Making headlines for 150 years
15 news moments from The Vindicator’s 150 years:
In April 1893: The Youngstown Vindicator published an “industrial supplement” of 40,000 copies, highlighting the newspaper’s new home and its “splendid ... perfecting press.” The Vindicator was “now established in one of the most convenient, commodious and handsome newspaper buildings” on the corner of Boardman and South Phelps streets.
Nov. 11, 1918: The paper prints a “3 o’clock extra” when the armistice is signed to end the “World’s Greatest War.” At the front page bottom was the tag line: “Other special editions of The Vindicator will follow, giving the news of the revolution and armistice as it arrives.”
May 17, 1935: Circulation was 39,493, as noted on the front page. Youngstown would get $5 million for “the greatest construction job in local history,” a canal called the 33-mile-long Beaver-Mahoning Waterway, which would be “the greatest construction job in local history” with bridges, dams and locks. The canal was called a “district life-saver” for the steel industry. It never happened due to the fear by politicians of losing railroad support, plus the advent of World War II.
Feb. 14, 1943: “Valleys Hurling Might At Axis” read the headline as the Mahoning and Shenango valley’s mills poured out steel and America went to war again. A half-million people got busy as local plants met war needs, and the plants kept most of their plans secret. A lack of labor disputes pleased the nation’s leaders. An extra edition was published Aug. 14, 1945, with the Japanese surrender ending WWII.
The steel mills were more than just a part of the fabric of the Valley: Issues here left an impact on American life. The Little Steel Strike began May 26, 1937, as a conflict over union recognition. The strike was broken when Ohio Gov. Martin L. Davey deployed National Guard troops to protect workers entering the plants. It was a short-term defeat for the union in that it didn’t get union recognition a contract, but it did lead to toughened labor laws. In 1952, the Youngstown Steel case led to a Supreme Court decision that limited the power of the president to seize private property. During the Korean War, the United Steel Workers of America threatened a strike for higher wages. President Harry S. Truman seized control of facilities to run the plants under federal direction. Steel companies challenged, and the court found the president lacked the power to seize the mills.
Sept. 3, 1954: A $1.25 million fire ruins St. Columba Cathedral, changing the north downtown skyline after 50 years. Lightning had set it ablaze; the spire toppled but the school and rectory were saved. The fire damage was the highest amount in city history at the time.
Jan. 23, 1959: Flooding causes $9 million in losses and makes thousands homeless in the Mahoning and Shenango valleys, while idling industries. Mahoning River water backed up through sewers, and ice blocked the Shenango River. Mosquito Creek and Berlin reservoirs were credited for preventing even worse disaster.
April 28, 1966: The first Chevy rolls off of line at Lordstown General Motors plant. Top GM brass were on hand to applaud the occasion as the first Impala rolled out, 19 months after ground was broken on the 1.9 million-square-foot plant at the Ohio Turnpike and Ellsworth Bailey Road.
Jan. 31, 1969: Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. and Lykes Corp. of New Orleans agreed to merge; S&T stock rose. By September 1977, however, S&T would be moving to Indiana and 5,000 here would lose jobs, And by November 1979, 3,600 would lose jobs at U.S. Steel’s Ohio works and McDonald works. “The Youngstown district today is reeling from the latest economic blow,” The Vindicator proclaimed.
April 26, 1984: Idora Park roller coaster fire spreads to the midway. The park had been for sale but was scheduled to open May 5 for its 90th season. Winds and low water pressure hampered the efforts of 12 fire companies. A welder’s torch on the river ride was suspected as the cause. One fire chief from Boardman said the river ride entrance looked like “the mouth of a flame-breathing dragon.”
June 1, 1985: The day after “Twisters Smash Area; Many Die.” More than a dozen people were killed and hundreds were injured or homeless by a series of tornadoes that ripped through Niles, Newton Falls, Hubbard Township, Lordstown; and Wheatland and Atlantic in Pennsylvania. The swath was 200 yards wide and 3.5 miles long.
Jan. 17, 1991, and Feb. 28, 1991: Front pages on both days were devoted solely to the launch of Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, and then cease-fire and “Victory!” in the gulf. Readers were given concise, easy-to-follow breakouts on the war situation and then developments in the immediate aftermath, with local leaders weighing in with commentaries.
April 29, 1982: The era of smelting iron ore to make steel in the Mahoning Valley ended for good with the demolition of U.S. Steel’s Ohio Works blast furnaces. On Feb. 15, 1995, one of the last reminders of the Steel Valley’s heyday, the Republic Steel headquarters at the foot of the Market Street Bridge, was imploded and fell in a cloud of dust.
July 1991 and after: General Motors ends several years of suspense by announcing the Lordstown plant would build the next generations of the Chevrolet Cavalier and Pontiac Sunbird. Workers were called in from layoff status from other plants. Successful compact cars to to follow at Lordstown were the Chevrolet Cobalt and Chevrolet Cruze.
June 30, 2010: Marcellus Shale covers an area equal to Pennsylvania and Ohio combined, but the good news locally was concentrated on a plot the size of a couple of city blocks straddling the border of Youngstown and Girard. Ground was broken there for V&M Star’s expansion, a $650 million project created hundreds of jobs for making oil-country grade pipe. V&M and its French parent company, Vallourec, chose their Youngstown site and Philippe Crouzet, chairman of the Vallourec management board, praised the “unprecedented collaboration between elected leaders, government professionals and the business community.”
March 6, 2019: The last Chevy Cruze made its way down the assembly line. While The Vindicator had been on hand to photograph many first and lasts at the plant over the past five decades, GM rejected a request to be there as the final car rolled out. The giant automaker, which has been an integral part of this region for 53 years, did not assign another product to replace it, and seeks to sell the plant, pending the outcome of talks with the UAW later this year.