Midland is a small town an hour northwest of Pittsburgh, Pa., five minutes from the Pennsylvania-Ohio border and right on the Ohio River. Its 12 blocks are now relatively quiet, but 50 years ago, it was a bustling town with frequent traffic jams. What caused the change?
A steel mill closed.
I am currently working on an oral history project for my senior thesis on the closing of the Crucible steel mill and its effects on the communities of Midland, Ohioville and Industry. The interviews look at what the area was like in Crucible’s heyday, in the early 1980s when layoffs started and the mill shut down, and the present. Interviewees include/will include mill workers, church-goers, school board members, business owners and every-day residents.
I’d like to create a website, most likely on Omeka, to present these oral histories. The transcripts and recordings are going into the archives of the Beaver County Historical Research and Landmarks Foundation, where I’m sure they will receive little attention. Creating a site for the oral histories makes them accessible to a broad range of people. This includes not only history enthusiasts and researchers, but also educators and students.
The site will hopefully include audio files of the interviews, transcripts, photos of the area during the heyday and shut down, as well as some recent photos. The BCHRLF also has some great photos of the mill being built in 1905 that could possibly be digitized and added to the site to give historical context.
Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area has a site with oral histories on steel workers in the Pittsburgh area, but there is only one interview about Crucible. The entire interview and the transcript were not available online, or at least I couldn’t find them. Youngstown State University has a section of Crucible oral histories in its online library catalogue, but only the transcripts are available and they’re rather dated – from the late 1980s. All of these oral histories are focused on actually working in the mill instead of the community surrounding the mill.
This site will increase knowledge on local history, make it more accessible, and hopefully encourage teachers to use the material in the classroom. A lot of my interest for this project comes from the fact that growing up in Ohioville, I never really knew about Crucible. I heard a few stories about my uncle blowing black soot from his nose when he came home from work because he worked in the blast furnace, but that was it. I never knew that my school district was created because of the mill and that its enrollment has been decreasing because the mill closed. When my high school history teachers talked about steel mills they talked about Pittsburgh, but never mentioned the fact that there was another steel mill 10 minutes away from our school and that we all probably knew someone who worked there. But with this online archive of oral histories, that could all change. Just because Crucible closed doesn’t mean it should be forgotten.