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         BOOK REVIEW                      by Jennifer Brown

                Steel, from Mine to Mill, the Metal that Made America by Brooke C. Stoddard
           t would be hard to deny the crucial   and to think that at one time it flowed   oxygen furnace and continuous cast-
         Irole of manufactured steel in our   thin as water.”                  ing. The author says the big compa-
         history. In the book the author has   Readers will discover an increas-  nies failed to spend money on research
         created a comprehensive study of how   ing respect for the durable metal that   and development and made decisions
         steel is made from iron ore. This is the   spends much of its life in a malleable   to support executives rather than
         tale  of  a  transformative  substance,   liquid form. Heated up in fires likened   streamline production. In contrast,
         of metamorphosis,  of grueling hard   to a burning hell, the iron ore, which   foreign mills innovated upgrades and
         work, and of the rise and fall of an in-  takes so much work to mine and trans-  efficient practices early.
         dustry. In America and beyond, steel   port, has to be heated in order to re-  The Recession in the late 1950’s set
         has  dominated  many  different  land-  move impurities such as nitrogen,   the stage for the following fifty years.
         scapes; the literal landscape, the eco-  silicon, phosphorus, sulfur, and ex-  To offset falling demand, prices were
         nomic landscape, and the labor land-  cess carbon. In the process, gases like   raised rather than trying to produce
         scape. American steel production no                                   more steel in less time and with few-
         longer holds the supreme position it                                  er workers. In 1972 Bethlehem Steel
         once did, but it remains a player, with                               built the high-rise Martin Tower for
         a future far from certain.                                            their headquarters with no expense
           Stoddard has worked as a writer for                                 spared. Management followed up by
         Time-Life books and National Geo-                                     ignoring the ingenuity of their own
         graphic Books. With his background,                                   workers  and  the  distrust  grew  be-
         it’s no surprise that he has chosen to                                tween labor and management. As
         immerse  himself  deeply  in  this  sub-                              other countries out managed U.S. pro-
         ject.  He  includes  great  detail,  uses                             duction, mini mills sprang up in the
         vivid descriptions and dramatic photo-                                United States, and plastics replaced a
         graphs. He leaves no stone unturned                                   portion of the product demand.
         in his search to illustrate the process                                 The  World  Steel  Association  places
         of manufacturing steel. From the ori-                                 the United States behind  China,  In-
         gins of how steel was made, to travel-                                dia, Japan, and the European Union
         ling on an iron ore boat transporting                                 in production of steel. Our steel mills
         ore across the Great Lakes, to visit-                                 still take pride in producing high qual-
         ing alongside workers, at what was                                    ity but have had to let go of produc-
         once the largest steel mill in the world   oxygen and nitrogen need to be lim-  ing the highest output. America is no
         Sparrows Point,  to in-depth descrip-  ited to become a quality substance of   longer the steel making power it once
         tions of the finishing process of rolling   steel that can be made into products.   was; it’s no longer the #1 producer of
         steel, Stoddard offers us observations   This industry once reigned sovereign   most of the world’s steel.
         and up-close experiences. Stoddard   in  profit-making  for  our  country.  To-  The book closes with Stoddard’s ac-
         writes, “Looking in, you could see the   day government tariffs are targeted to   count of how the blast furnaces, roll-
         upstream of the block the liquid iron   prop up the business and the industry   ing mills, and company towns, and
         seethed with heat, like tomato soup at   continues its struggle.      even the powerful facility at Sparrows
         a furious boil.” The general foreman at   Stoddard’s  concluding  chapter  on   Point have shut down. The author
         Sparrow’s Point of Bethlehem Steel,   the decline of the American steel in-  writes that Sparrows Point has “re-
         James L. Gilpin waxes poetic about   dustry faults decades of poor manage-  verted again to a mere patch of land
         the substance, “An amazing thing   ment by major steel companies. Amer-  - home for birds.” The mighty history
         about iron and steel is to look at the   ican mills have generally been slow   of American steel remains, but we are
         end product, which is hard as stone,   at adopting innovations like the basic   left wondering… about its future. n

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