Life for the Steel Worker

An evolution of safety glasses, color ID hard hats, and various specialized personal protective equipment along with hazard warning signs from many plant operations attests to the dangers the average steelworker faced in his daily tasks.

The massive Lackawanna Plant was practically a self-contained city with its own water pumping facilities, electrical generation, laboratories and shops to make and repair parts. Even separate fire and police protection were maintained by the company. Photos, badges and equipment are on display at the Museum.

Company housing was erected to provide residence for its many workers since the area was primarily rural when the plant was first built. Maps of Ridge Road Village and Smokes Creek Village along with photos and drawings provide a glimpse of steelworker living in the early years.

During World War I and continuing thereafter, the Employees Community Gardens at Rush Creek was established by the steel company's Sociological Department, which assigned employees a small tract of land on which they could grow produce for their families. The area was near Woodlawn Beach and was also known as Woodlawn Gardens. This became the site of Bethlehem Steel's South Office Building in the later 1950s.

A lot assignment map for 1918, on display at the Museum, lists the names of families and lot numbers. You might find the name of a relative or neighbor here!

Unskilled labor forced the company to establish training programs for many positions. A Safety Department was required to monitor conditions, enforce regulations and provide safety training. In spite of these efforts, their original Plant Accident signboard, on display at the Museum, sadly totals the number of lost time accidents and fatalities for each year starting in 1924. Safety awards, training diplomas, posters and photos (also all on display at the Museum) illustrate these subjects.

(Photos courtesy of the Frank Rozwood Photo Collection)






Workers and families at the Employees Gardens, August 1932.


Lackawanna Steel Co. (South Buffalo Railway) narrow-gauge 0-4-0 locomotive with Fire Department crew.


Pouring molten steel into ingots at the B.O.F. (Basic Oxygen Furnace) teeming aisle.


1978 photo of record setting Tandem Mills crew.