search terms in context | full text File Size: 3560 K bytes | Add this to my bookbag

 

Series XXIII. Union, Joliet, and Illinois Steel Companies, 1884-1902

Historical Background

In the late nineteenth century, Chicago had become a steel producing center that rivaled Pittsburgh due to its location on the Great Lakes and centered on a major railway network. The largest steel firm in Chicago was the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company under the management of Orrin W. Potter. The Joliet Iron & Steel Company, run by Horace Strong Smith, employed about 1,500 men soon after it opened in 1871, and quickly became the second largest steel producer in Chicago. The third largest firm was the Union Iron & Steel Company under the direction of Jay C. Morse. By the 1880s, these three companies together accounted for nearly thirty percent of the total U.S. output of steel rails.

Although located in Chicago, the Union and Joliet Steel Companies maintained a working relationship with Henry Clay Frick and various Carnegie companies. These steel companies purchased coke and coal from the H.C. Frick Coke Company, and after forming the merger that would create the Illinois Steel, the company continued to purchase from Frick. The directors of these companies corresponded with Frick on matters of purchase prices of coal and coke, coal necessity, and labor conditions in the Connellsville coke region.

In 1889, the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company merged with the Union Iron & Steel Company and then purchased Joliet Steel; these three companies incorporated to form the Illinois Steel Company. After the merger was completed, Union Iron & Steel’s director, J.C. Morse, became president of the new company. The Illinois Steel Company interests were in steel, transportation, ore, coal and coke, blast furnaces, and Bessemer plants. Illinois Steel not only owned multiple mills and employed a total of about 10,000 men, but also controlled iron mines, coal mines, and transportation systems. Continued advancements came from Morse’s successor, John Warne Gates, who was a main catalyst in motivating J.P. Morgan, a well known financer, to underwrite mergers between major steel producers. Morgan then met with Elbert Gary, Illinois Steel legal counsel director, to arrange and finance another merger. This merger brought Illinois Steel and a few smaller companies together to form the Federal Steel Company in 1898. Morgan then made Gary head of the new corporation. Gary’s Federal Steel, as it was sometimes called, became the second largest producer of steel next to the Carnegie Steel Company. Andrew Carnegie recognized the success of Federal Steel which would eventually allow for the largest steel merger at that time between Federal and Carnegie Steel Companies. The merger of these two companies became the core of the United States Steel Corporation, a major conglomerate with subsidiary companies. The subsidiary company once known as Illinois Steel name would change in 1936 to United States Steel’s Carnegie-Illinois Steel Company.

Scope and Content Notes:

The majority of this series contains the incoming correspondence from officers of the Union, Joliet, and Illinois Steel Companies written to Frick. The remaining material is comprised of agreements, statements and estimates which document a small portion of Illinois Steel Company’s financial records. While the North Chicago Rolling Mill Company was part of the original merger, there are no records from the company in this series. This series is further divided into three subseries: Union Iron & Steel Company, Joliet Iron & Steel Company, and Illinois Steel Company. The correspondence are arranged chronologically within each subseries. The material in this series dates from 1884 to 1902.

Subseries 1. Union Iron & Steel Company, 1884-1889

Scope and Content Notes:

This subseries contains letters sent from the Union Steel Company by J.C. Morse, Vice-President and later President of the company. A small portion of the correspondence are letters from H.A. Gray, Secretary and Treasurer of the Union Iron & Steel to E.M. Ferguson, the partial owner of H.C. Frick & Company. The Gary/Ferguson letters concern coke matters, such as supply of coke to the Union Steel Company and the labor situation in the Connellsville coke region. It is important to note that the letters from the Union Steel Company provide more personal content on matters concerning strikes and striking employees than much of the business correspondence found in other series. The correspondence in this subseries date from 1884 to 1889.


