Pittsburgh: Contending with its Steel Past

byTracy Watkins


As you travel across the bridge to enter into the town of Homestead, twelve smokestacks from the Homestead Steel Works greet you. When you turn right you enter the “Waterfront” – the location of movie theatre, hotels, shops, restaurants, and housing. Now booming with shoppers, this used to be the site of a large steel works plant. In addition to the smokestacks, a gantry crane still stands nearby. Further along down the road one will find the Pump House, a focal point of the Homestead Steel Strike of 1892.

Remnants of the steel past are not found just in Homestead, but all throughout the Pittsburgh region. In the city of Pittsburgh the name “Carnegie,” is unfamiliar to no one. Andrew Carnegie, the steel tycoon who helped make Pittsburgh the steel capital of the world, is still attached to Pittsburgh through his donations that created music halls, libraries, and museums that stand to this day.

However, the region is not the steel capital of the world anymore yet it is still referred to as “The Steel City.” The question is – why and why do these remnants still remain? Why does the crane and pump house still stand at the Waterfront and why are the smokestacks illuminated at night? Furthermore, what is the purpose of holding on to the steel past?

 This unit is about the rise of the steel industry in the nineteenth century Pittsburgh area and the workers who helped Pittsburgh become the steel capital of the world. In addition, the unit also focuses on the demise of the steel industry during the latter half of the twentieth century and the impact of deindustrialization among the area’s steel workers. Moreover, the unit is about using the tools of public history practice to study these topics and for the students to create a public history project.


Brashear, located in the Beechview neighborhood of Pittsburgh, is the largest high school sin the Pittsburgh Public Schools. There are also students throughout the city who attend Brashear because of various magnet programs we offer. There are approximately 1400 students and the demographics are: African American (36%), Asian (14%), Caucasian (41%), Hispanic (4%), and Multi-Racial (5%). In addition, 77% of the student’s qualify for free/reduced lunch.

I chose to create a unit based on the steel industry for an 11th grade U.S. History class. To teach industrialization, one cannot ignore the major role the steel industry had in Pittsburgh. The city continues to maintain strong ties to its steel past as displayed through the spirit of the city and various public history projects. Lastly, students today do not have a direct memory of Pittsburgh producing a third of the world’s steel. However, students observe this history by seeing the name “Carnegie” in various ways throughout the city, the name of the NFL team, as well as the various ways the city still holds on to its steel past. Through the use of public history tools, such as oral histories and walking tours, I want students to not only study the past but to see how the past impacts the present and consider why there seems to be a need to hold on to the past.



Through the use of this unit, I want students to develop the historical thinking skills which will prepare them for their future classes in high school as well as in college. Additionally, I want students to get past the idea of only needing to memorize facts and dates in a history course. I want them to learn how to examine a part of history and analyze its impact as well as the role it has in the present.

Because students live in the city they have always heard its association with steel. However, the concept of how important steel was to Pittsburgh and its major role in the steel industry is not always known. By examining the role Pittsburgh played in this industry, students will be able to study the effect Pittsburgh had throughout not only the nation, but the world.

In studying the steel mills, I want students to realize the vital part the steelworkers played in this history. Not only should the students study and understand how and why Pittsburgh became the “steel capital,” but they need to understand all aspects of the industry such as the experiences of the workers in the mills. I want students to be able to articulate the success of the industry in Pittsburgh in addition to why it declined and the impact it had on the steelworkers and the city at large. Through the use of public history tools, students will be able to study these aspects through a variety of ways such as walking tours and oral histories.

U.S. History Content Objectives/Assessment


Since this is for a U.S. History course, there are content objectives that I will expect to achieve. I will need to create the foundation for the skills students will need to develop throughout the course through the use of this unit since it is the first unit of the semester. From their previous courses in high school, students have a general idea of industrialization and its role in Great Britain, but they have not studied industrialization in the U.S. and the steel industry in the Pittsburgh area.

The unit will not only focus on industrialization but will study the impact of deindustrialization through the use of public history projects and public history tools. Students will begin by examining the start of the steel industry in Pittsburgh and the two periods of expansion of mills throughout the region. Specifically, students will analyze, through the use of primary sources, the make-up of the workforce and identify the role steelworkers played in the mills during its height in the early twentieth century. They will then explain, using evidence, the presence of unions in the mills and the effect of the Homestead Works Strike of 1892. Lastly, students will analyze the decline of the steel mills and the impact deindustrialization had not only on the city’s economy, but on the lives of the area’s steelworkers as well.


