A Region Abuzz

G.H. Hammond, inventor of the refrigerated rail car, was the owner of the first packing house in Hammond. Ice, cut at Wolf Lake and Cedar Lakes, kept cars cold enough to safely carry meat to East and West Coast consumers.

The G. H. Hammond Co., Car 01225
Contemporary replica
Hammond Public Library, Suzanne G. Long Local History Room

Near the end of the 19th century, the Calumet region was abuzz with large-scale innovative, industrial processing and production. George Hammond’s refrigerated rail cars were running meat to the east coast, an emerging network of ports and canals welcomed large boats and barges carrying iron ore and other raw materials, and petroleum products were starting to be refined on the Lakefront at Whiting.

A tangle of rail lines quickly grew to cover the region, offering the shortest route from New England to the Midwest.

Major Calumet rail lines in 1910
Kenneth J. Schoon, Calumet Beginnings

Mountainous Western Pennsylvania is known for making steel, but the Calumet region stayed competitive due to a natural advantage: the water. Ore boats carried huge loads of iron ore from up north at the Minnesota Iron Range to the steel mill docks at the south end of Lake Michigan.

Ore boats were such impressive technology that they were the subject of industrial heritage postcards for the region. The S.S. Wilfred Sykes was the fastest and largest boat in the Inland fleet when launched in 1949, carrying 20,000 tons of ore at 16 mph.

Ore Boat Postcards
Second half of the twentieth century (Sykes)
Lee A. Tregurtha, c. 2010
Northwest Indiana Steel Heritage Project

This chief engineer’s hat was worn by Alexander Donald, chief on the L.E. Block from 1946-1960. Chief engineer was a position of nearly equal authority to captain.

Chief Engineer’s Hat
Mid-twentieth century
Northwest Indiana Steel Heritage Project

Iron ore, limestone, and coke are the initial ingredients for making liquid iron (“hot metal” or “pig iron” to steel workers), which can be further refined to make various types of steel. This sample box displays 12 different alloys (ingredients) added to steel to produce different physical qualities to suit the final use.

Alloy Sample collection
Northwest Indiana Steel Heritage Project

This scale replica of the iconic Picasso sculpture which stands in downtown Chicago was made by American Bridge, a subsidiary of U.S. Steel in Gary. Constructed of a type of steel made to rust on the surface but no deeper, painting and coating are unnecessary. This souvenir model was available to the public at the same time that the actual sculpture was installed in Chicago.

This is an example of specialization in the range of steel products, many made here in the Calumet region.

Picasso Sculpture Souvenir Model
Gary Public Library

Explore more about Industrial Opportunity

Diversity in Industry
Workers from inside and outside the US were drawn to new employment…

Pushing Back on Limits in Industry
Working and living in an industrial region can be dirty, dangerous…

Industrial Opportunity: Introduction
Explore the opportunities created by industry, and its limitations…

Explore other themes by clicking the photos below

Natural Opportunity

Social Opportunity

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