Box 653
Folder 1 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, January 1884-January 1886
Folder 2 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, January 1886
Folder 3 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, February 1886
Folder 4 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, March 1886
Folder 5 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, April 1886
Folder 6 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, April 1886
Folder 7 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, May 1886
Folder 8 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, May 1886
Folder 9 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, June 1886
Folder 10 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, July 1886
Folder 11 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, August-September 1886
Folder 12 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, October-November 1886
Folder 13 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, December 1886
Folder 14 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, July-September 1887
Folder 15 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, October 1887
Folder 16 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, November 1887
Folder 17 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, December 1887
Folder 18 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, January 1889
Folder 19 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, February 1889
Folder 20 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, March 1889
Folder 21 Union Steel Co., Correspondence, April-May 1889

Subseries 2. Joliet Iron & Steel Company, 1885-1888

Scope and Content Notes:

The majority of the Joliet Steel Company correspondence comes from W.R. Stirling (Treasurer), Alex Leith (President), and J.C. Stirling (Secretary). Much like the correspondence from the previous subseries, the Joliet Iron letters are written to Frick asking about the supply and analysis of Frick’s coke and concerns about striking workers in the Connellsville coke region. Additionally, these letters are also more candid about business concerns then the average business correspondence of that time period. This is documented in a letter that W.R. Stirling wrote to Frick dated June 8, 1889 in which he states, “We are having considerable trouble at our furnaces owing to Poor Quality of coke we are receiving from you.” The correspondence in this subseries date from 1885 to 1888.


Box 654
Folder 1 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, November 1885
Folder 2 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, January-May 1886 (intermittent)
Folder 3 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, June-December 1886 (intermittent)
Folder 4 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, January 1887
Folder 5 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, February-March 1887
Folder 6 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, April 1887
Folder 7 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, May 1887
Folder 8 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, June 1887
Folder 9 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, July 1887
Folder 10 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, July 1887
Folder 11 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, August-September 1887
Folder 12 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, November 1887
Folder 13 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, December 1887
Folder 14 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, January 1888
Folder 15 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, February 1888
Folder 16 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, March 1888
Folder 17 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, April 1888
Folder 18 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, May 1888
Folder 19 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, June 1888
Folder 20 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, July 1888

Box 655
Folder 1 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, August 1888
Folder 2 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, September 1888
Folder 3 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, October 1888
Folder 4 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, November 1888
Folder 5 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, December 1888
Folder 6 Joliet Steel Co., Correspondence, undated

Subseries 3. Illinois Steel Company, 1889-1892

Scope and Content Notes:

The majority of the Illinois Steel correspondence comes from the president of the company, Jay C. Morse, and concerns coke prices, production, and supply. Additionally, this subseries also contains correspondence between the Illinois Steel Company and the Carnegie Brothers & Company, Ltd., from the time when Frick was President. The letters discuss an agreement concerning the division of rail business between the Illinois Steel Company and Carnegie Brothers & Company. The remaining material is comprised of agreements, statements, and estimates which document a small portion of Illinois Steel Company’s financial records. The correspondence in this subseries date from 1889 to 1892.

Folder 7 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, May 1889
Folder 8 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, June 1889
Folder 9 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, July 1889
Folder 10 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, July 1889
Folder 11 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, August 1889
Folder 12 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, September 1889
Folder 13 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, October 1889
Folder 14 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, November 1889
Folder 15 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, December 1889
Folder 16 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, January 1890
Folder 17 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, February 1890
Folder 18 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, March 1890

Box 656
Folder 1 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, April 1890
Folder 2 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, May 1890
Folder 3 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, June 1890
Folder 4 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, July-August 1890
Folder 5 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, September 1890
Folder 6 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, October 1890
Folder 7 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, November-December 1890
Folder 8 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, 1891
Folder 9 Illinois Steel Co., Correspondence, 1892
Folder 10 Illinois Steel Co., Financial Statement, January 1, 1890
Folder 11 Illinois Steel Co., Estimated Consumption of Coke, undated
Folder 12 Illinois Steel Co., Agreement, 1897