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Scots and Scots Descendant in America
Part V - Biographies
Charles Pettigrew

WHEN Charles Pettigrew walks through any modern Steel Works in these United States; he has the satisfaction of noting that processes and devices invented and introduced by him many years ago are still standard in the industry.

Mr. Pettigrew, in past his seventieth year at the time this sketch is written, is enjoying abounding health and almost youthful vigor, and the fruits of his long struggle from an humble beginning to a position of independence.

He was born in the Village of New Lanark, in the beautiful valley of the Clyde, February 4, 1844. He learned the trade of machinist in Glasgow, serving five years’ apprenticeship. Coming to Chicago in 1867, he worked there and in Rock Island, Ill., for three years, when he entered the employ of the Union Iron, Coal and Transportation Co., then owning an iron rail and puddle mill at Joliet, Ill. Mr. Pettigrew took an active part in the transformation of the plant from a simple iron mill to a modern steel rail plant.

During the earlier years in which he was associated with the plant, he advanced rapidly, becoming Foreman of the machine shop, then Master Mechanic, then Assistant Superintendent, then Superintendent, and finally, General Manager, having been with the company twenty-six years in all. In 1896, he resigned his position with this company; the plant at this time employed 2,300 men and during his regime became merged into the illinois Steel Company. It grew to such magnitude that when that company became part of the United States Steel Corporation, the plant over which Mr. Pettigrew presided was the largest of its kind outside of the Pittsburgh district and one of the leading steel works on the American continent. During the years of his participation in the management, several notable developments were made there in steel works practice through his devoted effort. The first blowing engine was used there with Corliss valves on its steam cylinders and metal valves on its blowing cylinders. There also tubular boilers were first used in blast-furnace practice; and rails were first roiled from the initial heat of the ingot and in double lengths. The plant was also among the first to use automatic machinery to serve a rail train, and was the first to use a chain conveyor to carry scrap from a bloom or billet shear. Without these appliances the enormous daily tonnages of modern steel plants would not be possible.

During his residence in Joliet, he was elected a member of the City Council from the first ward, serving for two years, 1879 and 1880. In the latter year he introduced an ordinance raising the license for saloons to $500; up to that time it had been $50. Still later this was raised to $1,000. Mr. Pettigrew discovered that each saloon was costing the city, for its share of crime, poverty and delinquency, that amount, and thought they ought to pay their share. A majority of the Council agreed with him. He believes his was the first high license ordinance passed by any City Council in America.

On leaving Joliet, he entered the employ of the American Steel Company at Indianapolis, rehabilitating their plant. That completed, he removed to Sparrows Point, Md., becoming General Superintendent of the steel plant there. This plant had never paid a dividend, but during the seven years of his service he had the satisfaction of putting it on a paying basis.

In no way can his constructive work there he better illustrated than by referring to published statistics, which show that while the Edgar Thompson Steel Works in 1903 averaged 8% of seconds in its rail output, the Illinois Steel Co., 18%, t.he Ohio Steel Co., 15%, the plant at Sparrows Point, under Mr. Pettigrew ‘s management, reduced its average of seconds to 2.8%.

In 1904, in line with a plan long in contemplation, Mr. Pettigrew, at the age of sixty years, retired from active work, and has since devoted his life to travel and study, spending his summers at his beautiful home in Bridgeport, Conn., and his winters by turns in Southern California, France or Italy. At the time of his resignation from his position at Sparrows Point, he received such an ovation from his associates, down to the humblest workers, as few men ever receive.

In 1868, a year after arriving in America, Mr. Pettigrew married Miss Agnes Cameron, also a native of New Lanark; and his gracious helpmate, who shared in his earlier struggles, shares equally the pleasures of these later years of compensation. Their three daughters are Mrs. H. H. DeLoss, of Bridgeport, Conn.; Mrs. S. M. Drayer, of Sparrows Point, Md., and Mrs. R. R. Shuman, of Evanston, Ill. Mr. Pettigrew is a member of the St. Andrew’s Society of the State of New York.

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