Thursday, August 10, 2017
That's So Pittsburgh: Labor History
On Thursday night this week, after I got off of work and we had dinner at home, Dear Husband and I drove to the historic Pump House on the Waterfront in the south of Pittsburgh, where we joined the Battle of Homestead Foundation to watch an old black-and-white movie and talk about the class and steel industry in Pittsburgh. The Battle of Homestead was an actual shootout between members of a labor union and some Pinkerton's men on the Monongahela River on July 6, 1892. It was one of many violent clashes during the period before labor unions were legalized and recognized as a legitimate form of organization. Three unionists and seven anti unionists were dead at the end of the day. That strike at Henry Clay Frick's factory was unfortunately eventually broken. The BHF was founded to foster the history of Pittsburgh's working classes and industrial mills. The movie we watched was The Valley of Decision, which was originally the number two best-selling fiction book in the United States in the year 1942. It stars a very young and handsome Gregory Peck and a darling Greer Garson. Unfortunately the Irish accents were thick and neither the movie sound nor the speakers were very good, so it was a little bit like watching a silent film, as neither of us understood more than 50% of what was said. But we generally got the gist of what was going on: the spunky daughter of a mill worker crippled by an accident goes to work as a maid in the home of the mill owner. Of course she falls in love with the dashing oldest son, but can their relationship survive the class war of late-19th century Pittsburgh? Before the movie, a couple of labor history and movie aficionados spoke briefly about the organization, the book by Marcia Davenport, and the movie, which was once described in a newspaper review as "the Gone With the Wind of Pittsburgh." There was supposed to be a discussion afterwards too, and we were easily the two youngest people in the room of 30-40, but it was 9:30 at that point, and I needed to get home to go to bed for a day of work in the morning. Nevertheless, the movie was well acted, and free, so it was a nice date night.
You might like other That's So Pittsburgh moments, like eating in the Strip District.