The partnership between Jones & Laughlin combined the skills of an older financial genius with those of a brilliant young entrepreneur. Before the Civil War, Jones established a rolling mill on the South Side, and Laughlin subsequently built an iron furnace on this side of the river. The two firms formed the Jones & Laughlin Company.
J&L began as a family business and the principal partners trained their sons and brothers to take over executive positions. Jones based the management on "Vertical Combination"-the concept of owning raw materials, fuel, transportation, and other requirements needed to create a finished product. J&L owned iron ore mines near Lake Michigan, coal mines in Washington and Greene Counties, a Blair County limestone company, and drilled natural gas wells to supply the mill. The company established docks on Lake Erie and owned hundreds of barges.
On January 1, 1900, J&L made a momentous decision to shift exclusively to the fabrication of products made from steel. Although the Eliza blast furnaces continued to smelt iron used to make the steel, J&L no longer made iron products.
At its peak in the 20th century, J&L employed 30,000 workers and occupied over seven miles of riverfront. For more than a century, J&L's smoke stacks, furnaces, rolling mills, coke ovens and factory buildings lined both sides of the river.