Cambria Iron Company
|Area||482 acres (195 ha)|
|Architect||Cambria Iron Co., et al.|
|NRHP reference No.||89001101|
|Added to NRHP||June 22, 1989|
|Designated NHLD||June 22, 1989|
|Designated PHMC||March 04, 1947|
The Cambria Iron Company of Johnstown, Pennsylvania was a major 19th-century industrial producer of iron and steel. Founded in 1852, it had the nation's largest steel foundry in the 1870s, and was renamed the Cambria Steel Company in 1898. The company used many innovations in the steelmaking process, including those of William Kelly and Henry Bessemer. The company was acquired in 1923 by the Bethlehem Steel Company. The company's historic facilities, extending some 12 miles (19 km) along the Conemaugh and Little Conemaugh Rivers, are a National Historic Landmark District.
The Cambria Iron Works was reorganized in 1898 and renamed the Cambria Steel Company. In 1916, the Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company bought the Cambria Steel Company, and sold it to the Bethlehem Steel Company in 1923.
The industrial facilities of the Cambria occupied five separate sites in and around Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Its earliest facilities, known as the Lower Works, are located on the east bank of the Conemaugh River, north of downtown Johnstown and the Little Conemaugh River. The Gautier Plant is just northeast of downtown Johnstown on the south side of the Little Conemaugh. Further up that River are the extensive Franklin Plant and Wheel Plant, while the Rod and Wire Plant is located on the west side of the Conemaugh River a ways north of the Lower Works. Each of these facilities represents a different phase of development and growth of the steel industry, although the Lower Works no longer has significant traces of the earliest facilities used in steel manufacturing. All five of these areas make up the National Historic Landmark District designated in 1989.
The Cambria Iron Company was founded in 1852 to provide iron for the construction of railroads. In 1854, the iron works, which had gone out of blast, was purchased by a group of Philadelphia merchants led by Matthew Newkirk. After a fire destroyed the main rolling mill in 1857, Newkirk persuaded his co-investors to rebuild it on a larger scale.
The company grew rapidly, and was, by the 1870s, a leading producer of steel and an innovator in the advancement of steel-making technology. It performed early experiments with the Kelly converter, built the first blooming mill, and was one of the first plants to use hydraulics for the movement of ingots. It built one of the first plants to use the Bessemer process for making steel at a large scale. Innovations by the company and, its methods and processes, were widely influential throughout the steel industry.
The company was at its height in the 1870s, under the long-term leadership of general manager Daniel Johnson Morrell, who had overseen the works expansion into one of the largest producers of rails in the United States, helping to end dependence on British railroad construction imports. He was a member of the 40th United States Congress and 41st United States Congress.
Morrell became concerned about the South Fork Dam, which formed Lake Conemaugh above Johnstown and Cambria Iron Company's facilities. In order to monitor the dam, he joined South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, which owned the dam. He campaigned to club officials to improve the dam, which he had inspected by his own engineers and by those of the Pennsylvania Railroad. He even offered to effect repairs, partially at his own expense, but was rejected by club president Benjamin F. Ruff. Morell died in 1885, his warnings unheeded.
On May 31, 1889, the dam failed, unleashing the Johnstown Flood. The flood killed more than 2,200 people—the largest disaster in U.S. history to that point—and badly damaged the Cambria Iron Company's facilities. The company reopened on June 6, 1889, and continued to operate independently, though eclipsed in size by other producers, following the flood.
Morell's membership in the club was purchased by Cyrus Elder, chief legal counsel for Cambria Iron Company. A former news editor, Elder was the only Johnstown native who was a member of the club, and lost his wife and a daughter in the flood. He was and remained a notable civic leader, and wrote books and poetry.
Cambria Steel Company formed a proprietary subsidiary shipping company called Franklin Steamship Company of Cleveland in 1906 and Beaver Steamship Company in 1916. Both companies were sold to Bethlehem Steamship Company in 1924.
