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Wheeling Steel


The Wheeling Steel Corporation was organized on June 21, 1920, when La Belle Iron Works, Whitaker-Glessner Company, and Wheeling Steel & Iron Works combined. In the 1920s, Wheeling Steel employed more than 17,000 workers and ranked as the nation’s third-largest steelmaker.

Wheeling’s first iron mills date to the 1830s, and for the remainder of the 19th century the city was a hub of metal working. Its most famous product was the cut nail, which was so important locally that Wheeling was once known as the ‘‘Nail City.’’ The Whitaker-Glessner Company traces its heritage to the 1720s, when the Principio Company began production of pig iron and bar iron in Maryland. This subsidiary of Whitaker-Glessner remained in operation until 1925, when the new Wheeling Steel closed its furnaces.

During the 1880s, at the Benwood Works, Wheeling Steel produced the first steel pipe in the United States, and its Yorkville (Ohio) Works introduced the industry’s first ‘‘black plate’’ for tinning in the 1920s. Other well-known products from Wheeling Steel included tin cans, lard pails, stoves, lunch pails, and steel plates and sheets.

Beginning in 1921, Wheeling Steel provided company housing for its coke plant workers at the East Steubenville Works at Follansbee, Brooke County. Dubbed Coketown, this community of small houses, blackened by the smoke from the coke ovens, remained intact until the 1960s, when the buildings were razed to make way for a parking lot.

By the company’s 40th anniversary in 1960, Wheeling Steel plants stretched for 30 miles along the Ohio River, from Benwood, West Virginia, to Steubenville, Ohio. As an integrated operation with its own coal mines, the company lived up to its slogan, ‘‘From Mine to Market.’’ The influence of Wheeling Steel extended beyond its various manufactured products. For eight years (1936–44), a radio program, ‘‘It’s Wheeling Steel,’’ broadcast musical entertainment to a national audience from Wheeling station WWVA.

In June 1968, Wheeling Steel merged with Pittsburgh Steel to form the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation.

Written by David T. Javersak