O’Half and I spent a pleasant morning recently visiting the
local James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown PA. There
is an exhibition running currently that we wanted to see:
“Iron and Coal, Petroleum and Steel: Industrial Art from the
Steidle Collection.” It runs through October 25, 2015.
Pittsburgh flourished in the years from 1876 to 1945. A steady
supply of unskilled labor was key to the rising success of the
coal and steel industry in western Pennsylvania. The entire
process of mining the coke/coal to the finished product of
a strong steel product could all be accomplished in one area with
the new railroads to carry the steel to markets.
It was a hard and dangerous life for the workers. Low pay was the
norm because of ready workers to take the place of any miners or
laborers thinking of striking for better wages or conditions.
There was no compensation for injury or death. A strike in 1892
was brutally shut down and the attempt at forming labor unions did
not appear again until the 1930s.
A miner’s day began before sunup when he and the other men were
carried down into the mines in a “man-trip” car and his day might
not end for another 12 hours underground.
Seeing this exhibition brings the viewer directly into the feeling of
the mines, the foundries—and what the life of the worker might
have been like.
I’ve included four of the paintings we saw, and will end with a
more pleasant portrait from the Michener’s permanent collection.
(Clicking on the photos will enlarge them)
And, as promised a pleasant portrait by Rae Sloan Bredin who
liked to use his own daughters as models. This young one,
Barbara, didn’t care for the modeling business and maybe you
can tell by the little scowl on her face!