We have a collection of stainless steel Ohio chauffeur badges donated to the museum by Ralph Bender in November of 1990. These badges are interesting to look at and make you wonder about the man or woman who registered as a chauffeur or “vehicle operator for profit” so many years ago.
Automobiles were patented in the 1880s with Karl Benz, a German inventor, credited with creating the first one. By the early 1900s, these “horseless carriages” were available to the masses and Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company made them easier to obtain by 1908. As a result, many states began requiring drivers’ license for those operating cars.
Many states required citizens who drove buses, taxi cabs and other vehicles for a living to obtain a license to guarantee their ability to operate the machines safely. The badges, according to Vintage Chauffeur and Taxi Badges varied in size and shape. The ones in our collection are plain, oval disks. By the 1950s, states began issuing paper licenses which were cheaper to produce.
USA Pin/CIO 1946
DONOR: William S. Brown
The Congress of Industrial Organizations, CIO, had an unusual beginning. In the 1930s the America Federation of Labor focused its recruiting on skilled laborers, leaving those industrial and unskilled laborers without representation. John L. Lewis, best known for leadership of the United Mine Workers, decided to create a union for those considered “unskilled” and formed the Committee for Industrial Organization in 1935 within the AFL. After a year, those new members were expelled from the organization, and the Committee eventually became known as the Congress of Industrial Organizations in 1937. The CIO was most successful in obtaining members from major industries not included in AFL membership, notably the automobile, rubber and big steel sectors of the economy. The CIO drew more and more members after its successful strikes, occurring in the 1930s. They used the strategies of sit-down strikes and long picket lines.
By the late 1930s, the CIO had a membership of over 4 million members and that rose to over 6 million by the mid-1940s. They joined with the AFL in 1955.
This artifact is from 1946 when the CIO was a strong and vibrant organization. The colors of red, white and blue echo the patriotism which was so important to the war effort just a year before. The pin, notes that the United Steelworkers of America are members of the CIO, and indicates that its wearer paid his dues for the year.
The Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the IWW or the Wobblies, began in the early 1900s as an inclusive union, willing to accept as any workers as members. They actually encouraged membership from groups most-discriminated against at the time such as women, people of color, and Asians. They promoted the idea of “One Big Union” which would work to end capitalism and class distinction between employers and employees.
The organization’s founders included William (Big Bill) Haywood, James Connolly, Daniel DeLeon, Eugene V. Debs, Lucy Parsons, Mary Harris (known as “Mother Jones), and many others. They mixed the ideas of socialism, Marxism, and anarchy; and often used violence to accomplish their aims. The most significant and successful strikes were in the 1900s such as the Miners’ Strike of 1906-1907 for an eight hour work day; the Textile Strike in Massachusetts in 1912; and the Mesabi Range Iron Workers Strike of 1916. According to Joyce Kornbluh, author of Rebel Voices: An IWW Anthology, the IWW began as “a union based on the principles of Marxist conflict and the indigenous American philosophy of industrial unionism.” They declined in the 1920s as a result of their conflicts with the American Federation of Labor (AFL), government surveillance, and the public’s growing opposition to radical groups during the era of the first Red Scare.
The IWW remains an organization representing workers around the world today. Their motto is “an injury to one is an injury to all” and their website promotes “The IWW [as] a worker-led union dedicated to direct action, workplace democracy, and industrial unionism.”
The other pin shown here most likely represents the IWW. It is based on a satirical cartoon depicting “Wobblies” behind bars after the riot of November 11, 1919. I cannot find any information supporting this hypothesis but it makes sense when you look at the political cartoon from 1919 that references the Wobblies in prison after the “Centralia Tragedy” or the Armistice Day riot in Centralia, Washington.
The Kohler Company manufactures plumbing ware for kitchens and bathrooms. They began in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 1873, relocated in 1912, and again in 1917 to Kohler, Wisconsin where they erected their plant and established the company town for workers and their families.
