Chauffeur Badges

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.[1] 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.

IWW Pins

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.[1] 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.[3] 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.”[1]

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.[2] 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.

Kohler Pin

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.”

Mantle Clock

  • 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

Museums have collections policies which guide curators on what items to accept for donation and what items to decline. Sometimes, museums are offered duplicates. When this happens, we have the option to help the donor find another home for the artifact in a different museum. This recently happened to us. The Massillon Museum contacted us with an offer. They were given a Republic Steel Corp., Enduro Stainless Steel ashtray. They already had one in their collection so they asked the donor if they could offer it to us. We were excited to get the offer, as we do not have this artifact in our collection. The ashtray came to us from Gary Spangler, whose father, Robert Spangler, worked at the mill after serving his country in the military during World War II.

The ashtray dates from the 1935-1950 era and was on Robert Spangler’s desk at the Massillon Republic Plant, where he worked as a service clerk. Enduro Stainless Steel was originally only produced by the Republic Steel Corporation. It was a remarkable product because it kept its shiny appearance and was stain resistant and resilient. According to an ad published in 1934, it was used in a variety of different products, from tableware to tanks, buttons on shirts to bank vaults. The ashtray is in very good condition, attesting to the quality of the product and Republic Steel.

Penk Items from Various Steel Mills and Local Companies

  • DONOR: Jeff Penk

We recently received a great collection of artifacts from Jeff Penk. The items include various memorabilia from steel mills and industries that bring back memories of days gone by when the mills were running and businesses flourished in the steel valley.

When looking at the artifacts, you can tell what activities were in fashion in the past. Although people still smoke cigarettes and vape, this is not as prevalent as it once was. Smoking’s popularity is made obvious in the number of lighters and ashtrays in the collection. Zippo lighter was a significant name in lighters, one of the top of the line brands and produced in Pennsylvania. A majority of the award or promotional lighters in this collection are Zippo. Youngstown Sheet and Tube gave them out as awards for years of service—25 years, 30 years and 40 years. US Steel gave them out for outstanding work, as denoted by the one for Outstanding Performance Billet Mill 6,384 tons 1/27/60; and 6,508 tons 2/3/60.

The other Zippos in this collection are promotionary in nature, advertising Republic Steel Manufacturing Division--Stainless Steel Freedom Windows and Youngstown Refractory Company Firebrick and Gunite Construction. Other lighter brands in this collection include Idealine and Park, some are unmarked. Companies represented include Steel City Iron and Metal, C. Tisone and Sons, Youngstown Steel District, and the Carousel Lounge in Austintown. The ashtrays are from YST.

Other interesting items include a Renner Brewery bottle opener, padlocks marked with YST and USS, a lady’s compact from YST for 35 years of service, a Zippo tape measure marked JL Steel Youngstown Plant Safety Award and the many pocket knives given out by YST, LTV Steel Bear MGC, and Vallourec. There is even a metal can—Thorofare Orange Soda produced by Thorofare Markets Inc. of Youngstown.

By looking at the various items and doing some research you can find out more about the businesses and companies in Youngstown. You notice that smoking was popular and that women at YST were awarded compacts for their years of service while men received lighters and pocket knives.

Award Plaques

  • DONOR: Robert Carlson

Findley, Ohio resident Robert Carlson donated two award plaques. The plaques are for excellence in work and for money-saving ideas proposed by Kenneth P. Hadley. Hadley worked as a millwright for Youngstown Sheet and Tube for thirty-eight years. In 1975, he received the Pro of the Year award which has a wooden plaque with an orange Pro hardhat on it. In 1976, Hadley received a plaque and a Chevy Vega for his money-saving ideas corporate wide. If you read through the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Bulletin, you will often see the company request employees submit their money or labor- saving ideas for monetary prizes. There were also stories of the ideas submitted and who proposed them. It was a good way to encourage employees to “think outside the box” and identify areas of waste so that the company could run more profitably.

