Innovations in Steel Fabrication: Pennsylvania’s Contribution to Modern Manufacturing
Pennsylvania is backed by a long and rich history in the American manufacturing industry. Considered by many to be the steel-making capital of the world, the state has long held the nickname “Steel City” within the greater fabrication industry.
Going all the way back before the industrial revolution, Pennsylvania has remained a central hub for the steel industry in the United States and the larger global market. Home to some of the historical titans of industry such as U.S. Steel and Carnegie Steel Company, our state played a pivotal role in the growth of the nation’s steel production during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Today, a myriad of companies including Alloy Fabrication continue to carry the torch of quality steel manufacturing services coming out of the Keystone State.
A Brief History of Pennsylvania’s Role in the American Manufacturing Industry:
Kickstarting the Industrial Revolution
Pennsylvania played a central role in the Industrial Revolution in the United States. With its vast natural resources, including coal and iron ore, the state became a leading center for industrial development throughout the 19th century. That tradition of quality American manufacturing and innovation continues to this day.
Establishing the Labor Movement and Workers’ Rights
Pennsylvania played a critical role in the development of the early labor movement and workers’ rights. Our state was the stage for some of the largest organized strikes and demonstrations in the history of American labor. Specifically, western Pennsylvania saw the formation of the original Steel Workers Organization Committee (SWOC). In 1942, that organization transformed into the United Steelworkers of America (USW), which continues to fight for the rights of workers to this day.
Establishing the Modern Oil and Gas Industry
The Pennsylvania oil industry in the 19th century had a significant impact on the future of the global energy industry. Utilizing new and advanced industrial steel tools for the time, Edwin Drake effectively set up the first oil drilling operation in the world. The first successful commercial oil well officially went operational in Titusville, PA in 1859. Essentially, this marked the beginning of the American petroleum industry and worldwide energy sector.
Revolutionizing the Computer Industry
It could be argued that CNC machining technology also got its start in the Keystone State. The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), one of the earliest electronic general-purpose computers, was largely developed at the University of Pennsylvania during World War II. Completed in 1945, the ENIAC played a crucial role in calculations for military and scientific purposes – most notably the Manhattan Project which developed the first atomic bomb. The computing technology would quickly evolve and be adopted in other applications, including the manufacturing sector with its first computer numerical controlled machines emerging later in the 1940s and 1950s.
A Hub for Industrial Research and Innovation
Pennsylvania has been a center for innovation and research in manufacturing. The state is home to numerous research institutions and universities that contribute to advancements in manufacturing technologies, materials science, and engineering. Most notably is the University of Pennsylvania, in part established by one of Philadelphia’s most famous resident inventors in 1751, Benjamin Franklin.
Notable Inventions Originally Engineered and Manufactured in Pennsylvania
Just for fun, let’s take a look at some of the most famous and impactful American steel products that were originally engineered and manufactured in the Keystone State:
- The Ferris Wheel – Pennsylvania has been home to some of the most skilled structural steel fabricators that the world has ever known. As a case in point, in 1893 Pittsburgh railroad engineer George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. came up with the design for a new, soon-to-be iconic attraction: a massive revolving wheel with hanging passenger carrying cars, dubbed the Ferris Wheel. Built for the Chicago World Fair, the original version was a huge structural fabrication 250 ft in diameter with numerous carrier cars that could fit up to 60 people at a time.
- The Iconic Jeep – In the late 1930s, with World War II underway, the U.S. army needed an all-purpose, all-terrain vehicle that would give them the upper hand of mobility in the field. It was the Bantam Car Company located in Butler, Pennsylvania that rose to the challenge and developed the iconic Jeep. The original Jeep went into mass production in 1941, going on to become one of the most popular consumer trucks/SUVs of all time. It’s one of PA’s many, longest-running contributions to the automotive manufacturing industry.
- Zippo Lighters – The manufacturer of the iconic Zippo lighter got its start in Bradford, Pennsylvania in 1932. Zippo Manufacturing Company went on to release its first uniquely fabricated steel lighter in 1933 – a design which continues to this day with minimal modifications.
- The Slinky – Another iconic product within its respective market, this bouncing steel spring toy was invented by Richard T. James – student of Pennsylvania State University and resident of Clifton Heights. The Slinky officially debuted in a Philadelphia Gimbels department store in 1945, going on to become one of the most popular toys manufactured in America.
One of the Reading, PA Region’s Premier Industrial Fabrication Companies
Alloy Fabrication has proudly served Pennsylvania and the greater Mid-Atlantic Region with quality industrial steel fabrication services since 1987. Utilizing a 14,000 sq.-ft facility packed with the latest production tools and technologies, we can fabricate virtually any custom steel component in-house with superior American manufacturing quality and precision.