Steel: The Cycle of Industry

By Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

This collection is as much a distillation of David Plowden's career as it is about the steel industry. An overview of this industrial cycle allows the viewer to glimpse what Plowden calls his "lifelong preoccupation with man's works and his machines."  Images are highlighted with comments from the photographer.

Iron Bearing Rocks (1980) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

We're taking rock and turning it into skyscrapers.

Power Shovel ‘Mouth,’ Empire Mine, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Empire Mine, David Plowden, 1985, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Piles of Taconite Pellets, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Crushers and Sorters, Limestone Processing Facility, David Plowden, 1980, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Miners’ Lanterns, David Plowden, 1980, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Face of Coal Seam in Mine (1980) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

I felt in touch with cosmic powers nowhere else experienced in life. 

Norfolk & Western Railyard, David Plowden, 1974, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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View from top of Allouez Ore Docks, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Ore Carriers, ‘J. Burton Ayres’ and ‘Paul H. Carnahan’ at Allouez Ore Docks, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Loading Coal for Steel Mills in Detroit, Michigan (1990) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

These are some of the largest engineering structures ever created. 

Loading Taconite Pellets into Ore Carrier ‘Mesabi Miner’, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Inland Steel, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Dosco Steel Mill, and Sydney & Louisburg Railway Engine Terminal, David Plowden, 1959, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Indiana Harbor Works from Inland Steel, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Blast Furnace and Stoves, Indiana Harbor Works (1979) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

The architecture of steel making is like no other. 

Puddler in Blast Furnace Cast House, Indiana Harbor Works, David Plowden, 1982, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Molten Iron in Runner in Blast Furnace Cast House, Indiana Harbor Works, David Plowden, 1982, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Coke Processing Facility, Quenching Car (1979) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

No other industry produces such massive or complicated structures as steel. 

Slag Pots waiting to be dumped (1979) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

This is way beyond human scale.

Casting Ingots, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Slagging Ingots, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Charging Open Hearth Furnace (1979) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

It was like hell on earth.

Tapping Open Hearth Furnace (1979) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

It is the most spectacular of all industrial processes. 

Basic Oxygen Furnace, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Roughing Stand, Eighty-Four Inch Hot Strip Mill, David Plowden, 1982, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Roughing Stand Detail, Eighty Inch Hot Strip Mill, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Roughing Stands, Eighty Inch Strip Mill (1979) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

No other construction matched the detail and mass of a mill. 

Annealing Oven, Furnace #1, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Steel Bars, David Plowden, 1979, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Blast Furnaces (1975) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

This was done before everything changed. 

‘Bethlehem Management Club,’ During Demolition, David Plowden, 1985, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Abandoned Bar Mill, during Demolition, David Plowden, 1985, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Blast Furnace being Demolished, David Plowden, 1985, From the collection of: Grohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering
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Presque Isle Scrap Yard, ‘The Frog Pond’ (1985) by David PlowdenGrohmann Museum at Milwaukee School of Engineering

And it's not there anymore.

Credits: Story

Text excerpted from catalogue produced on the occasion of the feature exhibition Steel: The Cycle of Industry (Grohmann Museum, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 2017)

All photographs ©David Plowden

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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