Infrastructure whose parts were manufactured by the Cambria Company include (with variations in attribution):
- Bell Bridge, county road over Niobrara River, 11.9 miles (19.2 km) northeast of Valentine, Nebraska (Cambria Steel Co.), NRHP-listed
- Boone River Bridge, Buchanan Avenume over Boone River, Goldfield, Iowa (Cambria Steel Company), NRHP-listed
- Borman Bridge, county road over Niobrara River, 2.3 miles (3.7 km) southeast of Valentine, Nebraska (Cambria Steel Co.), NRHP-listed
- Eldorado Bridge, State Street over Turkey River, Eldorado, Iowa (Cambria Steel Co.), NRHP-listed
- Johnstown Inclined Railway, Johns Street and Edgehill Drive, Johnstown, Pennsylvania (Cambria Iron Co.), NRHP-listed
- Neligh Mill Bridge, Elm Street over Elkhorn River, Neligh, Nebraska (Cambria/Lackawanna Steel Cos.), NRHP-listed
- North Loup Bridge, county road over North Loup River, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) northeast of North Loup, Nebraska (Cambria & Lackawanna Steel Cos.), NRHP-listed
- Republican River Bridge, county road over Republican River, 1 mile (1.6 km) east and 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of Riverton, Nebraska (Cambria Steel Co.), NRHP-listed
- Willow Creek Bridge, county road over Willow Creek, 6.5 miles (10.5 km) south of Foster, Nebraska (Cambria Steel Co.), NRHP-listed
- Rolling Mill Mine
- List of National Historic Landmarks in Pennsylvania
- National Register of Historic Places listings in Cambria County, Pennsylvania
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
- "PHMC Historical Markers". Historical Marker Database. Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
- "Cambria Iron Company". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2008-06-05. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
- Highway Bridges of Iowa MPS
- "History of Steelmaking in Johnstown". Frank & Sylvia Pasquerilla Heritage Discovery Center website. Johnstown Area Heritage Association. Archived from the original on May 24, 2009. Retrieved 2010-01-09.
- "NHL nomination for Cambria Iron Company". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-04-07.
- Newkirk, Matthew (1869). The memory of the just is blessed : a memorial of Matthew Newkirk. Princeton Theological Seminary Library. Philadelphia : Claxton, Remsen, and Haffelfinger.
- "Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1904" by Charles Luther Morgan, Library of Congress, World Digital Library, 1904. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
- Johnstown’s Flood of 1889: Power Over Truth and The Science Behind the Disaster, by Neil M. Coleman, Springer, 2018, page 185. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
- "Benjamin Franklin Ruff (1835-1887)", "Johnstown Memorial", National Park Service. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
- "Cyrus Elder (1833-1912)","Johnstown Memorial", National Park Service. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
- "Scanner, v. 7, n. 4 (January 1975) : The Oakes Fleets". www.maritimehistoryofthegreatlakes.ca.
- History of the Steel Industry in Johnstown
- Lists of National Historic Landmarks
- Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) No. PA-109, "Cambria Iron Company"
- HAER No. PA-109-A, "Cambria Iron Company, Blacksmith Shop"
- HAER No. PA-109-B, "Cambria Iron Company, Pattern Shop"
- HAER No. PA-109-C, "Cambria Iron Company, Rolling Mill Office"
- HAER No. PA-109-D, "Cambria Iron Company, Car Shop"
- HAER No. PA-109-E, "Cambria Iron Company, Foundry"
- HAER No. PA-109-F, "Cambria Iron Company, Blast Furnaces No. 5 & 6"
- HAER No. PA-109-G, "Cambria Iron Company, Merchant Mill"
- HAER No. PA-109-H, "Cambria Iron Company, Blast Furnaces No. 5 & 6 Blowing Engine House"
- HAER No. PA-109-I, "Cambria Iron Company, Blast Furnaces No. 1-4 Blowing Engine House"