February, 1894, a general reduction in wages of 20 cents was
put into effect by the National Tube Works Company, and from that time
until May 14th, considerable comment and agitation was rife, especially
in the Butt Mill where the "butt mill boys" were constantly on
the alert for some excuse to shut the mill down. A good day for
swimming, and with a shout, they left their work and raced for the
river. A circus in town, and there was no more work for the
"butt mill boys" that day. A huckster passed the mill,
which at that time was directly on Fourth Avenue, and before any warning
could be given, the huckster proceeded on his way with an empty
wagon. In the afternoon of May 14th, matters had arrived at a
point where the agitation for a return to the previous wage culminated
in decisive action among the "butt weld boys". At the
end of the lunch hour, and , with a "whoop and yell" they
started out of the Butt Mill, and the strike was on.
At that time, knowing the temper of the boys,
Horace Crosby, who was Assistant General Manager, said, "I think
the boys will settle down alright after they have had their little
But it was not to be so. The next day the
Butt Mill employees were joined by the Lap Mill and part of the
shops. All told, about 3,000 men went out on strike.
A meeting was held, the strikers were
organized, and Thomas Richards was made Chairman of the meeting. A
committee was appointed and this committee waited on Mr. Crosby and Mr.
Peter Patterson, who told the committee that a wage advance at that time
was absolutely out of question, but that if the men wanted to return to
work at the old wages they could do so, but if not, the plant would be
shut down indefinitely, together with the Rolling Mill, which, up to
that time, had not joined the strike. The strikers remained firm
in their demands however, and the plant was closed. During this
period a severe coal strike, affecting the Pennsylvania and Illinois
fields, as well as those in Ohio and Colorado, became general, causing a
coal famine accompanied by much bloodshed and rioting. Though the
strike at the Tube Works was quiet and orderly, the men during this time
availed themselves of the idle period for picnics, baseball, and other
harmless activities. The first disturbance occurred on the fifth
of June, when two welders ands several men went back to work. A
crowd of strikers congregated at the Locust Street entrance, and when
several men started out at the lunch hour, they were set upon by the
strikers and would have fared badly had they not been rescued by Chief
McCloskey and Superintendent Peter Patterson, who took them back into
the mill. At this time boiler makers and moulders quit, saying
they would not return until the trouble was over. The following
days brought more rioting and abuse to men leaving the plant. The
son of Superintendent Patterson was roughly handled, Archie Duncan was
so badly mauled that he had to be carried home. Jerry Beattie was
knocked down and badly trampled. Two police officers attempted to
protect a "Hun" who had pulled a knife. The
"Hun" was allowed to escape after having most of his clothing
torn from his back, but the officers received a terrible beating.
Excitement was running high, and the strikers were becoming more
determined than ever. At this time the Mayor issued a proclamation
declaring that as a state of disorder existed on account of the strike,
all saloons and wholesale liquor houses were to close, and no assembling
was to be permitted after 10:30 P.M., and calling on all citizens to
remain in their homes. He further called all those citizens
desirous of maintaining law and order to assemble at his office to
be sworn in as deputies.
About $200.00 had been collected for relief
among the strikers. There were charges of incompetency and graft
regarding the disbursement of this fund. A meeting was called by
the committee who wished the charges withdrawn or exoneration. At
this juncture, the man who had made the charges was espied in the
audience. He was hustled to the state where it was found he could
not speak English. The meeting then adjourned.
On June 29th, 1894, a meeting of mechanical
departments was held to discuss the question of why they were not
working. About 150 men were present. On a ballot taken to
determine the sentiment of the men, every man voted to return to
work. A committee was formed for canvassing others in the
department. It was made up of James Boax, Chariman, W.D. Davis,
George Newlin, Alex Rae, John Rotheram, Dave Heggie, William Bumbaugh,
James Kincaid, Richard Hampson, and Charles Parker.
A meeting of the Tube Works laborers at this
time was attended by about 200 men. Peter McMullen took the floor
and addressed the men, saying,
"I was in consultation with Mr. Patterson yesterday, and asked
him about an increase, and he said,
"Its divil a cint you'll git boys, if you stay out fer a year"
"We might as well go back now for you have heard what the bosses
A resolution was then passed that McMullen retire to his log cabin in
Reynoldton and remain there in peace.
