Big Steel

Carrie Blast Furnace - Photographs by Shaun O'Boyle



The Carrie Furnace is located outside of Pittsburgh along the Monongahala River. This site is a surviving monument to the fascinating story of the making of the giant steel empire built by Andrew Carnegie in the late 19th and early 20th century.  The blast furnaces are on the opposite side of the Mon River from the once massive mills located in Homestead. The Homestead mills are all gone. A few smoke stacks mark the site of the 45 Inch Rolling Mill soaking pits that once stood on that location, the rest was razed and a new mall sits on the site. The Carrie Furnaces photographed on the following pages supplied the Homestead mills with iron from its 200 foot high blast furnaces. The molten pig iron would be transported across the river to the Homestead Works via the hot metal bridge in cigar shaped brick lined rail cars. From there the molten iron would be transferred to giant two story high ladles and poured into the open hearth furnaces. The Furnaces were charged with limestone and other ingredients to make the final product, Steel. The story of Rankin and Homestead is a long complex story, it covers over 100 years of history and growth. The homestead workers suffered much under the hand of Carnegie and Frick during the strike and walkout of 1892 and the following decades. The Pinkerton guards were called in by Frick to break the strike and usher in new workers,  but the Homestead strikers saw them coming up the river in two barges and a shootout ensued between the Pinkerton guards and the striking workers. After a 12 hour shootout the Pinkerton guards surrendered. Days later the Pennsylvania Militia occupied Homestead with hundreds of troops. Troops moved into the steel yards and within a week the mill was working again with imported workers under the protection of the militia. The strike was broken and the workers found themselves out of work, the cause for workers rights was crushed for decades to come. For more on this fascinating story of Homestead and the beginnings of the huge steel empire Carnegie built, which eventually became the US Steel Corp owned by J P Morgan,  I highly recommend the book "Homestead, the Glory and Tragedy of an American Steel Town" by William Serrin.


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