Warm-Ups, exit tickets, and writing prompts will account for the majority of the formative assessments. The final piece of assessment will be the public history project the students create which will serve as a summative assessment. By creating this project, students will use the historical thinking skills, which include: crafting historical arguments from historical evidence, chronological reasoning, comparison and contextualization, and historical interpretation and synthesis.

Essential Questions

Students will examine the beginning of the steel industry and its expansion in Pittsburgh, 1875-1890, as well as the Homestead Works Strike of 1892, the second expansion of the industry, 1900-1903, and deindustrialization, 1970s-1980s. These events mark the beginning of Pittsburgh’s economy being based on the steel industry, a major event in labor history, and end of the steel industry which drastically impacted Pittsburgh’s economy. In examining the industrialization and deindustrialization of Pittsburgh, I want students to not only examine the specific events and time periods, but I want them to understand how the past impacts the present. Through the unit, students will begin with the start of the steel industry in Pittsburgh and study its role, the workers, and unions until the time of deindustrialization. By the end, students will also consider why Pittsburgh still holds on to its steel past. The first question students will consider is, “How did the steel industry impact the Pittsburgh region in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century?” The second question, “Who were the people that made up the workforce and what does it suggest?” will require students to analyze the population of the workforce and nationalities, as well as who occupied which positions (skilled, semi-skilled, un-skilled). Moving on to discuss the labor movement, students will answer “What was the purpose of unions and were they successful?” Lastly, students will answer the following questions “How did deindustrialization impact the steelworkers?” and “Why does Pittsburgh continue to commemorate its steel past?”

Background Knowledge: The Steel Industry in Pittsburgh, the Workers, and the Impact of Deindustrialization


Although there were other prominent businesses within the Pittsburgh region, I decided to focus on the steel industry since Pittsburgh was once regarded as the steel capital of the world and the pride the city has in regards to its steel past is still prevalent today. Within this section, I began by looking at industrialization in Pittsburgh but primarily the start of the steel industry in the region. In addition, I discussed the make-up of the workforce in the early twentieth century to get a better understanding of who these people were that helped Pittsburgh become the steel capital. To display the data regarding the workers, I used information from the Carnegie Steel Company since it was the largest employer in the area at the time. Next, I examined the role unions had in the mills and the Homestead Works Strike of 1892. I then described the workers’ wages and hours, based on unskilled and skilled workers. Following, I discussed the decline of the steel industry and deindustrialization in Pittsburgh.

The content below addresses the standards associated with the development of the Industrial United States (1870-1900). This content will be taught throughout the unit through the use of primary and secondary sources as well as through public history tools and projects.


Pittsburgh’s economy and community were fixed from 1880-1910 when Connellsville Coke launched it as the leading iron and steel producers.1 Coal mining, the glass industry, as well electrical manufacturing grew steadily throughout the region as well. In 1875, The Carnegie Steel Company opened the Edgar Thomson plant and eventually the Homestead, Duquesne and Clairton plants. The first expansion of the steel industry in the Pittsburgh region occurred from 1875-1890. In 1901 the Carnegie Steel Company, along with seven other companies merged to form the United States Steel Company and employed 50 percent of the nations’ steel workers. Other prominent steel companies in the Pittsburgh area included Jones and Laughlin and Crucible Steel. An expansion of steel mills occurred again from 1900-1903 with the last major new construction in the region in 1911. In 1907 the total population of Pittsburgh numbered approximately 521,000 with 70,000-80,000 making up the workforce in the steel industry. The early twentieth century saw the height of the steel industry in Pittsburgh and by 1910, Pittsburgh had produced approximately 25 million tons of steel, exceeding 60% of the nation’s total.2

The Make-up of the Workforce

Pittsburgh’s economy focused on heavy industrial enterprises, and a large percentage of the labor force worked in plants associated with those industries, which set the city apart from other metropolitan cities.3 The make-up of the workforce in the steel mills consisted of a majority of un-skilled workers. In 1907, there were a total of 23,337 employees, making the Carnegie Steel Company the largest employer in the area. The chart below provides an understanding of who these workers were that helped Pittsburgh become the steel capital of the world during the early twentieth century. Moreover, how race and citizenship reflected the positions held in the steel mills is presented in the chart.

