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Bruce Drisbach-American Steel & Wire Company Photograph Collection, 1915-1917, AIS.2001.02
Archives Service Center, University of Pittsburgh

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What’s online

All images in the collection are online. The collection contains 125 photographic images depicting the construction of the American Steel & Wire Company building, equipment, worker housing construction, and the Donora environment between 1915 and 1917.

What’s in the entire collection

The entire collection consists of glass plate negatives is held by the Archives Service Center (ASC) at the University of Pittsburgh. The Bruce Drisbach-American Steel & Wire Company Photograph Collection documents the construction of housing for workers and the American Steel & Wire Company. The housing photographs detail construction of housing from groundbreaking to near completion. They show the variety in the types of housing constructed and care in craftsmanship. The images also show conditions in downtown Donora, Pa. Construction of the American Steel & Wire Company is depicted from ground breaking to completion. There are interior and exterior building images, views of equipment and views of workers as well as images of workers using equipment. Four photographs depict a gathering of mill workers. Found amongst the collection are family photographs and landscape photographs; no dates or exact location exists for these images.

About the American Steel & Wire Company

The American Steel & Wire Company, founded in 1899, occupied 300 acres in Donora and later became part of the United States Steel Corporation in 1900. Ground was broken for the Zinc Works on June 16, 1915 which would occupy 45 acres of land along the Monongahela River on the opposite side of Donora. The first zinc was produced at the plant on October 29, 1915. The zinc was used to galvanize wire and other steel items as well as being a component of explosives and brass.

Donora and the Zinc Works are probably most famous for the disaster on October 28, 1948 when sulfur dioxide emissions covered the area during a weather inversion leaving 6,000 residents ill and twenty residents dead. This was the first documented case of air pollution deaths. Within twenty years, the American Steel & Wire Company closed.

About the Photographer

The photographs were taken by Bruce Drisbach, a resident of Donora and employee and official photographer for the American Steel & Wire Company.

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