• Genealogical history is a process in itself. Luckily, sites such as Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org have taken great strides in locating and processing different types of record from all over the world, making them accessible to the hands of budding historians and genealogists alike. Being a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has also allowed me to have access to both sites at no charge.

    In developing my family tree over the last decade, there has always been a link with a name, but without a story. There was a birth and death record, but outside of word of mouth, the account of marriage and therefore the family line that would eventually produce my father and his family name. Research has continuously led to dead ends, obituaries have failed to mention that man that is my great-grandfather, Holger Jacobsen.

    Interest in Holger’s story grew when my grandfather passed this year. In his obituary, his mother and step father were mentioned, but any mention of his biological father, Holger, could not be found [1]. With this, I made it a mission to try to piece together how Holger, a man from Denmark, would come to meet a woman from a small rural town in Upstate New York.

    Holger and Pauline would meet in Margaretville, NY

    Holger Jacobsen was born in July 1918 in Assens, Denmark. He was the son of Rasmus Simon Jacobsen and Henrietta Rasmussen Askholm [2]. Beyond these facts, little could be found about Holger until recently. There was never a definitive answer regarding how Holger made it from Denmark to the United States to eventually father my patriarchal line. However, recently Ancestry.com acquired access to more repositories of immigration and emigration data. This data offered more insight in Holger and his journey across the Atlantic.

    Holger arrived at Ellis Island in 1929, an 11 year old boy. He arrived on the Oscar II with his family [3]. From this point, he would apparently move to the upstate region where in 1938, he would meet and marry Pauline Pangman in Margaretville, NY [4]. While this insight gave light to the meeting of my great-grandparents, the data also gave note to a solemn story of divorce, heartbreak, and separation.

    While no divorce records could be found, in 1954 Holger would board a plane and fly back to Denmark [5]. While the details are scant, a story can be gathered, one of young love, marriage, and divorce. A tale that has been told many times, but in this case, a tale which is formative in my individual existence and a tale that I am willing to continue to piece together as time continues.


    [1] The Post-Star; Publication Date: 29 Mar 2020; Publication Place: Glens Falls, New York, USA; URL: https://www.newspapers.com/image/651153771/?article=b0ca6d8d-1d57-474c-9d51-3aeb15530ee7&focus=0.3514539,0.3231857,0.65205365,0.6880955&xid=3355

    [2] Global, Find A Grave Index for Burials at Sea and other Select Burial Locations, 1300s-Current

    [3] Year: 1929; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 16; Page Number: 247

    [4] New York State Department of Health; Albany, NY, USA; New York State Marriage Index

    [5] The National Archives at Washington, D.C.; Washington, D.C.; Series Title: Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels and Airplanes Departing from New York, New York, 07/01/1948-12/31/1956; NAI Number: 3335533; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: 85; Series Number: A4169; NARA Roll Number: 269

  • Abstract

    The post focuses on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints during their time in Nauvoo, Illinois. A great deal of Mormon Studies Historiography focuses on the Mormon successes in Nauvoo. Lacking from the historiography is a discussion of the public’s opinion of the Mormons in Nauvoo which would in turn lead to the Mormon exodus west. The post introduces primary source documents focusing on the views of the Mormons in Nauvoo. The post opens the door for further discussions looking into the dealings of Joseph Smith Jr with non-Mormons in Illinois.


    When tracing the history of American Christianity, there are many areas to place one’s focus. However, when seeking the most American form of Christianity, it would be unwise to overlook Mormonism, an American born sect of Christianity. Any coverage of Mormonism cannot happen without a discussion of their time in Nauvoo, a time in which the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was murdered.

    It was the martyrdom of Joseph Smith Jr. and his brother Hyrum Smith in a Carthage, Illinois jail that would push the Mormons from their homes in Nauvoo, Illinois over the mid-western plains to their Utah valley home in Salt Lake City. While the murder of Smith and the Mormon exodus West is well covered in modern historical research, there is little discussion of the anti-Mormon sentiments in Illinois preceding the eventual martyrdom. There have been modern pieces focused on the movement of the Mormons from New York and their exodus from Missouri, but for some reason, Nauvoo has been painted as Mormon paradise lacking anti-Mormon sentiment. However, a look at pieces written in the 1840’s preceding Smith’s murder paint a picture that is much different.

