Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Made in Youngstown


General Fireproofing desk still in use in our home office!

I came across a link recently of a set of cabinets manufactured by Youngstown Kitchens that had been boxed up for 67 years, that were opened up and assembled. For anyone that is into retro materials, this is an amazing find. In its day, this would have made for an amazing kitchen.

What struck me was that this was just one example of the quality workmanship that was characteristic of the people of the Mahoning Valley during the years we were growing up in Youngstown.

Of course, there was the steel industry itself. Youngstown at one time was the third largest steel manufacturer in the U.S. and this only comes about through a work force that was good at what it was doing.

My wife’s father worked for General Fireproofing and the office furniture they manufactured was both stylish for its day and built to last. We have two GF desks and a file cabinet in our house and I swear they will probably outlast the house–and us! We’ve actually thought of hiding under the desks during tornado warnings!

There were a number of other companies connected to steel manufacturing. Youngstown Steel Door and Republic Steel both manufactured various steel doors for commercial uses. I believe the lockers we used at school were manufactured by Republic.

Sadly, all these great companies are long gone. GM Lordstown continues to build American-made cars, subject to the ups and downs of the auto industry. The main steel manufacturing these days is Valourec Star’s operations located off of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, northwest of downtown. They manufacture pipe for the oil industry. Recently declining oil prices have led to idling the plant in February of 2015. Renewing steel manufacturing in Youngstown continues to be a challenge!

It seems that one other area where “made in Youngstown” continues to have a regional and national impact is in the area of food processing. Schwebel’s has long been a fixture. My wife grew up down the street from their plant on Midlothian Boulevard, and you could often smell fresh baking bread in the air from her home, or as you drove past the plant. Of course there is Handel’s just down the road from Schwebel’s. And, as I wrote about in a recent post, DiRusso’s has a plant that supplies a several state area. All three have Columbus outlets and I have Schwebel’s bread and DiRusso’s sausage in my fridge as I write this. Rust Belt Brewing has gained a foothold in local craft beer brewing in Youngstown (hard to find in Columbus, however). National fast food chains Arby’s and Arthur Treacher’s were once headquartered in Youngstown.

“Made in Youngstown” reflects the pride of workmanship of the people who built the economy of the city in the post World War Two era. The work was often hard, and made more difficult because of management/labor conflicts. Whether the delight was to the eye, or the tongue, or simply in the feel of something well-made, products coming out of Youngstown were associated with quality.

No doubt, I’ve not exhausted the list of things “made in Youngstown.” I’d love to hear your stories of other things made in Youngstown, and the people who made them.

9 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Made in Youngstown

  1. In 2008, I was walking through my condo’s parking garage in Sterling, Virginia and the standpipe (fire suppression pipe) in the stairwell was made by Youngstown Pipe and stamped “Made in Youngstown, Ohio.” I was very excited to see Youngstown steel products in a new condo building.

  2. The one element that no other companies have today….no matter how well-made their products…is the pride that went into the products made in Youngstown!

  3. Youngstown Steel Heritage has a large collection of Youngstown built products. The most impressive is the 260 ton Tod steam engine, built in downtown in 1914 and used at the YS&T Brier Hill Works until 1979. We also have a Pollock hot metal car and ladle built by the William B. Pollock Co. on Andrews Avenue, many examples of Youngstown steel products and the oldest existing overhead crane, built by Morgan Engineering in Alliance in 1893.

    Also in our collection is the last existing piece of equipment from the Ohio Works, a 1946 diesel locomotive that is fully operational and due to be restored.

  4. American Paper Products / Postal Church Service / Globe / Publishers. At one point we were the largest church envelope company in the U.S. Mostly women in the church divisions – slightly precomputer – wonderful people, wonderful heritage. Pretty much all gone now, a bit of the commercial division remains, started to fall apart when the original owners retired and sold to a couple of coal miners, took decades till the last of the church work went out of town.

  5. My dad worked for GF. Started in paint department, painted desks and file cabinets. Then went to WW II, when came home, went back to GF, and Youngstown College (prior to changing name to YSU) and got a degree in electrical. So then became electrician for GF. Retired from their in 1983. Have some memorabilia from GF. I had a desk in my old office, but was so well built, big and heavy, I had to leave it behind when I moved to new location.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.