Industry in Ohio

Topic Industry in Ohio
Time Period early 1900s-1940s
Keyword(s) Industry, labor, factories, production, consumption, technology, workforce, resources, inventions
Grade level(s) Grades 4-12
Learning standard(s) Kindergarten, Production and Consumption (Goods and services)

Grade 4.4 and 4.5 (The economic development of the United States continues to influence and be influenced by agriculture, industry and natural resources in Ohio. Many technological innovations that originated in Ohio benefited the United States.)

Grade 7 (The Industrial Revolution fundamentally changed the means of production as a result of improvements in technology, use of new power resources, the advent of interchangeable parts and the shift from craftwork to factory work.)

High School History 2 & 3 (The rise of corporations, heavy industry, mechanized farming and technological innovations transformed the American economy from an agrarian to an increasingly urban industrial society. The rise of industrialization led to a rapidly expanding workforce. Labor organizations grew amidst unregulated working conditions, laissez-faire policies toward big business, and violence toward supporters of organized labor.)

Ohio boasts a very rich innovative history and has been a forerunner in advancing the technology of the times. In the 20th century it was a leader in iron and steel production. While the Great Depression dented factory production, Ohio’s industrial corporations were resilient by making modifications, being frugal and thinking outside the box. Many products born in Ohio have set the course for the invention of others. For example, the invention of the cash register eventually led to the creation of barcode scanners. This primary source set takes you through the decades in Ohio’s factories and corporations that are headquartered in Ohio and culminates with their current successes. It also covers the improved treatment of factory employees over time and includes organizations who represent workers’ rights. Consumer needs are also evident in the evolution of the products. This primary source set can also serve as a career discovery tool as students can gain insight on jobs from both the management perspective and blue-collar.

Raw Materials & Pieces/Parts

Ohio Iron and Steel Industry Preview

Ohio Iron and Steel Industry

This photograph shows the interior of a steel mill. This is most likely a ladle full of molten metal being poured. This could be one of any number of steel mills in Ohio. In the early nineteenth century, there were a number of furnaces in Ohio that processed iron. These small industries were made possible by local iron ore deposits in southern and eastern Ohio. In addition, some parts of Ohio also had coal deposits that could be used to fuel furnaces. Because of their proximity to the state’s iron manufacturing, by the second half of the nineteenth century communities such as Cleveland, Akron, Canton, and Youngstown had begun to emerge as major industrial cities. After the American Civil War, iron manufacturers in Ohio began to introduce new processes to refine iron ore. The resulting product was steel, which was much stronger and more versatile than iron. Ohio companies were quick to adopt new technology, as a result Ohio became the second largest producer of steel in the nation by the 1890’s. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the rapid growth of some steel companies led to a wave of mergers that created big businesses like the United States Steel Company (U.S. Steel), Republic Iron and Steel Corporation, and Youngstown Steel and Tube Company.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Youngstown Steel and Tube - spindles Preview

Youngstown Steel and Tube - spindles

Reverse reads: “Youngstown Sheet & Tube. Credit W.A. Bartz.” This photograph shows man rubber belts criss-crossing from machine to ceiling, turning the wheels of spinning spools of, what is most likely, steel tubing. Youngstown Sheet and Tube Company plant, east from Center Street Bridge in Youngstown, Ohio at one time made most of America’s steel pipe and tubing. The “new” seamless tube mill, which simply plunges a hole through a solid cylinder of steel, furnished completed tubing far stronger than was possible under the old lap and butt welding process. The Youngstown Iron Sheet and Tube Company was one of the largest steel manufacturers in the world. The company was created by George D. Wick and James A. Campbell along with other local investors who wanted to maintain significant levels of local ownership within the city’s manufacturing sector, on November 23, 1900. The home plant of YS&T was known as the Campbell Works located in Campbell and Struthers, Ohio (just south of downtown Youngstown). This plant contained four blast furnaces, twelve open hearth furnaces, blooming mills, two Bessemer converters, slabbing mill, butt weld tube mill, 79″ hot strip mill, seamless tube mills and 9″ and 12″ bar mills at the Struthers Works. The Brier Hill Works consisted of two blast furnaces named Grace and Jeannette, twelve open hearth furnaces, 40″ blooming mill, 35″ intermediate blooming mill, 24″ round mill, 84″ and 132″ plate mills and an electric weld tube mill. In 1952, during the Korean War, President Harry S. Truman attempted to seize United States steel mills in order to avert a strike. This led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Company v. Sawyer, commonly referred to as The Steel Seizure Case. The decision limited the power of the President of the United States to seize private property in the absence of either specifically enumerated authority under Article Two of the United States Constitution or statutory authority conferred on him by Congress. Youngstown Sheet and Tube abruptly closed on September 19, 1977, a day the residents called “Black Monday”.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Rubber plant - rubber Preview

