Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Homestead

Homestead: The Households of a Mill Town

MARGARET F. BYINGTON
With a new introduction by Samuel P. Hays
Copyright Date: 1974
https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt6wrcmk
Pages: 368
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt6wrcmk
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Homestead
    Book Description:

    Homestead, first published in 1910 as one volume in the classic Pittsburgh Survey, describes daily life in a community that was dominated economically and physically by the giant Homestead Works of the United States Steel Corporation. Homestead, just across the Monongahela River from Pittsburgh, developed as a completely separate city -- a true mill town settled by newer immigrants and shaped in its attitudes by the infamous Homestead Strike of 1892.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7395-9
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. HOMESTEAD REVISITED
    (pp. xiii-xxx)
    Samuel P. Hays

    The Pittsburgh Survey has become a classic in American urban and social history. One of the earliest and certainly one of the most elaborate descriptions of urban social conditions, it provides a remarkably extensive view of life and work in the city of Pittsburgh in the early twentieth century. It has become a major source of evidence about urban conditions of the time, both for Pittsburgh and for American cities in general. Such accounts enable historians to extend their factual knowledge of urban life far below the more affluent levels of society which generated a disproportionate share of historical records....

  2. EDITOR’S FOREWORD
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)
    Paul U. Kellogg

    THE family as a social unit takes us back into shadows beyond where history begins; the town carries with it a thousand written memories of walled boroughs, county markets and communes, where self-government had its beginnings. But the mill with its acres of tracks and sheds, its continuous operation, its intricate plan of discipline, of interlocking processes, of insistent demands upon human nature, is a newer institution. Factory production is less than two centuries old. The power transmission through which the modern plant with its thousands of workmen has expanded and developed, is scarcely as many generations old. Electrically charged...

  3. PART I THE MILL AND THE TOWN

    • CHAPTER I HOMESTEAD AND THE GREAT STRIKE
      (pp. 3-11)

      HOMESTEAD gives at the first a sense of the stress of industry rather than of the old time household cheer which its name suggests. The banks of the brown Monongahela are preëmpted on one side by the railroad, on the other by unsightly stretches of mill yards. Gray plumes of smoke hang heavily from the stacks of the long, low mill buildings, and noise and effort dominate what once were quiet pasture lands.

      On the slope which rises steeply behind the mill are the Carnegie Library and the “mansion” of the mill superintendent, with the larger and more attractive dwellings...

    • CHAPTER II THE MAKE-UP OF THE TOWN
      (pp. 12-32)

      THE strike ended, mill and town continued their rapid growth until little is now left to suggest the village which in 1870 we saw developing on the farms beside the river. The changes of the intervening years, however, except for the influx of the Slavs, have been gradual and unnoticed. Their history is unwritten, and our real interest lies rather in the present development, in the type of town which the great plant and its 7000 employes have created at Homestead. The population is typical of the newer American industrial centers as distinguished from the New England village or the...

  4. PART II THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING HOUSEHOLDS

    • CHAPTER III WORK, WAGES, AND THE COST OF LIVING
      (pp. 35-45)

      IF YOU are near the mill in the late afternoon you will see a procession, an almost steady stream of men, each carrying the inevitable bucket, hurrying towards the great buildings for the night’s work. A little later the tide turns and back come the day men, walking slowly and wearily towards home and supper.

      Thus the life of the town keeps time with the rhythm of the mill. This is brought out also by the way the town reckons dates from the year of the great strike; by the trend of its development, conditioned by dependence upon one industrial...

    • CHAPTER IV RENT IN THE HOUSEHOLD BUDGET
      (pp. 46-62)

      THE type of house available at a given time in any community, whether the tenement of the city or the frame cottage of the country, is largely determined by other factors than individual preference. While in clothes, in food, and in amusements, personal likings play a large part, in housing a certain common standard is accepted to which most people conform. Especially is this true in a growing mill town like Homestead, where in prosperous years there has been a dearth of houses for rent. There is little choice in the kind of dwelling a workingman’s family can secure, and...

    • CHAPTER V TABLE AND DINNER PAIL
      (pp. 63-80)

      DURING my sojournings in Homestead, I found it of little avail to stand knocking at front doors. It was wise to go straight to the back door, which opened into the warm and cheerful kitchen. Here I was sure to find the housekeeper busy preparing for the ever recurring meal, economically her most important task. Not only is food the largest item in the family account, but it is also one which, by thrift and ability, housewives can reduce without lessening the comfort of the family. The “cost of living” is a problem they themselves are studying practically, and many...

