Archive ID: 1992-023-1

South Works hard hat

Date Created: circa 1986

Donor: James Stapay

Media Type: Object

Language: English


This hard hat and a cutting from the last beam produced at US Steel-South Works in South Chicago were donated by members of the crew of #4 Electric Furnace. In oral histories, many Southeast Chicago described the dangers of working in the steel mills through the mid-20th century. Although South Works began a safety program in the early 20th century, even some basic safety precautions appeared to be lacking decades later. For example, the Valadez brothers, who worked at South Works from the 1940s and 50s until its closing, remembered their father, who also worked at South Works, being hit on the head by a falling bucket of mortar being passed by workers on the roof. Lee recalled, “My dad happened to be walking down [below]. He had a cap on, which was full of cigars – he kept the cigars inside his hat – and, smack, the bucket struck him on top of his cap and knocked him down unconscious…” Fortunately, their father was okay, whether or not due to the lucky cigars of family lore. The brothers noted that, even in the early 1960s, they did not wear helmets at South Works. Osborne Ferguson noted that when he started working at Acme Steel in the mid-1960s, they did not wear special safety suits, but instead wore long underwear and two pairs of pants to “keep off the heat” when working on top of the ovens where temperatures reached over 2000 degrees. In contrast, in later decades until the closing of the mills in the 1980s and 90s, workers like Roberta Wood at South Works recalled a very strong attention to safety, presumably as a result of the establishment of the government Occupational Safety and Health agency (or OSHA) in 1970.

Rights Policy:

Materials posted on this site have been donated to the Southeast Chicago Historical Society and Museum for public use. If there are any questions or concerns about materials posted, please contact us. Some of the materials on this site are protected under Creative Commons licensing. For information on use and reproduction, please see the following Rights Policy.


Contact us with any inquiries.


Deindustrialization   Mill Artifacts   Mills   South Works   Steel Industry   1980 - Present (Deindustrialization)   South Chicago   Other/Unknown   Object   1992-023   Carnegie-Illinois Steel   Hats   Helmets   Safety   Steelworkers   U.S. Steel   Workers