Iron and steel industry: Late Nineteenth Century Immigrants

2012-10-17 04:22:19

Iron and steel industry

Iron and steel industry: Struggle to Unionize

Iron and steel industry: Life in the Steel Communities

The iron and steel industry continued to progress after the U.S. Civil War, and an increasing need for labor corresponded to this growth. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in particular, steel companies increasingly employed various eastern and southern Europeans in the production and fabrication of steel products. These immigrants included large numbers of Slovaks, Hungarians, and Ukrainians who performed unskilled work in the mills and furnaces in the northern United States, particularly around such cities as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, steelworkers in 1905 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, steelworkers in 1905. (The Granger Collection, New York)


During this period, the size and scale of manufacturing facilities increased dramatically. The use of more machinery prompted producers to recruit additional unskilled laborers fromeastern Europe. About 30,000 new steelworkers were working in American factories by 1900. The motivation of many of these new arrivals was to make enough money to return to Europe and live well in their native villages and towns. The majority migrants who eventually stayed hoped for advancement from the lowestpaid and hardest jobs in the mills to better positions. Many of these men came alone and lived in the boardinghouses and company towns operated by mill owners. As their economic condition improved, they sent for their families, who gradually displaced earlier northern and western European immigrants and their descendants in the steel factories and communities. Meanwhile, they existed a well as they could while working long, hazardous hours with low pay.