The Clapp-Griffith Steel Method

Clapp-Griffith method, invented in England, was tried in 1885 in Pittsburgh. It was designed to produce good steel with a high phosphorus content. By 1886, there were eight Clapp-Griffith plants in operation in the United States—including the one at Cedar Point in Port Henry. Despite this alternative method, the Bessemer steel method remained dominant through the 1890s.

The Clapp-Griffith’s steel plant was intended to revolutionize the iron industry. This excerpt from BRADSTREET’S, A Journal of Trade, Finance, and Public Economy in 1885 describes the high hopes the iron industry had for the new steel-making process:

“There has been considerable interest taken in the Clapp-Griffith’s steel process of late. This has been caused by the probability that it will not only successfully antagonize the Bessemer steel process, but that it will revolutionize the whole iron trade. From eleven to fourteen Clapp-Griffith’s steel plants have already been licensed, and the significance of this is that but few puddlers will be needed, their work being done by machinery. The product is a steel very low in carbon “which can be worked and welded as easily as the softest iron.” Competent opinion has declared that this process will successfully rival the Bessemer process. One great advantage will be that of utilizing the high phosphorus ores of the Lake Superior region at better prices. The Bessemer ore men “will suffer” but the decrease of consumption of that variety will not equal the increased consumption of all. It will probably check the importation of iron ores. Iron men from the south and from the northwest have investigated the process and appear to regard it favorably. Its adoption will mean a genuine revolution. Ores high in phosphorus, heretofore of no use, will be available. Puddling will be largely done away with. Some considerable quantity of labor will be displaced, but in the long run, the greatest good of the greatest number will be subserved. In response to interviews by BRADSTREET’S of authorities among the iron and trades at Pittsburgh, telegraphic replies as to the prospects of the new process are as follows: “Authorities here say that Pittsburgh will not be slow to recognize the value of the improvement, which is considered superior to anything yet discovered in the iron line.”


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