    • CHAPTER VI OTHER EXPENDITURES: THE BUDGET AS A WHOLE
      (pp. 81-106)

      THE vital problem which in normal times confronts these homemakers is not provision against physical destitution. With the wages given in the steel mills, that may safely be assumed for the families of the English-speaking workers. The question is whether when they have met their rent and food bills there is money enough left to provide for the other vital needs of mind and body.

      The answer to this question was partly revealed by a study of the detailed items of expenditure from which the accompanying tables were drawn. Once the food and rent account had been paid, the margin...

    • CHAPTER VII OF HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS
      (pp. 107-117)

      THERE are other and more subtle factors in living together than rooms or meals. The place in the budget of the home, amusements, church going, and lodge insurance were discussed in the last chapter. They are also significant as expressions of human relationships, and in their activity and organized forms reveal the character of the people as no account-book footings can reveal it. The relations of parents to each other, to their neighbors, and to their children, affect the development of household life among the people.

      Yet even these relations are in a measure determined by outside forces. Industrial conditions,...

    • CHAPTER VIII THE CHILDREN OF HOMESTEAD
      (pp. 118-128)

      THROUGH children, more than through insurance, or savings, or even through home owning, does a workman’s household lay claim upon the future. Here both the oldest instincts and new half-formulated ambitions find expression. They have asserted themselves even in a town where the men have submitted to exclusion from all control over their work, and where as we have seen they have failed to master the town’s government as a whole. Here the community has set before itself what it feels to be high standards.

      The working people of Homestead when talking of their children show a distinct recognition of...

  5. PART III THE SLAV AS A HOMESTEADER

    • CHAPTER IX THE SLAVS
      (pp. 131-137)

      FROM the cinder path beside one of the railroads that crosses the level part of Homestead, you enter an alley, bordered on one side by stables and on the other by a row of shabby two-story frame houses. The doors of the houses are closed, but dishpans and old clothes decorating their exterior mark them as inhabited. Turning from the alley through a narrow passageway you find yourself in a small court, on three sides of which are smoke-grimed houses, and on the fourth, low stables. The open space teems with life and movement. Children, dogs and hens make it...

    • CHAPTER X LIFE AT $1.65 A DAY
      (pp. 138-144)

      To sum up the situation, then, we find a group of slow, hard-working country people, ambitious to attain prosperity, coming in large numbers in response to the demand of the mills for strong, unskilled labor. The mill offers them its lowest wage; the community meets them with indifference; the landlords exploit their helplessness. There is no reason for surprise, then, that the inability of these people to understand or cope with the adverse conditions which await them results in much unwholesome living.

      Let us turn from general facts and consider, in the first place, how the economic problem of life...

    • CHAPTER XI FAMILY LIFE OF THE SLAVS
      (pp. 145-157)

      ONE morning I entered a two-room tenement. The kitchen, perhaps 15 by 12 feet, was steaming with vapor from a big washtub set on a chair in the middle of the room. The mother was trying to wash and at the same time to keep the older of her two babies from tumbling into the tub full of scalding water that was standing on the floor. On one side of the room was a huge puffy bed, with one feather tick to sleep on and another for covering; near the window stood a sewing machine; in the corner, an organ,...

    • CHAPTER XII THE SLAV ORGANIZED
      (pp. 158-168)

      OTHER needs of the Slavs arising out of the industrial situation and out of their isolation, they have attempted to meet co-operatively by various forms of voluntary organization.

      The most powerful social institution influencing their lives is the church. Some of the Slavs belong to the Greek Catholic, some to the Roman Catholic communion, and both have an intimate hold upon their adherents. Of their full part in the spiritual life of the people a stranger who cannot even speak the language is unable to judge fairly. When at the crowded church, on Easter morning, I watched the men who...

  6. PART IV THE MILL AND THE HOUSEHOLD

    • CHAPTER XIII THE MILL AND THE HOUSEHOLD
      (pp. 171-184)

      THROUGHOUT this study I have referred frequently to the ways in which the one industry in the town through wages, hours and conditions of work limits the fulfillment of the family ideals. This is not because the industry sprang up like a wicked ogre to carry on depredations among the townspeople, but because the employment it offers is the economic basis both of the household life and the town life; it makes both possible; and the terms and conditions on which it offers this employment must directly affect the everyday living of both.

      It may be well, therefore, to sum...

  7. APPENDICES