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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Wheeling Steel Company - New Book

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, January 15, 2012

The advertisement for the new book sat on my desk most of one morning before I looked at it; it was a busy day and other things consumed my time.


I finally realized that the book being promoted is a new history of the Wheeling Steel Corp., and contained nearly 400 pages.


Titled, “Fire on the Water,” this new book is authored by Dr. Raymond-Lynn Boothe of Jackson, Ohio.


The book begins as a genealogy of the company whose roots date back to 1715 in Maryland where George Washington’s family operated a stone blast furnace.


That operation passed through several owners, and in 1852 landed in Wheeling as the Whitaker Iron Works.


Various iron works in the Ohio Valley produced their product, and integrated with the nail and steelmaking industry formed The Wheeling Steel Corporation in 1920 from LaBelle Iron Works, Wheeling Steel and Iron Co., and Whitaker-Glessner Co.


The book looks at the history and development of individual plants that would be sold and merged to form Wheeling Steel Co.


Nail works, coke ovens, and coal interests came together to form this great company and its plants up and down the river valley.


The expansion of the Steubenville North plant into West Virginia required the construction of a bridge by the Ohio-West Virginia Bridge Co., designed by Albert Lucius, consulting engineer.


The bridge was completed August 9, 1917 and put into service immediately connecting the blast furnaces in Ohio with the coke ovens in West Virginia.


The formation of Wheeling Steel Corp. in 1920 brought together plants from Steubenville to Wheeling, as well as operations in Portsmouth, Ohio.


Headquartered in the Schmulbach Building in Wheeling, the new corporation set forth to bring together all of pieces of the previous companies into one of America’s largest steel corporations.


The book is filled with photographs owned by the author, and provided by various archives as well as the steel companies involved in Wheeling Steel.


In addition to the photos, the book has countless diagrams of advertising for steel products from the Softite products to Regalware.


The history of the Pittsburgh Steel Co. and its Allenport and Monessen plants is covered as part of the 1968 formation of Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corp.


From a librarian’s perspective, the book has been well-developed with 15 pages of references and listings of interviews performed as part of the research.


The book also looks at the human side of the industry, the workers and activities sponsored as part of the life of Wheeling Steel Corp.


The Musical Steelmakers orchestra is pictured, as well as the Steel Sisters singers.  The Wheeling Steel Girl demonstrates new products in the 1950s.


The author put a lot of work into assembling the current history of the steel plants through Severstal, Esmark, and Renco, and what that means to the former Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel.


The book is published by Lulu Press, Inc., a print-on-demand publisher that is sponsored by the author.


He states that it is likely that a 2nd edition will be issued in March with more photos and additional information that has been found since the initial publication.