The Otis Steel Company

Learn how the Otis Steel Company transformed the American steel industry

Charles Augustus Otis (1896) by Norval JordanCleveland Public Library

Otis Steel's Founder

Founded in 1873 by  Charles Otis, the Otis Steel Company built the first open hearth furnace in Ohio in 1875. Otis brought the innovative and recently invented European process to Cleveland after visiting overseas mills. 

Residence of Samuel Wellman (1900) by unknownCleveland Public Library

A key innovator at Otis Steel

Shown is the residence of Samuel Wellman, who worked as an engineer for Otis. Wellman built the first commercially successful open-hearth furnace in the United States in 1869. Later, working with George Hulett, he also played a key role in the development of the Hulett unloader.

Otis iron and Steel (circa 1900) by unknownCleveland Public Library

When steel was made by Lake Erie

The company owned mills, warehouses and office buildings along the Lake Erie waterfront from about East 25th to East 40th streets. These plants were closed shortly after WWII.

Otis Steel Company (1949) by Central Press AssociationCleveland Public Library

Steel-making moved to Cleveland's Industrial Valley

An exterior elevated view of Otis Steel Co. at Jennings Road in 1949. The plant was built after 1912. The Cuyahoga river is in the foreground and Terminal Tower in the far distance. Cleveland-Cliffs still operates near the location today.

Otis Steel Rolling Mill Interior (1933) by unknownCleveland Public Library

Creating the longest hot strip mill in the world

Taken in 1933, this is an image of part of the $4,500,000 continuous rolling mill at Riverside Otis Steel plant. At the time it was the longest hot strip mill in the world.

Hulett Unloader (1930/1939) by Arthur Gray and .Cleveland Public Library

The job of the Hulett Unloader

Over 40 Hulett Unloaders were put in service on Lake Erie between 1910 and 1912. They doubled ore unloading capacity, and helped make the massive Riverside steel plant possible. Huletts stayed in service until the 1990s.

Dumping ore at Otis Steel Company (1941) by Norbert J.Yassanye and 1941Cleveland Public Library

Delivering and storing ore

Ore is picked up by bucket from a boat hold and discharged into a temporary storage trough from which, by means of a travelling ore bridge, it will subsequently be transferred to a large ore pile.

Otis Steel Blast Furnace with Skipway (1941) by Norbert J. YassanyeCleveland Public Library

Moving ore to the furnaces

These are blast furnaces at Otis Steel Company showing the skipway up which ore and other ingredients used in preparing the molten metal are delivered to the furnaces.

Interior of an Open Hearth Furnace (1935) by unknownCleveland Public Library

Looking into an open hearth furnace

In 1935 at the Riverside facility, an open hearth furnace makes steel. It is photographed from the pit side.

Bull Ladle Pouring Ingots (1935) by unknownCleveland Public Library

Pouring ingots using a big ladle

In 1935 at the Riverside facility, an open hearth furnace pours molten metal from a huge "bull" ladle into the ingot molds.

Otis Steel Crane Lifts Hot Ingot (1933) by unknownCleveland Public Library

Lifting and rolling hot ingots of steel

A crane lifts hot ingot from reheating furnaces at Otis steel plant, preparatory to putting it through the rolling mill.

Steel remains a vital part of Cleveland's economy, and innovations in steel-making continue to carry Cleveland into a new industrial future, building on its industrial past. Contemporary enterprises such as Cleveland-Cliffs continue to expand the city's industrial know-how and press forward with new approaches to making steel.

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