    This entry will seek to challenge the typical belief that Nauvoo was a time of peace and prosperity for the Mormons up until the martyrdom, and instead provide a look at the ways in which tensions between the “gentiles” and the Mormons brewed the perfect concoction leading to murder.

    Accounts from Nauvoo

    One of the most common critiques presented my non-Mormons of Joseph Smith Jr. was that he was a con-man. This critique was endowed upon Smith from his earliest days in Palmyra, New York. The critique remained active during his time leading the Saints in Nauvoo. One account that draws upon Smith as a con-man is from Henry Caswall in his published account The City of the Mormons, or, Three Days at Nauvoo, in 1842.

    Caswall draws upon his first person experience in Nauvoo during his trip up the Mississippi. In doing this, Caswall makes many mentions of Smith calling for the continuous donation of money to the church. He cites one sermon in which he quotes Smith as saying “…Let not the poor man say, I am too poor; but let the poor man contribute out of his poverty, and the rich man out of his wealth, and God will give you a blessing.”[1] This occurred as emigrants from England left their ships to settle in Nauvoo. Caswell saw it as shameful that Smith would even ascertain the possibility that emigrants would immediately tithe to a church in which he saw as being led by a con.

    This idea of Smith as a con-man was a popular notion during the time period. Outside of Smith’s overt calls for money needed to support the new religion, there was a great deal of concern over Smith’s claim to be a prophet. The religious landscape had accepted the idea that God no longer spoke through men, therefore the claims of Smith were contradictory to the mainstream Christianity of the day.

    It was this position of Prophet, that those with anti-Mormon sentiments came to regard Joseph Smith as using for evil instead of good. Joseph Jackson’s account of his time in Nauvoo entitled, The Adventures and Experiences of Joseph H. Jackson: Disclosing the Depths of Mormon Villany Practiced in Nauvoo, draws upon this sentiment. Jackson writes that all of Joseph Smith’s commands, both public and private were always delivered “in the name of the Lord.” The problem that Jackson finds in this as that Smith would use the name of the Lord and his position as Prophet in order to have his personal vendettas supported by the membership of the church.[2] This level of control over a body of people made the Mormons dangerous and Joseph Smith a despised figure, so much that it would eventually lead to his martyrdom.

    The martyrdom of Smith would be a crime of passion, based in a growing disdain for the man and his religion. In his 1846 piece A Brief History of the Leading Causes of the Hancock Mob, in the year 1846, Josiah Conyers takes different accounts and opinions of the mob killing of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. The feelings for Smith are best summed up through the county’s position on the killing. When recording the county’s response, Conyers finds that they drafted three resolutions.

    1. The Mormons should have expected trouble and violence due to the public’s feeling regarding their religion.
    2. The Mormon’s inability to assimilate into the surrounding culture put them in danger for violent repercussions.
    3. The county would not condemn the actions of the Hancock mob that killed Smith. [3]

    The county;s report on the event would provide a good look into the public’s view of the Mormons and Joseph Smith in particular. In a failure to condemn the killers of Smith, they made a statement that the Mormons were not a welcome party in the state despite their commercial success.


    While only in Nauvoo for seven years, the Mormons made a name for themselves. It was not a positive name. It was a name and reputation that led to the murder of their founder and a forced exodus across the wilderness to find a home away from the judgmental eyes of the traditional Christians in America in the mid-19th century. While tragic, the failure and negativity in Nauvoo would serve the purpose of beginning the modern Mormon empire that is Utah.


    [1] Henry Caswall, The City of the Mormons, or, Three Days at Nauvoo, in 1842, 2nd ed. (J.G.F. & J. Rivington, 1843), 14.

    [2] Joseph H Jackson, The Adventures and Experience of Joseph H. Jackson : Disclosing the Depths of Mormon Villany Practiced in Nauvoo (Warsaw, 1846), 4.

    [3] Josiah B Conyers, A Brief History of the Leading Causes of the Hancock Mob, in the Year 1846 (St. Louis, MO: Cathcart & Prescott, 1846), 7.


