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Most of the photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs, 20 to 200 megabytes in size) from the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) Many were digitized by LOC contractors using a Sinar studio back. They are adjusted by your webmaster for contrast and color in Photoshop before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here.

 
 
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VINTAGRAPH • WPA • WWII • TAKE A KODAK, c. 1930s

Hell Gate: 1942

Hell Gate: 1942

November 1942. "Hanna furnaces of the Great Lakes Steel Corporation, Detroit, Michigan. Coaling door atop coke ovens." 4x5 Kodachrome transparency by Arthur Siegel for the Office of War Information. View full size.

 

Sudbury Saturday Night

Back in 1977, my family drove through Sudbury, Ontario, on our way out west.

I can remember looking out the motel windows and seeing nothing but darkness and glowing slag from the Inco Copper Cliff nickel mine -- like lava flows in the night.

Daytime revealed a moonscape of grey... Grey houses, grey laundry on lines, grey lawns, grey rocks, grey slag. The astronauts practised for the moon landings in Sudbury. It was truly that bleak.

A few years ago, we went through Sudbury on the way back from Thunder Bay. The land is recovering and it is green, again.

Hot Shoe

I worked at US Steel in Gary Indiana. The coke ovens were so hot that you attached wood plates on the bottom of your shoes to insulate your feet. Otherwise your shoes would melt.

I've read that the newer furnaces are insulated and normal shoes reportedly work ok.

A lesson learned

I was a kid who did not handle my teens well so, after high school, I was sent to work at Republic Steel in Ohio where my grandfather was a foreman. I enrolled in college within the year. It was the most hellish job you can imagine.

Wise sage.

A tradesman once told me that if you want to know what hell is like just walk up to an electric furnace in a foundry.

"Fourth grade, we went on a class field trip to the Bowels of Hell -- or actually, this kind of place at Ford Dearborn."

My tradesman friend worked at the Ford Rouge Plant.
Driving south on Fort Street before I-75 was built took you right past McLouth and Great Lakes steel as well. Seeing the endless railway flatcars with glowing ingots at night slowly moving out of the plants was awesome.

Take-home lesson

Fourth grade, we went on a class field trip to the Bowels of Hell -- or actually, this kind of place at Ford Dearborn.

I made darn sure to finish my education after that.

Coke Ovens

I remember driving through West Virginia at night in the 1950s and seeing lines of glowing coke ovens. It seemed to me like a way of separating the smoke and smell from the coal before it was shipped to Cleveland to make steel.

Previously on Shorpy

Another view of the coaling hatches.

 
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Shorpy.com | History in HD is a vintage photo blog featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1950s. The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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