Historical Markers
Homestead Strike Victims Historical Marker
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Homestead Strike Victims

Pittsburgh Region


Marker Location:
22nd Ave. and Main St., Munhall

Dedication Date:
July 11, 1993

Behind the Marker

Four men, dressed in tailored suits, are gathered around a conference table. Papers sit on the table in front of each person, and a glass in front of one of the men. Several ashtrays are also on the table. John L. Lewis (2nd from the right) and UMW vice president Thomas Kennedy (far right) led an aggressive campaign to organize the Pennsylvania coal mines. (W.W. Inglis, President of the Glen Alden Coal Company, and A.J. Maloney, President of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company, are on the left.)
A tense meeting of the "Big Four" of the American coal industry, April 19, 1933.
Emmett Patrick Cush, a second-generation union man, knew where the bodies were buried. It was Sunday, July 5, 1936, and the markerSteel Workers Organizing Committee had just kicked off its campaign to unionize the country's steel mills.

Union organizers in the Monongahela Valley hatched a plan to connect their campaign to the historical markerHomestead strike of 1892. They assembled 4,000 supporters at the Seventeenth Avenue Playground, and pledged themselves to a steelworkers' declaration of independence: "We say to the world: We are Americans. We shall exercise our inalienable right to organize into a great industrial union, banded together with all our fellow steelworkers."

A young lady in a majorette uniform lifts the veil from a shrouded monument as onlookers watch.
Unveiling of monument, on September 2, 1941, commemorating the Homestead steelworkers...
In the distance fumed John Cavanaugh, the town burgess who, three years earlier, had tried to intimidate Secretary of Labor markerFrances Perkins. That day, however, the state lined up firmly behind the workers. Pennsylvania lieutenant governor Thomas Kennedy, assured the crowd that there would be no state Coal and Iron Police harassing this organizing drive. Kennedy happened also to be secretary-treasurer of the United Mine Workers, which generously funded the SWOC campaign.
Image of Pat Fagan standing on a platform addressing a crowd of miners.
Pat Fagan, UMW District 5 leader, addressing gathering of miners in the mid-1930s.

After the speeches, the crowd climbed some five blocks uphill to the cemetery for a wreath-laying ceremony. Cush directed them to the graves, poorly marked and half forgotten, belonging to the six Homestead strike victims buried there.

His father, Dennis M. Cush, a member of the organizing committee back in 1892, had made sure that his son knew where the bodies were buried. Placing wreaths on the graves, the crowd listened to Patrick Fagan, son of another 1892 strike leader, give a thoughtful, somber address.

The wreath-laying ceremony, and the larger SWOC campaign, marked the ascendancy of true unionism in the steel industry. As the English visitor Arthur Shadwell, who visited Homestead a dozen years after the infamous 1892 strike, had observed: "Trade unionism has been put down with an iron hand dipped in blood, and it is kept down. It has not been recognized since 1892, but it is a plant which does not die when it has anything to feed on, and here it has much." At Homestead the "plant" of unionism eventually grew to full flower. Today, with the mill itself shut down and sold for scrap, the memories are all that remain.
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