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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND-CLIFFS INC. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

CLEVELAND-CLIFFS INC. is North America's largest supplier of iron-ore pellets to the steel industry and is the oldest iron-mining firm with headquarters in Cleveland. The company's origin dates to 9 Nov. 1847, when 15 Cleveland men interested in exploring the vast iron ore deposits on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan formed the Cleveland Iron Mining Co. It was incorporated in Michigan in 1850 and reorganized in Ohio 3 years later. Samuel Livingston Mather (b. 1817) was the leading force for the business in its first 50 years. The company sent the first cargo of ore through the Sault Ste. Marie canal in 1855. It built railroads and docks in that area and, in 1869, started its own fleet of ore carriers, which were shipping 200,000 tons of ore annually by 1880. As surface mining was depleted in the 1880s, the firm pioneered in devising an underground mining system. In 1883, Mather's oldest son, SAMUEL MATHER †, left Cleveland Iron to form the rival firm PICKANDS MATHER & CO. By the end of the decade, Samuel L. Mather began talks to merge Cleveland Iron with its prime competitor, the Iron Cliffs Co., but died before negotiations were completed in 1891.

After his death, Mather's youngest son, WM. G. MATHER†, became president of the newly formed Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co. and led the firm's diversification into ore-related industries. Acquiring 330,000 acres of timberland on the Upper Peninsula, the company moved into the forest-products and chemical industries. The firm was an innovator in the application of electricity to mining, which subsequently led to its involvement in the utility business, providing electricity not only to the mines but also to the Upper Peninsula communities. Desiring more control over its coal supply, in the late 1910s the company acquired coal mines in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Cleveland-Cliffs expanded its iron ore business by acquiring several smaller iron companies in the Marquette Range and eventually moving into Minnesota's Mesabi Range during World War I, giving it a total of 29 mines and 23 freighters. Working with the U.S. Bureau of Mines in the 1950s, Cleveland-Cliffs helped pioneer the development of taconite ore pellets. The company expanded its iron ore operations to Australia and Canada in the 1960s and by the end of the following decade Cleveland-Cliffs had sizeable interests in uranium and shale oil fields, as well as, within the oil and gas drilling industries. The company also widened its holdings in the forest products industry. In the 1980s the company refocused its efforts on its core iron ore business, and disposed of most other interests. In 1985, the company reorganized by forming Cleveland-Cliffs Inc as the parent company and the following year, Cleveland-Cliffs acquired Pickands, Mather, & Co, then one of its chief competitors. In 1994 the firm acquired a property now called Northshore Mining Co. in Silver Bay, MN, which was one of the industry's first iron ore pellet producers. By 1995, Cleveland-Cliffs managed 7 iron mines in the U.S., Canada, and Australia that supply steel-producing partners and customers in North America, Europe, and the Pacific Basin. As the North American steel industry continued to struggle against imported steel at the end of the 1990s, Cleveland-Cliffs attempted to control costs through strategic consolidations and expansion. In 2003, the PLAIN DEALER reported that the company was in negotiations to supply iron-ore for China's steel industry. Currently, Cleveland-Cliffs employs over 3,000 workers at its North American operations.

Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co. The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co. (1920).

Cleveland Iron Mining Co. Correspondence, WRHS.

Stuart, Harrison H. The Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Co. (1974).

Last Modified: 27 Oct 2003 12:59:25 PM

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