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Toil and Turmoil

Labor History Sites in the Pittsburgh Region

Forged in its mills and nurtered by its diverse ethnic communities, the Pittsburgh area is
rich in the history of its working class people, who sustained toil and turmoil for over a
century. The map below shows the locations of some of those events. Click on a number to 
read a description of the event. Click on the camera icon to see locational information
and a photograph of the site or an historic marker commemorating the event.



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1. The Great Rail Strike of 1877 At the 28th Street rail crossing
in the Strip district, near the round-house behind Pennsylvania Station, 30
railroad workers and citizens (including 3 children) were killed in a
confrontation with militia from Philadelphia on July 19, 1877.


2. Pioneer Unions were founded in Pittsburgh the latter part of
the 19th century, including two international unions-the Ironworkers (1896)
and the Bakery, Confectionary and Tobacco Workers (1886). Others founded
locally in the 1890s included the Boilermakers, Carpenters, Painters, Brickla-
spacespayers, Plasterers, Plumbers, Sheet Metal Workers and Electrical Workers.

3. Founding of the AFL The founding convention of the American
Federation of Labor was held on Nov. 15-18, at Turner and Shiller meeting
halls, Downtown. Newspaper accounts do not contain a location for

Turner Hall, but place Shiller Hall at 4th Avenue and Liberty Avenue.


4. Armstrong Statue On the North Side is the only statue of a Pittsburgh
Labor leader, which stands in Allegheny Center's North Common. Thomas
Armstrong, who lived from 1840 to 1887, was a friend of Samuel Gompers, AFL
founder. Armstrong founded the Pittsburgh-based "Labor Tribune," and ran

unsuccessfully for Pennsylvania governor in 1882. Workers contributed money
spacespacto erect the statue in 1889.

5. Homestead Strike On the south side of the Homestead High Level
Bridge, a USWA monument recalls that on July 6, 1892, Pinkerton guards

exchanged gunfire with striking steelworkers. Seven workers and three Pinkertons
were killed. In 1992 the USWA led the efforts to commemorate the Pinkerton
Landing site and the headquarters of the Strike Committee at the Bost Building,
spacespaiton Eighth Avenue in Homestead. State markers for both were dedicated in July
this is a t 1992. A marker for the six workers was dedicated in 1993.

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6. Morewood Massacre Little-known, this massacre site of 13 striking coke
oven workers in Morewood, Westmoreland County is still umnarked. On April 2,
1891 the strikers were killed by agents in the employ of the Henry Clay Frick mines.

A mass funeral for 10 strikers was attended by 10,000 men and women from the coke
regions later that week.

7. Frick Assassination Attempt on July 23, 1892, took place at
the downtown offices of Henry Clay Frick, strikebreaker industrialist who was
Carnegie's manager at the struck Homestead Works. Bungled attack was by
Russian-born anarchist Alexander Berkman, who had no connection with the stri-
kers but whose act damaged their cause. He was also a lousy shot.

8. Westinghouse Strike of 1914 involved over 11,000 workers in
Swissvale and the Turtle Creek Valley in a struggle for a county-wide industrial union.
A march of electrical workers to the Braddock Edgar Thomson Works resulted in a
bloody confrontation in which two workers were killed.


9. McKees Rocks Strike in 1909 was among the largest of early century
area conflicts by ethnic workers. Pressed Steel Car Co. "labor pool," practices
resulted in a two month strike with more than 4,700 workers out and 12 killed
in a confrontation with police. The strike was a failure but demonstrated that

spacespaunity was possible among diverse ethnic worker groups.

10. 1919 Steel Strike headquarters was on the third floor of the Magee
Building on Fourth Avenue. Here William Z. Foster and National Committee
leaders directed the failed strike of 365,000 workers in the winter of 1919-20. At St.
Michael's Church in Braddock, Slovak priest Father Kazincy provided their only
spacespameeting place.

11. William Sylvis, founder of the National Labor Union and the Moulders
Union in 1866, was born in Indiana County. Sylvis anticipated the need for
industrial unions and a national federation prior to the AFL period. He died in

1869 and a marker honors him on the campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania.


12. Father Cox's Shantytown Located near St. Patrick's Catholic Church
in the Strip District, the shantytown existed from 1929 to 1932, and was the staging
base for the Rev. James Cox's unemployed army. In December 1931, 60,000 unem-
ployed rallied at Pitt Stadium in Oakland, and 12,000 marched to Washington,
spacespaarriving on Jan. 12.

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13. Steel Workers Organizing Committee was founded on June 17,
1936, in the Grant Building, downtown, by Philip Murray, John L. Lewis and nine other
organizers. The 50th anniversary of this event was commemorated by a State Historical
Marker at the Corner of Grant Street and Third Avenue in 1986. The first SWOC Wage
spacespaPolicy Convention was held in the former Grotto on Montgomery Avenue in Pittsburgh's
spacespacNorth Side on December 14-16, 1937. The first USWA Constitutional Convention which
placeholevolved out of SWOC was held in Cleveland, Ohio in May, 1942.

14. Fannie Sellins' grave in Arnold, Westmoreland County. A union organizer,
Sellins was murdered by company police during the steel strike of 1919. A monument
has been erected at the grave site by Miners and in 1989 a State Historical Marker
was unveiled by area and state AFL-CIO.


15. The CIO, the Congress of Industrial Organizations, held its founding
convention on November 14-18, 1937, at the Islam Grotto, North Side. John L. Lewis
presided over the convention at a site that is today Martin Luther King Elementary
School on North Commons on the North Side.


16. St. Nicholas Croatian Church in MilIvale contains frescos by Croatian
artist Maxo Vanka, done in 1937 and 1941, which depict the struggles of the working
class in the mills around Pittsburgh.


17. The first open-air Steel Rally, the opening shot in the historic campaign to
organize the steel industry, was held on June 21, 1936 in McKeesport's Cycler Park. On July 3,
1936, the first SWOC meeting was held in West Field, Homestead.


18. Philip Murray Dedicated in 1954, the Murray Bell Tower is in St. Ann's
Cemetery in Castle Shannon, where USWA and CIO founder Philip Murray is
buried. A bridge was dedicated to Murray in Cannonsburg in 1991.


19. NLRA Supreme Court victory on April 12, 1937 upheld the National
Labor Relations Act (Wagner Act), in a case involving 10 discharged J L Steel

workers. Marker commemorating event is located near the former plant in Aliquippa,
Beaver County.


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Last updated December 10, 2001