Ernest Tener Weir (1877-1958)

By Richard Sanders, Editor, Press for Conversion!

Weir is known to have donated at least $20,000 to the American Liberty League and $10,125 to one of its fascist front groups, the Crusaders.

E.T. Weir was a symbol of the American Dream. Armed with only a grade-eight education, he began his rise to the top of one of the world’s wealthiest steel companies, as an office boy for the U.S. Steel Corp. By 1905, at age 28, Weir was the general manager of a tin plate mill near Pittsburgh. That year, he and J.R. Phillips bought a tin mill in West Virginia. In 1909, Weirton Steel relocated, built ten more mills and founded the boomtown of Weirton. By 1915, Weir had 50 mills and was the world’s number two producer of tin plate.

During the WWI, Weirton Steel continued its incredible growth. In 1919, because striking American steel workers didn’t want to work 12-hour days and 68-hour weeks, steel companies concluded that unionists were “Reds,” and some were. Having profited handsomely from WWI, steel companies used military force to terrorize strikers. In West Virginia, police under the pay of Weirton Steel forced 118 strikers to kneel and kiss the U.S. flag.

In 1929, Weirton Steel merged with two other firms to create National Steel Corp. Strikers occupied Weirton’s coal mines in 1936. In 1937, the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) planned strikes at Bethlehem, Republic, Inland Steel and Youngstown Sheet & Tube. However, SWOC did not dare call for any strikes at Weir’s National Steel. Benjamin Stolberg, in The Nation (“Big Steel, Little Steel & CIO,” July 31, 1937), said SWOC feared a

"wholesale massacre. Weirton is literally a little fascist principality, patrolled by notorious killers who keep the plants in a state of terror.... The place is too dangerous to ask the men to strike for their rights."

In 1940, Weir was finance chairman of the Republican Party. During WWII, Weirton Steel supplied the Army with 8-inch howitzer shells. In the first month, they shipped 12,500. Later, they reached 70,000 a month. Their rolled magnesium sheets won Weirton a Navy ordnance award.

In 1945, as the McCarthy Era dawned, a new corporate-backed, fascist group called American Action, Inc. (AAI), succeeded the American Liberty League, which had dissolved in 1940. Weir became a key figure in this the rabidly anti-Semitic and nationalistic organization that gave early support to Joseph R. McCarthy. The AAI promoted fears that America was threatened by international Jewish bankers and Jewish communist immigrants from Russia who supposedly controlled U.S. unions, businesses and the government. The AAI’s goals, dovetailing nicely with McCarthyism, were to “fight communism, defeat communist-backed candidates for Congress, and rally anti-communist voters all over the country” (United Press, Oct. 19, 1946). To do this, the AAI mustered some of the country’s most extreme and militant racists. It’s extremely wealthy backers included E.T. Weir, Lammot du Pont, John Raskob and Joseph Pew. The AAI, like the American Liberty League, was nonpartisan, i.e., it built support within the Democratic and Republican parties. It also garnered support from top officials of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars for the National Association of Manufacturers’ anti-labour initiatives. The AAI reportedly raised a million dollars in 1947 to “purge” Congress of 187 political holdovers from the “New Deal.” Gerald L.K. Smith appealed to all former supporters of the “America First Crusade” to support the fledgling AAI.

In a 1947 court statement explaining his noncompliance with a House Committee on Un-American Activities subpeona, communist Eugene Dennis, said:
The way to democratic and orderly progress is to stop the force and violence of American Action, Inc., the KKK and the lynch mobs – by helping win equal rights for the Negroes and civil liberties for all.

In the early 1950s, National Steel named a freighter the E.T. Weir. Although his wealth came largely from supplying the government for war, Weir was – hypocritically – an outspoken isolationist and an opponent of “big government.” In 1954, he wrote a much-lauded isolationist article in the right-wing libertarian journal, Faith and Freedom.

Since WWII, Weirton Steel has continued to supply products for U.S. wars. With a revenue of $1.1 billion, and employing 3,800 workers, it is the seventh largest U.S. steel producer. In 1999, Weirton’s Independent Steelworkers Union (i.e., independent from other steelworkers’ unions) supported Pat Buchanan’s failed bid for the U.S. presidency. In 2003, the U.S. Steel Corp. bought assets of National Steel Corp. and became the largest steel producer in the U.S.


City Overview: Weirton Steel

David Boje & Robert Dennehy, Managing in the Postmodern World, 1993.

Benjamin Stolberg, "Big Steel, Little Steel, and CIO," The Nation, Jul. 31, 1937.

Trosky Family Pictures
Google cache:

"Scrambled," Charlotte News, Oct. 27, 1940.

Historical Collections of the Great Lakes

Timebase 1945 and 1946

Lee Gottlieb, The Whole Truth, Vol. II: The Enemy Within: A Theory of Subversion, 2003.

Eugene Dennis, "This Committee is in Contempt," Federal Court, July 8, 1947, from Imprisoned Intellectuals: U.S. Political Prisoners and Social Justice, ed. Joy James, 2002.

Pat Buchanon, Archives: 1999, Elections USA

NSC Creditor Trust

U.S. Steel Home

Source: Press for Conversion! magazine, Issue # 53, "Facing the Corporate Roots of American Fascism," March 2004. Published by the Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade.

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