STEELTON. Steelton ranks second in population to Harrisburg of all towns in Dauphin
County, having a population of 13,428 (1920). It is difficult to realize that in the year
1866 there were but six families living in the territory now included in the borough. The
land upon which the steelworks was afterwards erected, was originally granted by warrant
to Thomas Renick, March 27, 1738, and by patent to Richard Peters, the famous Secretary of
the Penns, March 19, 1747, as a "tract of land in Paxtang Township, Lancaster
county. " Frederick Kelker purchased the first tract if land April 1, 1830, and
another tract in 1843, the price being $37.00 per acre.
In 1865, when the Pennsylvania Steel Company was being organized, and when the board of
directors were seeking for a site upon which to erect their plant, the site of Steelton
was visited by the members of the board. The Kelker lands were bought at a price of $300
per acre, for which a deed was given January 8, 1866. The total amount paid for these
lands was $27,577.50. The company afterwards bought fifteen additional acres of
Rudolph F. Kelker, at the same price per acre, making the total for all of the land bought
at this time about 91 acres, at a total price of $29,175. After having sold this land to
the Company, Rudolph Kelker bought 45 acres of land from Abraham Wolf, and 22 acres from
Jacob Bender, and 50 acres from Henry Kelker, and then commenced to lay out a town and
sell lots. The price of the lots varied from 100 to 250 dollars. owing to their situation.
The two town sites which were laid out were called Lower Baldwin and Central Baldwin. When
the name of the town was discussed, the directors of the Steel Company requested Mr.
Kelker for his assistance in naming the place. The name Baldwin, after the famous founder
of the Baldwin Locomotive Works, was suggested, but it was afterwards given up, because
their were two other places in the state bearing the same name. When the post office was
established in 1871, it was given t he name Steel Works. In October 1880, this name was
changed to Steelton, and when the town was incorporated it took the name of the Post
The Pennsylvania Steel Company was organized in June 1865, with a capital stock of
$200,000. Its first President was Samuel M. Felton. The chief inducement for this company
making the site the one for its plants was the deposit of Cornwall ore, which was
available. The plant still uses about 30% of this ore in the making of steel, The works
commenced operations in May, 1867. It was the first plant in the United States for the
making of steel. Other plants, which later turned to steel making, had been erected for
iron making. It was also the first plant which made steel rains for filling commercial
orders. The first rails made at the plant were sent to Johnstown for rolling, but after
1868 all of the rails maid at the plant were rolled at Steelton.
The gross tonnage of steel produced in 1868 was 4,116, which amount increased to
178,180 tones in 1882 and 460,000 tons in 1902.
The Pennsylvania Steel Company was taken over by the Bethlehem Steel Company in July
1916. Two years after this time, when the General Manager was transferred to the Bethlehem
works, Mr. Frank A. Robbins, Jr., who had been the Assistant, was made General
Manager of the Steelton plant, which position he still holds.
There are 5,500 men employed at the works. The annual production is 776,000 tons of
ingots. The hot roll products amount to 530,00 tons annually, of which 400,00 tons are
steel rails, 10,00 merchant bars, 120,000 splice bars. The tonnage of fabricated steel is
The output of the furnaces, in basic, Bessemer, etc., is approximately 720,000 tons
annually. The total value of the products is about $28,850,000.
The Steelton plant uses from the river about four and a half times as much water
annually as does the city of Harrisburg, ant its electric power plant generates about four
and a half times as much power as the Harrisburg traction company plant.
About 4,500 loaded card enter the works each month, or 150 per day, and 1,582 loaded
cars are shipped out of the plant each month, making a total of incoming cars per year of
54,000 and out-going cars per year of 18,984. The plant uses a truck load of oxygen,
almost every day, from the Air Reduction Company of Harrisburg.
(The information concerning the Steelton plant has been very kindly given by the
General Manager, Frank A. Robbins, Jr.)
Steelton contains fine church buildings of almost all of the religious denominations.
The united Brethren were organized in 1867, and the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1868.
These were the first tow churches to organize and have houses of worship.
The Roman Catholic and the Greek Catholic Churches are both strong in the borough, as
many of the employees at the steel works are adherents of these churches. All of the
denominations are strong and well equipped for work among the people of this busy town.
Steelton is in every sense a "steel town" and as such it is always a good
The Steelton Club is on of the most thriving social organizations in the borough, and
the Civic Club (noticed in the Chapter on Women's Activities) is one of the livest women's
organizations in the county. Owing to the large number of people of foreign birth in the
town, the Public Schools are well attended. The school buildings are modern and well
equipped for the work of training these young people who will make the future men and
women of this progressive industrial community. Steel workers, as they are elsewhere, are
fully awake to everything relating to the welfare and progress of the town in which they
live. The old and the new systems of transportation are almost side by side through
Steelton, where the old Pennsylvania Canal bed runs near the tracks of the Pennsylvania