Academic journal article Urban History Review

Fragmented Integration: The Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company and the Anatomy of an Urban-Industrial Landscape, C.1912

Academic journal article Urban History Review

Fragmented Integration: The Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company and the Anatomy of an Urban-Industrial Landscape, C.1912

Article excerpt


This paper examines how forces of fragmentation within the Maritimes contribute a partial but important explanation of the urban-industrial collapse that marked the region in the early 20th century. Specifically, weaknesses that affected the spatial strategies of the vertically-integrated industrial giant, the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company, provide evidence of limited interaction within the Maritime urban system. Profits from exporting staples, pig iron, and steel products to foreign and national markets, although initially aided by tidewater location and control over all phases of production, were not sufficient to overcome, in the long-run, such forces of fragmentation as dispersed and limited regional markets, increased costs of producing poor quality resources, or the minimal presence of external economies. With "Scotia's" eventual demise, towns like Sydney Mines, Trenton, and New Glasgow suffered economic and population decline.


Cet article montre comment les forces de fragmentation a l'interieur des Provinces maritimes offrent une explication partielle, mais importante, de l'effondrement urbain-industriel qui marquait la region au debut du vingtieme siecle. Plus precisement, les faiblesses qui influaient sur les strategies spatiales de la Compagnie "Nova Scotia Steel and Coal," un geant industriel a l'integration verticale, temoignent de l'integration limitee a l'interieur du systeme urbain des Provinces maritimes. Malgre les avantages initiaux d'une situation au bord de la mer et de l'autorite sur toutes les etapes de production, les profits provenant de l'exportation des produits de base, de la fonte brute et des produits d'acier aux marches nationaux et internationaux etaient in suffisants, a longue echeance, pour surmonter les forces de fragmentation tels les marches regionaux disperses et limites, les couts augmentes de la production des ressources de mauvaise qualite, ou la presence minimale des economies externes. Tout cela aboutit finalement a la fin de la compagnie "Scotia," et des villes comme Sydney Mines, Trenton, and New Glasgow subissaient une baisse del" activite economique et une diminution de la population.


  In 1912 ["Scotia" was] a corporation with fourteen million dollars
  capital, six thousand persons on its payrolls, operating on land and
  sea and under land and sea, owning its own iron ore and coal mines,
  blast furnaces, steel works, rolling mills, forges, steel finishing
  shops, and annually freighting over one million tons of ore and coal
  to two continents under its own house flag.

  Basing all its operations on the two elements essential to all modern
  industrial progress, possessing unlimited stores of raw materials and
  controlling every stage in the manufacture of the most highly finished
  steel, "Scotia" is in an unrivalled economic position, being ever
  assured of a market for all its products by the continued growth and
  progress of Canada and the tidewater location of all its works, with
  consequent low freights to all the world's markets. (1)

On the eve of the First World War, the directors of "Scotia" were certainly well aware of the strategies of vertical and spatial integration that propelled the company's growth and development as one of Canada's largest industrial enterprises. The company's promotional brochures (such as the one quoted above), its financial press statements supporting the sale of stocks, and its annual reports all spoke of the essential need to maintain tidewater access to material inputs and markets, and also to control all phases of production--from mining coal and iron ore, producing basic pig iron and steel, through to manufacturing finished steel products.

To function in this way, "Scotia" maintained a "sphere of operations"--a specific spatial strategy and structure--that sought integration across Atlantic Canada and more broadly within the North Atlantic economy, albeit from a peripheral location (see Figure 1). …

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