In 1890, thousands of immigrants were flooding into America. The vast majority of these immigrants entered through Ellis Island and from there tried to start their lives over in the United States. One of the thousands which came was a man named Robert Hyman Siskin.
Mr. Siskin left Lithuania to escape religious persecution. He arrived alone from his native country on a cattle boat with no idea of where to go once he arrived. During the trip, a friend told him about Chattanooga and invited him to travel there with him. Mr. Siskin accepted his invitation and this is where the story of Siskin Steel begins.
In order to make a living, he became a pack peddler, buying utensils and clothing, carrying them into the rural communities on his back. When all were sold, he would return for more. He did this for several years. When he finally could afford it, he sent for his family. In 1900, Robert and a friend opened a scrap metal business with $6.00 and a rented lot. The name of the business was Rubin and Siskin Iron and Metal. It was located on the corner of 23rd and College Streets.
In that same year Robert's wife, Anna Siskin, gave birth to Mose Siskin. Three years later Garrison was born. The photograph shown above was taken around 1909 when Garrison (left) was 6 and Mose (right) was 9 years old. The two boys sold newspapers on the streets of Chattanooga and delivered milk from their family cow while their father built the scrap metal business. In 1910, R. H. Siskin bought out his partner and changed the name of the business to R. H. Siskin and Sons. The company had no equipment or machinery until 1924. At that time, the company bought its first truck. This truck is still owned by the Siskin family and has been carefully restored. During this period, the office consisted of a 12' x 20' building with a dirt floor and the company employed twenty people.
On December 24, 1926, Mr. Siskin passed away and left his sons to run the business. From that point the company began rapid growth. During the mid to late thirties, an old street car was used as an office while a new office was being constructed. Later a newer, larger office was built. This building is still in use today housing the Maintenance and Parts Departments.
During World War II and in subsequent years, the scrap metal business grew rapidly. In 1949, the brothers began distributing new steel and related products. That division of the company was called the Chattanooga Steel and Supply Company. Soon the two businesses were merged under the present-day name of Siskin Steel and Supply.
The 1960's brought about continued growth. The first satellite sales office was opened in Atlanta, Georgia in 1963. During the early '60's the scrap division was forced to move due to the construction of a new Interstate highway. The company managed to expand into an area of about forty acres and employed 100 people.
The 1970's brought about the modernization and expansion of the Chattanooga warehouses increasing space to over 400,000 square feet. In 1978, the current office building was constructed.
The 1980's brought about more major expansion for Siskin. In 1985, Steel Supply Company in Birmingham, Alabama was purchased and became Siskin's first official branch location with a name change to Siskin Steel. In 1989, the Nashville, Tennessee plant was built and put into operation.
In 1990, the Scrap Division, which started it all, was sold to Commercial Metals so that full attention and assets could be directed toward distribution of new steel. Many new sizes and grades were added to the inventory.
Southern Steel Company of Greenville, South Carolina, was purchased in 1991 and continued operations under the Siskin Steel name until December of 1995 when a new service center was built and put into operation in Spartanburg, South Carolina, replacing the Greenville branch.
In 1996, Los Angeles-based Reliance Steel, the largest steel service center operator in the United States, purchased Siskin Steel and Supply.
The Year 2000 saw Siskin Steel reach a milestone of great significance when it celebrated its 100th year of service, having grown from a company serving only Chattanooga to a company that serves most of the Southeastern part of the United States.
Siskin Steel completed the purchase of East Tennessee Steel Supply Co., in Morristown, Tennessee, in 2000.
Siskin Steel expanded its operation into yet another Southeastern state in 2008 when it opened its newest division in Louisville, KY.
During its 100+ years, Siskin Steel has grown from a company of two employees to a company that now employs hundreds of employees in five states. As Siskin has grown, so has its product line which now includes not only standard warehouse items but many specialty and hard to find items as well.
A Philanthropic Legacy
There is another element of the Siskin heritage that has nothing to do with the steel industry. Mose and Garrison Siskin did more than simply build a steel company; they supported their community through a tremendous legacy of charity. This legacy of giving started in the early years and culminated in 1942 when Garrison took a train trip. At one of the stops, in Johnson City, Tennessee, Garrison took the opportunity to stretch his legs on the platform. As he was re-boarding, the train suddenly jerked and a steel platform cover fell on his leg. A life-threatening blood clot formed in the leg and his doctors informed him that his chances of survival were not good. That night, Garrison made a promise to his Maker that if he would spare his leg and life, he would devote the balance of his life to helping others.
Garrison amazingly recovered and from that point forward, both he and his brother, Mose, devoted their lives to Garrison's promise. In 1950 the brothers founded the Siskin Memorial Foundation in memory of their parents. The foundation was dedicated to the highest religious, social welfare, educational and humanitarian ideals. Together they built the Siskin Memorial Foundation buildings on Vine Street and Oak Streets in downtown Chattanooga, near the campus of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (these buildings were later sold to the state of Tennessee and now house the UTC Physical Therapy School). In addition to housing the Siskin Foundation, the buildings also housed several welfare organizations, a large assembly hall, a museum of religious antiquities, an outpatient clinic, and a school for 'special' children. The clinic contained facilities for complete diagnosis, therapy and training of the handicapped.
In 1959, the 365 club was established to assist in raising financial support so sufficient funds would be available to serve children and adults with physical difficulties; whether or not they could afford to pay for the services needed.
1990 saw another dream of Mose and Garrison come to culmination with the building of the Siskin Hospital for Physical Rehabilitation. The Siskin Memorial Foundation and members of Mose and Garrison's families completed this hospital, with assistance from the community. Mose and Garrison had always wanted an in-patient hospital in Chattanooga to serve the needs of all patients - adults and children - from the tri-state area of Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. That hospital is now a reality and serves patients not only from the tri-state area but also from across the United States.
Mose and Garrison Siskin went out of their way to help those in need, often employing many of the people they had assisted. The company installed a Braille switchboard to allow employment of a blind operator. The work of the Siskin Foundation has been spotlighted in numerous publications and the brothers have received worldwide acclaim and numerous awards for their philanthropic endeavors. Among them are the Kiwanis Service Award (1959) and the B'Nai Brith Humanitarian Award (1974). Whether it was helping people with difficulties in their life or providing jobs for people through the family steel business, Mose and Garrison Siskin will never be forgotten by anyone who was, is, or will be associated with Siskin Steel or the Siskin Memorial Foundation.