Youngstown: An American Tragedy

The story of Youngstown, Ohio, is the sad tale of a tragedy “made in America.”

Youngstown was once one of the greatest producers of steel in the world.

Today, it is a ghost town. It can no longer depend on its once thriving steel mills to provide employment for its people. In search of a livelihood, its erstwhile citizens have left for other areas in pursuit of jobs.

What happened?

As the world moved into the industrial revolution there was an ever-increasing demand for steel. Places like Youngstown responded. The method for producing steel was basically the same in all plants. Huge plants sprouted up all over the country. Their central feature was a super-heated furnace in which the mix of iron and coal and other ingredients was fed. The work was exhausting and dangerous and costly.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, came a bright young man who never won great fame and whose name seems to have been lost in the mists of history. His idea was simple: Reduce the ingredients needed to make steel to a liquid and then pour the liquid into desired forms. He approached several American steel companies with his idea. They turned him down. In part, they must have done so because they had made big investments in their plants and were not about to scrap the old plants for the new method.

The young man took his idea to Japan. The Japanese companies enthusiastically embraced the idea. They poured the liquid into molds and shipped the finished product into the American market. That was the beginning of the process that turned Youngstown into a ghost town.

Tagged as:

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. All readers can browse the comments, and all Forward subscribers can add to the conversation. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters or repeat offenders will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

Youngstown: An American Tragedy

Thank you!

This article has been sent!