At a meeting on July 6th, the Mechanical
Departments voted to return to work the following Monday morning, but
when the men assembled for work, as there were no firemen to operate the
boiler plant, the mill did not start operation. However, the next
day, by coupling up the mill locomotives with the steam lines, the
foundry and machine shops started work. Furnace "B" at
the Monongahela Furnaces was blown in on the morning of July 12th, and
work was resumed in that Department. The next day a mass meeting
attended by over 1,000 men voted by a vote of 738 to 313 to continue the
strike. On the 18th of July, at a meeting held in the Coliseum,
with Thomas Richards presiding, a committee was appointed consisting of
John Ford, James McDonald, Casper Kistner, Norman Grant, and Owen
Farley. The committee was instructed to ask Mr. Converse to
withdraw the deputies, and the men would go back to work. Mr.
Converse replied by messenger that a conference with the committee would
be unnecessary, it would only be a waste of time as he had nothing to
say. After considerable discussion, it was voted by uplifted hand
to call of the strike and return to work, and the following week the
mill was working as though nothing had happened."
early part of the summer of 1901 was fraught with
considerable agitation, especially in the steel industry over union
recognition, and wage scales. By July 1st, the Amalgamated
Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers had thrown down the
gauntlet, and called a strike affecting those mills, principally in the
sheet industry, that were affiliated and affected by the scale.
Approximately 35, 000 workers were idle. The general strike call,
affecting all steel operations by President Shaffer occurred on the 15th
of July, 1901, and locally, the Woods mill and Demmler mill were
affected. The National Tube Company at that time granted an
advance in wages of approximately 10 cents. A few days later a
general strike of stationary engineers in the coal mines was ordered,
principally in the anthracite regions.
Mr. G.G. Crawford, General Manager of the
National Tube Company at McKeesport, made the statement, when asked if
men joining the Amalgamated Association would be discharged. He
replied: "I have nothing to say." Mr. S.M. Cooper,
Manager of Woods mill reported that when the Woods mill started again it
would be strictly non-union, but when that time would come he could not
say. The stock market reacted to the sentiment over repeated
failures of settlement and steel common sold at 40-1/4 on August
5th. About this time it was announced that the W.D. Woods plant
would be dismantled, and would move to the Kiskiminetas Valley and work
of dismantling the plant began soon after. On the 12th of August
the Boston Iron and Steel Works, and the National Rolling Mills closed
for the reason that the men did not report to work. The
Monongahela Furnaces were scheduled for closing that evening. On
the 13th of August, the next day, having an apparent excuse for a
holiday, the "butt mill boys" joined the strike. The
colored iron workers organized a lodge, the bartenders organized a
lodge, and the painters and paperhangers organized a lodge, all in
sympathy with the Amalgamated Association strike. By the 15th of
August, all departments of the National Tube Company had laid down their
tools and joined the ranks of the strikers.
The balance of the month was quiet. The
men, as a rule, taking their time for picnics and outings of harmless
nature, leaving the discussion of the strike and its settlement to those
in authority. By Labor Day, September 2nd, notices began to appear
of resumption of operations in several of the plants, Demmler and
National Tube Company, among others. The foremen at National Tube
Company reported that at least 1,000 men had returned to their places,
while the strike headquarters would concede only 100. On the 6th
of September, the country was startled by news of the shooting in the
Temple of Music at Buffalo, of President McKinley, and for a while
strike talk was superceded by this much more momentous occurrence.
A proposition was made by the United States Steel Corporation, which had
been formed by this time, and was turned down by the Amalgamated
Association. The Corporation announced that they would not
negotiate further, and would try to start all mills at once.
President F.J Hearne of the National Tube
Company wrote a letter under date of September 12th to Mayor Robt. J.
Black complaining about the interference of pickets with men wishing to
return to work. Mayor Black replied that Mr. Hearne had been
misinformed, and that only lawful acts had occurred and that
"bodily harm" existed only in his imagination. Quoting
from the letter, Mayor Black said: "The real reason, as I
see it, why the Company is unable to operate its plant is that the main
body of millmen do not wish to return to work under present conditions,
and I will not be a party to any coercive reassures that will prevent
them from peacefully reasoning with their fellows to persuade them of
the justice of their position."
