The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
For more than a century, Pennsylvania was the ironmaking center of America. The state led both the colonies and the nation in iron production, largely due to its natural resources: abundant iron ore deposits, vast forests that provided charcoal, numerous coal beds for additional fuel, limestone deposits, and rivers for water power. Sizeble and growing markets for iron also existed.

Pennsylvania’s iron and steel history began in 1716 and for the next century, the state’s iron industry experienced a time of rapid expansion and a rising demand for iron products. The industry grew until the American colonies became one of the world’s largest iron producers.

By the 1800s, the iron industry was a major part of the Pennsylvania economy. The nineteenth century witnessed crucial technological changes, which transformed the industry, and would lead to the United States becoming one of the world’s top steel producers.

Coal and coke replaced charcoal as a source of fuel, which made iron making a more efficient process and increased both production and quality. The introduction of railroads improved transportation of natural resources and iron goods. These and other technological changes affected the size of iron works, types of ownership, labor-management relations, and led to the creation of new products.

In the 1870s, steel was massed-produced in Pennsylvania. Bessemer converters and open hearth furnaces transformed the steel industry into a profitable endeavor. The new steel industry created a modern industrial society and led many to consider Pennsylvania as the “steel capitol of the world,” a title the state would hold for almost a century.

Steel remained a very profitable industry in Pennsylvania until the 1960s. Growth of foreign steel and out-of-date sites in Pennsylvania led to a fifty percent reduction in the steel workforce in the 1980s. Rough times continued into the early 2000s. That has changed in the last few years, however, as the steel industry today employs thousands of people and adds billions of dollars to the Pennsylvania’s economy.

For more than two centuries, Pennsylvania led America’s and the world’s iron and steel industries. Today, Pennsylvanian steel companies continue to have a positive impact on the state, country, and world economies and steel industries. This exhibit will reveal a small portion of Pennsylvania’s 300 years of iron and steel making and will introduce you to some of the state’s most historically significant iron and steel sites. We hope you enjoy it!