Author Archives: mbainbridge

The Authorized Heritage Discourse of Labor, and why it matters

To wrap up, I’d like to consider the cases I’ve presented as they work within the Authorized Heritage Discourse. While united by the gravity of the events, the centrality of steel, coal, and trains to the modern United States, and my dissertation research- Homestead, Pullman, and Ludlow present three starkly contrasting ways of memorializing labor, and three stunning examples of the Authorized Heritage Discourse at work. At Homestead, the Authorized Heritage Discourse of the Waterfront Shopping Center is one of industry and nation building. When the history of the site must be confronted, (usually out of physical necessity) it is done so in a way that emphasizes the might of steel, and by extension, the United States because of it. This is a sanitized account of the history- where the Battle of Homestead, and workers at Homestead are relegated to the periphery- both figuratively in the narrative, and literally in the organization of the mall. At Pullman, the original Authorized Heritage Discourse of a model town is maintained, as the model homes that occupy it were built to last.  The history told of Pullman remains one of quaint historic homes, and what would have been state of the art amenities. [Read More]

Cases for Comparison: Two Other Sites of Labor Conflict

Last week I wrote about the Battle of Homestead, and the Waterfront shopping mall that now occupies the site, but not all locations of class warfare are reused in such an extreme fashion.  As two examples, I propose the cases of Pullman, Chicago and Ludlow, Colorado, where I plan to do my dissertation research this summer. Pullman George M. Pullman built the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago as a model town for workers in his train car factory.  He believed that with cutting edge homes, his workers would have elevated status from workers in other companies and that this would encourage moral behavior and strong work ethic.  The so-called utopia of Pullman was spatially separated from the city of Chicago.  To this end, housing was organized by class, where executives and “skilled” workers lived closest to main attractions, and “unskilled” workers’ homes were placed on the outskirts.  In addition to model housing, Pullman residents enjoyed markets, banks, libraries, and parks, as long as they signed a lease, agreeing to the regulation of their behavior. In 1894, workers in the Pullman train car factory went on strike due to a wage cut. While their pay decreased, rent in their company houses remained [Read More]

Labor Heritage at Homestead

The Battle of Homestead marks the historic defeat of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AAISW) by the Carnegie Steel Corporation at the Homestead Steel Works in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the time of the strike in 1892, the Carnegie Steel Corporation, owned by Andrew Carnegie, was the world’s largest manufacturing firm, and AAISW was the nation’s strongest union. The Battle of Homestead The Battle began as a lockout on June 28, 1892 (Burgoyne 1979:33). Workers were upset with the sliding scale wage system, in which the selling price of steel determined wages (Demarest Jr. 1999:25. On July 6th 1892, two barges carried 300 Pinkerton Detectives (hired by the Carnegie Steel Corporation) up the Monongahela River to the Homestead Steel Works. Workers and Homestead citizens, including women and children, confronted the boats near the mill’s still standing Pump House, and a battle erupted (Krause 1992:15-16). Workers and Homestead residents took up all matters of defense against the Pinkertons, including a Civil War cannon taken from a nearby park.  Luckily for the workers, the outnumbered Pinkertons surrendered by the end of the day. Many were injured, and two or three Pinkerton men died (Krause 1992:25,34-39, Burgoyne 1979:92) After the worker’s [Read More]

Heritage of Labor Conflict in the United States

Hey there! I’m Maura Bainbridge, PhD Candidate at Binghamton and next up on the MAPA blog.  This month I will be talking about my research, that is – labor heritage in the United States. Many former MAPA blog posts have talked about heritage issues (Hey Ashley! Hi Angela!) but I aim to do so in the context of labor, particularly labor conflicts. Situating Heritage  I’m choosing to engage with heritage, rather than history, because heritage leaves room for personal identity- as people living today pick and choose bits of the past to identify with. (Though constructions of history are a fertile issue for another blog series.) Capitalism, and thus labor relations, are implicated in heritage production as more goods (tokens of memory to place aspects of identity into) are created, and the past is actively bulldozed over, reinforcing the need to remember before it’s too late (Connerton 1989). Laurajane Smith (2006) presents the concept of ‘authorized heritage discourse,’ (AHD) as the official narrative of the past. The AHD focuses on beautiful objects, sites and places.  These must be preserved for future generations “for their ‘education’, and to forge a sense of common identity based on the past.” This discourse commonly [Read More]