University of Pittsburgh

Workshop at a glance

Before the workshop

In preparation for the workshop participants will be asked to read three books that will provide context for the week: Paul Krause’s The Battle for Homestead, Thomas Bell’s novel Out of this Furnace, and Les Standiford’s Meet You in Hell.


The workshop will begin on Sunday afternoon with participant registration at the University of Pittsburgh’s Hillman Library. After all participants have arrived, the University Archivist, Zachary Brodt, will lead the group on a tour of the University of Pittsburgh campus. Throughout the tour, participants will learn about the relationship the university and the Oakland neighborhood had with the industrialists and steelworker communities they will learn about throughout the course of the workshop.

Illustration of Homestead Steel Works
William J. Gaughan Collection, University of Pittsburgh, Archives & Special Collections

At the conclusion of the tour, participants will attend an opening reception at the Homestead Steelworks Pump House, a remnant of the steel mill from the time of the Battle of Homestead. During the reception teachers will be introduced to the themes and schedule for the week and will learn about various ethnic foods related to the immigrant populations that worked at the mill.

The daily sessions of the Institute will take place within the newly renovated Archives & Special Collection Department of the University of Pittsburgh Library System on the third floor of Hillman Library. The dedicated classroom within the department offers comfortable seating for up to 40 people. The room will be equipped with wireless Internet access; digital camera, DVD, and LCD projector; plentiful electrical outlets; and various forms of sound and image playback equipment.


Monday’s sessions will set the scene for the Homestead Steel Strike by exploring how western Pennsylvania was impacted by the Industrial Revolution. The day will address the following questions: What was Western Pennsylvania like before the domination of the iron and steel industry? How did the introduction of mass-produced steel affect the people living in the region? In the morning, urban and geographic historian Dr. Edward Muller will discuss what it was like to live in Pittsburgh in the period between 1865 and 1892. Dr. Muller will explain the region’s economic shift from a commercial and glassmaking center to one of iron and steel production, as well as the impact this change had on the local population.

Steelmill workers pouring a 90 ton ingot for armor plate.
William J. Gaughan Collection, University of Pittsburgh, Archives & Special Collections

After a short break, Ken Kobus, author of City of Steel: How Pittsburgh Became the World's Steelmaking Capital during the Carnegie Era, will provide an overview of the evolution of the steelmaking process during the 19th century. During his summary, Kobus will touch on how changes in steel production allowed men like Andrew Carnegie to become so powerful and influenced the influx of immigrants, particularly from southern and eastern Europe, into Western Pennsylvania. Archival materials that reinforce the ideas and information presented will complement each lecture.

After lunch, participants will travel to nearby Braddock to view steelworker housing and a modern operational steel mill, U.S. Steel’s Edgar Thomson Works. Participants will then visit the Rivers of Steel Museum, which is located in the Bost Building in Homestead, the same building strike organizers used as their headquarters. Participants will be familiar with both Braddock and Homestead after completing the day’s reading, Thomas Bell’s novel Out of This Furnace, which describes immigrant life as a steelworker in this region. Throughout the entire day, participants will consider how people were impacted by the economic changes of the region.

At the end of the day we will return to campus where our master teacher, Jeffrey Tripodi, will introduce the lesson plan that teachers will be working on during the week and lead discussion about how to apply what we have learned that day to their own classrooms.


Tuesday's activities are centered on the people that participated in the Homestead Steel Strike so that the attendees can gain an understanding of each side’s viewpoints. Questions to be addressed are: What was it like to be a member of Pittsburgh’s Victorian upper class? How do industrialists and their employees view each other? What role did trade unions play in the life of late 19th century workers? In the morning, author Quentin Skrabec will discuss the lives and work of Pittsburgh tycoons Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. Participants will be prepared for this lecture after completing the day’s reading, Les Standiford’s Meet You in Hell, which provides a detailed account of the relationship between these two industrial titans.

After a short break, labor historian Dr. Charles McCollester will examine the assertion of corporate dominance over labor and community by discussing how wages, hours and working conditions changed after the strike as well as how total corporate control was imposed on the community as well as the workplace for 45 years until the New Deal and the CIO established industrial citizenship.

After lunch, the group will tour Frick’s opulent Victorian mansion, Clayton, in Pittsburgh’s Point Breeze neighborhood. Participants will gain a better understanding of the daily life of one of the region’s wealthiest families by touring the home that Frick lived in at the time of the strike. This experience will directly contrast to the worker housing viewed on the previous day’s tour. Upon leaving Clayton, the group will travel to the University of Pittsburgh Library System’s Archives Service Center where they will review archival records pertaining to the Homestead Steel Strike from various points of view, including Frick, Carnegie Steel’s Chief of the Bureau of Labor, steelworkers, and other labor unions. Participants will also receive training on how to find electronic resources and digitized primary sources using the Historic Pittsburgh and Rivers of Steel websites, and engage in an exercise modeling how to use archival resources in the classroom.