Rubber plant - rubber

This photograph shows a length of rubber moving down a conveyor belt and being fed into a machine with two large rollers, which appear to be grinding or mashing the rubber into a thinner strip. The shift workers names K. C. Dixon and E. Soderstrom appear at the top of the Davis machine in the background. This is most likely the B.F. Goodrich Rubber Company Plant or the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company Plant, both in Akron, Ohio. More information needed. The B.F. Goodrich Rubber Company Plant was located at 500 South Main Street was Akron’s oldest rubber factory and one of the world’s largest, producing more than 30,000 kinds of rubber articles beside automobile tires. Occupying 275 acres, the plant had 116 buildings with 165 acres of floor space. In addition, the Goodrich company operated the Miller rubbery factory on South High Street and several regional plants. The Goodrich plant had its own utilities, waterworks, service departments, hospital, electric transportation system, and a subway. The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company Plant was located on 1278 South Main Street and covered 10 city blocks, including its subsidiaries: Xylos Rubber Plant, the Firestone Battery Company Plant and the Firestone Steel Products Plant. It was founded in 1900 by Harvey S. Firestone. In addition to tires, this group of factories produces batteries, spark plugs, brake linings, steel wheel drums and rims and a variety of articles requiring adhesion of steel and rubber.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Unloading ore at Ashtabula docks Preview

Unloading ore at Ashtabula docks

Original description: “Ore loading machine, Ashtabula docks.” This photograph shows a freighter having its cargo unloaded at the Ashtabula docks. The Hulett Automatic Ore Unloader, shown in the photograph, was invented by George H. Hulett, a native of Ohio. The Hulett Automatic Ore Unloader became an essential element in the development of the iron ore industry in Ohio, allowing rapid unloading of cargo and increasing the volume and efficiency of ore docks at Ohio ports.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Firestone Spark Plug Factory production line Preview

Firestone Spark Plug Factory production line

Reverse reads: “Firestone spark plug factory production line. Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. Akron, O.” This photo depicts a spark plug production line at the Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. in Akron, Ohio. These workers, mostly women, were likely working as part of the Works Progress Administration project.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Finished Products

Bottling Coca-Cola Preview

Bottling Coca-Cola

The Alliance Brewing Company had a Coca-Cola and Whistle Orange Drink franchise under the name of Alliance Beverage Company. The Brewery would purchase the syrup and then bottle the pop for the soda industry. This is a photograph of the bottling assembly line.

Contributed by Rodman Public Library

Women at work at the William Shoe Company in Portsmouth, Ohio Preview

Women at work at the William Shoe Company in Portsmouth, Ohio

Photograph shows women working at the William Shoes Company in Portsmouth, Ohio. The women sit facing each other at long wooden workbenches, sewing on Singer sewing machines. Williams Manufacturing Company in Portsmouth had been small, specializing in low-cost footwear, until it began expanding during the Great Depression, as many people could not afford higher quality shoes. The discount shoe industry continued to grow, and they eventually purchased the Old Selby Factory building in 1957. They continued to make ‘cheap’ shoes, until the company found it increasingly difficult to compete in a globalized market, and were forced to close in 1976.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Lima Locomotive Works Preview

