We Made Steel

dsc_0036020811

Picture 1 of 8

Photo: Ethan Wallace

Founded in 1867 as the William Butcher Steel Works, Midvale Steel was originally a producer of steel wheels for railroad cars. The company chose Nicetown for its convenience to the existing railway–which brought the anthracite used for steel production–as well as its proximity to the huge Baldwin Locomotive Works. While it was nowhere near the size of US Steel or Bethlehem Steel, Midvale carved out a niche producing high quality steel for specialty markets (it was also one of the first mixed-race shops in the city). They produced armaments, offering the U.S. War Department an alternative to foreign producers.

Later in the 19th century, Midvale was the birthplace of Frederick Winslow Taylor’s time and motion studies, which exerted a profound influence on American industry. What eventually became known as “Taylorism,” or “Scientific Management,” led to greater company control over the shop floor to increase efficiency and productivity. However, it often worked better in theory than in practice.

The Nicetown plant was closed in 1976, and in the 1980s most of the surviving structures were razed. In 2002, SEPTA erected a depot and maintenance facility on the site. Perhaps the hundreds of people who pass through there each day don’t realize that two of the original Midvale buildings still stand in the middle of the property. Decaying and mostly empty, there are still hardhats, spare parts, gloves, and the occasional stray boot as a monument to the men that once worked there.

About the author

Ethan Wallace attended Temple University, where he received a BA in Communications. He has always been interested in the forgotten, unknown, or unseen parts of the city and has spent the last several years photographing Philly’s hidden and vanishing locations. He is also involved with the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, Pa. More of Ethan's photography can be seen HERE



Comments are closed.

Recent Posts
A Look Inside Gilded Age Parkside

A Look Inside Gilded Age Parkside

April 18, 2014  |  Morning Blend

A tour of a nearly intact Victorian mansion in West Philly, two civics explore the possibility of creating improvement districts, Stotesbury Gateway to be remade, and cleaning up Clark Park > more

Widdy Dialect: The

Widdy Dialect: The “Hoagie” Of Darts

April 17, 2014  |  Makin' It

Under the rumbling El and amidst the hustle and bustle at Kensington and Somerset, a distinctly Philadelphian brand of darts is made the same way it has been for over 100 years—by hand. Brad Maule throws a round with Widdy Darts > more

New PWD Project To Teach Children Ecology & Technology

New PWD Project To Teach Children Ecology & Technology

April 17, 2014  |  Morning Blend

GreenSTEM systems to be installed in four schools, the inequality of urban pollution, jazz month in Philly, parklets being installed in West Philly, and terrible timing in closing Kensington store > more

A Last Look at Second Baptist Church

A Last Look at Second Baptist Church

April 16, 2014  |  Last Light

The demolition of a former house of worship in Northern Liberties has provided a glimpse into the building's history > more

PATCO Announces $7.5 System Upgrade

PATCO Announces $7.5 System Upgrade

April 16, 2014  |  Morning Blend

Clearer information and working escalators for PATCO, delays in UC student housing development, the William Penn Foundation’s new approach to safe watershed awareness, and what the Lower Northwest invented for the world > more

A Golden Glow For <em>The Inquirer's</em> Saffron

A Golden Glow For The Inquirer’s Saffron

April 15, 2014  |  News

Yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize board announced its 2014 winners. After 15 years with a watchful eye on Philadelphia's built environment, the Inquirer's Inga Saffron won journalism's highest award for criticism > more