The Demand for Steel in WWII
So much steel was needed to build tanks, ships, weapons and aircraft in WWII that all scrap metal was strictly rationed on the home front, and Americans were glad to do it.
To build a single tank, over 18 tons of metal was required. Some of the Navy’s largest ships required more than 900 tons of metal each.
Community groups and schools held scrap metal drives; people took steel bumpers off their cars, chicken wire and farm equipment and donated them to the efforts; every ounce of steel that could be used to further the war effort was gladly sacrificed as every proud American’s duty.
According to the U.S. Office of War Information, in Asheville, North Carolina there were old abandoned trolley tracks buried beneath the streets. The new, more modern roads had been built right over the steel tracks to make way for the automobiles. One inventor came up with a contraption called a “railjerk” that would pry the metal tracks loose after the streets above them had been torn up. All this metal went as scrap for military production.
Steel was not the only metal in high demand – so was copper, which was used heavily for ammunition and other equipment for the military during the war.
In 1943, copper pennies were collected and exchanged for steel pennies, aka “steelies.” The composition of the coins were 99% steel with a slim layer of zinc. Zinc coated steel made the coins magnetic and was 13% lighter weight than its copper twin.
These steelies were not without their problems; vending machines designed with magnets to detect fake coins would pick up the steel pennies by mistake. Rust was also an issue around the un-galvanized edges.
Although these steel nuisances circulated until well into the 1960’s, the U.S. Mint collected the 1943 one-cent coins and destroyed them.
The Infrastructure of America the Great
Steel itself used to be a symbol of American pride.
After the 1850’s, there was an explosion of industrial steel production worldwide but especially in North America. Steel was manufactured, milled and processed here in the U.S. by hard working men and women to build the very infrastructure this country became so famous for.
Railroads, bridges, engines and skyscrapers, all the product of massive deposits of iron ore that was mined and forged out of the ground was done so to build the very foundation of this great country.
It was steel production that made the U.S. one of the world’s largest and most successful economies.
Everyone worked. Unemployment was not a concern. It was America. We built things. We made stuff to last, too. We didn’t need to import cheaper metals from overseas; we put Americans to work making better materials for ourselves and for our country.
America’s very backbone was made of Steel. And every single piece, from sewing machines to staplers to farm tools and thumb tacks was stamped big and bold “MADE IN U.S.A.,” a rare site today, for certain.
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