On the 14th of September the country was
plunged into mourning over news of the death of President McKinley and,
at the same time, the strike virtually ended, so that by the end of the
month practically all were back at work."
the latter part of August, 1919, pressure was being brought
to bear by the American Federation of Labor for the general organization
of the steel workers, and the recognition of the union. Many
divisions and branches of the union had sprung up under various names
and titles, some of them outlaws, and distinctly communistic.
Warring among themselves had brought chaos among the workers. At
this time an attempt was made to meet with Judge Gary of the Steel
Corporation to discuss union recognition, but such a conference was
flatly refused. Organization efforts in McKeesport were being
conducted principally by two men, William Z. Foster and J.L Beaghen, who
were refused any permits for meetings by the local authorities.
These two men, while attempting to speak at Slavish Hall in White Street
on the third of September, 1919, were arrested on orders of Mayor Lyale,
and were later released on payment of $25.00 forfeit. The next day
several men refusing to move on order of the police were arrested and
committed to jail.
Finding their efforts for a conference with
Judge Gary to be of no avail, President Gompers of the American
Federation of Labor appealed to President Wilson to arrange a conference
with Judge Gary, threatening to call a general strike unless Gary
consented to negotiate. A few days later Foster and Beaghen were
arrested when a meeting of steel men in Duquesne was broken up. A
$100.00 fine, imposed by Mayor Crawford, was paid.
On the ninth of September five foreigners
charged with inciting to riot at the meeting in Slavish Hall the week
before, and at Central Police Station, were given a hearing before
Alderman Markus, and held for action of the Grand Jury. Bail was
set at $3,000.00 each. These men were positively identified by
different witnesses and the defendants admitted being in the crowd, but
emphatically denied that they had thrown any stones, or acted in a
disorderly manner. The men were John Hudock, 403 Center Street,
John Marsal, 604 White St., John Goyak, 1616 East 8th Street, John
Pahota, 2201 Summitt Street, and John Frechalk, 944 Fourth Street.
A composite story of what happened on that night, gleaned from the
testimony of all the witnesses is as follows:
|It started on White Street when two labor leaders
tried to address a large crowd of men in defiance of the Mayor's
orders. These leaders were arrested and taken to Central
Police Station, the crowd following. A near riot took
place at Central Station and then the crowd went down Fourth
Street, tried at several places to enter the mill, threw stones
at the mill buildings, striking several watchmen and millmen,
entered the Blast Furnaces at Center Street, and succeeded in
making, either by force or by persuasion, a number of men leave
their work. It was charged that the five defendants were
the leading spirits in the affair.
Chief of Police James Heddington was the first
witness and related how the men had cried, "Tear the police station
down," "Kill the police", and other exclamations of
similar tenor. Michael Halleron, General Foreman of Blast
Furnaces, positively identified the defendants as being prominent in the
crowd about the Police Station and at the Center Street entrance of the
Tube Works. He stated that the rain of stones continued for
fifteen minutes. Hugh N. Pendleton, Superintendent of Rolling
Mills, told of being seized by the crowd and roughly handled, because he
tried to prevent their entrance into the mill. He also testified
to being hit with a stone, a scar on his head being confirmation of his
story. He also stated he saw a watchman struck by a stone.
James F. McCloskey, Tube Works Chief of Police, also saw the stone
throwing. Other witnesses for the prosecution were A.H. Wardwell,
Thomas Gallagher, and James Gorman. In addition to the questioning
of the Alderman, Clyde F. Young, Acting City Solicitor, examined the
witnesses and the defendants.
|"Were you in the crowd?", asked the
Alderman of John Marsal.
"Yes, outside the mill."
"Were you there when they were throwing stones?"
"I did not know whether they were throwing any
Then the Alderman questioned Hudak:
"Were you in the crowd?"
"Some like somebody" was the unusual, unintelligent
"Did you throw any stones?"
"I know see."
"Were you at the police station?"
"Did you follow the crowd down Fourth Street?"
Frechalk, when asked if he had been with the
crowd, at first said, "I was no down there. I was home.
My wife sick." Later, he admitted, "Yes, I was in that
bunch; I heard that bunch hollering".
Goyak said, "I was with the crowd, but did
not throw any stones."
