Ironworkers History Essay

1372 WordsFeb 23, 20136 Pages
In the late 1880's, steel had virtually replaced wood and stone as the primary load carrying material in the erection of bridges and buildings. This abrupt change in structural materials brought about a demand for a new type of skill required of the working man. Practically overnight, bridge carpenters became "bridgemen" and blacksmiths became "housesmiths" and "architectural ironworkers." And as soon as American Historian Frederick Jackson Turner proclaimed the end of an era for the American frontier, ironworkers became known as "the cowboys of the skies," sharing the adventure and excitement which frontiersmen and explorers enjoyed previously. But the glamour and the appeal of the new skill had its drawbacks for the young man looking for a stable and secure profession. For one thing, natural death was looked upon with suspicion. For about $2.10 a day for ten hours work, the ironworker in 1890 was expected to climb narrow steel beams six, sometimes seven days a week in all kinds of weather conditions. The accident and mortality rates were higher than in any other trade at the time, resulting in a high turnover of workers on any one job. A young man entering the trade could expect to work alongside men more skilled in erecting timber than steel, and if he were not permanently disabled, he might live ten years in the trade, possibly longer if he were lucky. Since steel erection attracted only the most daring of independent men, little or no thought was given to the need for formation of an effective Union for their protection. Nevertheless, many of these eligible bachelors, admired from a distance below by the "wholesome young girls" of the Gay Nineties for their feats of courage and strength, later gave thought to such things as provisions for sickness, injury, or death to protect their families. Primarily for these reasons, thirteen delegates form

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