By Michelle Graff
Published this year using independent publishing platform CreateSpace, Dale Perelman’s new book, “Steel,” traces 50 years in the history of the Pittsburgh area’s signature industry.
New Castle, Pa.--After many years working long hours in their stores, many jewelers might wonder what they are going to do with themselves with they retire.

Dale Perelman, who spent years heading King’s of New Castle, his family’s chain of jewelry stores that numbered 51 at its peak, already knew the answer when he hung it up in 2006: He was going to continue writing. 

This year, the Western Pennsylvania-based writer and still part-time retailer published his fourth book, Steel, a history of Pittsburgh’s iron and steel industry from 1852 to 1902. 

Perelman’s last book, Centenarians: One Hundred 100-Year-Olds Who Made a Difference, came out in 1999. He also has authored two books on famous diamonds, Mountain of Light (1984), about the 105-carat Koh-i-noor, and The Regent (1990), detailing the history of the 140-carat stone that is on display at the Louvre in Paris today. 

“It keeps your mind fresh,” Perelman said when asked why he had adopted writing as one of his hobbies. “You get to plan and make your own story and you can also learn a lot while you are writing. It’s a combination. I just think it’s very fulfilling.” 

Like so many other books, Steel started as something else. 

Because of his Pittsburgh-area roots, Perelman set out to do a book on the 10 titans of the Steel City, gentleman whose names remain a large part of the city’s identity and cultural landmarks to this day--Henry Clay Frick, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Phipps and Michael Benedum, to name just a few.  

However, his instructor at a writer’s course he took at Yale University--a 70th birthday present from his wife--advised Perelman that the scope of his project was too broad, so he narrowed it down to focus on the titans of the steel industry, and gave the book a specific time frame, 1852 to 1902. 

He says he started on Steel around 2011, doing his research at the University of Pittsburgh, which houses original letters exchanged between Frick and Carnegie, the Pittsburgh Historical Society, the Duquesne Club and even taking a trip to see the Frick Collection in New York, the mogul’s former mansion full of artwork that he donated to the city. (Frick, Perelman notes, moved his artwork to New York because the air was so dirty in Pittsburgh.) 

After several years of research and writing, Perelman self-published Steel using CreateSpace, an independent publishing platform. Though it’s his fourth book and Perelman also has had a poem published and written for trade publications, including this one, he says he never wanted to be a full-time writer or journalist. 

But he didn’t always dream of being in the family jewelry business either. 

Perelman’s grandfather started what became King’s of New Castle in 1914, meaning the chain celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. Perelman’s father went into the business in the 1930s, and Perelman, now 72, followed in the 1970s but only after being coaxed back from Cleveland by his family. 

In 1981, he sold majority ownership in the chain to Renco Group but remained on to run the stores until his retirement in 2006. After he retired, Renco Group took full ownership.  

This year, Perelman’s niece and nephew, Jennifer and David, bought back the family business, which now numbers only seven stores. Perelman says they retained the stores closest to home, in the Pennsylvania towns of Monaca, New Castle, Sharon, Cranberry Township, Washington and Pittsburgh and in East Liverpool, Ohio. 

“I am pleased to see that,” he says of his niece and nephew’s purchase. “They love the jewelry business. Our family’s been in it for four generations and I think they want to keep it alive.” 

With the stores now back in family hands, Perelman says he does assist his niece and nephew from time to time. However, he doesn’t intend to re-enter the jewelry business full time and plans to continue writing. 

While he says he “doesn’t make a living off of [writing]”--a statement any scribe can identify with--his book sales are decent and being a published author on a topic so integral to the area’s identity connects him to his community. After writing Steel, Perelman lined up a series of speaking engagements at historical societies, a couple of Rotary Clubs and a Lion’s Club. This keeps his name and, by association, the King’s of New Castle name, in people’s minds. 

And he’s not done. The second installment of Steel will pick up where the first book left off at turn of the 20th century and go through 1937. As for steel production during World War II and industry’s U.S. downfall in the 1980s, “That’s going to be my third installment,” Perelman says.  

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