Tyler Too

Youngstown: An American Tragedy

By Gus Tyler

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The story of Youngstown, Ohio, is the sad tale of a tragedy “made in America.”

Youngstown was once one of the greatest producers of steel in the world.

Today, it is a ghost town. It can no longer depend on its once thriving steel mills to provide employment for its people. In search of a livelihood, its erstwhile citizens have left for other areas in pursuit of jobs.

What happened?

As the world moved into the industrial revolution there was an ever-increasing demand for steel. Places like Youngstown responded. The method for producing steel was basically the same in all plants. Huge plants sprouted up all over the country. Their central feature was a super-heated furnace in which the mix of iron and coal and other ingredients was fed. The work was exhausting and dangerous and costly.

And then, seemingly out of nowhere, came a bright young man who never won great fame and whose name seems to have been lost in the mists of history. His idea was simple: Reduce the ingredients needed to make steel to a liquid and then pour the liquid into desired forms. He approached several American steel companies with his idea. They turned him down. In part, they must have done so because they had made big investments in their plants and were not about to scrap the old plants for the new method.

The young man took his idea to Japan. The Japanese companies enthusiastically embraced the idea. They poured the liquid into molds and shipped the finished product into the American market. That was the beginning of the process that turned Youngstown into a ghost town.

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Mark Strabala Thu. Aug 9, 2007

For more on the plight of Youngstow, read SWAP by Sam Moffie. At least he has some humour in what happened to this city.

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