    Caswall, Henry. The City of the Mormons, or, Three Days at Nauvoo, in 1842, 2nd ed. London: Printed for J.G.F. & J. Rivington, 1843. Sabin Americana: History of the Americas, 1500-1926 (accessed November 14, 2020).

    Conyers, Josiah B. A Brief History of the Leading Causes of the Hancock Mob, in the year 1846. St. Louis [Mo.]: Printed for the author by Cathcart & Prescott, 1846. Sabin Americana: History of the Americas, 1500-1926 (accessed November 14, 2020).

    Jackson, Joseph H. The Adventures and Experience of Joseph H. Jackson : Disclosing the Depths of Mormon Villany Practiced in Nauvoo. Warsaw, 1846. Sabin Americana: History of the Americas, 1500-1926 (accessed November 14, 2020).

  • Karl Marx

    The Great Depression and Recovery

    Beginning in September of 1929 and peaking on October 29th of the same year, the United States entered a period known as the Great Depression. During this time period, unemployment would rise, corporate profits would fall, and government would seem to have no answers for the perils faced by a once booming economy fresh off from a period of rapid industrialization. For over a decade, the effects of the depression would be felt by the citizens of the United States.

    However, in 1941 the tides would appear to be turned for the economy. 1941 would see the United States enter into WWII. It would see an apparent miraculous recovery of sorts from the depression of the previous decade. With this, it is necessary to understand how entry into WWII could essentially flip the script of the American economic scene.

    With this, it is necessary to analyze the reasons for the occurrence of the Great Depression, and how one should view WWII and its relationship to the American economy. One way that this can be viewed is through the lens of a Marxist economist. The post will focus on the explanation of the period of the Great Depression through WWII through the lens of Marxist Crisis Theory. In doing so, it will rely on a litany of secondary sources alongside numbers from the 2012 report from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

    What is Crisis Theory?

    The Marxist school of thought has long held that the system of capitalism is one that is volatile and prone to crises. These crises play themselves out in the manner of a recession and/or depression. What is it that leads to the volatility of capitalism, and makes it so susceptible to seemingly cyclical periods of economic downturn? In seeking to explain this, it is necessary to look at the problem identified by Marx and fellow German Marxist that identifies the idea of overproduction and under-consumption alongside the methodology of the falling rate of profit.

    Overproduction occurs as too much capital is produced by the industrial class, as a means of seeking to maximize profit. The industrial power sees an ever growing amount of capital in the form of investment and consumption of produced goods by the means of labor, but fails to see any signs that notify that the market has become saturated and there is no more room for economic growth. The rate of production continues steady despite a declining rate a consumption. The rate must continue in order for the capitalist to continue to seek a rate of profit that is appealing to them. [1]

    With this, the crisis referred to by Marx would occur when the materials being produced in order to bring forth a rising rate of profit, are not being bought by the market. There is no need for the product and funds are not being spent on materials created by industry.

    The Great Depression as a Crisis

    Marxists would argue that the Great Depression was an inevitable crisis and one that had been coming for some time due to the focus on machinery and non-living capital. As industry invests profits into machinery instead of labor, the profit rates naturally fall. Such statistics showing this rate of decline come from Th Socialist Voice in their analysis of Crisis Theory applied to the Great Depression. The growth of capital stock in the United States continued to shrink as rapid industrialization continued. Between 1869-1889, the growth of capital stock rate was 60.8%. 1889-1909 saw a slight dip to 59.4%. 1909-1929 saw a steeper decline in the growth rate, down to 43.3%. 1929-1955 saw an abysmal growth rate of 29.6%. [2]

    From this, the Marxist can recognize a downward trend in the economy, that would be argued was ignored in the seeking of further profit by the capitalist powers. Despite the economic signs of a crisis upcoming, production would continue to increase. This would lead to the overproduction and underconsumption problem that was seen throughout the entire period of the depression. This lack of consumption due to saturation of the market can be seen when looking at the real disposable income in the United States during the depression. In 1929, the onset of the depression, the real disposable income (RDI) in the United States, adjusted for inflation was 791.6 billion dollars. [3] With the depression, one would expect this amount to drop off throughout the depression until the United States entered into WW2. However, that trend is not present.

