The National Iron & Steel Heritage Museum
1716 –  Pennsylvania’s iron industry began in Berks County when Thomas Rutter established    Rutter’s Bloomery, a forge that produced crude iron. 

1720s to 1740s – The number of iron sites and production levels increased in Pennsylvania.

1750s to 1760s – Despite Britain’s attempts to restrict iron production, the American colonies produced one seventh of the world’s iron.  Pennsylvania was the colonies’ top producer.

1775 – The American colonies became one of the world’s largest iron producers.

1780s to 1790s – Iron production spread from eastern to western Pennsylvania.

1825 – The Schuylkill navigation network opened.  This led to better transportation, the discovery of coal as fuel, and an increase in iron production.

1840 to 1880 – Coal and coke replaced charcoal as fuel in iron making.  Rolling mills replaced forges, allowing for the increase in rail production.  Corporations began replacing partnerships.  Unions formed to protect workers’ interests.  Unskilled labor began to replace skilled labor.

1870s – Steel is massed produced in Pennsylvania.

1880s – The change from iron to steel was in full swing.

1892 – Homestead strike.  Carnegie Steel Company wanted to cut employees’ wages and get rid of the union.  The Homestead workers went on strike.  Violence ensued, leading to the deaths of 10 men.  The Union was defeated and the company returned to corporate domination. This showed the power corporations and government had over unions.

1900 – Coke became the main source of fuel for Pennsylvania iron making.

1901 – United States Steel Corporation, America’s largest steel producer, was founded.  U.S. Steel was an example of the “fully integrated” structures that soon became popular: companies controlled each step of the steelmaking process, from iron ore mining to steel finishing.

1930s to 1960s – Pennsylvania steel companies grew in size and generated immense profits.

1970s to 1980s – Due to the growth of foreign steel industries, out-of-date steel plants, and a greatly reduced labor force, many Pennsylvania steel companies closed and mill towns were devastated.

1990s to 2000s – Many companies filed for bankruptcy protection and restructured by combining jobs, changing work rules, and eliminating layers of management.

2010s – Despite facing challenges from foreign markets, Pennsylvania’s steel industry continues to employ thousands of people and add billions of dollars to the state’s economy.