Marsal implicated a dairyman, a Russian, living
on Jerome Street, asserting, "He was very active in the
After hearing all the testimony Alderman Markus
decided it was a case for a higher court, and held the defendants for
action of the Grand Jury.
By September 18th, the State Constabulary sent
here for patrol duty, was re-inforced by ten more members, making a
total of fifteen patrolling districts within a few miles of
McKeesport. They were distributed; five at Clairton, five at
Dravosburg, and five at Lincoln Place. It was likely, in lieu of
any direct reason, that the authorities were getting ready for an
emergency. At this time the general strike was called for Monday,
September 22nd, at 6:00 A.M. The Mayor of McKeesport and Burgess
of Port Vue started swearing in citizens as special officers, and made
the statement that every effort would be made to preserve order.
On September 22nd, the strike broke and many conflicting stories were
current as to its effectiveness. Several shots were fired at
Clairton, where much rioting took place. State Troopers arrested
forty as a result of the disorder. National Tube Works, W.D. Woods
plant, and Christy Park Works were working full. From bulletins,
the strike was claimed to be very effective at Cary, Joliet, Wheeling,
Pueblo, Buffalo, Sharon, Youngstown, Martins Ferry, Monesson, Johnstown,
Massillon, South Chicago, and Fairfield, Alabama. Locations
reported partially affected were Pittsburgh, Clairton, Cleveland,
Milwaukee, Chicago, Mercer, and not affected, Elyria, Lorain,
McKeesport, Duquesne, Canton, Lancaster, Vandergrift, Alliance,
Coatesville, Braddock, Homestead, Sheffield and Anistan, Alabama.
Conflicting reports as to the above statements were current, coming from
both the ranks of the strikers, and the employers. By this time,
the seriousness of the strike had been recognized by the National
Government at Washington, and hearings were started by the Senate Labor
committee. At a hearing today, September 25th, John Fitzpatrick,
Chairman of the Striker's Committee, told the Senators that the steel
industry's "oppression" of labor is the "rotten
apple" of the industrial situation. Long hours and small
wages drag conditions in other industry backward and downward.
Senators listened to his recital of attempts to prevent union meetings
at McKeesport, and elsewhere. Mayor Lysle at this time issued a
proclamation stating the position of the City and authorities toward the
strike, and calling on everyone to keep the peace and be orderly.
There were several arrests and fines for youths who jeered the troopers
and who refused to move when ordered. The most serious trouble up
to this time resulting from the strike took place at Otto, where a huge
mass meeting was scheduled to take place. One foreigner shot at a
State Trooper, and another pointed a gun at Police Chief Reddington.
Thirty-six arrests were made. There were over 1,000 men in the
crowd assembled, though all were careful not to stop on the McKeesport
side of the line, but several were searched before crossing the line and
arrested for "gun toting".
Shortly before 3 o'clock the troopers hove in
sight. At the same time a freight train slowly moved towards
McKeesport. Sergeant Murphy of the State Troopers headed his men
and all jogged along until they were a few yards from the crowd that was
on the sidewalk. Sergeant Murphy gave the command to charge, and
like a streak the horses shot along the sidewalk. Many of the
foreigners had previously stationed themselves on the P&LE Railroad
track and they climbed one side of the cars, as those driven from the
sidewalk climbed the other side. Foreigners, who were on the south
side of Monongahela Avenue raced for the woods with troopers and
officers in hot pursuit. Sergeant Murphy said it was lucky for the
men that the freight train happened along when it did, for he would have
run them into the river. In two minutes there was not a person on
the streets but officers and reporters. The foreigners yelled as
they raced for the woods. A few stopped to hid in the bushes,
others were running by the officers ten minutes later. Most of
those who secreted themselves in the bushes were rounded up and
arrested, and several others were captured by officers. This was
the first meeting in this section, where shots were fired and clubs
used, but it was announced that since the officers have been fired on,
they will use their entire effectiveness of armament in the future to
protect themselves. September 26th reports show National Tube
Company and Carnegie Steel Company, at Duquesne, operating 100%.
At Washington, the Senate investigating
committee is continuing hearings, and has listened to Gompers,
Fitzpatrik, and others, stating the labor side of the case. This
testimony evoked an editorial in the McKeesport Daily News descrying
testimony given before the committee. It declared that Gompers was
a piker with Ananias, and called on the business men of McKeesport to
rally to the City's support, and refute the slanderous chargers.