Lima Locomotive Works

This is a photo of the Lima Locomotive Works plant. This photo shows a part of the process of assembling locomotives. The company was established in 1879 and originally known as the Lima Machinery Works. The company is best known for producing the Shay geared logging steam locomotive, and for being the home of William E. Woodard’s “Super Power” advanced steam locomotive concept – exemplified by the prototype 2-8-4 Berkshire, Lima demonstrator A-1. The company stopped producing train engines in 1949, having made a total of 7,769 locomotives. This made Lima Locomotive Works the 3rd largest locomotive manufacturer in the United States. In 1947, the firm merged with General Machinery Corporation of Hamilton, Ohio, to form Lima-Hamilton. Lima’s last steam locomotive was Nickel Plate Road No. 779, a 2-8-4 “Berkshire”, which left the erecting halls in 1949. That same year Lima promoted a new wheel arrangement, the 4-8-6. This would have allowed an even larger firebox than the 4-8-4. No example of the type was built, however. In 1951, Lima-Hamilton merged with Baldwin Locomotive Works to form Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton (BLH). The Lima-Hamilton line of Diesels was discontinued, in favor of Baldwin’s existing line. Though Lima and Baldwin had been known for high-quality steam locomotives, their line of diesel-electric locomotives was unable to compete with EMD, Alco, and GE. BLH left the locomotive business in 1956.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Finished Jeep at the end of the assembly line Preview

Finished Jeep at the end of the assembly line

A photo of Jeeps being driven off the assembly line at Willys-Overland Motors in Toledo, Ohio.

Contributed by Toledo Lucas County Public Library

Libbey Glass Company Plant - hand painting Preview

Libbey Glass Company Plant - hand painting

This is most likely the Libbey Glass Company Plant in Toledo, which manufactures tumblers, cut-glass, thin-blown stemware, engraved and decorated glass. Libbey produced a hand-painted raised floral glass with gold rim glass that looks very similar to the one in the photograph. It could also be the Anchor-Hocking Glass Company in Lancaster or any of the other glass making plants in Ohio The Libbey Glass Company Plant, located at 1000 (now 940) Ash Street in Toledo, Ohio was an affiliate of the Owens-Illinois Glass Company from 1933 until it was spun off as Libbey Inc. in 1993. The company, owned by William L. Libbey, moved to Toledo in 1888 with the city providing a 4 acre factory and 50 lots for employee homes. The company changed their name from W. L. Libbey & Sons Company to Libbey Glass Company in 1892, the same year they secured a contract from Edison General Electric to produce hand blown light bulbs. Michael J. Owens, in charge of the Toledo plant, designed machines to produce things such as light bulbs and tumblers and in 1903 he invented the automatic bottle blowing machine. The company’s growing success was stifled by the Depression, which resulted in Owens-Illinois buying Libbey. With better management of the plant, the company was able to pull Libbey out of its financial problems. With the onset of World War II, the company began producing tubes for x-ray machines and other electronic equipment, as well as preparing to the postwar market. Libbey continued to be a profitable part of the Owen-Illinois company until the 1990’s. Spinning off the division in 1993 was a way to free Libbey of the constraints of being part of a large company, and unburden the large debts that were piling up. In 2001, Libbey attempted to buy Anchor-Hocking, but the Federal Trade Commission opposed the deal. As of 2004, it was the United States’ largest manufacturer of glass dinnerware, with plants in Louisiana, California, and Ohio, as well as in the Netherlands.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Robbins & Myers Company assembly line Preview

