By: Russell Borts

The Brier Hill Reference Book is a small book that on first paging through looks to be a book of lists and conversion charts. The book contains three hundred and eighteen pages with most of the pages containing material that would only be understood by someone who would have been actively involved in the business end of the steel making process. Note the intent of the book as stated in the forward of the book:

        The need for the facts and the figures that the book has are no longer useful in Youngstown. The forward states the book has a pictorial story of steel making. These pages of the steel making process were probably quickly passed over by the first users of this book such as the person who wrote his name on the front cover, who in 1919 had no computer to do his calculations and used this book for its technical information. But for anyone who is now living in the Youngstown area, or anyone, who has an interest in understanding the steel making process in 1919, this book has pictures of the entire process. The book takes the reader from the iron ore mines in the Lake Superior area to a calculation chart to determine the amount of corrugated sheet metal that would be needed to cover a structure. Each step of the steel making process has an illustration or picture and a description of the process and how it fits into the overall making of the products.

        A reader of this reference book is invited to see the Brier Hill Steel Company as it exited in the period of time following World War I. World War I broke out in the summer of 1914 and the United States was a major exporter of supplies to the nations at war. When the war ended in 1918, the United States experienced economic growth and The Brier Hill Steel Company grew as did the rest of the country. The book has two pages of pictures showing the company's various plants. A majority of those plants are in the Youngstown area, demonstrating what the plant meant to the area. One of the pictures shows the Jeanette Blast Furnace that began production in September of 1918, two months after World War I ended. The Jeanette Furnace would produce iron until 1997 and, after symbolizing the strength of the steel industry for years, would become a symbol of the demise of the steel industry in Youngstown.

        The history of the Brier Hill Steel Company back to the 1860�s through the early 1900�s when various men from Youngstown got together and formed a company from the combination of their finances and assets. Periodic reorganization was common. The names of these men, such as David Tod, Nelson Crandall, John Stambaugh, William Pollock, and J.G. Butler, can be found in areas of the Youngstown landscape today. The steel mills are gone, but the legacy of the great wealth that was obtained through the steel industry is reflected by what these men contribute to Youngstown.

        The authors of this book intended to make this book a source of information for someone in the purchasing department by presenting the facts and figures on steel. However, the text in the descriptions of the steel making process has a tendency to read like an advertisement for the mill. Words such as "ingenious" describing processes and phrases exclaiming the efficiency of certain operations would lead a reader to believe that the author was trying to demonstrate the greatness of the operation. It would also work as good advertisement if another corporation were interested in purchasing The Brier Hill Steel Company. The Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company purchased the Brier Hill Steel Company in 1922.

        The steel mill and various information tables dominate this text. The creators did not have the actual steelworkers in mind when they wrote this book. There is no reference to any workers in the text and there are very few people in the pictures in the book. The book has a part that implies that the quality of the finished products is derived from the company having complete control of the entire process from beginning to the end. There is no mention of anything such as "our people make the difference" or other phrases linking the workers to the success of the company. This book was written during a time of labor shortages and after period of time where the average wages of steelworkers went from $771 in 1915 to $1,619 in 1918. This was a period when workers in many industries were attempting to reform the role of the worker in industry through strikes and organizing.

        The book has a short towage section that describes the industrial relation department. The industrial relation department was in charge of the company's social activities such as athletic field and community gatherings. The department was also in charge of the emergency room. The text can be interpreted as assuring any possible buyer of Brier Hills products that the company has the ability to patch up any injuries and sent the workers back to work as soon as possible. The book also says that "employees with physical defects are not rejected but are placed on work suitable to their physical and mental condition" which would also assure a continuous supply of workers.

        The Youngstown Public Library has a similar reference book that was published by The Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company in 1937. The format of the book is similar to the Brier Hill book. It also does not mention any steelworkers and credits the success of the company to the process and not the people who make the steel.

        The Briar Hill Reference Book is a representation of the steel making process in 1919 and contains information that will show the reader of the book the extent of the steel company in the Youngstown area and provide a starting point with the Jeanette Blast Furnace which would later symbolize the demise of the steel industry and like the facts and figures contained in the book, like the steel workers, are now part of the history of Youngstown.

A copy of this book is available in the archive section of the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor.

For additional information: The History of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley by Jos. G. Butler, written in 1921 which is available at The Mahoning County Public Library.

Other links:

Jeanette Blast Furnace

Company Sports teams