Tube City Almanac

October 14, 2010

Briefly Noted: Crawford's Life, Work Examined at Sunday Talk

Category: Events || By

The man who arguably was McKeesport's most powerful and wealthiest man 100 years ago is all but forgotten today.

A program Sunday at McKeesport Heritage Center will try to rectify that omission.

The center's 2010 Founder's Day Address will examine the life of Edwin R. Crawford, founder of McKeesport Tin Plate Co. and wealthy benefactor of many local charities, including UPMC McKeesport hospital.

The speaker is Miles Richards. Admission is free at the program begins at 2 p.m. at the Heritage Center, 1832 Arboretum Drive, Renziehausen Park.

McKeesport helped break the European monopoly on tin-plated sheets of steel --- used in cans, pots and pans, packages, and roofing material --- beginning in 1875, when America's first successful tinplate mill opened in Demmler, below present-day Highland Grove. (See "The 'Tinplate Liar' of McKeesport" in Tube City Online's Steel Heritage section.)

Crawford was an employee of the Demmler mill who in 1903 struck out on his own, founding McKeesport Tin Plate in Port Vue, at the present site of ELG Metals. Soon the factory employed more than 3,000 people, and was the largest and most successful independent steel company in the world, second only to the much-larger U.S. Steel Corp. in production of tinplate.

Beginning in 1927, McKeesport Tin Plate was traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and it paid reliable dividends of more than $4 per share, even during the Depression.

But failure to modernize spelled the eventual end of McKeesport Tin Plate. At the Port Vue operation, workers packed small sheets of tinplate into wooden boxes for shipment. Newer mills --- including U.S. Steel's Irvin Works, which opened in 1938 --- could run off continuous coils of tinplate much cheaper and more efficiently.

That same year, McKeesport Tin Plate began losing money. Two years later, it sold the Port Vue factory to Jones & Laughlin Steel Co., and in 1941 it changed its name to National Can Co.

Crawford didn't live to see the fall of McKeesport Tin Plate. At his death in 1936 at the age of 66, he was worth an estimated $3.8 million --- about $60 million by today's standards.

About half of his estate was left to establish a charity in his name; the McKeesport-based E.R. Crawford Trust remains in operation more than 70 years later.

Sunday's address also will kick off the Heritage Center's 30th anniversary year, a spokeswoman said. For more information, call (412) 678-1832 or visit the website.

. . .

MSP Sets Oct. 31 Concert, Dinner: McKeesport Symphony Pops is taking reservations for a pasta dinner that will follow the debut concert of its 2010-11 season.

The first concert of the year --- entitled "Tricks and Treats: A Swingin' Party" --- is slated for 2:30 p.m. Oct. 31 at the auditorium of McKeesport Area High School, 1960 Eden Park Blvd.

Under the baton of maestro Bruce Lauffer, the concert will feature trumpeter and bandleader Stephen Hawk, professor of music at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, and a program of big band music made famous by Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Henry Mancini and other greats.

Following the concert, McKeesport High School's Culinary Department will cater a pasta dinner including dessert and coffee. Reservations for the dinner must be made in advance by Oct. 21 and cost $10 per person. Call the symphony office at (412) 664-2854 or email the symphony at mail at mckeesport symphony dot org.

Tickets for the concert will be sold at the door and are $18 for adults, $15 for senior citizens and $10 for students, with children six and under admitted for free. All seating is first-come, first-serve.

Visit the symphony website for more information.

. . .

Trail Newsletter Online: McKeesport Trail Commission's Fall 2010 newsletter is now available.

This issue includes stories about two long-distance charity rides that paused in the city this summer --- one by a father-son cycling team to raise money for juvenile diabetes research, and another by a group of seven college students riding coast-to-coast to raise money for AIDS research.

The trail commission will hold its final meeting of the year at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at McKees Cafe, located on the first floor of the Palisades Ballroom, Fifth Avenue at Water Street, Downtown.

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