The productivity gains in North American steel came with massive shakeouts of suboptimal capacity and today's steel business employs about a quarter of the workers it did as recently as the late 1970s.
Here's a #ThrowbackThursday visit to some of the plants that closed.
The gate of the closed Youngstown Sheet and Tube Campbell Works, in Youngstown, Ohio, with the open hearth shop across the footbridge behind. The still-manicured lawn goes with an office building of Youngstown Sheet. Sign on the open hearth shop gives speed limits for plant trucks: 30 mph, but not exceeding 10 mph on bridges and ramps. Memorial Day, 1983.
Along the Mahoning River that weekend, the old Youngstown Sheet Brier Hill Works was partially in operation under the ownership of a minimill company, Campbell Works was closed, the Republic plant to its south was closed, and the United States Steel facilities were gone.
A subsequent trip took me to Homestead, Pennsylvania.
The open hearth plant of United States Steel's Homestead Works was still active. I asked permission at the guardhouse to take this picture from a public sidewalk on the Monongahela River bridge. Scrap and alloying ores arrive on the upper tracks, hot metal below. The slag cars and ingot buggies arrive and leave on the other side of the furnaces, which are in the center of the picture.
Detroit, during the second World War, might have claimed to be the arsenal of democracy, but Homestead had a legitimate claim to be the forges of democracy.
A mill building belonging to Mesta Machinery. The external stacks suggest an open hearth plant, but they're spaced too closely (compare the Campbell Works picture) and the building does not include the supply tracks on multiple levels characteristic of an open hearth shop.
Blue diesel locomotives are U. S. Steel intraplant power. Homestead pictures taken 5 August 1983.