The hammer maker who revolutionized the blast furnace industry
In 1928, the hammermaker Erick S. Woodfield founded a small ironmaking business on the Mississippi River in the rural hamlet of New Orleans.
His invention made iron smelting easier than ever before, and the boom lasted for the next half-century.
But the company’s fortunes, and those of other ironmaking companies in Louisiana and elsewhere, began to fade.
As the country went from a manufacturing boom to a manufacturing downturn, Woodfield’s ironmaking was replaced by the American Tool &Mate Company.
The company began in 1925 by making tools for railroad and shipping yards, then switched to furnaces and power plants for the first time in the 1940s.
Today, the company is one of the biggest employers in Louisiana, with about 100,000 employees.
Woodland, now 74, grew up in a rough neighborhood in New Orleans, and he grew up learning how to make his tools, too.
The first ironworking shop he opened, in the early 1930s, was just a few doors down from where he grew to know his grandfather.
“I was a boy when I started building things, so I knew what it took to get it started,” Woodland said.
“The old days were long gone.
There was no technology.
It was like getting your first bicycle out of a dumpster.”
The American Tool and Mate Company became a major player in Louisiana in the 1950s, when Woodland moved the company from New Orleans to Baton Rouge.
The move was a massive one for the state, with the loss of the steel mill at Old Main, as well as the loss in income and jobs to other industries.
The impact of the move was felt especially hard on the city’s African American community, where the company once employed a majority of its workers.
As part of the state’s plan to rebuild its economy, Louisiana cut the number of public schools to make room for a new school system, and many schools were closed.
By the mid-1960s, Louisiana was a state in turmoil, with crime rising, and Woodland saw an opportunity to help build a new business model.
The New Orleans office was located in the old New Orleans steel mill.
At that time, the mill was known as the Old Main Iron Works, where workers made iron and steel tools for a variety of industries, from auto parts to shipbuilding.
But Woodland wanted to build an ironmaking shop that was a bit more modest, with an emphasis on hand tools and furniture.
“That was our idea of a good place to start,” Woodfield said.
Woodfields first came to Louisiana in 1949, when he opened a new shop in the same building that his grandfather had opened.
It quickly became a popular place for people of all ages to gather, and it was an immediate hit.
In 1954, the state of Louisiana awarded Woodland the Louisiana Iron & Carpenter of the Year, the highest award the state could give.
Woodlands first shop was opened in 1954.
The shop was filled with people who were looking to buy or sell iron tools, including some who were young.
“We had a lot of kids, so that was always a good thing,” Woodfields said.
By that time the state had seen an explosion in the manufacture of steel tools, with thousands of jobs at the time being outsourced to China.
It wasn’t long before the business was able to make steel products for major manufacturers, including United Steelworkers, General Motors, and others.
“It’s just the kind of place you want to be,” Woodlands said.
The business grew, and soon, Woodfields’ son, Richard, had taken over as the shop’s owner.
The family has had a good relationship with the company since that time.
In 1980, when the company was sold to General Motors and the rest of the world, Woodland took the helm.
In the years that followed, the Woodlands have been making the tools and furnaces that are now so prized by people around the world.
But it wasn’t always so easy to find them.
“For the most part, I’ve been looking at other companies,” Woods said.
One thing Woods learned in the process was that it took a lot more than just the right tools to turn a business around.
“You’ve got to be able to have the vision,” Woodsaid.
And that’s what he brought to the business.
He said he never really got tired of making tools, though he acknowledged that it is still hard to find people who can make something in his shop.
“To see a little bit of something, to see something new,” Wood said.
As for what he sees in the future, Woodlands doesn’t see it as a job that will ever go away.
“Some day I’m going to retire, I’ll be 70, 80 years old, and I don’t want to do anything that will keep me going,” he said. But