Robbins & Myers Company assembly line

Reverse reads: “A fan assembly line. Robbins-Myers, Springfield, O.” This photograph depicts several assembly line workers putting fans together at the Robbins & Myers Company in Springfield, Ohio. Robbins & Myers, Inc. was originally established in 1878 by Chandler Robbins and James Myers in Springfield, Ohio, near Dayton. The founders brought varied experiences to the business; Robbins, had been an astronomer and surveyor, and Myers had been a teacher and grocer. Robbins had invested $500 in a gray-iron foundry in 1876, and was joined two years later by Myers. The new owners changed the company name from Lever Wringer Company to The Robbins & Myers Company. The company namesakes initially manufactured castings for agricultural tools and machines, and then broadened into bicycle parts when that industry boomed at the turn of the century. From the late 1800s to the early 1900s the Company’s product line expanded to include castings for the motor powered fan. The growing use of electricity prompted Robbins & Myers to develop and manufacture its own line of motor powered fans, which eventually included ceiling, desk, oscillating and ventilating fans.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Ivory soap bars Preview

Ivory soap bars

This is a photo of several finished bars of Ivory soap, made by Procter and Gamble. The Procter and Gamble Company Plant originally covered 11 acres in a section in Cincinnati called Ivorydale. It was, and still is, one of the largest soap manufacturing plants in the world. The original plant dates from about 1885, when P&G expanded operations from their downtown location. The giant complex would eventually cover 243 acres with 120 buildings, including the 43-acre food plant built in 1911. During the 1930s, the buildings was described as being a maze of utilitarian gray stone buildings.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

National Cash Register Toolmaking Department Preview

National Cash Register Toolmaking Department

Reverse reads: “Photography courtesy of National Cash Register Co. Dayton, Ohio Nat. Cash Register Toolmaking Dept. Courtesy NCR Dayton in WPA Guide Ohio” James Ritty invented the ‘mechanical money drawer’ in 1879. The National Cash Register Company Plant was the first daylight factory building in America and set a new standard of working conditions and a created a new style of architecture. The company grew so large that its several buildings eventually totaled 51 acres of floor space. In 1906, Charles F. Kettering began working at the cash register plant, where he developed a quick-starting electric motor for cash register. Three years later, he invented the automobile self-starter. During the World War NCR devoted a large part of its facilities to making precision tools used in war manufactures. In 1968, employee John L. Janning invented liquid crystal displays (LCD), and in 1974, NCR commercialized bar-code scanners. In 2003, they were granted a patent for signature capture and they continue to succeed, concentrating their efforts on the software and services business. NCR’s corporate headquarters moved to Duluth, GA in 2009.

Contributed by Ohio History Connection

Labor and Working Conditions

Howard Leffel, Jr. Interview Preview

Howard Leffel, Jr. Interview

Howard Leffel, Jr. was employed at Doehler-Jarvis as a design engineer. In his interview, he talked about his involvement with innovations and improvements to many automobile components and prototypes for the automobile industry. He also spoke about die-castings for sports equipment and other industries, as well as the impact Japanese auto makers had on the industry.

Contributed by Toledo Lucas County Public Library

War-Time Strikes and Their Adjustment Preview

War-Time Strikes and Their Adjustment

Written by Alexander M. Bing (1879-1959), and published by E. P. Dutton and Company in 1921. Bing was a government employee during World War I, and took an active part in settling many labor controversies. This book is based upon his personal experiences; upon statements made to him by officials of government boards, employers, and union leaders, as well as reports of labor adjustment agencies, testimonies of many hearings, and government, economic, and labor journals.

Contributed by Toledo Lucas County Public Library

Garment making industries Preview

Garment making industries

Greater Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce. Survey committee. Industrial survey of Cincinnati. Vocational section. Report ; no. 2. This was the second report of a series of surveys on the industry trades in Cincinnati in 1916. Topics covered include the conditions in the factories, the history of garment factories in Cincinnati, garment-making school, and descriptive analysis of the methods behind garment making.

Contributed by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Time book and pay roll Preview

Time book and pay roll

Handwritten weekly payroll with employees’ names, hours worked, expenses, and amount due. Covers Apr. 4, 1931-Jan. 2, 1937. Employees filled out individual time sheets and the supervisor entered the information in the book. A blank time sheet and a note regarding sand and gravel labor hours worked 1929-1933 are inserted in front.

