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Steel at the Sault

Steel at the Sault: Francis H. Clergue, Sir James Dunn and the Algoma Steel Corporation, 1901-1956

Copyright Date: 1984
Pages: 457
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  • Book Info
    Steel at the Sault
    Book Description:

    Steel at the Sault focuses on the emergence of steelmaking at Sault Ste Marie, Ontario. As Canada's third-largest primary producer, Algoma Steel originated in the adventures of its two founders - the flamboyant American promoter F.H. Clergue and the 'last of the multimillionaires,' Sir James Dunn. Algoma's troubled but ultimately fruitful evolution cannot be explained in terms of daring, if at times devious, entrepreneurship along. The dictates of geology, corporate management, and industrial economics also play a crucial role, as do the intricacies of Canadian federalism. The principle thread in the pattern of development, McDowall argues, has been the symbiotic relationship of businessmen and politicians - a relationship typified by the friendship of Sir James Dunn and C.D. Howe, who joined forces at the Sault to pursue the common goal of increased steel production, albeit for different reasons and rewards.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8019-7
    Subjects: Economics, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    The history of steelmaking in Canada is the story of an infant industry that grew. Since the 1950s, the iron and steel industry has enjoyed a status which few other sectors of the Canadian economy have ever attained. It is a diversified, modern, profitable, and Canadian-owned industry. Canadian steel mills produce a broad range of steelwares, which are generally competitive in price and quality with those of European, American, and even Far Eastern steelmakers. While the tariff remains a necessary safeguard of the industy’s prosperity, it has ceased to be itsraison d’etre.

    ‘Big steel’ in Canada offers the unusual...

  6. 1 The Iron and Steel Industry in Ontario: Troubled Beginnings to the 1890s
    (pp. 8-22)

    The coming of the frontier of settlement to Upper Canada in the late eighteenth century brought inevitably in its wake the age of iron. Many of the essential implements which supported the rough and ready existence of the early backwoodsmen reflected the ever-growing iron technology of the European and American cultures which they had brought to their new land. The axes, plough points, and chains with which the settlers tamed the forest and built their new life were all products of the iron furnace and forge.¹ These tools made possible the colony’s early exports of potash, wheat, and timber, the...

  7. 2 Iron and Steel in ‘New Ontario’
    (pp. 23-49)

    Up to the 1890s, the policies designed to stimulate a Canadian iron and steel industry had fallen almost exclusively within the domain of the federal government. The lacklustre response of would-be industrialists to Ottawa’s proddings, however, soon prompted the provincial and municipal governments of Ontario into providing their own inducements. While federal policies were predicated on Ottawa’s constitutional hegemony over trade, commerce, and certain aspects of industry, the provincial and municipal levels of Canadian federalism saw their opportunity in the active promotion of natural resouce exploitation and remission of certain direct taxes. In the last decade of the century, Ontario...

  8. 3 Rails and Shells: Algoma Steel and the Precarious Rewards of National Prosperity 1905—1919
    (pp. 50-68)

    The financial reorganization of the Lake Superior Corporation in 1904 brought to a close what itsAnnual Reportdescribed as ‘a long period of idleness with its attendant demoralization and accumulating disadvantages.’ It also set the stage for a period of sustained activity and relative prosperity for steelmaking at the Sault. This prosperity was not only the product of less profligate and more conservative policies on the company’s part but was also clearly predicated on the overall prosperity of the Canadian economy in the years down to 1913. Mammoth export shipments of wheat, two new transcontinental railways, and the myriad...

  9. 4 Frustrated Ambitions: Algoma Steel in the 1920s
    (pp. 69-94)

    Canadian iron and steel producers faced the new decade of the 1920s with considerable trepidation. Plagued by internal deficiencies and assailed by external challenges, steelmen concluded that ‘it would look as if a very quiet time were to be experienced in Canadian steel circles in the near future’ and that the industry had entered ‘a waiting period.’¹ Consequently, Algoma made little headway during the decade towards balanced and self-sufficient production and in fact slipped deeper into the financial morass that had threatened to engulf it since the days of Clergue. Only in 1930, when the country was settling into economic...

