Ohio History Journal

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An Iron Workers' Strike in

An Iron Workers' Strike in

The Ohio Valley, 1873-1874






DURING THE EARLY MONTHS of the depression of 1873, a

serious strike of iron workers took place in the Ohio Valley.

The stoppage affected iron mills in southern Ohio and north-

ern Kentucky and in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Tennes-

see as men left work in mills in large cities like Cincinnati,

Indianapolis, and St. Louis and in smaller industrial towns

like Ironton and Portsmouth, Ohio, Newport and Covington,

Kentucky, and New Albany, Indiana. Several thousand men

and fifteen iron mills were involved in the dispute.1 Starting

in November 1873 and continuing through the spring months

of the following year, the crisis in the Ohio Valley tested the

strength of those mill owners who belonged to the Ohio Valley

Iron Association, a regional trade association, and that of

their skilled workers who were members of a tiny national

trade union of heaters and rollers. The incident reveals a

great deal about the influence of the social structure in the

industrial hinterlands on conflicts between labor and manage-

ment after the Civil War.

* Herbert G. Gutman is an assistant professor in the department of social

science at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

1 The iron mills involved were the following: Swift Iron and Steel Works, New-

port; Globe Rolling Mill Company, Cincinnati; Kentucky Rolling Mill Company

and Louisville Rolling Mill Company, Louisville; Gaylord Rolling Mill, Ports-

mouth; Phillips and Jordan Iron Company and Mitchell, Tranter, and Company,

Covington; Butsch, Deutsch, and Company, Indianapolis; Ohio Falls Iron Works,

New Albany; Ironton Iron and Steel Company and Lawrence Iron Works, Ironton;

Vulcan Iron Works, Chattanooga; Belleville Nail Works, Belleville; Helmbach-

er's Forge and Rolling Mill and St. Louis Bolt and Iron Company, St. Louis.