TIMELINE OF SELECT EVENTS CONCERNING THE HISTORY OF CARNEGIE STEEL & THE HOMESTEAD WORKS


BHF member Millie Beik has composed a timeline pointing out important dates and events of the Homestead Steel Mill and the struggle of labor in 1892. Millie is the author of The Miners of Windber: The struggles of new immigrants for Unionization, 1890s-1930s. (1996, Penn State University)

1870s:

1875  – Andrew Carnegie opens his first steel mill, the Edgar Thomson Works, in Braddock, PA

1876  – The Amalgamated Association of Iron Steel, and Tin Workers is founded in Pittsburgh

1877  – Nationally important railroad strikes occur in various cities, including Pittsburgh

1880s:

1881  – The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada, predecessor of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) is founded in Pittsburgh

1883  – Andrew Carnegie purchases steel mill in Homestead.

1886  – Carnegie’s first “open hearth”  furnace is built at Homestead. The American Federation of Labor (AFL) is founded in Pittsburgh with Samuel Gompers, its first president.

1888  – Workers gain the eight-hour day at the Edgar Thomson Works. Carnegie breaks the union at the Edgar Thomson Works.

1889  – The Amalgamated Association at Homestead signs a three-year contract with the Carnegie company.

 The dedication of the first Carnegie Library takes place at Braddock.

1890s:

1890  – “Honest John McLuckie,” a fervent union man, is elected burgess (mayor) of Homestead

1892  – January:  Negotiations between the Homestead Works and the Amalgamated Association for a new contract begin. The old contract expires on June 30.

February:  The company proposes a sliding scale of pay for tonnage based on the market price, along with an accompanying reduction in wage rates for skilled workers. The union objects.

May:  Andrew Carnegie sails off for Great Britain, where he will remain until the end of the year, leaving his General Manager, Henry Clay Frick, under his orders and in charge of the local scene at Homestead.

May 29:  Frick issues an ultimatum to the union to accept the company’s terms by June 24, or the company will run the mill nonunion.

June:  The company builds a high fence, with barbed wire at the top, to surround the mill. It becomes known as “Fort Frick.”

June 2:  Frick writes to the Pinkerton Detective Agency to ask for 300 guards for help when the mill opens nonunion on July 6.

June 19:  Representatives of the Amalgamated Association, in their annual convention in Pittsburgh, attend a mass union meeting in Homestead where Burgess McLuckie speaks.

June 23:  The last negotiating session between the company and the union ends with no agreement.

June 24:  Hundreds of Slavic workers form an Amalgamated Association lodge at Homestead and vote to support the union.

June 28:  The company locks out 800 workers, shutting down the armor plate and open hearth departments.

June 29, morning:  Three thousand steelworkers reject the company’s final offer, form an Advisory Committee to guide the strike, and set up headquarters in the Bost Building.

June 29, afternoon:  Mill laborers walk off their jobs to join 3,800 locked-out workers. The company declares it will no longer recognize the union.

June 30-July 5:  The Advisory Committee organizes the strikers into military-like units to keep watch for Pinkerton guards and nonunion workers.

July 5:  About 300 Pinkerton guards arrive by train outside Pittsburgh. They board two barges, the “Monongahela” and the “Iron Mountain,”  and begin the journey to Homestead.

July 6:  Alert strikers warn the people of Homestead about the imminent arrival of the Pinkertons, who try to disembark. The bloody Battle of Homestead ensues, with casualties on both sides. The Pinkertons eventually surrender under a promise of safe passage, but the angry crowd breaks that promise, forces the guards to “run the gauntlet,” and badly beats them.

July 7:  The Pinkertons are sent to Pittsburgh. Funeral services are held for some of the Homestead victims.

July 8:  Representatives of the union and the town ask Governor Robert E. Pattison to refuse to send troops to Homestead.

July 10:  Speaking from Scotland, Andrew Carnegie denies any active role in the Homestead events.

Governor Pattison orders 8,000  members of the Pennsylvania militia to Homestead.

July 12:  Major General George R. Snowden takes the militia men into the mill and town and claims absolute control of both.

July 12-14:  The Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives holds hearings in Homestead and Pittsburgh about the activities of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.

The strike continues.

Carnegie Steel charges Amalgamated leaders, including McLuckie with conspiracy and murder.  By September 167 individuals have been so charged. Sympathy strikes occur in Duquesne,, Beaver Falls, the Lawrenceville section of Pittsburgh.  The company hires replacement workers and builds housing for them.

July 16: The Company notified strikers that they would have until July 21st to apply for rehiring. None did.

July 23:  An attempted assassin Alexander Berkman, an anarchist and lover of Emma Goldman shoots Frick in his Pittsburgh office and is immediately arrested.  Frick survives, and Berkman serves 14 years of a 22-year sentence.

July, late:  The Advisory Committee rejects efforts to make a new settlement with the company.

August:  Replacement workers take jobs at the mill.

August 4:  The Amalgamated sues Frick and Carnegie Steel officials for murder.

September 30:  Chief Justice Edward H. Paxson of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court charges 33 members of the Amalgamated at Homestead with treason.

November 18:  The Amalgamated releases 2,000 mechanics and laborers from the union and from their pledge to support it so that they can return to work.

November 21:  At its final meeting, the Homestead Amalgamated votes 101 to 91 to end the strike.

 

1893  February:  Burgess McLuckie and other union members are acquitted of murder charges. Both the union and the company then drop all charges against each other.

May:  Pennsylvania passes the anti-Pinkerton Kearns Act.

1898 November:  Andrew Carnegie dedicates the Carnegie Library of Homestead.