Kline Iron & Steel Company Oral History Project

By John Quirk

Kline Iron & Steel Co., Inc. Logo. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit
Kline Iron & Steel Co., Inc. Logo. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit

What do the South of the Border’s Sombrero Tower and the massive antenna array that used to sit atop the World Trade Center in NYC, have in common? Weird question, yes…but in fact they were both constructed by Kline Iron & Steel Company right here in Columbia, South Carolina. These are just two of the very diverse projects created by Kline over it’s 80 year history.

Kline Iron & Steel Company (1923-2003) earned a reputation for supplying high quality steel products as well as being a company that fostered great loyalty and respect between employees and owners. Many who worked at Kline likened it to being part of a family, which contributed to its unusually low turn-over rate of employees. The fascinating story of the development of this long-time, iconic Columbia company is brought to life through the Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections  featuring over thirty oral history interviews compiled by UofSC’s Department of Oral History.

Sombrero tower, South of the Border, South Carolina. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.
Sombrero tower, South of the Border, South Carolina. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.

This collection is just one part of an exciting project we have been working on here at Digital Collections. We have been migrating various oral history collections into our Cdigital collections repository (hosted by OCLC’s CONTENTdm) from the Department of Oral History. They have a robust offering of oral histories that provide first-hand accounts and insights on life in South Carolina. Most of these interviews are available as both audio recordings and interview transcripts. Additionally, the Department of Oral History has created wonderfully rich online exhibits for many of these collections that feature photographs, print materials, manuscripts, timelines and more. Of course, we link directly to those exhibits from our landing pages.

By adding these oral histories to our digital collections repository they become discoverable along with the many other digital collections that are represented there. So, a user’s search will potentially return photographs, print materials, maps, and manuscripts along with oral histories all from a single database. Also, these collections will eventually be harvested into the South Carolina Digital Library and will be discoverable statewide along with items originating at over 60 institutions across South Carolina.

Antenna array atop the World Trade Center in New York City, 1972. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.
Antenna array atop the World Trade Center in New York City, 1972. Image from Kline Iron & Steel Company History and Recollections digital exhibit.

We are excited to be making the Kline Iron & Steel Company oral histories and the many other oral history collections more broadly available. We believe patrons will find them interesting and rich resources for South Carolina History. Go to the Dept. of Oral History to check out the many collections they already have available online and keep an eye on Digital Collections’ database as we continue to add those collections as well.

Listen to a Kline oral history here:

https://d3aoh1p6ktr8ub.cloudfront.net/Kline-1-Jerry-24-Mar-2016-KIS-001-Int.-1-revised-25-Sep-2017.mp3