Looking Backward: Iron and Steel Worker

by / Sep. 1, 2015 11pm EST

The iron and steel worker is an icon of American labor. As little as a century ago, working in iron and steel meant subsistence wages, long hours and few holidays, and—too frequently—gruesome injuries and death. It was only after unionization, in the late 1930s, that wages rose and working conditions improved.

The Hanna Furnace Corp., 1218 Fuhrmann Boulevard, was one of the country’s largest manufacturers of pig iron, a component in steelmaking. Here, in this undated image taken by Hauser Bob, an iron worker toils inside the blast furnace shed. The scene is equally beautiful and terrifying.

Working with molten metal was hard, hot, and dangerous. The union movement—to be celebrated this weekend on Labor Day—helped turned this grueling and hazardous profession into a stepladder to the middle class. The Union Ship Canal, where Hanna Furnace once stood, is one of the few public places in Buffalo where the contributions of the iron and steel worker are celebrated.

If you have a chance, walk or bike this public space this weekend!

Image courtesy of The Buffalo History Museum. Used by permission.