The information provided below from The Steel Worker, by John Fitch, provided demographic information regarding the steel workers as well as their skills. Slavs outnumbered the whites more than double, yet the majority of them occupied unskilled positions, while American born whites constituted the majority of the skilled positions. Lastly, it shows that there were more unskilled positions within a steel mill than skilled and semi-skilled, therefore providing opportunities for individuals who were not skilled laborers.4






American Born






    African    American





Foreign Born
















Other Races





The Beginning of Unions in the Steel Mills

In 1858, a group of iron workers created a union known as the Sons of Vulcan which began the labor movement in Pittsburgh. Although this union was at first a secret union, by 1862 it was a national organization and became known as the National Forge. By 1876 the organization became one of the strongest unions in the United States. In 1876, the union and two other organizations united to create the National Amalgamation of Iron and Steel Workers. However, the number of steel workers associated with this group was extremely small due to Pittsburgh being the “iron city” during this time. The membership of the National Amalgamation of Iron and Steel Workers was approximately 3,500 in 1877 and continued to see growth throughout the years with approximately 24,000 members by 1891. However, it is important to note once again that this organization primarily consisted of iron workers, not steel workers.

By the late nineteenth century, the Carnegie Steel Company owned the four largest steel mills in the Pittsburgh region: Homestead, Edgar Thomason, Duquesne, and Clairton. Carnegie opposed unionization within the steel mills and by 1889, he had appointed Henry C. Frick as chairman of Carnegie Brothers and Company, who also shared his views. Although the Homestead mill was at one time the only one successfully unionized, after the Homestead Works Strike in 1892, the union ceased to exist. However the Steel Workers Organization Committee, founded in 1936, marked the return of unions in the Pittsburgh area. By 1942 the organization became the United Steelworkers of America, one of the world’s largest unions.

The Homestead Works Strike of 1892

Within the five years leading to the strike in 1892, the Carnegie Steel Company’s capital had doubled and their employment had increased to approximately 4,000 with 800 being members of the Amalgamated Association.5 The sliding scale, introduced in 1889, set pay by the ton and pay rates varied depending on the market price of steel. However, wages would not be reduced further if the price was to drop below $25 a ton. During the spring of 1892, the Amalgamated Association wanted to renew the contract on these terms, however, the Carnegie Steel Company wanted the base to be $22, not $25 as well as wanting the contract to expire in January instead of July.6 Not only did the members not want the base to drop below $25, they also did not want the contract to expire in January. However, as talks of wages and contracts ending were happening, there was another essential issue ¾ unionism.

By the time Frick became chairman of Carnegie Brothers and Company in 1889, the Amalgamated Association had become more powerful, but members worried he would threaten their union due to his suppression of the strike in the coke region years earlier.7 The Homestead Works Strike officially began on June 30, 1892. Although the sliding scale had affected the skilled workers, unskilled workers were moving in to skilled positions, therefore, the Association needed the assistance of them as well. Since Frick had used Pinkerton detectives during the coke strike in Connellsville, PA, workers worried he would do the same in Homestead. On July 6th, 1892, 300 Pinkertons came up the Monongahela River to keep the strikers out of the mill. The Pinkertons surrounded the Homestead works after hours of bloodshed, seven deaths, and others wounded.

By October, men started to return to the mills in either their old positions or in inferior positions, moreover, some were not allowed to return at all. Furthermore, cuts in wages occurred as the year went on, which workers accepted and did not protest.

Workers’ Wages

In regards to wages, unskilled laborers in 1892 earned 14 cents an hour in Homestead, whereas in 1907-08 they earned 16.5 cents in mills operated by US Steel and workers in the Jones and Laughlin plants earned 15 cents an hour in 1907.8 Although workers saw an increase in wages, the Bureau of Labor Bulletin noted that wages still feel short by 4 percent with keeping pace of the increased cost of necessities.9 The skill workers, paid by tonnage rates, saw their wages impacted by the fluctuation of steel prices. For example, in 1892 in Homestead, a person in a Roller position earned approximately $11.84 an hour during an 8 hour work day, whereas in 1907 the same position earned approximately $9.90 during a twelve hour shift, a decline of 16.39.10 The figures represented indict that rises in workers’ wages did occur, however, the workers were still not making enough money to keep up with the increased cost of necessities. Since there was not a presence of a union in these mills, workers were not in a position to negotiate their wages. It was not until the 1930s and 1940s that the presence of unions returned and workers had a voice in the mills regarding their wages.

Workers’ Hours

Steel mills operated twenty-four hours a day on either eight hour shifts or twelve hour shifts. By 1890, the twelve hour shift was customary in steel mills throughout the region and over half of the men worked twelve hour shifts.

