Youngstown Sheet and Tube - History


In 1888, Youngstown industrialists George D. Wick and James A. Campbell organized the Mahoning Valley Iron Company, with Wick as president. Five years later, the two men resigned from the firm when it was taken over by the Republic Iron and Steel Company, and their next project would come in response to major changes that occurred in the community's industrial sector. Youngstown's industrial leaders began to convert from iron to steel manufacturing at the turn of the century, a period that also saw a wave of consolidations that placed much of the community's industry in the hands of national corporations. To the rising concern of many area industrialists, U.S. Steel, shortly after its establishment in 1901, absorbed Youngstown's premier steel producer, the National Steel Corporation.

During the previous year, however, Wick and Campbell combined resources with other local investors who wanted to maintain significant levels of local ownership within the city's manufacturing sector. The group established the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company with $600,000 in capital and eventually turned it into one of the nation's most important steel producers. Wick, who emerged as the steel company's first president in 1900, appointed Campbell as secretary.

In 1923, Youngstown Sheet and Tube purchased the assets of The Brier Hill Steel Company (also located in Youngstown), as well as the facilities of The Steel and Tube Company of America in East Chicago and Indiana Harbor, IN, making it the fifth largest steel maker in the United States and the largest employer in the Mahoning Valley. The word 'Iron' was dropped from the company's name in 1905.

The home plant of YS&T was known as the Campbell Works located in Campbell and Struthers, Ohio. This plant contained four blast furnaces, twelve open hearth furnaces, blooming mills, two Bessemer converters, slabbing mill, butt weld tube mill, 79" hot strip mill, seamless tube mills and 9" and 12" bar mills at the Struthers Works. The Brier Hill Works consisted of two blast furnaces named Grace and Jeannette, twelve open hearth furnaces, 40" blooming mill, 35" intermediate blooming mill, 24" round mill, 84" and 132" plate mills and an electric weld tube mill. During much of The Depression the Brier Hill works was shut down, but reopened in 1937. Much of the reopened plant's production centered around the production of tube rounds for the Campbell seamless tube mills. Due to the imbalance of ironmaking and steelmaking facilities at the two plants, rail shipments of molten iron "hot metal" were made from Campbell to Brier Hill from 1937 until 1979.

In 1916, Sheet and Tube workers at the East Youngstown plant rioted during a strike over working conditions, which resulted in most of the town's business district being burned to the ground. The strike was quelled by the arrival of National Guard troops. After the riots, East Youngstown was renamed Campbell in honor of the company's President. In 1937, Youngstown Sheet and Tube played a prominent role in the Little Steel Strike, along with Republic Steel, Inland Steel, Bethlehem Steel, and Weirton Steel. The so-called "Little Steel" group, led by Republic's Tom Girdler, operated independently of United States Steel, which had previously signed a labor agreement with the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and its subordinate Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC). Violence during this strike resulted in the deaths of workers in Chicago and Youngstown.

In 1952, during the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman attempted to seize United States steel mills in order to avert a strike. This led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer, which limited presidential authority.

The company abruptly closed its Campbell Works and furloughed 5,000 workers on September 19, 1977, a day remembered locally as "Black Monday." The Brier Hill Works and the company's plants in Indiana were sold to Jones and Laughlin Steel, later acquired by Ling-Temco-Vought (LTV), a conglomerate. The Brier Hill Works closed in 1979 as part of a continued wave of steel mill closings that devastated the Youngstown economy. The Brier Hill Works eventually reopened and are now operated as V & M Star Ohio, a recycling mini-mill owned by the Vallourec Group, a French conglomerate.

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