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 I went with him first to Homestead, then to some there, later to some other mill districts nearer Pittsburgh, the name of which I have forgotten. What astonished me, in so far as the steel mills were concerned, was the large number of furnaces going at once, the piles, mountains, of powdered iron ore ready to be , the long lines of cars, flat, box and coal cars, and the nature and size and force of the used to roll steel. The work, as he or his friends the bosses showed me, was divided between the “front” and the “back.” Those working at the front of the furnace took care of the molten ore and which was being “puddled.” The men at the back, the stock and yard men, filled huge steel buckets or “skips” suspended from traveling cranes with ore, fuel and , all of which was piled near at hand; this material was then trundled to a point over the mouth of the melting-vats, as they were called, and “released” via a movable bottom. At this particular plant I was told that the machinery for handling all this was better than elsewhere, the company being richer and more progressive. In some of the less progressive concerns the men filled carts with raw material and then trundled them around to the front of a , which was at the back of the furnace, where they were lifted and dumped into the furnaces. But in this mill all a man had to do to fill a steel bucket with raw material was to push one of those steel buckets suspended from a under a chute and pull a rod, when the “stock” tumbled into it. From these it was trundled, by machinery, to a point over the furnace. The furnaces were charged or fed constantly by feeders working in twelve-hour shifts, so that there was little chance to rest from their . Their pay was not more than half of that paid to the men at the “front” because it was neither so hard nor so skillful, although it looked hard enough to me.  
The men at the front, the puddlers, were the princes of this realm and yet among the hardest worked. A puddling or blast furnace was a brick structure like an oven, about seven feet high and six feet square, with two , one a receptacle into which pigiron was thrown, the other a fuel where the melting heat was generated. The drafts were so arranged that the flame swept from the fuel chamber directly upon the surface of the iron. From five to six hundred pounds of pigiron were put into each furnace at one time, after which it was closed and sufficient heat to melt down the iron. Then the began to work it with an iron rod through a hole in the furnace door, so as to stir up the liquid and bring it in contact with the air. As the became separated from the iron and rose to the top as slag, they were tipped out through a center . As it became freer from impurities, a constantly higher temperature was required to keep the iron in a liquid condition. Gradually it began to in granules, much as butter forms in churning. Later it took on or was worked into large balls or lumps or rolls like butter, three to any given “charge” or furnace. Then, while still in a comparatively soft but not molten condition, these were taken out and thrown across a steel floor to a “taker” to be worked by other machinery and other processes.
Puddling was a full-sized man’s job. There were always two, and sometimes three, to a single furnace, and they took turns at working the metal, as a rule ten minutes to a turn. No man could stand before a furnace and perform that back-breaking continually. Even when working by spells a man was often nearly at the end of his spell. As a rule he had to go outside and sit on a bench, the running off him. The of the heat in those days (1893) was not as yet relieved by the device of shielding the furnace with water-cooled plates. The wages of these men was in the neighborhood of three dollars a day, the highest then paid. Before the great strike it had been more.
But the men who most fascinated me were the “roughers” who, once the puddler had done his work and thrown his lump of red-hot iron out upon an open , and another man had taken it and thrown it to a “rougher,” fed it into a second machine which rolled or beat it into a more easily handled and workable form. The exact details of the process escape me now, but I remember the picture they presented in those hot, fire-lighted, noisy and rooms. and even youth were at a , and a false step possibly meant death. I remember watching two men in the mill below Mt. Washington, one who pulled out billet after billet from furnace after furnace and threw them along the steel floor to the “rougher,” and the latter, who, dressed only in trousers and a sleeveless shirt, the sweat pouring from his body and his muscles out in knots, took these same and, with the skill and agility of a tight-rope performer, tossed them into the machine. He was constantly leaping about thrusting the red billets which came almost in a stream into or between the first pair of rolls for which they were intended. And yet before he could turn back there was always another on the floor behind him. The rolls into which he fed these billets were built in a train, side by side in line, and as they went through one pair they had to be seized by a “catcher” and shoved back through the next. Back and , back and forth they went at an ever increasing speed, until the catcher at the next to the last pair of rolls, seizing the end of the rod as it came through, still red-hot, described with it a circle bending it back again to enter the last roll, from which it passed into water. It was wonderful.
And yet these men were not looked upon as anything extraordinary. While the places in which they worked were metal and their toil of the most intense and character, they were not allowed to organize to better their condition. The recent great victory of the steel magnates had settled that. In that very city and elsewhere, these magnates were rolling in wealth. Their profits were tumbling in so fast that they scarcely knew what to do with them. Vast libraries and universities were being built with their gifts. Immense were crowded with art and historic furniture. Their children were being sent to special schools to be taught how to be ladies and gentlemen in a democracy which they ; and on the other hand, these sweating men were being denied an additional five or ten cents an hour and the right to organize. If they protested or attempted to drive out imported strike-breakers they were fired and State or Federal troops were called in to protect the mills. They could not organize then, and they are not organized now.
My friend Martyn, who was intensely sympathetic toward them, was still more sympathetic toward the men who were not so skillful, day who received from one dollar to one-sixty-five at a time when two a day was too little to support any one. He grew melodramatic as he told me where these men lived and how they lived, and finally took me in order that I might see for myself. <............
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