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Massillon History: Industry

Industry in Massillon: General Information

written by archives intern Hannah Sues

The industry of coal, glass, and steel brought life into Massillon, with the population booming and new and improved methods of building became established. James Duncan had ignited interest in bringing railroads to the city of Massillon to transport threshers, coal, iron, bottles, and stone. The first train arrived in Massillon on March 11, 1852. By this time, there were 60 coal seams in Ohio and Massillon’s seam was seen as “one of the very best coals of the state” (Vogt 53).

The new canal system helped play a huge role in transporting coal to other areas in Ohio, especially Cleveland to fuel Lake Erie steamers. Industrialization rapidly expanded and reduced the need for wood, which in turn further multiplied an increased number of coal productions and railroads.

By 1900 the coal miners were gathering up to a million tons of fuel each year, which caused employment growth and fueled a large overall population growth in Massillon. A dominant figure in the coal industry was Anthony Howells. He alone had opened at least 12 mines and invented heavily in Massillon industry. By the late 1920s, coal mines became outdated as Massillon’s growing glass and steel industry started to rise. With the high quality coal seams and the overlying sandstone, Massillon was now the center for glassmaking.

Massillon Glass Works (aka Reed & Co.) began making bottles for beer. At the end of the century, Glass Works had covered over five acres of land, filled 12 buildings, and employed an average of 300 people for the beer bottle business. Glassmaking did not last nearly as long as coal or steel due to the prohibition era in 1918. Bottles could no longer be made due to its illegal contents. One year later, the Central Steel Company of Massillon was organized.

In 1880, Joseph C. Corns opened the Iron Rolling Mill and employed over 120 men, and began “building Massillon’s reputation as an iron and steel center, producing pig and bar iron, steel, nuts and bolts, railroad spikes, and turnbuckles” (Vogt 136). Steel became popular so quickly due to World War I and its need for gun and shell parts. 1909 marked the true beginning of Massillon’s “steelmaking glory” (Vogt 137).

At the beginning of the 20th century, the population in Massillon was 11,944, and by 1920, the population had risen to 17,428 due to steel (Kane 119). The first steel was poured at the Central Steel Company in June of 1915. Due to such a high shift in popularity of steel, there was a shortage of labor. The steel industries brought immigrants from all over Europe to help with the project.

When World War I began in 1914, many black southerners came to fill in positions at the steel factories. During this time, many parts were needed to fight the war. Orders for tanks and trucks for defense were being made on a regular basis, as well as power shovels, cranes, rolling mills, safes, vaults, hydraulic presses, industrial mine cars, road rollers, and guided missiles (Vogt 138). Massillon’s steel plants were also a primary production center for alloy steels for shells, rifle barrels, cannons, aircraft engines, airplane bombs, submarine engines, and bearings (Vogt 169). Massillon’s production of steel became so popular that it “was the world’s largest cold rolled stainless steel strip mill” (Vogt 169).

April 8, 1930 the Republic Steel Company merged with Central Alloy to form Republic Steel Corporation, with combined assets of $325 million (Kane 140). The Republic Steel Corporation also took over Union Drawn Steel Company in 1930. With Republic’s five plants, including Massillon’s steel plant, “they have become the third largest steel company in the world and the greatest producer in the world of alloy and stainless steel” (69). 1930 was also a beginning to the world’s largest Great Depression, which was “a painful time for Massillon” (Kane 141). With the depression hitting every industry in the nation, the new steel giant was on the verge of collapse.

Industry not only brought life to Massillon, but also gave thousands of people jobs and new opportunities from all over the world. It is easy to see that the steel industry was the most successful due to the timing of both World Wars and their need for heavy duty war supplies. “The canal brought industry, industry brought people, people created more industry in many different areas such as aluminum cans, paper mills, drug stores, schools, churches, grocery stores, railroads, cars, and bridges” (Vogt 188). Industry in Massillon not only gave life to the city, but also life for the future people living here.

For more information contact Archivist Mandy Pond over the phone: 330-833-4061, or via email.


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