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As late as the beginning of the Civil War, what was called a first-class furnace would cost about fifty thousand dollars, employ seventy men, and produce a thousand tons of iron a year.The business was conducted, not by corporations, but by individual ironmasters, who ruled in a truly feudal way over their small communities.The marvellous modern expansion of the iron and steel industry was now about to begin.The germ of its stupendous growth lay in the invention of the Bessemer process.
In inventiveness his brain ranked high; in business ability, low.
On that bleak November day when Andrew Carnegie was born in a Scottish cottage, the iron and steel makers of America had no more thought of millions than of castles in Spain. The ironmasters mined little coal and baked no coke.
Not an ounce of iron had been made in Wheeling, Youngstown, Cleveland, or Chicago--the latter being a fur-trading village, without harbour or railroad.
The most pressing need of the civilised world was a new metal--one that would be as strong as steel and as cheap as iron. The railroads were using iron rails, which wore out in less than two years.
The largest locomotive of that time would today be considered little more than a toy.The tariff, too, was even more variable than the currency.