From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives
DOCUMENT 43COMMUNICATION FROM THE AMALGAMATED ASSOCIATION OF IRON AND STEEL WORKERS IN SUPPORT OF A RIGHT OF WAY FOR THE CALUMET AND BLUE ISLAND RAILROAD
June 3, 1895
The Illinois Steel Company was a corporation formed in 1889 by a consolidation of the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company, the Joliet Steel Company and the Union Iron and Steel Company. Illinois Steel's principal product at this time was train rails. Its size made it an industry leader internationally as well as domestically.
The Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota had been opened in 1884. It produced the richest ore in the country and its location on Lake Superior afforded inexpensive water transportation to Chicago. Abundant Illinois coal arrived by railroad to fuel the ore's processing. By the mid-nineties the Chicago steel industry rivaled that of Pittsburgh. In total the United States produced more steel in 1890 than Great Britain. By the turn of the century it was producing more than Great Britain and Germany combined.
Steel workers performed brutal labor for long hours. Conditions were hot, deafening and dangerous. But wages were good.
Points to Consider
Why did steel workers want a railroad passing through their neighborhood?
Which geographical factors made Chicago an important steel manufacturer in 1895?
Which types of materials would have been at the railroad's ingress into the steel plant and which types of products would have been at the egress?
What role did steel manufacturing play in the nation's economy in 1895?