Thursday, March 18, 2010
Magpie #6 America Wire and Steel Nails: History in the Now
Magpie #6 America Wire and Steel Nails: History in the Now
"Grab me some nails there, would ya William" said Sandy McPherson perched high on a crooked wooden ladder. Near the apex of the sloping gabled roof of his fifties bungalow. For a moment, the incessant hammering of the quiet June morning stopped.
Sandy slowly wiped his sweaty forehead, covered partially by his ever-present balmoral cap, a Blackwatch regiment's gift bestowed to him by his father Sandy McPherson I.
Exhausted old Sandy looked down at the ground. "Come on Willie, I only got a couple more hours before the rain starts up again". Sandy retorted vehemently with his thick Scottish brogue. "What's taking ya so long? Did ya find a girlfriend?" william yelled out "Grandpa, it's lovely weather today, what rain? And no, I haven't found a girlfriend yet".
William was looking high and low through Sandy's ancient toolkit when he found what looked like an old American Steel and Wire Company box of six inch nails. "Wow, you don't see these much anymore, Sandy, where the heck did you find these?" William wide-eyed with amazement, "Shouldn't they be in a museum or something?".
Sandy looked down at the nails William was holding up. "Oh, those..." Sandy broke off the conversation. "Come wee Willy, hand them over to me before I fall off this roof and I can't tell ya the story about the nails anymore".
William quickly grabbed the nails and headed up the ladder. "Here ya go Sandy, are you really going to use these?"
"I see why not." said Sandy matter-of-factly. "Ya see ma dear Willy, there are nails, and then there are "nails". These are "nails"". William raised his eyebrows with a befuddled look. "What d'ya mean Sandy? What's so 'special' about these nails?"
"You mean ya don't know? Ya mother never told you?" Sandy implored William as the old Scot began pounding the six inch American Steel and Wire division nails into the shingles of the roof. Sandy yelled out "Well there only the finest nails you can find on this planet!" Sandy continued; "Without these nails there never would have been a house built, or a skyscraper made. What I am holding right now in my fist is America!"
William gulped as he held his large form on the rickety old and oddly painted wooden ladder. "Really, Sandy?". William seemed to have a certain amount of disbelief in his voice. "What da ya mean, Willy, ya don't believe me?" Sandy's chagrin appeared mocking yet somewhat disappointed in his son's lack of faith in the American Wire and Steel - nail division.
"Why Willy, if we didn't have these nails made originally in 1850, America would not be the strength she is today. It's kind of amazing how something as simple as a nail can make or break a country. And it was the strength of the steel industry in the early years that made the wealth of the States great. We owe a lot to the good ol' US Steel Corporation. Believe it or not". Sandy continued hammering non-stop. "When I am finished here I'll tell you more about these nails. You'll be truly amazed there sonny".
Soon the noon day sun was becoming too overbearing. Sandy did want to continue the half-finished roofing job. With William's insistance and like clockwork Mrs. McPherson's appearance made Sandy decide it was time to go for lunch. Mrs. McPherson's welcomed appearance with a silver tray of neatly stacked sandwiches."Dig in ma boy, ya aren't goin' have the lassies fancy you if you're too skinny. Ya need to get more muscle on yar arms, the girls like that". "Oh here's lemonaide too, boy am I thirsty!" William and Sandy gulped greedily the tall glasses of lemonaide. Sandy quipped "seconds, Ma?". Mrs. McPherson poured another cold lemonaide for Sandy.
Mrs. McPherson gave a smug look at her husband. "Sandy! You should leave the boy alone. When he's ready to date, he'll date. You shouldn't rush the lad!". Sandy sheepishly looked up at his wife "Yes, mother...". Sandy and Will proceeded to the gingham covered picnic table. All sat down at the table. Sandy proceeded to say the prayer before meals "Thank-you Lord for our food. Amen". Sandy did not waste food or his words and continued to devour his lunch.
"Mmmm, that was excellent, Mum, thank-you so much". Sandy got up and went over to his wife and planted a huge wet kiss on her mouth. "Sandy!" Mrs. McPherson appeared to blush. Sandy said before she left with the tray full of dirty dishes "Maggie, before ya get back to ya sink to do the washin' could please get me that binder from my desk?". Maggie replied, "Ok Sandy, I have a feeling you have another history lesson coming on..."
"Be quiet woman and get back to yer tasks!" Mrs. McPherson gave Sandy a penetrating look "Yes, Sandy, if you get back to the roof!". "Deal old lady!" Sandy yelled while his wife was opening the backdoor to enter the kitchen. "Watch it now!" Maggie yelled back.
