Rich in resources, Ohio has long been a center of manufacturing in the United States.
Learn about the steel industry that dominated Youngstown in the 20th century and check out the “last heats,” the final batches of steel produced at each of the mills before they closed.
The museum features hundreds of photographs representing labor, immigration and urban history. Objects on display range from workers’ tools and clothing to hundreds of photographs, some more than 30 feet long. Life-sized scenes—including a mill’s locker room, part of a company-built house, and a blooming mill, where steel ingots were shaped for further processing—help visitors understand steelmaking and the lives of steelworkers. Average visit time: Allow 1+ hours
In addition to exhibits, the center offers educational programs and an archives/library. Part of the Ohio Network of American History Research Centers, the archives/library serves as a repository for local government records, as well as manuscripts collected from workers, companies and labor organizations.
In 1845, deposits of block coal—which could be used in iron furnaces without being converted to coke —were discovered near Youngstown. These coal deposits, along with the area’s seams of high-quality iron ore, were a major catalyst for the growth of the iron industry in northeastern Ohio. The nation’s westward expansion increased demand for iron, guaranteeing that the Mahoning Valley’s iron furnaces would stay busy. By the 1850s, the valley was one of the nation’s leading centers of iron production.
The Mahoning Valley gradually made the switch to steel production. The Ohio Steel Company, organized in 1892, was the valley’s first steel company. By the turn of the century, most of the area’s iron makers had consolidated into huge steel mills that did everything in one place, from processing ore to finishing steel products. By the 1920s, the Mahoning Valley was second only to Pittsburgh in American steel production. Spurred by World War II and postwar growth, steelmaking in the nation increased, peaking in 1973. Within 10 years, the steel industry was a shadow of its former self.
Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor is managed locally by Youngstown State University.