Youngstown Sheet and Tube Wheelbarrow

  • DONOR: Beth Hepfner

This featured collections item is courtesy of donor Beth Hepfner. Her father, Ed Mann, worked at Youngstown Sheet and Tube, and was significant in local steel mill history as President of the United Steelworkers of America Local 1462. He was a man who opposed racism in the mills as well as the city at large, and “fought a brave and innovative campaign to stop the shutdown” of YST Brier Hill works in 1977.

The wheelbarrow was used by Ed Mann while he worked at the Brier Hill Works of YST in the ‘60s. Hepfner also donated a union card, an issue of “Labor’s Heritage” magazine from 1992, the “Brier Hill Reference Book” from 1919, a steelworkers’ handbook from 1970, and the collective bargaining agreement between General Fireproofing and U.S. Steel Workers, 1983-1988. We also recorded an oral history with Ed Mann, which you can request access to listen to at the museum!

Brass Steam Whistle

  • DONOR: Janice Eymon

Janice Eymon donated a brass steam whistle and flagpole topper to the museum on behalf of August Giovanni, a bricklayer at U.S. Steel. The whistle and flagpole topper came from Ohio Works; the whistle states that it was produced by Lunkeheimer of Cincinnati and was patented March 28, 1918.

These whistles were very important to working class lives as they signaled the start and end of the work day, as well as the lunch break. As many of us in Youngstown know, we can hear the steel mill whistle every Saturday at noon; an audible reminder of our city’s past.

Electocular Magnet

  • DONOR: Dr. Richard Shapiro

Dr. Richard Shapiro donated this electocular magnet and stated that it “was used to remove metallic foreign bodies that lodged inside the eyes of steel workers. Obviously, we have superior techniques today. This was gifted to me from Dr. Donald Chickering, who practiced ophthalmology in Warren, Ohio and retired around 1973.” Dr. Sharpio goes on to note that there was a Pittsburgh physician, Dr. Harvey Thorpe, who “had extensive experience using a magnet similar to this. He was a great innovator and well known in his day. He practiced in the 1940s and 1950s.”

This device really brings home the need for safety precautions in the mills and the essential role protective goggles/eye wear played in helping prevent such a painful injury. It would be interesting to know how many injured workers required the use of this magnet!

Safety Equipment

  • DONOR: William P. Arens

William P. Arens donated a variety of safety equipment that were an important part of any steel worker’s “uniform.” The orange hardhat protected the head from falling debris, the safety glasses were instrumental to guarding workers’ eyes, and the shin guard and metatarsal boot covers would protect from flying scale, hot sparks and other injuries.

The history of safety and safety equipment in the workplace is one of gradual progress over the decades. In the 1800s, few employers required any safety equipment and workers were responsible for their own safety on the job. Moving into the late 1800s-early 1900s, unions started to rise and they worked to improve working conditions in mills and other industrial settings. Some states had laws in place but were difficult to enforce, and courts were unsympathetic to workers injured on the job.

As unions increased in strength and size, they worked to improve the conditions and more states increased the regulation of workplace conditions. With the creation of OSHA - the Occupational Safety and Health Administration - in December of 1970, federal implementation of safety laws and guidelines were applied to the workplace.

Republic Steel Hard Hat

  • DONOR: Robert Cracium

Robert Cracium donated this hardhat that honors the service of Gus Muntean at the Republic Steel Mill. Muntean worked at Republic from 1933, the early years of the Great Depression, through 1975. His forty-two years of dedication to the company was a tribute to his work ethic and dedication to his job. We’ve learned through talking with former steel workers that a ridge on the front of a hardhat indicates that the owner was an electrician; the ridge serves to act as a ground and was an added safety feature. We’ve also learned that the color of the hardhat signified the position of its owner in the company; usually, white indicated management.

Rohan Safety Artifacts

  • DONOR: Michael Rohan

Michael Rohan of Florida donated seven items from his days working at Republic Steel, LTV, and Wheeling Pitt. Rohan was a motor inspector and learned his trade through the multi-craft program. He gave the museum two hot coats—one short and one long. These were heavy, wool coats that protected workers from heat. They are dark blue with the Republic symbol on the back. The hot shirt included is the green type that helps protect when layered with other clothing. Safety goggles in a case were an extremely important safety item that no worker wanted to be without. He included two Union local #1331 pocket calendars, a pocket protector from local bakery Nickles and Scotch tape. The electrical tape came in a metal tin and was advertised as “all weather.”