Titan Metal

Titan Metal Co., founded in 1925, was a leading producer of brass rods and castings. Led by William P. Sieg and his son, the Bellefonte company was a major employer in Centre County for decades and played a significant role in community affairs. It later was purchased by Cerro de Pasco and after that by Bolton MKM Group. It closed in 2008.

William P. Sieg grew up in Steelton, Pennsylvania, and while a teenager began working at Pennsylvania Steel Co. as a machinist.  He also became interested in the growing automobile industry. Sieg and a partner wanted to start their own car company and they began looking for a community interested in sponsoring the venture. Bellefonte, seeking to attract new industry, offered a free site for the new Bellefonte Automobile Manufacturing Co.However, Sieg and his partner could not attract a sufficient number of investors and they abandoned the venture.

Sieg decided to remain in Centre County. During a trip to Philadelphia, he learned about an exceptionally strong bronze alloy developed by the metallurgist Charles T. Hennig. In 1915, Sieg and a partner reached an agreement to manufacture and sell castings made of what would be known as Titan Bronze. With capital provided by other Bellefonte businessmen, Sieg formed the Alpha Metals Co., which later changed its name to the Titan Metal Co. Using the old McCoy-Linn Iron Works facility in Milesburg, the company began production of brass rods in 1916.

It soon became apparent that the plant was outmoded. Company officials began searching for new sites and settled on property that had been the home of the defunct Nittany Iron Co.  The 17-acre site south of Bellefonte was served by a branch line of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Logan Branch also flowed through the property and provided a good water supply. A new plant was built and machinery was installed in 1919.

When World War I ended, the demand for metal slumped. Titan was deeply in debt from the new construction, and over the next several years the company suffered major financial losses. In 1925, Titan reorganized as the Titan Metal Manufacturing Co. and by 1929 the plant was operating at a profit again.

Workers fabricated a Titan Metal product. (Centre County Historical Society)

That year, Sieg’s son, William Wetzel Sieg, joined the company. A graduate of Bellefonte High School, he had earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in metallurgy from Penn State. The company weathered the Depression and diversified its product line. By 1935, it had about 400 employees. W. W. Sieg, who was known as “Young Bill,” became general manager of the plant in 1936 and president of the company in 1948.

World War II brought great demand for Titan’s products. The plant frequently operated seven days a week. With financial support from the federal government, Titan built a new brass rod mill in 1944.

During the last two years of the war, women were increasingly employed in jobs formerly performed only by men. The company also hired several hundred part-time workers, including high school and Penn State students. At its height, the company employed about 1,500 people.

By the end of the war, Titan was the major brass rod producer in the United States. The plant’s customers were small and large companies in the plumbing, valves, meters, automobile, and railroad industries. After the war, Titan opened mill depots in Indiana, California, and Connecticut. The company also built a $3 million plant near San Francisco in 1957.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Titan was known in Bellefonte and Centre County as more than just a place to work. About 2,500 employees and their families attended the annual company picnic at Hecla Park. Titan fielded a team in the Centre County Baseball League and had its own bowling league. The Titan Male Chorus first performed in 1942 and gave regular performances around the county for many years. Titan also played a major role in the community affairs of Bellefonte and Centre County.  The company provided financial support for numerous causes, including the hospital and library.

The Kemmerer family, headed by John L. Kemmerer, had become Titan’s major financial backer. Kemmerer, who had been chairman of the Board of Directors, died in 1946, and his heirs sold 50,000 shares (54 percent) of the company stock to the Consolidated Coppermines Corporation, giving it voting control. In 1959, the Cerro de Pasco Corporation acquired Consolidated Coppermines and Titan became a subsidiary of Cerro. 

Three years later in March 1962, Cerro consolidated Titan with two of its other subsidiaries into the newly formed Cerro Copper and Brass Company. William W. Sieg had retired a month earlier. Local employees remained in management and supervisory positions at the Bellefonte plant, but an era had ended at one of the county’s best-known manufacturers.

In a 1976 merger, the company, now know locally as Cerro, became part of the Chicago-based Marmon Group through a merger. A modernization of the Bellefonte plant, including a new warehouse, was completed in 1999. Two years later, two new machines were added that expanded the plant’s ability to produce small-diameter rods.

In 2007, Bolton MKM Group, based in the United Kingdom, purchased Cerro Metal Products. The following year, in a surprise announcement Bolton said it was shutting down the Bellefonte operation. The company employed about 200 people at the time. Many had worked at the plant for more than 30 years and never been employed anywhere else.

The 173-acre site and its sprawling collection of buildings sat vacant and rusting. A local investment group purchased the site in 2012, refurbished the buildings, and reopened the complex as a business park. Several businesses rent space in the park, including Axemann Brewery.

Ford Risley


Sources:

Hurley, William E. A History of Titan: A Business History of the Titan Metal Manufacturing Company, Doctoral Dissertation, Indiana University, 1958.

Thomas, Jennifer. “Devastating Blow,” Centre Daily Times, May 4, 2008.

White, Cliff. “Investors buy Cerro Metals site,” Centre Daily Times, February 15, 2012.

“Cerro to Consolidate Titan, Lewin-Mathes and Viking Copper Tube Divisions,” Titan News, March 1962.


First Published: July 30, 2021

Last Modified: September 30, 2021