Portraits of War: Raleigh Iron Works

Author: Jessica A. Bandel

Between 1914 and 1918, manufacturers across the state competed for highly-prized government contracts, committing themselves to providing everything from finished items like airplane propellers, ships, and munitions to raw materials such as khaki cloth, lumber, and aluminum.

Even manufacturers here in the capital city got involved. In November 1914, the Raleigh Iron Works secured a Navy Department contract to manufacture five-, six-, and seven-inch target practice shells. After months of preparation, the company reached full swing in 1915, delivering their first shipment of projectiles to Indian Head, Maryland, in early June of that year.

Raleigh Iron’s low bid, which was reported to be much lower than that of other competitors, ultimately landed the company in bankruptcy court in early 1916, but business righted itself as the year wore on. By 1918, the company had secured another contract, this time with the army, for proof projectiles for large guns. Despite the new demand for their products, labor strikes and walk-outs plagued operations throughout 1917 and 1918.

Perhaps due to the loss of government contracts with the armistice in November 1918, the company was again forced to turn to bankruptcy in December. All property was put on the auction block in January of the following year in an attempt to clear up the debts. Raleigh Iron continued on in name, but the size of its operations were no doubt diminished in the post-war years. In 1931, the company again declared bankruptcy, and its steel division was purchased by James M. Peden. Peden Steel, as it was called, went on to construct barges for the War Department during the turbulent times of World War II.