The company, which still produces plumbing fixtures today, has had four strikes over its 147 year history. The strikes, which occurred in 1934, 1954, 1983, and 2015 all had to do with typical issues between employers and employees—working conditions, pay, and benefits. The first strike in 1934 was the most violent, resulting in two Kohler employees dying, over forty injured and the governor, Albert G. Shmedeman, sending out the Wisconsin National Guard to quell the hostilities. The second strike, in 1954, was the longest strike in US history, lasting over six years. This became a nation-wide strike where workers implored citizens to boycott the company. To counter the negative publicity, the company sent its spokesmen around the country to give speeches supporting its side of the strike. This strike mainly dealt with the fact that the company, run by Herbert Kohler, Jr., refused to recognize the workers’ chosen union, local 833 of the United Auto Workers and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. Later strikes were not as violent or long-lived, but centered on working conditions and workers’ rights.
There is not much information about the pin in our collection, so we can assume that it is either from the first strike in 1934 but more likely from the second strike in 1954 due to its condition and appearance. The local union, 833, also appears to be part of the United Auto Workers organization since the 1980s, dropping its CIO affiliation.
Similar to the Kohler Company, Mahoning Valley workers belong to a variety of unions who support their workers, engage management in wage and benefits discussions, and help to make working environments safer. The history of work and unions is integral to understanding how workers banded together for improvements in their working environment for themselves and workers who came after them.
United Steelworkers of America Pin
DONOR: William S. Brown
The United Steel Workers of America are the union representing steel workers here in the United States as well as in Canada and the Caribbean (since 2005). The union came about through the joining of the Committee for Industrial Organization and the Amalgamated Association for Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers in 1936, then known as the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC). By 1942, the organization became the USWA under leadership of Phillip Murray. The union grew in strength and had over a million members by the mid-1950s. That all changed when the mills started shutting down during the deindustrialization era of the 1970s. Here in Youngstown, we remember that day as Black Monday, September 19, 1977. As a result of the decline in the number of steel workers, the union lost membership and influence. By 2000, the decision was made for the USWA to merge with another union, the Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union to increase its strength and bargaining power.
Republic Steel and U.S. Steel Clothing and Accessories
DONOR: Gene and Joanne (Sobinovsky) Colombo
Joanne worked at Republic/LTV Steel in Warren for eighteen years, and held several jobs from 1974-1991, including statistical typist, coding clerk, ITC coordinator, and Supervisor of Order Entry. Her brother worked at the Warren and Youngstown plants, and her husband worked for forty years in many Cleveland mills.
The red safety flag from Republic Steel is in excellent condition and likely had not been used. The orange shirt is a Vesslemen, most likely coated with a flame resistant chemical. The white LTV Steel hardhat showcases Joanne’s name; women didn’t play much of a role in the mills outside of office positions until WWII, and thus didn’t need hardhats. Later, with a change in laws, more women joined the steel mill workforce in a variety of roles. The plate has USS on it and was perhaps used in the company cafeteria, and the saucer is labeled Factory Stores, used by Food Service in local Canteens. The key chain was from U.S. Steel, and the digital clock from LTV. There is a grenade casing that was produced at the Republic plant in Warren. What we find exciting is the small square piece of metal, a last billet from the Ohio Works mill dated March 22, 1980. That March day was likely somber for the workers who knew that they would not return to the mill. Unfortunately, this became a common experience beginning September 19, 1977, or “Black Monday.”
DONOR: Donald Petrusko
This artifact may bring back memories for many who worked in the Diesel Shop at Republic Tube Mill at Center Street. Donald Petrusko donated this clock, and stated “…it was on the wall in the Diesel Shop. It was not working and with that in mind I asked the head locomotive mechanic if I could have it. He said take it, and so I did.” Donald cleaned up the clock and then gave it to us, so that “it can be seen in its historical glory, representing the Republic Steel Corporation, Republic Tube Mill.”
The clock is electric and has an Edwards Clock Movement in it. It appears hand-made, but that has not been determined.
Accessories of a Steel Worker
DONOR: Michael Rohan, Jr.
Today’s collections feature is courtesy of Michael Rohan, Jr. From our records, Rohan worked in the Republic Steel mill, LTV, and Wheeling Pitt. He filled many different positions in the areas of material sciences, motor inspector, and multi-craft. The items above include safety glasses, a Nickles Bakery pocket protector, a USWA #1331 pocket calendar, and a tin that held Scotch electrical tape.