    While there is an initial dip in the real disposable income of Americans, by 1936, the number surpasses the point that it was at at the onset of the depression. 1936 saw a RDI of 814.8 billion. This number would continue to grow through the entry in WW2 to a level of 1055.8 billion in 1941. [4] Despite an noticeable increase that began in 1936, the economy would not seemingly recover until 1941. This can be used to argue that even though Americans had more money in their pockets, they were still not buying products. Industrialization and production had outpaced the demand of the labor force. It had done this in the search for a continued profit, in the belief that the public would continue their high rate of consumption.

    Solidifying the thought process regarding the chasing of increased rates of profits leading to overproduction, one can use the information surrounding profits of companies in the United States from the time period. in 1929, the profit of industry in America, adjusted for inflation, was 9.2 billion dollars. This number would not be reached again until 1942 [5]. Between 1929 and 1941, corporations were left with a great deal of product that had been produced, with nobody to sell to which led to decreasing profit rates. How then, did WW2 bring forth a change in the economic life of America?

    Did WW2 End The Great Depression?

    While the typical story told is one that identifies the entry of the United States in WW2 being the “shot in the arm” that ignited the United States economy, it should instead be viewed as a transition to a point in which the United States began the inflation of a fictitious balloon under the guise of guise and economic strength. The guise was one fueled by overvaluation, speculation, the foundation of imperial markets, in place of sound economic investments. [6]

    The seemingly momentous gains found from entry into WW2, were brought on due to investments in military spending by the United States government. While Adam Smith held that capitalism is able to function via the “Invisible Hand” dictating the flow of the economy, entry into WW2 saw a more active hand by the government in the form of regulations calling for defense production from industries that typically produced something else [7]. The “Invisible Hand” of capitalism was not able to self-correct and it was instead necessary for the government to intervene in order to change from a state of overproduction to a state of production within a field of demand.

    Marxists would point to the fact that the American economy had to direct money to an outside sector in order to generate what would appear as a recovery from depression. This outside sector would be defense spending. Without the interference of the government to direct corporations towards defense production, the problem of overproduction would have continued. While investment in an external sector that does not aid the internal state of the nation not being a sustainable method of growth when carried on for a short period of time, the focus on military spending has had to continue to be a portion of the growing US budget and national debt.

    As defense spending decreases, the seeds of destruction that were sown in the wake of WW2 begin to show and manifest themselves as a recession and/or depression. With a lack of focus on exogenous or conjunctural
    stimuli (mainly internal infrastructure) as defense spending decreases, the need for bailout of these infrastructure mainstays are needed due to a previous lack of investment. This guarantees that any movement away from defense spending while continuing to a purely capitalist state will lead to a period of stagnation.[8]


    The Great Depression is was one of many predictable cycles that are part of the system of capitalism. While the downward trends are predictable, a system fueled by the “bottom line” and “profit margins” fail to recognize these signs making the economic impact on the citizens much worse. The capitalist system of the United States post Great Depression finds itself living on a bubble of fictitious capital, with the heart being the astronomical defense spending. While reasons such as protection and policing the world are often given to justify ever increasing defense budgets, the Marxist can identify the fragile state of the economics of the country.


    [1] John Milios, “Marx’s Theory and the Historic Marxist Controversy on Economic Crisis (1900-1937),” Science & Society 58, no. 2 (1994): 176.

    [2] “Karl Marx and the World Crisis,” The Socialist Voice, 1983, 19 edition, 22.

    [3] US Department of Commerce, The Bureau of Economic Analysis, GDP and Other Major NIPA Series, 1929–2012:II, 203.

    [4] Ibid., 203.

    [5] Ibid., 208.

    [6] “Karl Marx and the World Crisis,” 23.

    [7] Bill Dunn, “Marxist Crisis Theory and the Need to Explain Both Sides of Capitalism’s Cyclicity,” Rethinking Marxism 23, no. 4 (2011): 532.

