Eberly Connections Students Engaged in Pittsburgh History

Posted on 11/13/2015 9:31:23 AM

On October 28, 2015, 35 freshman Eberly Connections students, as well as professors Joe Rosendale and Elizabeth Ricketts, traveled to Pittsburgh for a fun and informative journey through the city's history.   

Eberly Connections is a pair of courses linking American History (HIST 196) and Introduction to Business (MGMT 105) for freshman undecided business majors.

During this trip, the students and professors visited a number of locations that were rich in Pittsburgh history and business. The group’s first destination was the Pittsburgh Pump House in Homestead, where they were joined by Charles McCollestar, a former IUP Labor and Industrial Relations professor of 22 years, who served as their tour guide.   

In their HIST 196 course, the students learned that Homestead was the scene of the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike, which resulted from a dispute between the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers and the Carnegie Steel Company. The strike was the second-largest serious labor dispute in U.S. history, and it lead to several casualties and wounds on both sides of the dispute.  

“When we learned about the Homestead Steel Strike in class, Dr. Ricketts used pictures in her PowerPoints,” said student Aubriana Henry. “When we were outside the steel mill I was thinking about her pictures and trying to reimagine what happened that day.”   

While also at the Pump House, the students heard from John Lepley and Lisa Jordan, who provided them with a session on Labor Education. During their presentation, the students gained knowledge about unions from the past and present day, and also insight into the current state of the economy.  

Katie Weaver, an Eberly Connections student, said she now has a better understanding of unions.

“Going into the day, I had a vague understanding as to how unions worked,” she said. “After learning about them throughout the day, I learned that in many occupations, unions can be the difference between making a living and working for not nearly enough compensation.”   

Morgan Good also benefited from Lepley and Jordan’s session.   

“The session was very educational and beneficial,” she said. “It gave me a good outlook on what the economy is like and how to understand what is going on around the world.”  

Students spent the second half of the Eberly Connections trip at the Braddock Carnegie Library, where they received a tour of the facility and met with Mike Stout and Steffi Domike. The library was the first Carnegie Library in the United States. During its time of operation, the library offered several facilities that are usually not included within a library, such as a theater, gymnasium, indoor swimming pool and billiard tables. Today, the library consists of only library services for adults and children, and the bathhouse is now a pottery studio which produces water filters in order to improve public health in third-world countries.  

After a tour of the library, the group listened to Mike Stout, a local Pittsburgh musician and former steel worker, share his experience in working in the steel mill. He sang a few of his songs that were related to the Pittsburgh steel industry and Pittsburgh as a whole.   

“It was an interesting way for him to portray Pittsburgh as a city and its steel workers through music,” said Rachel Snow. “His music shows that he is very passionate about Pittsburgh and the steel workers’ union.”  

Steffi Domike, former president of the Pennsylvania Labor History Society and labor historians, provided the group with a deeper understanding of the working conditions in the 1800s by showing the group her documentary, “Women in Steel.”

“The video she played really got my attention because, not only did it talk about women working in the mills, but it also mentioned my hometown, Monessen,” said Taylor Guzzie. “It was interesting to learn that it was once a booming town for steel mills.”  

Overall, the students and professors had an enjoyable day learning about Pittsburgh’s history.   

“This was a great trip and learning experience,” said Tyler Speis. “The trip definitely made it easier to understand the life of the steel workers in the 1800s and to paint a picture in my mind as we learn more about it in the classroom.”

— Bethany Barefoot