Contributed by the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

Additional Resources

  1. Ohio Safety and Health Administration, Workers’ Rights Booklet – A PDF pamphlet from the website of the Ohio Safety and Health Administration, United States Department of Labor. It specifies how an employee is protected by OSHA. The website covers safety regulations that protect both employees and consumers.
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Midwest Division, Ohio – Website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor. Many demographics on employment can be found here, such as wage amounts by occupation and geographic area, employment levels, labor turnover rates and more.
  3. Procter & Gamble – Website of Procter & Gamble, which is headquartered in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. Procter & Gamble produces many popular brands of consumer health and hygiene such as Tide, Crest, and Pampers just to name a few. It was founded in 1837 by a pair of brothers-in-law who made candles and soaps as their trades.
  4. Goodyear Tire Company – Corporate website of Goodyear Tire, whose headquarters are in Akron, Ohio. Goodyear has been making tires for cars since Henry Ford’s Model T. The new global headquarters office was built in Akron, Ohio in 2013.
  5. Libbey Glass Company – Website of Libbey Glass. Toledo, Ohio became known as the “Glass City” after Edward Drummond Libbey founded Libbey Glass in 1892, an off-shoot of the New England Glass Company. Libbey Glass boasts many accomplished “firsts”, including innovating techniques for stemware and blown glass.
  6. Marathon Petroleum Company – Website of Marathon Petroleum Company, which is headquartered in Findlay, Ohio (Hancock County). Marathon stems from the Ohio Oil Company, formed in 1887 in Lima, Ohio. It is now the largest petroleum refinery operator in the United States.
  7. Wilson – Website of the Wilson factory in Ada, Ohio, which produces all of the NFL’s footballs, among other sports. All of the balls are handmade.
  8. Ohio made Products, July 2017 – Ohio Development Service Agency (an affiliate of the U.S. Census Bureau) This PDF document sorts Ohio-made products by company, county, region, and brand name.
  9. Jeep – Website of Jeep. Jeep has been headquartered in Toledo, Ohio since 1945.
  10. Kraft Heinz – The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote an extensive article about how Heinz ketchup is made at a facility in Fremont, Ohio (Sandusky County), which is the world’s largest producer of Heinz ketchup.
  11. Whirlpool Corporation – While the world headquarters of Whirlpool Corporation is in Michigan, 4 of the 9 manufacturing facilities are in the state of Ohio (Ottawa, Clyde, Marion and Greenville), more than any other state. All together Whirlpool employs 26,000 employees.
  12. Smuckers Fiscal Year 2020 spotlight – An interactive booklet about Smuckers. Smuckers, which originally produced fruit jams, began in Orrville, Ohio in 1897. It now produces products for widely-known brands like JIF, Crisco and Folgers, to name a few.
  13. Kroger – Kroger began with a small grocery store in downtown Cincinnati. Today, Kroger stores have become a one-stop shop boasting pharmacies, florists and bakers and gas stations.

Teaching Guide

This guide will serve to outline some possible ways to interact with the digital content and has suggestions to have students pull information from the examples listed above.

Discussion Questions (Download)

  1. Have you ever been on a factory tour? What were they making and what was your favorite part of the tour? What did you learn?
  2. Provide some examples of how Ohio’s factories show that workers’ conditions have improved since the dawn of industrialization.
  3. What are some of the resources that Ohio’s factories used to make their products?

Classroom Activities (Download)

  1. Choose one company that was founded in Ohio and write a 2-4 page summarized report of your chosen company.
  2. Using facts you find from the additional resources and source set examples, create a timeline of products that were developed in Ohio from 1900 to the present.
  3. Make a map of the corporations that were founded in Ohio. See if they tend to gather around the larger cities of Ohio.
  4. Break the students into small groups of 4 or more to create a project using an assembly line concept.