    [8] Thanasis Maniatis, “Marxist Theories of Crisis and the Current Economic Crisis,” Forum for Social Economics 41, no. 1 (2012): 7.

  • William Dudley “Big Bill” Haywood

    1912 and Discontent

    The IWW was organized in 1905. Immediately upon its organization, the International Workers of the World would have an impact upon American industry and thus the economic state of the country. It would be 1912, which would bring it’s greatest impact to date. 1912, would bring the attention of the IWW to Lawrence, Massachusetts to the textile mills of the area.

    While the early 20th century is often, regarded as the time run by the likes of Andrew Carnegie’s steel empire, John D. Rockefeller’s oil industry, and JP Morgan’s banking prowess, it is often left out that William Madison Wood, chairman of the American Woolen Company had built a textile empire which would led to him to be in the same discussion as the other moguls. His empire controlled the textile industry. As controller of the Lawrence textile mill, Wood would implement a sudden reduction in wages that was accompanied by new legislation in Massachusetts that regulated the number of hours that could be worked by women. [1]

    The pay cut would cost families bread on their table.

    The Research Methodology

    With a focus on Bill Haywood, the research will rely on traditional historical sources, mainly primary and secondary sources. The sources will show the way that Haywood’s economic thought through union organization techniques would have an economic impact on the textile industry. The sources will cover the strike, the grand scheme of Haywood which would allow for a successful strike, and the outcome of the situation.

    Primary sources will include the “Proclamation of the Striking Textile Workers of Lawrence” and an ad placed by Bill Haywood in the New York Call which would allow him to implement his winning strategy in the strike. These sources will allow for the analysis of the demands by the workers and the ways which their demands were fought for by the members of the strike through the leadership of Bill Haywood and the IWW.

    The Strike

    The AFL had long dealt with the textile industry’s union needs. The AFL had negotiated previous deals regarding hours, but they felt that change within the industry was impossible because the large amount of workers of many different ethnicities were impossible to organize in an effective manner. This led the AFL to believe a prolonged strike was an impossibility. Despite this, 23,000 workers stages a walkout that began on July 12, 1912.

    The IWW would show up shortly after the outbreak of the strike led by Arturo Giovannitti. Giovannitti would arrive an immediately seek to organize the large group of workers. His first step would be to set up a way for families to be fed during the time of not working and therefore not receiving wages. He would eventually set up a soup kitchen ran by volunteers with food donated from those that were sympathetic to the demands of the workers. [2]

    The early strike saw little success and eventually, due to a plot by the Woolen Company, Giovannitti and his co-organizer would be arrested for murder, a charge for which they were eventually acquitted. [3] The charges could be seen a method to break the strike immediately. Fortunately for the workers, within twenty four hours of the charges being levied, a new leader had arrived. IWW veteran, William Dudley “Big Bill” Haywood would arrive on a train, the be greeted by cheers from the workers that he would come to represent. [4]

    The Children Leave

    A soup kitchen for 23,000 workers is a tall task. When you incorporate the children of the workers, the task becomes that much more difficult. Haywood recognized that if children were starving, mothers and fathers would be more likely to break the strike and have their demands unmet, therefore heading back in to the subjugation of the factory owner again. It would be an idea given to him by an Italian worker, that would make the difference in a broken strike with demands met instead of a broken strike with unmet demands. [5] The children needed to go…

    The strategy called for shipping the children of workers to sympathetic union workers in surrounding states of New York, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. This was a risky move and if it had failed, the strike would have ended disastrously with charges likely following. Haywood would place an advertisement in the New York Call, a union newspaper asking for families to care for the children that would otherwise starve. [6] The children would in turn be temporarily cared for by individuals in the surrounding areas to be returned following the strike. The move played out and became a huge success despite a great deal of criticism from the Massachusetts government. [7]

    Haywood’s Impact

    The strike lasted nine weeks. In that time frame, the mill had been shut down, makeshift shelters had been built, and there was an exodus of all mill workers’ children. Nine long weeks culminated in a strike won for the workers. Prior to the strike, the workers wages had been reduced. This would’ve costed the workers two loaves of bread per week. On an already meager level of nourishment, this was unforgivable. Following the strike, the raise in wages that came was enough to buy four extra loaves of bread per week on top of the previous salary that the workers had received. [8]

    The original proclamation by the workers had called for the workers to become “freed from slavery, starvation.” [9] They were underpaid for the work that they did and this lack of pay was preventing them from taking care of their family. Essentially, the goal of the strike was to come to a point in which the workers would be able to feed their families on the salary that was being paid for the hard work. This was the goal of the IWW and Bill Haywood. This goal would be accomplished through extraordinary and unconventional means that had not been previously seen in America.

