William A. Irvin: Monarch of the Steel Industry

With all the news surrounding the SS William A. Irvin moving out and back into the Minnesota Slip in 2018 and 2019, we take a moment here to look at William A. Irvin, the man. The brief bio below appeared in the March 28, 1932 issue of the Billings Gazette of Billings, Mont.

The appointment of William A. Irvin to don the mantle worn by Schwab, Gary and “Big Jim” Farrell as monarch of the steel industry marks the climax of a career as amazing and brilliant as that of any of the fictional heroes of Heratio Alger. Born in Indiana, Pa., in 1873, the son of a contractor, Irvin’s first job was the humble one of telegraph messenger on the Pennsylvania railroad. An unquenchable thirst for knowledge actuated him to take night courses at the Indiana State Normal school and it wasn’t long until he became an operator. He can still tickle the telegraph key tolerable well. His next job was as a ticket agent, but he soon decided he had enough of railroading. Accordingly he got himself a position with the P. H. Laufmann company of Apollo, Pa., as shipping clerk. Here he made rapid progress and rose through various positions in the mills until he reached the post of superintendent. In 1900 the Laufmann company was taken over by the American Sheet Steel company and Irvin was taken over with it, being transferred to the New York offices for a couple of years. When American Sheet Metal merged with the American Tin Plate company, in 1904, Irvin went back to Pittsburgh as operating vice president, a position he held until recalled six months ago to New York as operating vice president of the parent company. A quiet, unassuming man, Irvin was practically unknown to the staff in the big offices of United States Steel on Broadway but as most of his time has been spent among the blast furnaces of Pittsburgh this is understandable.

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