Although the blast furnace’s operated on Sundays, other mills such as the rolling mills did not. Though, by the early twentieth century, as the twelve hour work day become increasingly routine, and the unions were not prevalent, work on Sunday became routine as well. Not only did these employees work for half of the day, but coupled with the exhaustion endured during these hours, they had little time and energy to participate in family life, such as attending church as well as entertainment.

John Fitch, author of The Steel Workers, interviewed steelworker John Barr who provided a glimpse of what life was like as a mill worker at the time. Barr worked Sunday and twelve hour shifts which had become more prevalent which he understood as the result of the dissolution of the union.

He occupies a skilled position in one of the mills, where at the time I visited him he   was working an eleven-hour day one week, and the next, a thirteen-hour night. On   alternate Sundays he had the long turn of twenty-four hours. This Sunday work,   had told me, came in after the union had been driven out, and the twelve hour day   is more general now than it was under unionism. “Tell me, how can a man get any   pleasure out of life working that way?11

Barr’s last remarks reflect his inability to have an enjoyable life due to his working conditions during the early twentieth century.

The Demise of the Steel Industry in Pittsburgh and Deindustrialization

During World War II, the steel mills in the area contributed to the war effort but the industry began its decline soon after. In 1966, the area saw the first closure and demolition of a US Steel mill -- the Donora Works. While steel mills in other countries paid their workers $7-$9 an hour, American steel companies paid their employees $25.12 Because of foreign competition and the use of old technology, Pittsburgh priced themselves out of the market.

Within the next two decades, the trend of closures and layoffs continued throughout the area. During the most drastic period in the 1980s, the Pittsburgh region saw the closure of the USS Carries Furnaces in Rankin in 1982, the USS Duquesne Works and Clairton Works in 1984, the J&L Pittsburgh South Side and J&L Hazelwood Works in 1985, the USS Homestead Works and the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Monessen Works in 1986, and lastly in 1987 the USS National Works in McKeesport shut its doors.13 Within the first few years of the 1980s, 30,000 employees -- approximately 90% of the work force --had lost their jobs.14 A total of over 75,000 people lost their jobs in the steel industry from 1972-2002.15

Due in part to deindustrialization, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County also witnessed a population decline. Allegheny County’s population loss can be attributed to younger middle and upper income out-migrants and semiskilled workers who finally realized that the old blue collar manufacturing jobs would not return.16 Although Pittsburgh had made a comeback in the 1990s with high technology and service industries, it had not provided jobs for the thousands who lost theirs during the demise of the steel industry. The unskilled workers of the steel mills, who typically did not have a college degree and had performed work that did not require specific experience, had found nonunion jobs throughout the region but most had offered lower pay than what they had received in the steel mills.

Pittsburgh’s Attachment to its Steel Past

Despite no longer being the steel capital of the world, Pittsburgh holds tightly to its steel past. Although known more now by its universities and medical centers, the city continues to remember its industrial history. The question is – why? Are the blue collar workers protesting the loss of their way of life? Is it simply commercialization? Or is it the people’s pride of their identity and their blue collar roots in history?

A Public History Project: Reflecting on Eliza: A Pittsburgh Steel Mill

The question of public memory as well as urban and labor history can best be approached through the methods of public history. The background knowledge section is to serve as what content should be taught while the following two sections serve as public history examples. The use of oral history is presented which captures people’s experiences of working in the mills, as well as presents how some were affected by deindustrialization.

Reflecting on Eliza: A Pittsburgh Steel Mill, published in 1990, is an example of a public history project that uses photographs and oral history to make the history of the mills accessible to broad audiences. The interviews help to express the impact of deindustrialization as experienced by Pittsburgh steelworkers and photographs show the abandoned mill, providing a look at the demise of the industry.

In 1979, the Eliza furnaces of the Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation closed. In its place, a campus for high technology firms which encompassed 48 acres. During its demolition process, photographer Mark Perrott used the power of photography to capture the images which told the history of Eliza and its workers. In ELIZA: REMEMBERING A PITTSBURGH STEEL MILL, Perrott’s photographs, among interviews of workers and others who had a relationship with Eliza in one way or another, present a memorialization of the mill. In some interviews presented, workers celebrated their experience in the mills and while others reflected on the cause of the collapse of the industry. Moreover, the book provides a look at the people who were impacted by the steel industry as well as its demise.

Lee Sokol, a former hot blastman, recalled his first day of work. He had taken a job in the mill due to his father losing his eye sight. Sokol quit his senior year of school in order to help his family. He recalled the decaying of the machinery within Eliza and stated it was unavoidable that Eliza would close. His account provides just one of several instances in which men had left school to care for their family. Furthermore, he discussed how the workers knew the end was in site because of the condition of the machinery.