    With the outcome being a positive one for Haywood, his impact would continue in waves across the United States. The strike would be the biggest win for the IWW since its inception. From this point, they were on the map as a power to be reckoned with. They had become a nightmare for industrial leaders. The organized and sustained effort led by Haywood painted a path for the future efforts of workers and the IWW. Haywood’s work in Lawrence would directly influence the efforts that would be seen in the period of 1916-1920. It would influence the Everett Massacre, the Centralia Tragedy, and eventually the Seattle General Strike.


    While not an entrepreneur or a leader of industry, William Haywood had a great impact on economic thought in the early 20th century. He had shown companies that the workers were a force to be reckoned with. His efforts and the efforts of the IWW had shown that taking care of workers may be a better option than dealing with a labor shutdown. The economic effects of Haywood’s actions at Lawrence and the IWW’s continued efforts would shape the first half of the 20th century and change the way that industry saw workers.


    [1] Norm Diamond, “Why Teach a 100 Year Old Strike?,” American Educator 36, no. 2 (2012): 38.

    [2] Joyce Kornblugh, “Bread and Roses: The 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike,” Turning the Tide 21, no. 2 (2008): 2

    [3] Ibid., 2.

    [4] Ibid., 3.

    [5] Bruce Watson, Bread and Roses: Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle For the American Dream (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2006), 143.

    [6] “Haywood Predicts State-Wide Strike in Massachusetts,” New York Call, Feb. 4, 1912.

    [7] “Strikers Send Children Away,” Lawrence Tribune, Feb. 10, 1912.

    [8] Mark W Robbins, “Bread, Roses, and Other Possibilities: the 1912 Lawrence Textile Strike in Historical Memory,” Historical Journal of Massachusetts 40, no. 1 (2012): 100.

    [9] “Proclamation of the Striking Textile Workers of Lawrence,” 1912.

  • Introduction

    At the turn of the century with the United States reeling from the Industrial Revolution that it had just gone through, capitalism was running at full bore. Industries were flourishing, however, the worker had been left behind. The turn of the century saw a great deal of tragedies in the workplace stemming from poor working conditions. These poor working conditions can especially be seen in the steel industry. It would be the reformers of the Progressive Era (1900-1917) that would seek to amend these issues and fight for the rights of workers to have a safe workplace. The culmination of injuries, complaints, pressure from unions and other labor reformers, would lead to the creation of a centralized safety committee in 1908, that would be responsible for managing safe working conditions for US steelworkers.


    In seeking to analyze the impact of social reformers on the working conditions of US Steelworkers, it is important to look at accounts of the working conditions from the workers themselves. For that reason, a mixture of primary and secondary sources will be utilized in order to conduct a quantitative analysis of the impact of safety reforms on the industry itself. Accounts of life in steel facilities will be included from both prior to and after the creation of the safety committee in order to document the changes in the industry based on the actions of reformers.

    US Steelworkers Before 1908

    While already a grueling industry, steelworkers were subject to long hours. In 1890, the average manufacturing worker was working 59 hours, while the average US steelworker was working 67. As the working hours for general manufacturing positions continued to decline from the period of 1890 on, the working ours for US steelworkers would remain consistent until around the period of 1908-1910.[1] While the hours alone were hard enough for the workers, the manner of work coupled with exhaustion would lead to horrible injuries within the US steel mills.

    According to the US Department of Labor, between the years of 1902 and 1907, factory conditions and incidents within steel factories would be documented by a journal known as The Factory Inspector.[2] Between these years, the journal would document horrible incidents that sought to identify reasons for changes within the industry.

