Henderson Steel and Manufacturing Co.

The first steel made in Birmingham


What is the story of the first steel made in Birmingham?


At the time of the founding of the City of Birmingham, the "best" new technology for steel making was the Bessemer Converter, invented by Sir Henry Bessemer in Great Britain.  Early iron makers in Birmingham found that making iron with coke, rather than charcoal, was a challenge.  But they were successful in overcoming that.


Another question entirely was whether Birmingham iron could be made into steel?


What was believed was that the chemical composition of the Birmingham iron ore, and hence its iron, was that there was too much phosphorus to make steel.  It could not be done with the technology available.


If Birmingham was to become a true manufacturing center, then steel would have to be made of the Birmingham iron.  By the 1880's, the industrial countries were learning that steel rather than iron was the material of the future.  Iron bridges for example lacked strength, and toughness of heavier loads and higher repetitions of loads.


So, it was with concern and interest that developers, industrialists, bankers, lawyers -- anyone with a stake in the new Birmingham would be concerned about the possibility of making steel from Birmingham iron.


The story of this successful venture is well documented in a small book published by Bernice Shield Hassinger, a descendant of one of the businessmen involved in the first steel making in Birmingham.  Her book, Henderson Steel, Birmingham's First Steel, was published in 1978.   Her book, provides the details about this successful step in the development of Birmingham, but leaves a question as to the exact location of this landmark facility in our history.


Where was Henderson Steel?  (Click on slide to change; left side back, right side ahead.  There are 24 in all.)


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