Bob “Ike” Eisengart, former hot mill electrical department foreman and galvanizing department master mechanic recalled his 35 years at Eliza.17 The excerpt below conveys the pride the workers had in their jobs as well as the emotions they felt on their last day at Eliza.

As the coils were processed through the cold mill, I watched each succeeding unit   go down. Boy, when that big, old hot mill shut down and the last red-hot bar went   through, we all knew it was the end. The up-river crane man started his siren, until   all of the sirens were blowing throughout the whole mill. It was a roaring   madhouse. It was heartbreaking—big husky steelworkers had tears in their eyes. It   was the end of an era.”18

Harry Peters, former machine shop foreman explained his role in Eliza throughout the more than 30 years he worked there.19 He remarked that the people who worked in the Eliza machine shop had a great pride in their job as well as the J&L Steel Corporation. In the excerpt below, Peters described a party his department had to commemorate their time at Eliza. Peters’s words described how the workers felt about the closing of Eliza as well as their feelings regarding working at Eliza.

The party was a huge success, but for many of us it was like a wake after a funeral.   We were losing a very dear friend that had been a part of our lives for years. There   were a few tears, but there were also many hugs and handshakes. You have to   experience something like this to understand the conflicting emotions we all felt.    My memories of Eliza machine shop will be with me for as long as I live.20

Others interviewed included a former furnace cooling attendant and USWA Local 1843 zone grievance committeeman, a former sludge filter operator, a former laborer and larry car operator, a former Pittsburgh works controller, a former industrial engineer, a former senior vice president of Mellon Bank.

Throughout the pages of this book, you can see images of Eliza mixed in with the interviews memorializing the workers times there. Eliza adds to the historical record on deindustrialization by providing accounts from the workers’ prospective that describe how they were directly impacted by deindustrialization and why the demise of the steel industry occurred.

Beyond the Walls of the Classroom: Other Examples of Public History Projects

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area practices public history through a variety of ways. RSNHA provides tours which commemorate Pittsburgh’s steel past as well as offers numerous student programs. 

The Babushkas and Hard Hat tours provides a look at the immigrant population that contributed to the make-up of the employees in the steel industry. Another tour offered is The Carrie Blast Furnace tour which takes participants on a journey thought the now National Historic Landmark and explains the daily operations of the mill. The tours offer the chance to examine how the industry played a role in shaping of the economy as well as the city’s culture and environment.21

Rivers of Steel offers six student programs: steel worker traveling trunk, mobile sculpture workshop, folk artists in the classroom, folklorist residencies, folk and traditional artist referrals, and folk artist training. Each of these provides students with the opportunity to create a project.

The steel worker traveling trunk program helps students understand the experience of the steel worker and the dangers they faced. It also provides students with an understanding of the steel making process and displays the workers clothing and proactive gear. The students are then able to create a personalized project for public display. The mobile sculpture workshop teaches students about welding and metal fabrication, allowing the students are also able to create a sculpture for public display.

The Battle of Homestead Foundation, founded to preserve the Pump House in Homestead, plans various events at the pump house and has completed several projects regarding the steel past.

At the time when the pump house was without power, the BHF showed films and other presentations using a generator. However, the light from the windows needed to be shaded. Therefore, fourteen banners which depicted the Homestead workers from 1880-1980 were created as well as scenes of the open hearth, a Bessemer blow, and a mill town.22 The pump house not only serves as a historic site but the BHF hosts various lectures, discussions, and other events at this location.

The activities listed are various examples of public history and how their efforts address the steel past. The walking tour presented allows for individuals to explore the now historic Carrie Blast Furnace, which was part of the Homestead Steel Works. The tour preserves the past by allowing individuals to travel around the structure while a guide discusses the purpose of the site, the role of the workers, and the impact it had in Pittsburgh. Using the walking tour as an example, students can examine why public history is used and evaluate the purpose it has in understanding the past. Furthermore, students can examine each of these public history examples and determine what part of the past is being remembered and why, as well as examine various viewpoints regarding industrialization and deindustrialization.

Additionally, the RSNHA provides various opportunities for students which can promote discussions as to why these programs exist, what history, or whose history is remembered. Also, it promotes discussion as to why students create products themselves at the conclusion.


