Archive ID: 1981-051-5

Letter in Croatian to the employees of South Works from General Superintendent

Date Created: undated

Created By: U.S. Steel

Donor: William Ferry

Media Type: Document

Language: Croatian


Steel mills are dangerous places to work and were particularly so in the early days of the steel industry. In 1905, Robert J. Young began a study of injuries at the South Works mill of Illinois Steel/US Steel in South Chicago. The Committee of Safety was formed as part of this effort. In 1907, a muck-racking article by journalist William Hard revealed that 45 workers had died at South Works and an estimated 598 were seriously injured in the year 1906 alone. The public outcry put pressure on the steel companies to increase safety procedures. Because many early steelworkers were immigrants who spoke various languages, communicating about how to keep safe could be challenging. Circa the 1910s, the Committee of Safety would document efforts to increase safety at South Works. These efforts included this undated letter from General Superintendent W. A. Field who had been personally called out to address the situation in Hard’s article. The letter documents the creation of a “badge of distinction” for workers who showed strong attention to safety. The letter was translated into Hungarian, Polish, and Croatian. This reflected the fact that at that time the majority of recent immigrants in the mills who might not know English were from Slavic countries. Despite such early safety programs, many Southeast Chicago steelworkers in oral histories described continuing dangers and horrific accidents in the mills through the mid-twentieth century. Tension would continue over the question of whether responsibility for safety resided with workers or whether mill managers’ efforts to keep costs low and increase production created conditions that made it difficult to maintain safety.

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Mills   South Works   Steel Industry   1900-1919 (WWI Era)   South Chicago   European Descent   Document   1981-051   Carnegie-Illinois Steel   Correspondence   Croatian   European   Industry   Labor   Letters   Mills   Safety   South Chicago   South Works   Steel   Steel industry   Steelworkers   U.S. Steel