Michael donated other items relating to various businesses and industries in our region, including safety equipment consisting of a green shirt, short hot coat, and long hot coat from Republic.
The donation items pictured are now in our Education Collection and used in our school-aged programming. We are anxious to have students back and participating in our tours and activities!
Youngstown Works USS Whiskey Glasses
DONOR: Susan Perkins
These collection items are courtesy of donor Susan Perkins. Perkins’ father, the late John Tomo, spent his entire career as a steel worker at U.S. Steel. He was one of five children, along with his father, to work in the steel industry. Perkins’ grandfather, Paul Tomo, immigrated from Slovakia around 1912 and worked at the mill for about thirty-seven years. Perkins’ aunt Susan also worked in the mill offices for seventeen years; this family has a long history of living and working in local mills.
In addition to the USS glasses, Perkins donated a photograph of workers at McDonald Works and a U.S. Steel News magazine from 1976, which are now kept in our Archives Library. Upon donating these items, Perkins remarked, “Regarding the description of the glasses - my dad never drank alcoholic beverages, so I chuckled when I read the items listed as whiskey glasses” and signed the deed of gift form as “proud daughter of a steel worker.”
Republic Steel Sinter Plant Ball Cap
DONOR: Robert Kirtos
This baseball cap was donated by Robert Kirtos, who operated the Sinter Plant for fourteen months. The hats came from the foreman who distributed them to all workers. For those not familiar with the workings of a Sinter Plant, it is where workers transform iron dust into lumpy chunks to then be sent to the blast furnace. These chunks, or sinter, are used to convert iron into steel.
US Steel Hat and Badge
DONOR: Joe Savini
A big thank you to Joe Savini for this recent donation of a hardhat and badge owned by his father, John Savini! John worked at US Steel for 35 years, retiring in 1979. The hard hat says "The Wrecker" and 4463 on one side and "John" on the other.
The badge, also owned by John Savini, says Carnegie-Illinois Steel Corporation Youngstown with number 4463.
Items of Jones and Laughlin Steel Worker
DONOR: Vincent Kovach
This collection was donated to us by Vincent Kovach. Mr. Kovach's father, George, worked at Jones and Laughlin and owned the hardhat, lunchbox, award flagon and a sample coupling. If you can't tell from the photograph, the lunch box is covered in stickers that came from bananas. I think Mr. George Kovach much have loved that fruit! He probably took one or two in his lunch a couple time a week to accumulate so many stickers! Thanks to Vincent Kovach for giving us some terrific items!
Clinton S. Gold Medallion
Donor: James Griffin
James P. Griffin donated this medallion to the museum. He was director of District 26, USWA and involved in many Youngstown organizations and groups. The artifact is the Clinton S. Golden Medallion, a United Steel Workers of America union artifact. Golden “was a labor leader, educator, theorist, and vice president of the United Steelworkers of America.” According to the brochure that accompanied the artifact,
Clinton S. Golden, assistant to President Philip Murray during the days of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) and Vice President of the United Steelworkers of American from its establishment in 1942 until his retirement in 1946. Mr. Golden championed the extension of education services from land-grant colleges and state universities to meet the needs of working men and their unions, and pressed for the establishment of an education department within the union to stimulate and coordinate labor education programs.
His papers are housed in the libraries at Penn State University.
Both sides of the medallion have writing on them and the medallion was cast in bronze. Side One: Objects, Organize, Negotiate, Engage, Combine, East, West. Side Two: CS Golden, Education, United Steel Workers of America. The item show rust or discoloration and some wear but is otherwise intact.
The sculptor and creator of this medallion, George M. Koren, was a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and taught sculptor at the Carnegie Institute of Technology. Koren selected bronze as his medium deliberately, “capturing in the bulk of the design the inherent strength and spirit of the men who work with raw metals.
Republic Steel Corp., Stainless Steel Ashtray
DONOR: Gary Spangler
Penk Items from Various Steel Mills and Local Companies
DONOR: Jeff Penk
DONOR: Robert Carlson
1938 Philco Model 38-112C Radio
DONOR: Gene DeCapua
Truscon Steel Company Pin
Republic Steel Memorabilia
DONOR: Denise Ide