Cooperative Learning/Group Work

Students do not always understand the use of cooperative learning or the importance of it. At the beginning of the school year I take the time to discuss with the students why I use cooperative learning and review the expectations of each student during cooperative learning. I discuss this several times throughout the school year to reinforce the importance of it. The cooperative learning groups are mixed ability and I change groups each semester. I prefer groups of three but class size will ultimately effect group size. I use cooperative learning at least two times per week and I also use cooperative learning at least one time per unit for a group project.

Through cooperative learning, students build their communication and critical thinking skills and it helps create a community within the classroom. Within their cooperative learning groups, students examine a document or document set and answer guiding questions using a graphic organizer. The use of cooperative learning is also an essential strategy because it echoes some of the dialogic aims of public history. Using cooperative learning allows for students to act as public historians by communicating with their peers, who share difference voices, interpretations, and experiences, and also requires them to work collaboratively. By creating dialogue about the content, students are able to learn from one another and discuss different viewpoints about the topics at hand.

Document Analysis

I use a variety of primary and secondary sources to engage students in learning and develop their critical thinking skills. My use of the sources aligns to the PA Core Standards for History and Social Studies, which is listed in the appendix. Examples include: students read, understand, and respond to informational text, cite specific textual evidence to support their analysis of primary and secondary sources, and determine central ideas or information.

To analyze these sources, I use the document analysis worksheets found on the National Archives Website. I often modify these to meet the goals of the lesson and I usually add a written portion to this analysis to further develop their writing skills.

Close Reading

To build their reading comprehension skills and engage students with the text, I use close reading. The purpose of close reading is not to answer simple recall questions but to answer text dependent questions and cite evidence from the passage. When using close reading, I use a short passage or an excerpt. It is important to remember that close reading is not meant for long documents.

Active Reading

When students are not using the close reading strategy for a document, they use the active reading strategy.

This strategy engages students in the reading in a variety of ways. During the reading students underline and/or highlight unfamiliar vocabulary which they then define, identify the main idea or thesis, make notes in the margins as well as write questions, provide a one sentence summary after each paragraph, and provide a short summary after the passage.

Gallery Walk

I use gallery walks to display student work, promote discussion, and to get students out of their seats. In addition, it also requires students to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize. Sometimes I use the gallery walk as an independent activity, however, I do assign a group gallery walk as well which promotes team building in addition to developing high order thinking skills.

During a gallery walk, the student or group will rotate to examine each piece of work and develop questions or responses to the piece, as well as examine responses provided by others. Students use sticky notes to place their comment on the piece of work. Each group then returns to their piece of work and examines the comments. The gallery walk concludes with each group providing an oral presentation regarding their piece and synthesis of the comments.


To document industrialization and deindustrialization in Pittsburgh, and to develop their chronological reasoning skills, students will create a photo timeline. Along with pictures, students will need to provide a small written description for each picture.


Since the unit will focus on public history, students will learn how oral history is used as a tool and will conduct an interview. After discussing the guidelines for an oral history interview, students will develop interview questions and then interview five people. Students will be given a writing prompt in which they will need to use evidence from their interviews within their response. Students will also record their interviews as part of a culminating project.


Photo Timeline – Instagram Template

In small groups of three or four (depending on class size), students will create a photo timeline using an Instagram template.

Students will use pictures to display Pittsburgh’s transformation from industrialization throughout Deindustrialization. Students will print ten-twelve pictures they have found and place them on the Instagram template they have created using poster paper. Additionally, students will need to create a caption for each photo but each caption cannot exceed 30 characters.

After the students have finished, the photo timelines will be displayed throughout the room. Then a gallery walk will take place and each student will receive post-its to comment on at least one photo for each group.

Document Analysis

In small groups of three or four (depending on class size), students will work together to analyze four documents. Each student will receive a document packet and a document analysis handout for each document. The document analysis handouts I use can be found on the National Archives website in the Teachers’ Resources section.

While each member of the group will analyze the same four documents, each group will have a different document set. Students will examine two excerpts, one from a primary source and one from a secondary source. They will also examine a photograph and a table.

The primary source excerpts will be from Eliza: Remembering a Pittsburgh Steel Mill by mark Perrott and the secondary source excerpts will be from Twentieth-century Pittsburgh the Post-steel Era by Roy Lubove. Students will examine an image and a table which have been listed in the appendix.

After the students have analyzed each document, they will answer a writing prompt and will be required to use evidence from their sources in their response.

In the future, students will examine six or seven documents and will only occasionally work in groups to complete this type of assignment. However, since this unit will be taught as the first unit of the school year, I have modified it. As the school year goes on, students will examine more than three documents and will eventually work independently.


