Thursday, February 22, 2018

A. M. Byers Co. 1930 - 1969

A. M. Byers Co. plant under construction
Duss Ave.
Daily Citizen supplement
August 10, 1929

The A. M. Byers Co. plant was the last of the large industrial plants to be built in Ambridge.* It opened in October 1930, producing wrought iron and wrought iron pipes, using a new mechanized production method, the Ashton process, which allowed the plant to produce higher-quality wrought iron--and produce it faster and at a lower cost.

When Ambridge's Byers plant was working at capacity, it reportedly produced more wrought iron than all the other wrought iron plants in the U.S. did combined.

A.M Byers Ambridge plant in lower half  of photo
(J & L across the Ohio River)
courtesy Beaver County Industrial Museum
used with permission

The plant closed with only two weeks notice in December 1969, the victim of declining demand for wrought iron products and increasing costs.

A. M. Byers Co. Ambridge plant
Duss Ave.
Beaver County Times
December 19, 1969

Beaver County Times caption:
DOORS TO BE CLOSED -- The Harmony Township Plant of the A. M. Byers Co., experiencing economic difficulties as a result of rising costs and product demand decline, will be shut down Dec. 31, bringing to a close 40 years of operations. At stake are 485 jobs including 127 office and supervisory personnel. Employment at the plant has been down for several months.
The former Byers production buildings are used by several businesses: Brunner Recyling, O'Neal Manufacturing, and Leeco Steel. The former Byers office is a U.S. Air Force Recruiting Center.

It was emotionally comforting for me to see that the Byers smokestacks still stand tall.

A. M. Byers smokestacks
Duss Ave.
April 29, 2015
credit: Nancy Knisley

My memories of the Byers plant

Two things stand out in my memories of the Byers plant, besides the fact that my Uncle Fritz Yerzek worked there.

The one memory I'm sure I share with anyone who lived in the area while Byers was operating, is the inferno produced by the Bessemer converter, located only about 150 feet from the west side of Duss Ave. The working converter would light up the night sky in shades of gold and orange. Multicolored smoke would rise high into the air. And sparks would drift into Duss Ave. onto passing cars if the wind was right.

Even as a kid I was astonished that Byers was allowed to put the converter so close to what was a major road at the time.

Byers' Bessemer Converter
courtesy Laughlin Memorial Library archives

If our family car drove past Byers while the converter was working, my mom would say, "Don't look! Don't look! You'll hurt your eyes. You might go blind." But of course, I always snuck a look. The scene was awe inspiring in a somewhat terrifying way.

My other memory is the large, round, wrought iron plate that hung on a frame on the Duss Ave. side of the Byers office. I don't know what the plate really was called, but we always referred to it as the "gong."

The Bessemer converter ended up on display at Station Square in Pittsburgh. Does anyone know what happened to the "gong"?

* Technically, the Byers plant was in Harmony Township, not the Borough of Ambridge, but, like other Harmony Township businesses, it used an Ambridge address and advertised itself as being in Ambridge.

1 comment:

  1. I too remember seeing the Converter in operation. Used to stand in the field on the other side of Duss Ave and watch. I lived on Pioneer Drive.