Rivers of Steel's riverboat the Explorer.
Rivers of Steel Explorer


On Wednesday, the workshop will address the July 6, 1892, Battle of Homestead, the event in which the people of Homestead clashed with the Pinkerton detectives hired by Frick. In the morning, Ron Baraff from Rivers of Steel will provide an overview of the day of the conflict from the Pinkertons arrival in Bellevue, PA, as hired guards, through their encounter with the people of Homestead on the mill grounds, and to their eventual capture and release as prisoners of Homestead’s citizens. After a break, local activist and filmmaker Steffi Domike will discuss her work in researching and depicting the Battle of Homestead in her film The River Ran Red before it is shown to the group.

After lunch, participants will follow the same river voyage the Pinkerton guards took on the Monongahela River as they traveled to the Homestead Steelworks. Along the way, a guide will identify points of importance to the Pinkertons’ journey, as well as sites of significance to Pittsburgh’s industrial past and the role the city’s geography played in the battle. After the tour, we will return to campus where our Master Teacher, Jeffrey Tripodi, will model a lesson he has prepared around the events of the strike and lead discussion on how the lesson might be applied to the participant’s classrooms. The day’s reading, Paul Krause’s The Battle for Homestead, will not only provide a summary of the strike events, but also offer context by exploring Homestead’s labor history and the legacy of the strike on the community.

Pinkerton Detective Agency men leaving the barges after the surrender of strikers during the Homestead Strike. Illustration in Harper's Weekly, v. 36, no. 1856, p. 673. July 16, 1892
By Drawn by W.P. Snyder after a photograph by Dabbs, Pittsburg. |


Thursday's sessions are concerned with the various ways in which the Homestead Steel Strike was depicted and remembered locally and throughout the country. The first morning lecture will be offered by A&SC staff, who will demonstrate the various ways in which the strike appeared in popular culture, including lithographs in Harper’s Weekly, artwork, and music, and how those depictions influenced the public memory of the strike as well as the ways in which these types of materials can be used to encourage student interest.

After a break, historian Dr. Joel Woller will discuss the Homestead Strike of 1892 in social and cultural memory. He will examine civic debates regarding Carnegie’s library philanthropy; novels (including Bell’s Out of This Furnace); song and story; parades, rallies, speeches, and declarations; and a monument dedicated to 1892 strikes. The day’s reading, “Flowers for Homestead: A Case Study in Archives and Collective Memory” by Jeannette Bastian will address how perceptions of an event like the Homestead Strike change over time and how that evolving interpretation and memory presents itself within the documentary record. This will provide participants with the analytical tools necessary to interpret primary source materials.

In the afternoon, participants will travel to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art to meet with Chief Curator Barbara Jones and view “Born of Fire,” an exhibit of artwork pertaining to the region’s industry. During the return journey, participants will be given a chance to meet with Jeffrey Tripodi to discuss any lingering questions they may have about their proposed lesson plans.


On Friday, participants will explore the aftermath of the strike and the impact it had on the Homestead community and the nation. Questions to be addressed include: Why did the Homestead Strike affect unionism throughout the country? How did steel and other industries capitalize on an unorganized workforce? How did milltown communities change as steel became a primarily unskilled process? In the morning, historian Paul Kahan will discuss how the strike affected the greater labor movement and how the evolving steel industry developed in its wake.

Illustration of Homestead Steel Works
William J. Gaughan Collection, University of Pittsburgh, Archives & Special Collections

Participants will already have some knowledge of this narrative by reading Richard Oestreicher’s “The Spirit of ’92: Popular Opposition in Homestead’s Politics and Culture, 1892-1937.” After a break, genealogist and storyteller Tammy Hepps will address how the town of Homestead changed after the strike, touching on her own research on Homestead’s Jewish community. Participants’ reading of Margaret Byington’s Homestead: Households of a Milltown will supplement this lecture by exploring immigrant communities within Homestead around 1910.

After lunch, participants will tour the Carrie blast furnace, which supplied pig iron to the Homestead Steelworks. This tour will demonstrate the changes in the steelmaking process and workforce after the conclusion of the strike. From there, the group will visit the Carnegie Library of Homestead to discuss the controversial legacy of Andrew Carnegie within the Homestead community in the aftermath of the conflict.


On Saturday morning, author and historian Les Standiford will reflect on his impressions of the Homestead Strike in relation to his book Meet You in Hell. To conclude the workshop, participants will share the lesson plans they have developed over the course of the week and provide one another with feedback. Participants will have until August 15th to further revise their lesson plans prior to their being posted on the project website.


* For week two of the workshop, Les Standiford will speak on Sunday night at the Homestead Pump House event rather than on Saturday morning.