republic Steel Corp.

Youngstown, O. - Dated 1941, this photo shows the men that worked the "skull cracker" yard at Republic Steel. Skull cracking was the process of dropping essentially a wrecking ball on steel that had solidified in a ladle, and needed to be reclaimed. 

Photo courtesy of Ohio Memory Collection

Republic Steel Corp

Youngstown, O. - The former Republic Steel Co. pattern storage building, just across Poland Avenue from their Youngstown plant near Center Street. I have been past this building before and wondered what company once occupied it, as it looked like a mill shed. I was looking through Sanborn fire insurance maps from the 1920s researching another manufacturer in the area, and noticed this was Republic Steel property.             

The one-time pattern storage building is not completely abandoned, it appears it is still used for storage of some sort by the modern business that sits on the property. I wandered around on Powersdale to see if I could find a better place to shoot from. I didn't find another way in, but I like the photo I made so it worked out.

As I was walking around looking for a hole in the fence, I noticed a discarded hypodermic needle on the sidewalk. It really drove home the reality and severity of the heroin epidemic in Youngstown. I say this having known way too many people that have died from an overdose, and plenty more that have lost their will to live because of it, but the needle sitting there affected me. Was someone running from the police and toss it? Did they use it and throw it out the window like a cigarette butt? 

Last year I was discussing the heroin problem with two guys that have documented the Youngstown area since the downfall of the steel industry in the 80s and they made a very interesting point. They suggested that once the jobs suddenly disappeared, that people were in such shock, and felt such a sense of despair that they began to self medicate. It could have been liquor, or coke, or crack or heroin, but the point remains that if you have nothing to live for you turn to things like that.

 

I had a conversation recently with a man who's father was a psychologist in Youngstown in the 70s and 80s. He was there for the mass shutdowns and recalls the stress it caused the people of the valley. He states that depression, suicide and psychosis were so rampant in the Steel Valley that he could not keep up, business was booming and not in a good way. I would assume that substance abuse was not far behind these other issues.

 

I am not blaming the closure of the mills for the heroin crisis, there are plenty of other factors, I get it.  The poor decisions and lack of willpower that lead a person to stick a needle in themselves, the pharmaceutical companies that pushed Oxys, the FDA that let them, and the pill mill doctors all helped to create this perfect storm. But don't you think that if there were more opportunities, more high paying jobs that were easy to get into, and not such a sense of "this is a dead town" among the youth that people would be less likely to start using heroin? 

Just a thought. 

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

Youngstown, O. This photo, dated 1910, does not list a location but shows steelworkers at Youngstown Sheet & Tube tapping a blast furnace long before the days of aluminized silver suits. 

Photo courtesy of Ohio History Connection

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co.

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. open hearth stacks. No location provided. The photo is marked 1977, but no information beyond that available. Not sure of the historical value of this photo, besides the fact it may have been taken the year they started the shutdowns, but I found it aesthetically pleasing. I wish I took this photo, or was born early enough to have had the chance. 

Image courtesy of Ohio History Connection

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill Works

Youngstown, O. - Photo of the rolling mill gang at the YS&T Brier Hill works. Can you imagine working a job so dangerous that they marked safety milestones based on 24 injury free hours?

Photo courtesy of the Ohio Memory Project - No date availiable 

P&LE RR Gateway Yard

Struthers, O. - When it opened in 1957 the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Gateway Yard was considered a major milestone in the timeline of the P&LE. The yard was over 5 miles long, stretching from from Center St. to Lowellville, and handling freight for many of the area's heavy industrial concerns. They didn't call this railroad The Little Giant for nothing, the P&LE moved more tonnage than average for such a short railroad. It only operated between Youngstown and Pittsburgh, but think how many steel mills they serviced.

Here are some photos I took down there, mostly from 03/04, so excuse the low resolution/poor quality. I feel fortunate to have taken photos of the footbridge into the yard before it was demolished, and of the rooftop sign before some white rappers from Poland turned it into a billboard for suburban struggle music.

