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Working in Steel

Working in Steel: The Early Years in Canada, 1883-1935

Craig Heron
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 223
  • Book Info
    Working in Steel
    Book Description:

    Heron's examination of the impact of new technology in Canada's Second Industrial Revolution challenges the popular notion that mass-production workers lost all skill, power, and pride in the work process.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2766-6
    Subjects: History, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-5)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 6-8)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 9-12)

    This is a book about work. It is an attempt to show how, around the turn of the twentieth century, something fundamental began to change in the daily lives of people who worked for wages in Canadian factories. For the men and women who punched the clock at the beginning of ten-to twelve-hour working days, this was not the age of Laurier, Borden, or King, still less the “Edwardian” era. For them this was the age of mass production.¹

    Many of us have glimpsed this new work world through the eyes of Upton Sinclair or Charlie Chaplin, but most Canadian...

  5. I Corporations
    (pp. 13-32)

    Iron is one of the most common minerals on the earth’s surface. For centuries men have found ways of transforming it from its natural state into usable tools. Before the last third of the nineteenth century, the products of primary ironworking were either brittlecastiron, which was poured into moulds to make metal objects like pots and kettles, or more malleablewroughtiron, which had to be reworked with a hammer or run through a set of rolls into bars for use as nails, ploughs, or whatever. Cast iron was used by the moulder, wrought iron by the blacksmith....

  6. 2 Machines
    (pp. 33-72)

    It was a long walk in from the main road to reach the inside of a turn-of-the-century Canadian steel plant. The huge cluster of buildings usually stretched over acres of countryside on the far edge of the steel towns. Visitors’ eyes always widened as they approached the plant and moved into the shadow of the belching, blazing smokestacks. Before they had stepped inside the plant, they would pause in awe at the massive proportions of the various furnaces and stoves and at the intricacy of the machinery that clattered around these fire-breathing monsters. No matter which door they chose to...

  7. 3 Labour Power
    (pp. 73-111)

    Implanting a brand new industry on Canadian soil posed several serious problems for the new steelmaking corporations. Once they had chosen a site, located adequate raw materials, arranged transportation facilities, and set up the appropriate technology, there still remained the problem of who would actually turn out the steel. At the turn of the century, the occupational category of “steelworker” scarcely existed in Canada. As in other mass-production industries, the steel companies had to assemble and shape a new work force capable of making their plants profitable enterprises. They had to draw from an unpredictable, often turbulent labour market and...

  8. 4 Resistance
    (pp. 112-159)

    Workers’ behaviour on the job is never easy to predict. Corporate planners may lay out master plans for the operations of their factories and establish rules and procedures to govern the flow of production, but there is no guarantee that the workers into whose hands they place the tools and machines will perform their tasks exactly as expected. In the first place, as we have already seen, many of them have a shop-floor savvy that encourages them to make their own decisions about the job to be done, which no white-collar manager can fully appreciate or anticipate. More importantly, however,...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 160-178)

    Between the 1890s and the 1930s, working in steel became a new kind of job experience in Canada. Like several other mass-production industries, the steel industry was built on a new system of manufacturing that confronted workers with new machines and work routines and new concentrations of power in the hands of their employers. And, like their counterparts in those other industries, steelworkers sought new ways to pursue their own goals within these new structures.

    This new system of production was not implanted easily. The capitalists who launched the Canadian steel industry at the turn of the century faced a...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 179-215)
  11. Index
    (pp. 216-223)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 224-224)