"Well, what were we talkin' about me son..." Sandy sat back in his outdoor rocker as William grabbed a chair and pulled it towards him. You were talkin' grandpa about the American Steel and Wire Company nails, why they are so great. "Oh, yeah, I forgot...well Willy it's like this, these nails, made by the heart by the hard bluecollar workers of America are the backbone of our economy. Without these nails, we don't have anything. Nothing to show for our hard work everyday, going to the plant, working day and night. With these nails I can say; 'this is America, these are America's nails' like I have a part in all of this. That these nails will be the strength and backbone of our country. It makes me to feel good to know that they are made in America, too. I know the quality is bound to be good." Sandy wiped a tear from his eye.
"My daddy worked all his life in the Steel Mill in Ohio. It was his sweat and blood that made this country possible and I am so very proud of him. The least I can do is to buy the nails he made, even if I can't buy them in the local stores anymore. For me, using these nails means the memory of my daddy and my country will live on. It is kinda sentimental, Willy, but this is the way I truly feel". Sandy had put his hand on his son's shoulder and said "I want you to do this too, the same, Willy, I want you to always use this brand of nails. If you do, the States will stand tall and proud, if you don't I am afraid what might happen to our great land in North America. You promise me Willy, to always use these nails?"
William looked around and shook his grandpa's hand "You bet Sandy, I'll always use America Wire and Steel brand nails, I promise!" Sandy appeared relieved. "Well, it's back to work we go..." Sandy started to whistle the favourite tune as he continued hammering with American Wire and Steel nails into the roof. "Beautiful day today, Willy, it's a beautiful day!" Sandy beamed and everything was alright with the world.
the below article was part of Sandy McPherson's binder and a brief history of the nails that drove the backbone of America.
from this website http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/article.pl?id=USC1
"The U.S. STEEL CORP., a large producer of steel and a major manufacturer of wire and wire products, had 9 divisions of its American Steel & Wire subsidiary in Cleveland at one time. The Cleveland-based firms that eventually became part of U.S. Steel dated back to 1857 when founded the Jones & Co. in NEWBURGH, where they erected one of the first rolling mills in the area. When HENRY CHISHOLM† and Andros B. Stone bought into the firm in 1858, it became the Stone, Chisholm & Jones Co. and produced iron rails. The first blast furnace in Cleveland was built by the firm in 1861. In Nov. 1863 the company was reorganized as the Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. and 5 years later steel was produced at the Newburgh mill using the new Bessemer process. Various types of wire products were made in the 1870s, and in 1881 the company expanded its facilities with the erection of the Central Furnace near the CUYAHOGA RIVER. In the 1880s some violent strikes also occurred (see CLEVELAND ROLLING MILL STRIKES).
In 1899 H.P. Nail Co., founded in 1877 by Henry Chisholm, the American Wire Co., incorporated by CHAS. A. OTIS† in 1882, and the Baackes Wire Nail Co., started by Michael Baackes in 1889 all became part of American Steel & Wire Co. of New Jersey. When U.S. Steel was organized in 1901, American Steel & Wire became its subsidiary. The subsidiary's main Cleveland facilities were the American Works, Central Furnaces & Docks, and the Newburgh Works. These plants were joined by the Cuyahoga Works in CUYAHOGA HEIGHTS in 1907 and the Cleveland Coal & Chemical Works in 1916. Under U.S. Steel, the Cleveland plants of American Steel & Wire continued to expand, producing a variety of wire and steel products for numerous customers. In 1924 the division's national headquarters were consolidated in the ROCKEFELLER BUILDING in Cleveland. The Depression highlighted the antiquated state of U.S. Steel's Cleveland plants, and much of the historic Newburgh plant, dating back to Jones & Co., was closed. Although the remaining plants were expanded and modernized in the 1940s and 1950s, U.S. Steel began to withdraw from Cleveland in the 1960s, closing the American Works and the rest of the Newburgh Works. In a reorganization move, the American Steel & Wire Division was dissolved in 1964 and the Cleveland offices were moved to Pittsburgh. When the parent company experienced financial problems, its closed the Central Furnace Docks & Cleveland Coke Works in 1978. Crippled by the 1980s recession, U.S. Steel closed the Cuyahoga Works in May 1984, its last major operation in Cleveland. In July 1986 the company sold the Cuyahoga Works to the American Steel & Wire Corp., and it reopened 2 months later, producing wire and rods from steel billets."