All images copyright Paul Grilli 2017

The P&LE's history in the Youngstown area goes back much further than 1957, they actually owned and operated a dining hall and a YMCA on Wilson Avenue, directly across from the Campbell water plant. Check out this Sanborn map from 1928. 

The P&LE was completely absorbed into CSX in 1993. The photos below were taken 10 years later when the footbridge from Wilson Avenue into the yard still stood. I was always fascinated by this bridge. Think about how many hardworking people walked to work, or took a bus from Youngstown/Campbell/Struthers/Lowelville, and crossed this bridge every day. 

Footbridge on left. Hump center. Car barn and now demolished building that housed locker rooms/med station center right.

I'm assuming the workers that crossed that bridge walked directly through this man tunnel that went under the hump. There wasn't much light at the end of it when I was down there. 

The photo below is one of my favorites I took down there, a long forgotten employee directory. I love seeing the writing that was left on the walls by guys that were laid off years ago. Who are these guys, where are they now? Why did Blackie suck? Were Sam, Frank, Natale and Al the kind of guys you would want to drink a beer with after work on Friday, at the same bar on Wilson Avenue you cashed your check at?

Below - Clockwise from top: Sink - Medical Station - Union sticker - Missing control panel in hump yard tower - locker detail - car barn grease bay

Jacket found in basement of main hump yard tower.

Below - Clockwise from top: Main hump yard tower and the hump - PSA - Demolished - RR propaganda

Car barn interior

Below - Clockwise from top: Hump yard tower - Open manhole - Remnants of last crew - Rain lockers - Another yard tower - Locker room

This yard tower was located down in Lowellville at the far end of the yard. It was re-purposed by kids that rode the rails. I wish I had more photos, but you can see some hobo graffiti above the window in the second image. There was a notebook where different freight train riders signed in with where they were from and where they were going. Remarks about the weather and which trains you had to wait on for hours to pull out. There was a track map scrawled on the wall, with arrows pointing to Cleveland, Pittsburgh etc. It was fascinating. 

US Steel McDonald Works

McDonald, O. This is the only video I have personally seen that was taken inside when US Steel still operated the McDonald Works, and a home movie at that! In addition to hot steel being rolled, there are shots of the no. 14 and no. 15 overhead cranes.

The video is courtesy of Chris Kalis, who's late father Michael "Mickey" Kalis, is pictured in the video. In addition to being a craneman at the McDonald Works, he was an Army veteran, published musician, home builder, and owned both Siciliano's Restaurant and the Calabria Lounge on the Westside of Youngstown. Sounds like he lived a full life. 

US Steel Ohio Works

Youngstown, O. -This photo is dated 1947, I am guessing this was a rebuild of the #4 blast furnace. This photo features questionable safety practices and a nice birds eye view of the Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill works in the background. The caption reads "Sledging shrink link into place on top ring casting at US Steel Ohio Works Youngstown Ohio"

Photo courtesy of the Ohio Memory Project. 

Youngstown Sheet & Tube Brier Hill Works

Youngstown, O. - This photo is interesting to me for a few reasons, but let's look past the (now defunct) Erie Lackawanna RR in the foreground, the (now demolished) Sheet & Tube blast furnace to the left and what I think is a (now demolished) US Steel blast furnace in the center/background. 

Let's talk about the old Division Street bridge on the left of the photo, which was taken in 1975. Right before they knocked down the bridge, my buddy Vito and I decided to walk over it to Brier Hill from the Westside. I remember holes in the pavement that you could see through to the ground below, and a single shoe in the middle of the bridge. I started to climb the arch on the Brier Hill side, holding either side of the H beam and using the half-a tennis ball sized rivets for footing. Made it less than 50' up the arch and came right back down hah. Didn't feel like falling 100 feet that day.

I was one of the last people on the old bridge, and one of the first on the new 711 version of the bridge. Right before they opened it, I drove up the Stephens St off ramp and cruised the wrong way to Brier Hill. Another dumb ass move, but it was closed to traffic so no harm no foul. 

Photo credit: Akron Rail Road Club