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La Belle Ironworks


The Wheeling-La Belle Nail Company (formerly La Belle Ironworks) manufactured cut nails, using 19th-century machines and technology well into the 21st Century. Located in south Wheeling, the La Belle Ironworks was founded in 1852, and took its name from the French name for the Ohio River, La Belle Rivière, ‘‘the beautiful river.’’ Making cut nails was an important 19th-century American manufacture, and nail production became a hallmark of Wheeling industry.

By 1875, the city was known as the Nail City, and La Belle was Wheeling’s leading nail producer. But as cut nail use declined in the late 1880s in favor of modern wire nails, La Belle diversified its product line, first through the manufacture of tin plate, and later with the production of steel plates, tubes, and sheets. In 1920, La Belle merged with Wheeling Iron and Steel and Whitaker-Glessner Company to form Wheeling Steel Corporation (later Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation) and continued to produce cut nails, developing a specialized market in hardened nails for use in masonry. D-Mac Industries bought the nail plant in 1997 and operated it as Wheeling-La Belle Nail Company. Facing an economic downturn and foreign competition, Wheeling-La Belle Nail Company closed on September 30, 2010. In 2015, all of the contents and machinery in the plant were sold at auction, and the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corporation acquired all of the paper records for archiving. In 2017, the factory was demolished to make way for townhouse apartments. In 2019, one of the nail-making machines was assembled for an exhibit on Wheeling manufacturing at West Virginia Independence Hall.

Written by Lee R. Maddex


  1. May, Earl Chapin. From Principio to Wheeling, 1715 to 1945: A Pageant of Iron and Steel. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1945.

  2. Scott, Henry Dickerson. Iron & Steel in Wheeling. Toledo, OH: Caslon, 1929.