Lackawanna Steel Company : A neighborhood Mill

Cambria Iron Company
Cambria Iron Company, Blacksmith Shop, Lower Works, Johnstown (Cambria County, Pennsylvania).jpg
Blacksmith Shop in 1958
Cambria Iron Company is located in Pennsylvania
Cambria Iron Company
Cambria Iron Company is located in the United States
Cambria Iron Company
LocationJohnstown, Pennsylvania
Coordinates40°20′10″N 78°55′23″W / 40.336°N 78.923°W / 40.336; -78.923Coordinates: 40°20′10″N 78°55′23″W / 40.336°N 78.923°W / 40.336; -78.923
Area482 acres (195 ha)
ArchitectCambria Iron Co., et al.
NRHP reference No.89001101[1]
Significant dates
Added to NRHPJune 22, 1989[1]
Designated NHLDJune 22, 1989[3]
Designated PHMCMarch 04, 1947[2]

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.

A number of works by the firm are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[1][4]

Name history

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.[5]


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.[6]

Company history

Warehouse of Cambria Iron Works after the 1889 Johnstown Flood.

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.[7]

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.[6]

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.[8] 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,[8] and continued to operate independently, though eclipsed in size by other producers, following the flood.

View from Westmont, Pennsylvania. Blacksmith shop (octagon roof) and machine shop (raised roof) in the center.

Morell's membership in the club was purchased by Cyrus Elder, chief legal counsel for Cambria Iron Company.[9][10] 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.[11]

In 1916, the company was acquired by Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company. Midvale sold the company to Bethlehem Steel in 1923,[6] and it operated continuously until 1992.[8]

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.[12]

Works produced

Infrastructure whose parts were manufactured by the Cambria Company include (with variations in attribution):

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "PHMC Historical Markers". Historical Marker Database. Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Archived from the original on December 7, 2013. Retrieved December 19, 2013.
  3. ^ "Cambria Iron Company". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2008-06-05. Retrieved 2008-07-02.
  4. ^ Highway Bridges of Iowa MPS
  5. ^ "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.
  6. ^ a b c "NHL nomination for Cambria Iron Company". National Park Service. Retrieved 2017-04-07.
  7. ^ Newkirk, Matthew (1869). The memory of the just is blessed : a memorial of Matthew Newkirk. Princeton Theological Seminary Library. Philadelphia : Claxton, Remsen, and Haffelfinger.
  8. ^ a b c "Johnstown, Pennsylvania, 1904" by Charles Luther Morgan, Library of Congress, World Digital Library, 1904. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Benjamin Franklin Ruff (1835-1887)", "Johnstown Memorial", National Park Service. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  11. ^ "Cyrus Elder (1833-1912)","Johnstown Memorial", National Park Service. Retrieved July 22, 2019.
  12. ^ "Scanner, v. 7, n. 4 (January 1975) : The Oakes Fleets".

External links