From 1800 to 1840, Cleveland was predominantly a way port for sidewheel steamers running between Buffalo and Detroit. That changed in 1841 when the invention of the Ericsson screw propeller wheel revolutionized steam navigation by increasing maneuverability through Cleveland’s underdeveloped Cuyahoga River and lakefront.
The strong stands of white oak in central and southern Ohio led to Cleveland’s emergence as a leading wooden-shipbuilding center on the Great Lakes. That distinction, along with the advantage of being an Ohio and Erie Canal terminus and having a north-south railroad connection to southern Ohio coalfields, led to Cleveland’s renown as a key industrial city.
Enjoying a prime location near large deposits of coal and iron ore, prosperity reigned. Samuel Mather is usually credited with opening the rich iron ore deposits in the Lake Superior region that led to Cleveland’s unbridled success in the iron ore industry. He co-founded Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co. in 1891, one of the leading iron mining companies still in business today.
The firm was an innovator in the application of electricity to mining, which subsequently led to its involvement in the utility business, providing electricity not only to the mines but also to the Upper Peninsula communities.
Desiring more control over its coal supply in the late 1910s, the company acquired coalmines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Established by Cleveland financier Cyrus Eaton and industrialist William G. Mather in 1930, Republic Steel pioneered the manufacture of light, alloy and stainless steels.
After several reincarnations, which included a merger with LTV Steel, the Canton-based company known as Republic Steel leads the world in steel bars that are used in the production of axles, drive shafts and other automobile components and operates finishing facilities in cities that include Lorain and Massillon.