Students will independently create questions and conduct an interview regarding Pittsburgh and deindustrialization.

After reviewing “Principles and Best Practices: General Principles for Oral History” by the Oral History Association as a class, students will independently develop seven questions to use during an interview. Students will create a draft of these questions and I will then collect them and provide feedback. The following day, students will modify their questions based on my feedback as well as create a list of five people they will interview.

Students will then meet with me to discuss their questions and who they will interview. The students will be asked why the chose the people they did because they should be interviewing people who were impacted by deindustrialization or witnessed the impact it had on the city.

As a homework assignment, students will have a few days to conduct their interview and answer the writing prompt I have assigned. Students will need to use evidence from their interviews when answering the prompt.

Additionally, students will be required to record the interview as part of the assignment, which will also be used for part of their culminating project.

Applications for Other Cities

Although this unit focuses on Pittsburgh, there are other cities that were impacted by deindustrialization and the loss of manufacturing jobs such as Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Milwaukee, Buffalo, and Philadelphia. However, the impact is not limited just to the cities listed, since the Great Lakes through the Midwest of the United States served as vital industrial centers of the United States.

To modify this lesson for other cities, one could examine how the economy was affected by the industries as well as focus on the largest industrial employer in that area. Additionally, students can examine workers hours and wages, as well as unionization. Furthermore, students can analyze deindustrialization and its impact on the workers as well as the city and its economy. Students can also evaluate whether or not the city has recovered after deindustrialization. Students can further investigate why the city does, or does not, celebrate its industrial past through public history projects, or the lack thereof.


Tables and Graphs

Wage employment and imports, U.S. steel industry, 1970-1997 (http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol10/iss1/art13/)

Steel output by type of production technology, U.S. 1970-1998 (http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol10/iss1/art13/)  

Manufacturing and non-manufacturing employment in the U.S. and in the Pittsburgh Region,

1976–1996 (http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol10/iss1/art13/)

Integrated steel plant closures in the Pittsburgh region since 1982 (http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol10/iss1/art13/)

The following tables can be found in The Steel Workers by John A. Fitch.

Daily Earnings of a puddler at varying tonnage rates. – By Number of Heats, 92

Comparative wages and labor cost for certain positions in blast furnaces, at Braddock and Chicago, 117

Tonnage rates in plate mills, Homestead, 1889-1908, 153

Showing reduction in daily earnings in labor cost for certain positions on plate mills at Homestead, 1892-1907, 156

Average earnings per day at different periods and per cent of decline in 23-inch structural mill, Homestead, 157

Distribution of daily earnings in certain departments of a typical steel mill in Allegheny County, 163

Working day of employees in a steel mill, October, 1907. – by length of working day, 171

Employees of Carnegie Steel Company plants in Allegheny County, PA., showing race, skill, conjugal condition, etc., March, 1907 - by racial group, 349

Employees of Carnegie Steel Company plants in Allegheny County, PA. March 1907, classified according to age. – By Racial Groups , 350

Total roster of workmen of Carnegie Steel Co. in Allegheny County, March 1907, showing racial make-up, age, conjugal condition, etc. – by country and nationality, 351

Photographs and Visuals

“Barges and towboats at Jones & Laughlin” (http://images.library.pitt.edu/pittsburgh/)

“Seamless hot mill” (http://images.library.pitt.edu/pittsburgh/)

“Tapping an open hearth” (http://images.library.pitt.edu/pittsburgh/)

“Downtown Pittsburgh looking east” (http://images.library.pitt.edu/pittsburgh/)

“In the mill” (http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/picturing_the_century/portfolios/port_hine.html)

“Steel works near Pittsburgh 1909” (http://www.geh.org/fm/lwhprints/htmlsrc2/hinekit_idx00001.html)

“Accident case in steel mills, Pittsburgh district” (http://www.geh.org/fm/lwhprints/htmlsrc2/hinekit_idx00001.html)

“Russian steel workers, Homestead, PA. 1908” (http://www.geh.org/fm/lwhprints/htmlsrc2/hinekit_idx00001.html)

“Steel Footprints: A virtual tour of the Pittsburgh industrial district, 1750 – present” (http://www.riversofsteel.com/map/category/504/)


PA Core Standards – CC.8: PA Core: History and Social Studies

Standard Area – CC.8.5: Reading Informational Text: Students read, understand, and respond to informational text – with emphasis on comprehension, making connections among ideas and between texts with focus on textual evidence.

CC.8.5.11-12.A: Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.

