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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CHISHOLM, HENRY - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CHISHOLM, HENRY (22 April 1822-9 May 1881), known as the "father of the Cleveland steel trade," was one of the leading iron and steel manufacturers in the United States during the nineteenth century. Henry Chisholm was born in Lochgelly, Fifeshire, Scotland, the son of Stewart Chisholm, a mining contractor, who passed away when Henry was ten years old. He attended school until the age of twelve when he became an apprentice to a carpenter. After completing his apprenticeship at the age of 17, Chisholm relocated to Glasgow where he worked for the next three years as a journeyman carpenter. In 1842, he immigrated to Montreal, Canada, where he became a leading contractor.

In 1850, at the age of twenty eight, Chisholm came to Cleveland to build a breakwater at the lake terminal of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad Company. After completing that project in 1853, he remained in Cleveland, building docks and piers along Lake Erie. His reputation as a technical genius and superb handler of men attracted the attention of DAVID I. AND JOHN JONES, owners of the Jones & Co., who built one of the first rolling steel mills in the Cleveland area in NEWBURGH. Chisholm officially entered iron and steel manufacturing in 1857, investing his modest fortune of $25,000 in the new firm of Chisholm, Jones & Co. and reorienting operations at the Newburgh mill toward rerolling worn-out rails. When Andros Stone, the younger brother of AMASA STONE, acquired an interest in the company a year later, the iron manufacturing firm was rechristened Stone, Chisholm & Jones Co. By 1858, the plant produced 50 tons of rerolled rails daily, with Chisholm personally managing the operations and finances. To preserve scarce cash, he offered company-owned housing and company-store benefits to the workers, whom he knew and regarded as important to the company's success. Stone, Chisholm & Jones Co. erected two blast furnaces at the Newburgh mill in 1859 and 1860, the first in Northeast Ohio, and added new machinery for the manufacture of merchant iron. Chisholm also built a rolling mill in Chicago, managed by his oldest son, William, and two blast furnaces in Indiana, all supplied with iron ore from mines on Lake Superior and in Missouri.

On November 9, 1863, Chisholm along with Andros B. Stone, STILLMAN WITT, JEPTHA H. WADE, and HENRY B. PAYNE incorporated the Cleveland Rolling Mill Company, which absorbed the existing operations of Stone, Chisholm & Jones Co. and acquired Lake Shore Rolling Mill on Wason (East 38th) Street. Deeming steel as the metal of the future, he sent his best ironmaster to learn the Bessemer process for the production of steel from molten pig iron. As a result, the Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. built the second Bessemer steel works in the United States in 1865, with an initial annual output of 20,000 tons. Annual output, eventually reached 150,000 tons and included steel rails as well as tire, merchant, and spring steel. Chisholm diversified the operations of Cleveland Rolling Mill Co. to manufacture wire, screws and nuts, and tools. He purchased wire mills in Newburgh from the Cleveland Wire Mill Company in 1868 and organized the American Sheet & Boiler Company in 1866, the Union Steel Screw Company in 1872, and the H.P. Horse Nail Works Company in 1877.

Henry Chisholm married Jean Allen in Scotland and they had eight children together, only five of whom, however, reached adulthood: William, Stewart H., Wilson, Catherine, and Janet. Two sons, Henry and Stewart, and a daughter, Christina, passed away at infancy. Upon his death in 1881, Chisholm's workers contributed generously for the construction of a monument for their boss in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY. His passing ended amicable labor relations at the many facilities of the Cleveland Rolling Mill Company. William Chisholm, who succeeded his father, provoked major strikes in 1882 and 1885 (see CLEVELAND ROLLING MILL STRIKES) and alienated William Garrett, one of the leading engineers in the nation who invented a new rod making process.

Last Modified: 14 Jun 2011 04:33:32 PM

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