U.S. Steel Gary Works Hits 90th Year Milestone
A group of U.S. Steel officials, United Steelworker representatives, political and civic leaders and other guests gathered today to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the arrival of the first ore boat at the company's Gary Works -- an event which began one of the most significant manufacturing sagas in world history.
On July 23, 1908, the 12,000-ton steamer Elbert H. Gary entered the new steel plant's harbor at the southern tip of Lake
Michigan loaded with iron ore and 500 passengers and accompanied by a convoy of U.S. Navy gunboats to help mark the historic occasion. As a ceremony and parade proceeded down Broadway through the fledgling City of Gary, the iron ore was unloaded for charging into Gary Works' blast furnaces, beginning operations of the most productive steel facility ever built.
Since then, more than 370 million tons of ore have been delivered, and Gary Works has produced 435 million tons of steel, more than any plant in the world. That much steel would:
Build 480 million cars - enough to go around the equator more than 60 times lined up bumper to bumper.
Build enough steel framed homes to house every one of America's 75 million families.
Build 6 quadrillion steel food cans - or 1,000 for every single person on earth.
Yesterday's commemorative ceremonies at the plant's dock included tours by the participants of a modern 1,000-foot long, 73,000-ton ore boat -- the Motor Vessel Edgar B. Speer -- in the slip where the Elbert Gary was unloaded nine decades earlier.
``The arrival of the first ore boat to Gary Works in 1908 marked not just the start of operations at U.S. Steel's flagship mill, but also the birth of the first truly integrated major steel facility in America. It also represented an early milestone in Northwest Indiana's rich steel heritage,'' said Raymond R. Terza, plant manager of primary operations at Gary Works.
``Today, Northwest Indiana has become the world's steel-making capital, as well as the focal point of the 1990's dramatic re-birth of America's steel industry as a high-tech, globally competitive leader,'' Terza said. ``The 7,800 men and women of Gary Works are proud of the plant's status as the largest steel mill in North America, and even prouder of its status as one of the most modern and efficient facilities in the world.
``Therefore -- as we look ahead to the task of keeping Gary Works at the forefront of quality steel-making into the 21st century -- it's appropriate that we pause to remember the arrival 90 years ago of the first raw materials for iron and steel production here,'' he added.
Terza noted that the Elbert Gary's entry into the new steel mill harbor was a major event in 1908. Excavation of the site and construction of facilities had taken a little more than two years, a project compared in scope with construction of the Panama Canal.
Eager to be part of the historic day, thousands of people -- dignitaries, workers and citizens -- lined the plant's docks and greeted the incoming steamer with cheering and songs. Three Navy gunboats marked the opening of the new harbor and the arrival of the first vessel with a 21-gun cannon salute. The keynote address was delivered by John W. Kern, the Democratic nominee for vice president, running with William Jennings Bryan.
Gary Works represented the vision of Judge Elbert H. Gary, elected the first chairman of U.S. Steel when it was founded in
1901. Judge Gary conceived of a completely new steel plant on an undeveloped site which would incorporate all the elements of an integrated facility, from raw materials through a range of finished steel products.
The site was chosen and on March 12, 1906, surveyors drove stakes into the expanse of swamp and dune land, and construction began. The project included elevating the entire mill site by 15 feet; digging a three-mile long tunnel for water, 80 feet down and extending a mile into the lake; laying 51 miles of railroad track; building houses for thousands of workers, and constructing the essential services for a city of 250,000 residents, in addition to all the plant's processing facilities.
Following arrival of the first iron ore, Gary Works produced its first blast furnace iron on Dec. 21, 1908. The first heat of steel
was tapped on February 3, 1909.
Reported by: James H. Neumiller