This huge iron letter came from and identified the Wisconsin Steel Works, a Chicago mill. The mill was established by International Harvester in 1902 on the city's far South Side. In 1977, the company sold Wisconsin Steel to Envirodyne Inc., which shut the mill down in 1979.
This Object helps to document the rise and decline of one of Chicago's most important industries: steel production. The giant W identified the Wisconsin Steel Works, a Chicago mill that once occupied more space in the South Deering than all that neighborhood's homes, churches, schools, and stores combined. The mill opened in 1875 as the Joseph H. Brown Iron and Steel Company. In 1902, International Harvester reopened the mill. Wisconsin Steel Works provided high-quality steel for International Harvester's farm equipment and remained competitive by filling small batch orders that larger steel mills ignored. By the 1970s, however, International Harvester was losing money on steel production. The new owner, Envirodyne, had no experience in the steel industry and was unable to turn Wisconsin Steel Works around. On March 28, 1980, the company closed the mill's doors without warning, leaving nearly 3,500 employees jobless and devastating the local economy.