On October 1st, Judge Gary flatly refused
before the Senate Committee, to deal with labor unions. He
specifically told the committee he would not meet Gompers or any other
union leader as a representative of his employees. He said,
"Every employee of the Corporation has the right to singly, or in
groups, appeal even to the President of the Corporation, but we cannot
deal with outsiders."
The Allegheny County courts upheld the Mayor's
ban on meetings, and fines imposed on Foster and Beaghen, stating in
their decision that public safety was at issue. During these days
men were being arrested and fined for bothering workmen trying to return
to work. Hundreds of striking foreigners are leaving for Europe,
depleting the striker's ranks.
W.Z. Foster, when confronted before the Senate
Committee with his book, wherein he advocate revolutionary socialism,
declared under a grueling fire of questions, that his view had
changed since publication of the book. To what extent they had
changed he refused to say, unless newspaper correspondents were excluded
from the room. This was denied to him.
Probably the worst condition in the strike
occurred during the first week of October in the Calumet steel district,
surrounding Gary, Indiana, where riots, disorder, and gun-play, caused
the Governor to send four thousand regular troops into the district, and
declare martial law.
Senator Kenyon and his investigating committee
visited Homestead, Duquesne, Clairton, and McKeesport on October
10th. They talked with strikers, non-union workers, and wives and
children, in an effort to learn how the other half lived. The
visit to McKeesport, where they were greeted by a committee composed of
Mr. W.A. Cornelius, J.W. Wilson, H.N. Pendleton, T.H. Fox, W.T. Snyder,
and T.M. Hopke, took place in the afternoon. The committee was
barely an hour in the mill and expressed astonishment and admiration for
the manner in which the machinery was guarded with respect to safety,
and the fact that practically everything was done by machinery.
Senator Kenyon asked Sergeant Murphy of the State Police about
dispersing the meeting in Otto and said, "Did you hurt
anybody?" "No, Senator", said the Sergeant, "I
would not say I hurt any of them, I just clubbed a few of them."
Americanism, in the opinion of Senator Kenyon,
is the sole remedy for the industrial ills of the United States.
"Did you see that crowd of 150 strikers at Clairton", asked
the Senator, "Did you notice that when I asked how many of them
were citizens, only three raised their hands?" The Senator,
on his return to Washington from Pittsburgh, made a statement in which
he advocated strenuous changes in naturalization and Americanization,
believing that if a foreigner did not learn to speak and read English,
after being five years in the United States, he should be deported.
At a meeting of the National Industrial
Congress in Washington, on the 17th of October, 1914, the recognition of
the right of collective bargaining seemed likely to be endorsed as the
basic principle of the nation's future code of industrial
relations. Chairman Wheeler of the employer's group offered the
|"Resolved: That without in any way
limiting him, the right of the wage earner either to refrain
from joining any association, or to deal directly with his
employers as he chooses - - - - - - - - - - - - - is
recognized. No denial is intended of the right of any
employer and his workers voluntarily to agree upon the form of
their representative relations."
This was different from the proposal offered by the labor group, in that
it protects the principle of the open shop.
Much agitation in the coal fields and a general
strike in that industry called for November 1st. A report of the
Senate Committee investigating the steel strike contained the following
|"Labor must get rid of radicalism."
"Anarchist's nests should be thoroughly cleaned out."
"The reds used the steel to further their own
The need of a conciliation and mediation board."
"Federal Aid in Home Owning."
"Naturalization Law Revision."
Gompers was severely criticized for not dealing
more severely with Foster, an acknowledged Red.
By the latter part of November, steel operators
in nearly every quarter of the Pittsburgh district report that they are
now unaffected by the strike, which has practically collapsed."
"While the foregoing descriptions, in a general way, gives
the highlights of the three principal strikes of National Works of
National Tube Company, minor disagreements of a departmental nature
occurred from time to time, and in some instances, departments were
closed down for short periods until the difficulties were ironed
out. They could not be classed in the nature of general strikes,
as they were only local in scope." (Note by the author of texts
following this last strike account.)
Source: UE/Labor 91:6, Box 3061