Superior Steel

photo of wall from mill building
All that's left.

This is nearly all that’s left of what was once the largest industry in what was originally Chartiers Borough, employing thousands in Carnegie, Glendale, Scott and Collier between 1893 and 1962 including quite a few members of my family. Of the fifteen acre site on a bend of Chartiers Creek, five acres were a gift from Major James Glenn, five acres purchased by the business community in Carnegie and the other five by the citizens of Carnegie.

It opened with 100 employees and went on through two World Wars and on Great Depression to fabricate rolled steel for Pittsburgh, the United States and the rest of the world. The ten-hour day as a “catcher” for the mill paid 11 cents an hour, and a rifleman rode the pay wagon that carried the cash from the bank on payday. I remember my uncles and others saying with pride that they had worked for Superior Steel, remembering the camaraderie of the place that employed relatives and friends so must have been like working with family.

They merged with Copperweld Steel in 1957, were sold to Fulton Industries in 1961, then suddenly closed in March 1962, saying it was operating at a loss. It was certainly a loss to the communities which for several generations had come together to build the company, and worked together to keep it working.

This wall marks a section of expansion from 1911, and many of the shells of the original buildings still stand but much has been removed, rebuilt or has been left to rust away and be overcome with native plants. Many of the buildings housing the rolling machines and other equipment that vibrated or pounded or moved dramatically were built on flooring that was actually 4×4 oak or maple wood cut 12″ or 18″ long and set on end so that the floor looked like wooden tiles, but the wood’s grain would absorb the vibration of the equipment and carried it off into the soil so that the machine wouldn’t loosen from the floor or be damaged by its own vibration, and people could actually stand near it. I remember in the flooding of Hurricane Ivan in 2004, the industrial residents of one of the buildings said this last vestige of that time, the wooden floors, swelled with creek water, popped up and floated away.

This information is just a tiny portion and was found in two books: A Track Through Time, A Centennial History of Carnegie PA 1894-1994, V. Robert Agostino, Historical Society of Carnegie, PA, Wolfson Publishing; 1994; and Carnegie, Sandy Henry, Arcadia Publishing, 2006.

This is also one of the images in my photo exhibit, Carnegie Photographed. I had originally taken this photo in black and white for the starkness of its nature, but went to color because I think it brings across the point of loss so much more effectively.

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