1938 Philco Model 38-112C Radio

  • DONOR: Gene DeCapua

Gene DeCapua gave us a 1938 Philco radio. This artifact goes into our Sparking Memories Artifact Collection that we use for programs in skilled nursing facilities. The radio is so different from what we use today with its five glass tubes and AM- only capability. According to DeCapua, the radio was owned by Stephen J. Martinko, a construction worker with Hunter Construction at YST.

The radio originally cost $22.50 in 1938. I looked at wages from that time period and they fluctuated between the federal minimum wage established under the Fair Labor Standards Act of that year at 25 cents per hour up to over one dollar per hour, depending on your job. The United States was in the Great Depression, and 1937 saw the economy take a nose dive and unemployment rose again. Looking at wages and prices, if Martinko purchased the radio new, he must have had a good job at the time to afford such an expensive luxury. Average annual income was around $1,731 with gasoline costing 10 to 20 cents per gallon, bread was around 9 cents and butter was 37 cents a pound. Movie tickets were 25 cents each and the cost of an average home was around $3,900.

The advertising around this radio was designed for it to be an additional device in one’s home, not the sole source of entertainment. Martinko could have purchased the radio a few years after its manufacture, making its cost less than a brand-new one. It would be interesting to learn more about what workers were spending their money on in 1930s Youngstown. So many of the mills were employing men less than full-time due to the economy and so many suffered job and home loss and dislocation as a result of circumstances across the nation. Entertainment and escapism of the realities of the day would have been a welcome relief and might have been viewed as a necessity at the time. I would also like more information on the connection between Hunter Construction and Youngstown Sheet and Tube. I’ve found one photo on Ohio Memory from a construction accident at YST and Hunter Construction is mentioned and the company is also mentioned in a YST Bulletin.

Truscon Steel Company Pin

  • DONOR: William S. Brown

William S. Brown donated this Truscon Steel Company pin of the Erection Division, circa 1935-1945.

Truscon was a steel manufacturing company located in Youngstown, OH and Detroit, MI. Founded by Julius Kahn in the early 20th century, the company originated as the Trussed Concrete Steel Co. Kahn was an inventor credited with developing the Kahn System and the Kahn Daylight System, as well as other state-of-the-art products. By 1915, the company built a factory in Youngstown because of its proximity to raw materials necessary to its business, and would ultimately have customers from all over the world. In 1937, Republic Steel Corporation purchased the company, and it continued to produce high-quality metal products. .

Republic Steel Memorabilia

  • DONOR: Denise Ide

Denise Ide, retired Republic Steel pipe fitter, has donated many items to us over the past few years. Just recently, she sent us some Republic Steel memorabilia. The first item is a “Thanks For Buying An American Car” button produced by Republic Steel. You may remember the “Buy American” campaigns of the 1980s and 1990s. The button promotes patriotic consumerism and is printed in a vivid red, white and blue color scheme. According to an article in the Los Angeles Times from 1992, the buy American campaign was started by Dr. William Lippy, a Warren, Ohio doctor who encouraged his staff to buy a new American car by offering them a $400 dollar incentive out of his own pocket.

The idea then, as it had been in past efforts, was to emphasize the buying power of the American public. The focus on American manufactured products would benefit the economy as a whole. This promotion was popular with others around the country as many business owners recognized that the loss of steel worker jobs resulted in a decline in the purchase power of many of their customers.

The article was interesting as it was unsure of how successful the campaign would be and noted the anti-Japanese sentiment it generated. In 1992, only twenty-six percent of cars purchased in the US were Japanese-built but the difficulty at the time was in determining which cars contained all or a majority of American-made parts. I remember my grandfather, a Valley Mould worker, buying a car around that time and much of its components were made in Canada. The article also mentioned that many “foreign” cars were built in the United States by American workers.

The second artifact donated was a set of Republic Steel coasters. These coasters, most likely produced in conjunction with a Junior Achievement fund raiser, are in great condition and remind us of days when the mills were often involved with community organizations to make the Valley better.


Los Angeles Times, “American’ campaign for cars is gaining momentum amid worries about Japan. But patriotism may only sell so many. Ultimately, price and quality matter most,” by Amy Harmon.