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The New York Times, November 10, 1870, p.6:|
OUR STEEL MANUFACTURES.The Cleveland Steel Works and American Iron—The Obstacles to Steel Making—
European Resources of Ore and Fuel—American Resources and their Development—
The Pig-Iron Question—High Steel vs. Low.
From Our Special Correspondent.
By our visit to Cleveland, we hoped to learn something about the prospects of steel manufacture in the Western States. We were highly gratified by the high intelligence, the liberal policy, and truly enterprising spirit displayed by the iron and steel men of this city. With a very justifiable pride, they claim that they are setting a good example to some of the Pennsylvania men, and the claim seems to be well-founded in one or two respects, especially as they confine themselves to the production of the better grades of iron and steel—a matter, by the way, easier of attainment in Cleveland than in most parts of Pennsylvania.
The Cleveland Rolling Mill Company are now operating a Bessemer plant, of which the most interesting feature is the exclusive use of American pig-iron. It is smelted chiefly near Marquette, on Lake Superior, with charcoal. The ores are the purest specular and red hematites. Preparations are now making to bring these ores to the works, and smelt them with semi-bituminous coal, probably from the Briar Hill mines, and there is no doubt that the undertaking will be entirely successful, yielding a pig-iron of excellent quality and of great cheapness.
I have repeatedly stated that the chief obstacle to the immediate and extended development of the manufacture of low steel, for general purposes of construction, is the difficulty of procuring an adequate supply of cheap iron adapted to the processes...
Take railway construction, for example. The fifty thousand miles in this country would require nearly seven millon tons of steel to replace the iron track, which is now relaid throughout, on an average, once in four years. Assuming that steel would last twenty-five years, the average supply would be nearly three hundred thousand tons annually, for roads already operative, and an equal amount would be required for new roads to be built in the future.
Great quantities would enter into the construction of large bridges, into the moving parts of machine-tools and engines, into shafting, tires, ship and boiler plate, and the endless forms of ironmongers, were the steel-makers able to deliver it in quantity, size and shapes, and at a cost commensurate with the wants of manufacturers and builders. That low steel will be ultimately applied to all these purposes seems unquestionable, though the difficulties in the way are certainly formidable...
The difficulty besetting the Bessemer process, just now, and of the most serious nature, is that of obtaining a metal suitable for conversion... we cannot obtain a suitable metal just now, on account of the rarity of cheap and available ores... Although the requisite qualities are found in the ores of certain localities, and though the absolute quantity of them is very great, it is an unfortunate circumstance that they are rarely found in reasonable proximity to cheap fuels.
Of European countries, England is most favored in this respect. The Cumberland red hematites are immense in extent, and are already mined at the rate of 1,400,000 tons yearly. They lie near the northwestern coal fields, and are smelted with great facility, and with a very large yield, and yet these Cumberland irons are not cheap...
The great works at Le Creusot, at Terre Noir, and at Imphy, in France, are supplied with iron smelted from ores brought from Algeria and the Island of Elba, and at very great cost.
In Belgium, Germany and Austria, the ores are very scarce, and coal still more so.
In Sweden the ores are abundant, and of the most perfect quality, but charcoal is the only fuel in that kingdom, and the irons are sold at rates which only the makers of the finest steel, or the consumers of the most precious irons, can afford to pay.
Italy has ores, but no coal. Spain probably has an abundance of both, and a population that would rather starve than dig them.
In brief, England is the only country which can make good irons for steel cheaply, and by reason of her very isolation in this respect, she sells them very dear.
Turning to our own country... as far as the Eastern States are concerned, if there is a single ore deposit from Lake Champlain to Alabama which is known to be capable of making Bessemer pig, those who know it have deemed proper to keep silent about it... The truth is, very little effort has been made to ascertain whether such were to be found.
In the Western States there are two regions which abound in good ores... These are the Lake Superior and Missouri iron regions... the supply is exhaustless, the quality unsurpassed, and... they can be mined with ease... Lake Superior ores are carried to Harrisburg, and Iron Mountain ores to Pittsburg, at a cost exceeding eleven dollars per ton, and smelted at good profit...
The importance of the pig-iron question to the Bessemer process now becomes apparent. The Troy and Harrisburg works are importing Cumberland iron at a cost which is probably in excess of forty dollars per ton, and the Cleveland Company use charcoal iron, which cannot cost very much less. Reckoning the loss by conversion, the iron for a ton of steel rails costs $45 to $50, or very nearly half the market price. In the Hudson and Lehigh Valley, in case ore could be found favorably located, the iron ought not to cost more than $25 to $27 per ton. At Cleveland, with semi-bituminous coal, and Lake Superior ores, the cost should not exceed $28 per ton. At Chicago, with present facilities, it ought not to exceed $27...
...it is painful to reflect that such a noble industry must purchase its material at such a monstrous profit to the English smelter. I have heard with great pleasure that a number of Eastern manufacturers have taken vigorous measures to produce a much cheaper iron, and every one will heartily wish them success.
The Cleveland Company, having first demonstrated that Bessemer irons can be made in America, are about to demonstrate also that they can be made cheaply, and with all honor to their enterprising spirit and intelligence...
So much for the Bessemer. There is another process which seems to produce results of the highest importance to our steel industry, and that is the Siemens-Martin. It consists in adding to a bath of molten cast-iron successive quantities of decarbonized iron, until the mixture has the constitution of steel; the whole thing being kept fluid in a Siemens furnace. At the close of the heat, spiegel-eisen is added, to remove all traces of oxygen, and the metal is then tapped off in ingot molds.
This process has some advantages over the Bessemer. The wrought-iron employed may be derived from almost any pig-iron, since the phosphorus and silicon are pretty thoroughly removed by puddling, and only the original bath of cast-iron (which is about one-sixth of the whole charge) must be of the super-fine quality essential to the Bessemer process. It is also easy to control the degree of carburization with precision, and to vary it at pleasure. The quality of the metal yielded is very excellent and reliable, and is less liable to derangement than the Bessemer. But... the cost of Siemens-Martin steel is and must continue to be considerably greater than the other...
Mr. Siemens has patented a new process for making steel direct from the ore; but as this has not yet passed through the experimental stage, it is impossible to measure its merits...
But you see I have used the Cleveland Company as a text rather than as a lesson. As to the plant of the Company, we thought it decidedly inferior both to the Troy and the Harrisburg. But it makes good steel, the Company are pleased with it, and intend to build some more of the same sort.
The product of the [Cleveland] steelworks is about nine thousand tons per annum, but will soon be increased. A noticable feature is the steel-headed rail, known as the Booth patent. The head is slotted underneath to fit the top of the web, which is expanded considerably, and is crimped or clinched on by passing the rail cold through knurling rolls. This is certainly a capital way to make a steel-headed rail, but as these cost $85 per ton and the solid steel $100 to 105, the superiority of the latter surely ought to be worth more than the difference...