  10. 5 A New Brunswicker in the ‘Financial Aristocracy’ of Europe: Sir James Hamet Dunn 1900—1930
    (pp. 95-123)

    The history of steel at the Sault is a reflection of many factors, some deterministic, others fortuitous. The fortunes of Algoma Steel in the 1920s were, for instance, largely dictated by forces beyond its control, principally the faltering national economy and regional imbalances in federal politics. At other times, the company had forged its own destiny. Francis Hector Clergue’s bold promotion of the Sault industries illustrated the ability of a determined entrepreneur to turn broad national tendencies, such as the mania for railway building and the latent political desire for a national steel industry, to the advantage of one locality...

  11. 6 Cutting the Gordian Knot: Sir James Dunn and the Takeover of Algoma Steel 1930—1935
    (pp. 124-151)

    Until he assumed the presidency of Algoma Steel in May 1935, Sir James Dunn had never considered himself a captain of industry. His interest in Algoma up to the 1930s had been speculative, one not entailing a commitment to long-term industrial management. ‘I am not an investor,’ he categorically stated as early as 1910, ‘but buy issues for the purpose of reselling them.’¹ After his initial bid for control of the Lake Superior Corporation in 1908, Dunn’s ardour for the speculative prospects of the Sault industries had cooled. Unable to loosen Philadelphia’s grip on the corporation, Dunn and Robert Fleming...

  12. 7 The Road to Recovery: Sir James Dunn and Algoma Steel 1935—1939
    (pp. 152-177)

    The transformation of Algoma from broad ownership to the control of a single shareholder can best be described as a throwback to an earlier phase of North American business. By the 19308, the industrial economy of the continent was increasingly passing from the control of the great captains of industry and their families to a more dispersed investing public. While America’s great industrial families were still much in evidence in boardrooms, their role in directing the affairs of the companies they had once created and solely owned was being challenged. The modern industrial corporation was becoming the creature of those...

  13. 8 Algoma Steel and The Second World War: Steel in a Regulated Economy
    (pp. 178-211)

    The second global conflict of the century decisively changed the nature of the iron and steel industry in Canada. Before the war, the fortunes of the Canadian steel industry had been governed not only by the general economic climate of the nation but also by a limited consensus between government and the industry, a consensus built on commonly agreed areas of interaction. Tariff tinkering, bonuses, freight subventions, tax exemptions, government-guaranteed purchases, and relief work had provided the grist for the milling of policies between industrialists and politicians in both the provincial and federal spheres. Beyond these well-defined areas, the steel...

  14. 9 An Empire Realized: Dunn and Algoma Steel 1945—1956
    (pp. 212-247)

    As the ultimate fate of the Axis became apparent, Canadian politicians and businessmen determined to avoid a repetition of the haphazard economic transition which had followed the First War. ‘Reconstruction’ became the key to a prosperous post-war society which married the massive wartime gains in productive capacity to the needs of a peacetime economy. ‘To a large extent,’ a late-war government report on Canada’s industrial prospects emphasized, ‘success of the whole programme of reconstruction relates to, and revolves about, the attainment of a high and stable level of industrial employment and income.’¹ The first step in this process was ‘a...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 248-259)

    In March 1954, an eager reporter from Beaverbrook’sEvening Standardintercepted Sir James Dunn on his way to the boat train at the end of a visit to England. When asked his plans for the future, the seventy-nine-year-old steel magnate haughtily answered: ‘I am going back to Canada to do more work.’¹ Throughout his last years, Dunn took a vainglorious pride in the success and longevity of his business career. When Ben Fairless stepped down from the presidency of us Steel in 1954, Dunn snidely cabled his best wishes: ‘I send you warm greetings and every kind thought and think...

    (pp. 260-262)
  17. Notes on Sources
    (pp. 263-266)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 267-316)
  19. Index
    (pp. 317-326)