CC.8.5.11-12.B: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

CC.8.5.11-12.C: Evaluate various explanations for actions or events and determine which explanation best accords with textual evidence, acknowledging where the text leaves matters uncertain.

CC.8.5.11-12.F: Evaluate authors’ differing points of view on the same historical event or issue by assessing the authors’ claims, reasoning, and evidence.

CC.8.5.11-12.G: Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

CC.8.5.11-12.H: Evaluate an author’s premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.

CC.8.5.11-12.I: Integrate information from diverse sources, both primary and secondary, into a coherent understanding of an idea or event, noting discrepancies among sources.

Standard Area – CC.8.6: Writing: Students write for different purposes and audiences. Students write clear and focused text to convey a well-defined perspective and appropriate content.

CC.8.6.11-12.A: Write arguments focused on discipline-specific content.

CC.8.6.11-12.B: Write informative/explanatory texts, including the narration of historical events, scientific procedures experiments, or technical processes.

CC.8.6.11-12.C: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CC.8.6.11-12.H: Draw evidence from informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Fitch, John A. The Steel Workers. New York: Arno, 1969.

Byington, Margaret F. Homestead; the Households of a Mill Town. New York: Arno,   1969.

Perrott, Mark. Eliza: Remembering a Pittsburgh Steel Mill. Charlottesville, Va.: Howell   Press, 1989.

Pittsburgh, 1758-2008. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2008.

Hathaway, Dale A. Can Workers Have a Voice?: The Politics of Deindustrialization in   Pittsburgh. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.

Lubove, Roy. Twentieth-century Pittsburgh; Government, Business, and Environmental   Change. New York: Wiley, 1969.

Lubove, Roy. Twentieth-century Pittsburgh the Post-steel Era.

"Ecology and Society: Industrial Restructuring and Urban Change in the Pittsburgh   Region: Developmental, Ecological, and Socioeconomic Trade-offs." Ecology and   Society: Industrial Restructuring and Urban Change in the Pittsburgh Region:   Developmental, Ecological, and Socioeconomic Trade-offs. Accessed July 08, 2015.

Gimpel, James G. Separate Destinations Migration, Immigration, and the Politics of   Places. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1999.

"A Very Brief History of Pittsburgh." A Very Brief History of Pittsburgh. Accessed July   15, 2015. "Tours." Rivers of Steel -. Accessed July 10, 2015.

"Projects." Battle of Homestead Foundation. Accessed July 10, 2015.


  1. Lubove, Roy. Twentieth-century Pittsburgh; Government, Business, and Environmental (New York: Wiley, 1969), 4.
  2. "A Very Brief History of Pittsburgh." A Very Brief History of Pittsburgh. Accessed July   15, 2015.
  3. Lubove, Roy. Twentieth-century Pittsburgh; Government, Business, and Environmental (New York: Wiley, 1969), 5.
  4. Fitch, John A. The Steel Workers. (New York: Arno, 1969), 351.
  5. Byington, Margaret F. Homestead; the Households of a Mill Town. (New York: Arno,   1969), 7.
  6. Lubove, Roy. Twentieth-century Pittsburgh the Post-steel Era, 25.
  7. Fitch, John A. The Steel Workers. (New York: Arno, 1969), 125.
  8. Ibid, 153.
  9. Ibid, 154.
  10. Ibid, 153.
  11. Ibid, 11.
  12. Perrott, Mark. Eliza: Remembering a Pittsburgh Steel Mill. Charlottesville, (Va.:    Howell Press, 1989), 33..
  13. "Ecology and Society: Industrial Restructuring and Urban Change in the Pittsburgh Region: Developmental, Ecological, and Socioeconomic Trade-offs." Ecology and Society: Industrial Restructuring and Urban Change in the Pittsburgh Region: Developmental, Ecological, and Socioeconomic Trade-offs. Accessed July 08, 2015.
  14. Hathaway, Dale A. Can Workers Have a Voice?: The Politics of Deindustrialization in   Pittsburgh. University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1993.
  15. Pittsburgh, 1758-2008. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub., 2008.
  16. Gimpel, James G. Separate Destinations Migration, Immigration, and the Politics of Places. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1999.
  17. Perrott, Mark. Eliza: Remembering a Pittsburgh Steel Mill. Charlottesville, (Va.: Howell Press, 1989), 38
  18. Ibid, 42.
  19. Ibid, 48.
  20. Ibid, 50.
  21. "Tours." Rivers of Steel -. Accessed July 10, 2015.
  22. "Projects." Battle of Homestead Foundation. Accessed July 10, 2015.

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