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Steel: The Backbone of Modernity, 1914 [Slide Show]

These images show how the world of a century ago depended on steel

By Daniel C. Schlenoff

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BRIDGING CANYONS:

The Crooked River Bridge in Oregon was built in 1914. Although it looks like only thin air is holding up the structure, the steel girders were supported by chains of steel I-beams, anchored in concrete, holding a load of 760,000 pounds.....[ More ]

THE IRON HORSE:

 By 1914, locomotives hauled freight and passengers along almost a quarter of a million miles of railroads that crisscrossed the U.S. This "Pacific type" locomotive weighed 257,000 pounds and was owned by the Chicago Great Western Railroad.....[ More ]

YELLOW RIVER RAILWAY BRIDGE:

Built for the Chinese government by a German company from 1908 to 1912. Now known as the Luokou Yellow River Railway Bridge, it carried the railroad that connected Nanjing to Beijing to the Trans-Siberian Railway.....[ More ]

STEEL WARSHIPS:

The U.S. entered the international naval arms race in 1890. By 1914, the U.S. Navy had 33 battleships but only about 10 of them could be considered up-to-date. Considering their cost, their usefulness in World War I was limited.....[ More ]

ARMAMENT PRODUCTION:

An arms race preceded the outbreak of World War I in Europe in 1914 as nations worked to develop more and better weapons. This 11-inch mobile siege howitzer, made from steel by the Krupp company in Essen, Germany, could be easily transported in two sections by motor truck or even horses.....[ More ]

ELECTRICITY AND STEEL:

Big steel required big tools. Our photograph from 1914 shows an electric-powered saw designed and built in Reutlingen, Germany, for cutting through steel castings, at any angle.....[ More ]

STEEL FOR LIFE:

This 1,000-ton press from 1914 was designed to stamp out coffins—and their lids—from sheets of steel. The machine could also be adapted to producing "bathtubs, automobile bodies, metallic boats [and] horse troughs."; I'm sure the horses appreciated the thought, amid the race to mechanization.....[ More ]

STEEL FOR CARS:

A major consumer of steel, in 1914 as now, was car manufacturing. This advertisement for the latest Chalmers runabout illustrates the intersection of lifestyle with metallurgy: heat-treated steel, aluminum castings, drop forgings, tungsten steel valves.....[ More ]

STEEL SHIPS:

The Anglo-American ocean liner Aquitania gets a side-light cut into its hull with a pneumatic-powered machine. A similar image was used on our April 26, 1913 cover.....[ More ]

OXYACETYLENE TORCH:

A new tool for welding and cutting through steel was developed in 1903 in France, and is still in use worldwide today....[ More ]

WATER FOR A CITY:

The pipeline from the Catskill Mountains to Staten Island ran under the main shipping channel for New York Harbor. The 36-inch-wide cast iron pipe had flexible, watertight steel joints so that it could be laid in an excavated trench from a barge.....[ More ]

STEEL FOR STUNTS:

Iron and steel pipes brought water to cities and farms across the U.S. The newly opened siphon bringing water to Los Angeles was one of the largest, and the setting for a daredevil driving stunt in 1914 by an "automobile enthusiast" who had "a steady hand and a cool head." He apparently succeeded unscathed.....[ More ]

ADVERTISING MODERNITY:

This 1914 ad is for a cigarette brand no longer made or sold in the U.S. The ad sought, as they still do, to associate its brand with the most modern themes—here, a bridge being built, of steel.....[ More ]

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