The “Battle of Homestead” is the most famous event in labor history. While the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike only lasted four months, it created a lasting impact on how the nation viewed the relationship between labor and management and cemented the reputation of two of America’s great Industrialists – Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. As the epicenter of the event that changed labor and management forever, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is home to a number of significant historical sites and archival collections documenting the strike and its aftermath.
While the U.S. history standards touch on the need to critically analyze conflicts between groups and organizations in the United States, most current history textbooks provide only cursory information about the Homestead Steel Strike, framing the event as an example of how business owners broke up a union. And while that is certainly one facet of the 1892 strike, the Battle of Homestead also allows teachers to delve into important topics like immigration and industrialization, and difficult concepts like vertical integration, Social Darwinism, and collective bargaining. The strike is not just relevant to teachers of history and social studies; the classic novel of that time period, Out of This Furnace, provides a valuable opportunity for Language Arts teachers to discuss fictionalizing history and the impulse to either villainize or vindicate public figures. As well, the correspondence between Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie provides a fascinating look at the rhetoric of modern business.