1902 – The Welsh Are Coming

Among the first laborers to build the Tin Mill were skilled Welsh tinsmiths from the Pittsburg area where the Follansbee Brothers already operated a Tin Mill.  Benjamin Gilbert Follansbee was able to expand the business due to the 1892 McKinley protective tariff placed on imported tin plate.

Prior to 1892, Wales was the world’s leading producer of tinplate, and the US was its primary customer.  Due to the McKinley tariff, the tinplate industry experienced a vigorous expansion in the US, but declined in Wales.  Unemployed Welsh tinsmiths migrated to the US, many finding jobs with the Follansbee Brothers in Pittsburgh, where their highly specialized skills were in demand.   In 1902, as the Follansbee Tin Mill was under construction, Welsh tinsmiths who had migrated to Pittsburgh were recruited and moved to the new boom town where guaranteed employment existed.   The Welsh song, “The Old Country Wales,” must have expressed their deep emotions:

Tin smiths and steel workers were in demand
Far ‘cross the ocean, in Americas land
He had a family that he couldn’t fail
Set off on his own, from the old country Wales


A legacy of the Welsh tinsmiths who made their homes in Follansbee was the Welsh Lads Athletic club football and baseball teams that competed in the Follansbee City’s League between 1907 and 1917.  (See 1911 – Welsh Lads Baseball Team on Timeline)