Homestead, Pennsylvania

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Homestead is a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, USA, in the "Mon Valley," seven miles (11 km) southeast of downtown Pittsburgh and directly across the river from the city limit line.

Contents

History

The area on the south bank of the Monongahela River now comprising the boroughs of Homestead, Munhall and West Homestead saw the first white settlers arrive in the 1770s. One hundred years later, much of the existing farmland on the flats and hillsides by the river was purchased, laid out in lots and sold by local banks and land owners to create the town of Homestead. The town was chartered in 1880. The building of a railroad, glass factory, and in 1881 the first iron mill began a period of rapid growth and prosperity. In 1883, Andrew Carnegie bought out Homestead Steel Works, adding it to his empire of steel and coke enterprises. Carnegie had recently acquired a controlling interest in Henry Clay Frick's Coke works on the Monongahela, setting the stage for the dramatic labor clash in Homestead.

Homestead gained international notoriety in July 1892 as the site of a violent clash between locked-out steelworkers and hired Pinkerton guards, known as the Homestead Strike. When Henry Clay Frick, manager for Andrew Carnegie, owner of the local Homestead Steel Works, announced in the spring of 1892 that skilled workers would receive a reduction in wages, the advisory committee of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers refused to sign a new contract. Carnegie's management locked the workforce out, declaring that the union would no longer be recognized at the steel works.

To break the strike and secure the mill from the disgruntled workers, industrialist Henry Clay Frick hired hundreds of armed toughs from the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. When barges carrying the Pinkertons arrived at the mill on the morning of July 6, workers and townspeople met them at the riverbanks. Though eyewitness accounts differed on which side first fired a shot, a day-long armed battle ensued which resulted in eleven deaths and dozens of injuries. The governor of Pennsylvania eventually called out the National Guard to restore order to the town and take control of the mill. Frick successfully destroyed the union in Homestead and, by extension, in most of his other steel mills through the nation. The "Battle of Homestead," as the event came to be known, represented a stunning setback for unionization in the highly-mechanized steel industry. It also set the stage for the future steel strike of 1919, in which Homestead played an important role.

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