Former Iron and Steel
Producers of Pennsylvania

Map Legend

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Map Description

This map of Pennsylvania shows the locations of former iron and steel production facilities in Pennsylvania. Since colonial times, Pennsylvania has been big in the iron and steel industry, from the mining of iron and related minerals all the way to producing finished goods out of it, anything from nails to ships and railroads. In this map you will observe at first that many of the facilities are in small towns and rural areas. If we had information about every iron and steel producer in Pennsylvania's history, there would probably be thousands of sites because small amounts of the basic elements are commonly available. However, Pennsylvania also became a major center for iron and steel production from major steel-making cities such as Pittsburgh and Bethlehem. Pittsburgh was known for its steel industry and is still the home of one of the world's largest producers, US Steel. In Bethlehem the company known as Bethlehem Steel was another major producer, known for producing steel to build ships (for example) since they were close to the East Coast, until their facilities closed in 1982. Out of that legacy there are still many producers still in business, though they will not appear on this map.

Most of the locations shown on the map were discovered on the website of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. The commission places roadside markers and other plaques to commemorate events, people and sites important in Pennsylvania's past, and has a very informative website. Additional sources are listed below. The map displays only the iron and steel production facilities, not the mines that produced the iron or coal, or the manufacturers who took the basic products and turned them into more complex machinery.

The types of colonial facilities listed include iron furnaces, forges and foundries. Sites with multiple facilities were often labeled iron works. Iron production from colonial times through the mid-1800s filled demand for everyday household items. Furnaces took iron ore and heated it to high temperatures to melt it and separate it from the other minerals. The fuel during colonial time was charcoal, made from hardwood trees which were abundant throughout Pennsylvania. Later, anthracite coal and the processing of bituminous coal into coke became the preferred fuels. The product of an iron furnace is called pig iron. Two ways to process the pig iron are forges, in which the pig iron is reheated in order to be worked into bars or rods or flat plates, and foundries, in which the pig iron is completely remelted and poured into molds for casting into particular shapes. For example, iron forges would produce nails and rifles while foundries could produce frying pans and cannon balls.

As the Industrial Revolution kicked in, steel production took over from iron production as the most important industrial output. Transportation facilities such as railroad engines, rails and bridges were among the primary destinations for the iron and steel output. The railroads were also the primary way of transporting the raw material to the steel mills and the products of the steel mills to their next processing facilities.

Facility Type Number of
Oldest Facility
Iron Furnace 36 Colebrookdale Furnace (1720)
Iron Forge 9 Grubb's First Forge (1735)
Iron Foundry 2 McClurg Iron Foundry (1804)
Iron Works 11 Rutter Iron Works (1716)
Other Facility 6 Plumsock Rolling Mill (1817)