    The Factory Inspector reported that one steel mill saw molten ash fall onto wet sand. This caused an explosion large enough to generate an earthquake in the nearby town. The incident led to thirty men having molten metal poured on them as they tried to escape the scene. The metal would literally cook most of the men.[3] Another account detailed how a slippage of molten ore buried one man alive as he was asked to clean out a working blast furnace by his manager.[4] Incidents like these chronicled the risk associated dangerous nature of the trade itself.

    Simply working with steel was not the only danger. Another problem within the factories was the amount of exposed machinery. Accounts of these incidents are spectacular as the provide an inside look into the dangers of industrial life as a whole. The Factory Inspector details how multiple men were caught up by machinery belts and thrown from high distances. Likewise, other men were reported to be cut in half by blades used to cut steel.[5] A particularly gruesome account states

    “In plain sight of a hundred fellow‑workmen, Martin Stoffel was cut into small pieces at the Philadelphia Caramel Works … He was dragged into the machinery and his head severed… A second later both legs were cut off. Then one arm after the other fell into the lesser wheels below, both being cut into many parts. Before the machinery could be stopped, Stoffel had been literally chopped to pieces.”[6]

    It would be incidents like the one of Martin Stoffel that would lead to a call for reforms surrounding the steel working industry in order to protect the workers.

    The Russell Sage Study

    In 1907, the Russell Sage Foundation conducted and released a study regarding the life of US Steel workers in Pittsburgh. The study identifies how within the first decade of the 10th century, over 50% of the US steel production had come under control of the US Steel company. With this, came a uniform set of rules and expectations. Upon the increase in the role of US Steel within the sector, the study also found that the eight hour work day that had one existed in the steel manufacturing industry had disappeared. US Steel had continued to increase the hours of their workers. Most worked seven days per week and most did not receive a full day of rest during an average week.[7]

    This study would become highly publicized and in combination with unionization efforts within the steel industry, there needed to be action from the US Steel company.

    US Steel Following 1908

    Following the report released by the Russell Sage Foundation, US Steel had a public relations problem. The problems faced inside of their steel factories were now public and had been read by many. This public relations concern would lead to the 1908 creation of a company‑wide Central Committee of Safety. The US Steel corporation would invest roughly $750,000 per year in addressing safety concerns in their factory following the creation of the committee.[8]

    In seeking to analyze the impact of the 1908 committee, one can look to the US Department of Labor and their Bureau of Labor Statistics. In 1918, the Bureau released a report regarding the impact of the safety movement within the steel industry. The report analyzed the impact of safety regulations between the years of 1907 and 1917. In 1907, 24.2 percent of steelworkers had either been injured or killed. In 1910, two years following the implementation of the safety committee within US Steel, that number had dropped to 17.7 percent. Following the 10 years included in the study, the number had fallen to 7.7 percent.[9] The impact of safety reforms within the steel industry had been felt according to the data.


    It would take a third party report to expose the ill conditions of the steel working profession, but once the conditions were exposed they were addressed. The lack of concerns for safety in the steel working industry was written off as a concern for maximizing profit margins. However, one must ask the question of what cost more, to retain an employee of to continuously hire new employees due to accidents suffered at work. With this, the question can be asked if the steel industry was not providing safe working conditions, simply because nobody had pointed out the unsafe conditions that had existed for decades prior to the Russell Sage report.


    [1] Shiells, Martha Ellen. “Collective Choice of Working Conditions: Hours in British and U.S. Iron and Steel, 1890-1923.” The Journal of Economic History 50, no. 2 (1990): 381.
    [2] US Department of Labor, Progressive Era Investigations (Washington, DC), para. 2.
    [3] Ibid., para. 3.
    [4] Ibid., para. 3.
    [5] Ibid., para. 4.
    [6] Ibid., para. 5.
    [7] John A. Fitch, The Steel Workers the Pittsburgh Survey Findings in Six Volumes (New York, NY: Charities Publication Committee, 1910), 4.
    [8] US Department of Labor, Progressive Era Investigations, para. 21.
    [9] US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Safety Movement in the Iron and Steel Industry 1907 to 1917 (Washington, DC, 1918), 16.