Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry

Brass Valley: The Fall of an American Industry
order now for delivery by Sept. 2015

Friday, October 7, 2011

Stacking Blocks No.2



PHOTOGRAPHER'S JOURNAL: ...but they don't make kettles here. They make tubing in various alloys of copper and in large diameters and lengths according to order, and they make it seamless, without welds. It's another of the brass-makers' tricks.

Tubing made with a seam along the side is tubing with a scar, a weakness, a place to fail. On a submarine in the salty depths, on a cruise ship full of people, in a nuclear cooling facility near towns and cities seamless tubing is the required spec. This is the only place in the United States where it's made. The process and the remaining extruder have been passed down to current operators from American Copper and Brass (successor company to Holmes, Booth and Hayden) through Anaconda (once a tyrant of industry and now a bad debt carried by Atlantic Richfield Corporation).

The lathe in the background is one of many abandoned relics rusting and collecting dust amid the slowed flow of shiny blocks. These blocks, cast and milled to various specifications, are all of the exact diameter for the ancient, monster extruder that has been moaning and mewling from the other end of the factory since the beginning of time. It is the last of its breed.