There is a lot of talk today about American steel: What is its role in our country’s future? Why is it a better option for business than imported steel? How will this industry grow in the next decade?
And it’s easy to understand why: steel plays an important role in our national economy. It provides support beams for construction, galvanized steel strappings allow for the safe shipment of a wide number of goods, stainless steel is even used in the construction of pet identification microchips that help lost cats and dogs find their way home.
Not only that, but it is one of the greenest materials in the world today. The American Iron and Steel Institute estimates that 88% of it worldwide is recycled.
But in order to really understand the importance of steel to our country and our future, you need to understand the way steel helped shape our nation’s history.
Here we focus on a few of the early innovators of our nation’s steel industry.
Alexander Lyman Holley
Like many things about our nation, the American steel industry grew out of the innovations of a British man. In 1865, a patent was filed by Henry Bessemer for the first method of mass production.
This process was eventually licensed by American Alexander Lyman Holley and brought to the United States where he and his business associates set up the first steel plant, in Troy New York, where he implemented a number of his own improvements to the Bessemer process.
Carnegie got his start working for the Pennsylvania railroad company before becoming the nation’s leading steel producer. What’s important to know is that Carnegie never had any sense for mechanics or engineering himself. Instead, he would hire the most knowledgeable and talented experts and use his superb business and management skills to steer them towards innovation and growth. In this way, Carnegie was a patron of the business of steel, transforming the industry into the behemoth it is today.
Carl M. Schwab
At the turn of the 20th century, American steel seemed to be in trouble. Production had skyrocketed, surpassing the market demand. Several large companies vied for consumers’ attention, which inevitably meant lowering prices until they were unsustainably depressed.
It was Carl M. Schwab who came up with the solution. If the major businesses merged into one large company, the could lower the amount of competition and have more freedom to set the price of themselves.
The history of American steel is long, filled with hundreds of men and women who have helped to shape it into what it has become today.