Shadows of Steel: Environmental Injustice and Marginalized Communities in Pittsburgh, 1945-1980.

by Joey Craska

Site Description:

This site will dive into the affects that the Pittsburgh steel mills had on its surrounding communities and the groups of people it affected throughout the years 1945-1980.  The steel mills such as the ones operated by Jones and Laughlin Corp. were the foundation of industrialization throughout 20th century Pittsburgh  The steel mills produced excess amounts of pollution effecting the health, economics and social structure of surrounding areas..  Steelworkers had to deal with the steel mills pollutions on a daily basis in their workplace and throughout the neighborhoods they called home.  The goal of this research is to find out why steelworkers were unable to fight for environmental justice and support their livelihoods at the same time..  This is significant in the world of environmental justice because it will show how workers in industrial towns with pollution can handle the issues of environmental issues and the nature of industrial jobs.

Author Biography:

My name is Joey Craska. I am an undergraduate student majoring in  Law, Technology and Culture at New Jersey Institute of Technology.  I grew up with my four siblings in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It was very common for us to visit Downtown Pittsburgh and experience its many great attractions.  My father grew up in the city of Greenfield, which is located within a mile of the former Jones and Laughlin steel mill. I have had many family members work at steel mills throughout Pittsburgh during the times of their operation.

Final Report:


            The Pittsburgh Steelers, the heart and soul of Western Pennsylvania’s sports landscape, are a historic franchise recognized worldwide for their outstanding achievements on the football field.  However, many people are not quite as familiar with the deeper, more enduring legacy of steel in the city of Pittsburgh.  The team carries a name that represents the city’s foundational steel industry.  Along with the name, the Pittsburgh Steelers unique logo represents the cities industrial beginnings.  The distinct three diamonds that make up the logo represent the materials needed to produce steel: coal, iron ore and steel scrap.[1] The Steelers continuously show resilience and grit every Sunday when they take the field to beat their opponent.  However, this is not the only time these characteristics have shown throughout the city.  In fact, the resilience and grit reflect the steel workers who toiled long hours and withstood grueling environmental conditions to help make the city of Pittsburgh what it is today.       

            The Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill, located in the South Side Flats of Pittsburgh, was one of many steel mills operating during the industrialization of Pittsburgh in the 20th Century.  Steelworkers would spend days and nights at the mills, working long shifts to produce steel, a key component to Americas growing infrastructure.  The Jones and Laughlin steel mill’s location alongside the Monongahela River provided the company, along with others in the cities growing industry on the riverbanks, a way to connect them to the rest of the country.[2] Overtime, these steel workers would face many challenges on both a daily and long-term basis.  These steel workers, including my great grandfather and other members of my family bloodline, had a hard-nosed mentality regarding their work life and their contributions to the steel industry.  The steel mills represented something to be prideful about in Pittsburgh as the city embraced

 industry to climb itself to industrial and eventually economic prosperity.   For many individuals, the steel mills provided an opportunity for individuals as to pave their way into generational success and financial stability.  However, when the city and its communities faced environmental pollution stemming from the steel mills, such as the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill in the South Side Flats, steelworkers saw this opportunity ripped away from them while still bearing the devastating environmental effects. 

            Other scholar’s research has provided evidence of the industrial practices in the steel industry, showing the city’s growth in manufacturing as well as the corresponding environmental impacts.[3]  In addition, Angela Gugliotta has shown whom smoke was a problem for in Pittsburgh, establishing that it affected poor urban neighborhoods.[4] Historians have described the issues for different classes and races during the industrialization of Pittsburgh, showing the government ignorance and unfair treatment shown to minority groups in the steel industry.[5] While historians have been able to describe the issues that steelworkers faced environmentally, they have not bridged the gap as to why the health, economic and social impacts of these challenges forced the steel workers into accepting a community with poor environmental qualities.

            To get a better understanding of the environment injustice occurring in Pittsburgh throughout the steel mills we need to answer; How did the perception of Pittsburgh as a future industrial powerhouse influence local policy decisions, particularly those related to labor laws and environmental regulations, and how did these decisions impact the communities around the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill?  How does the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill exemplify the broader trends in Pittsburgh’s steel industry as identified in previous historiographical studies, and what are the unique aspects of this mill not widely covered by existing research?  Why were the steel workers unable to fight for environmental justice in their community?

            To help fill the void in this historical content this paper will analyze data and sources leading up to the post war era regarding the Jones and Laughlin steel mill and its surrounding communities.  Following that, will be an analysis of the environmental pollution’s impact on physical, societal and economic changes occurring during the years 1945-1980 and how they occurred.  While environmental activists in the city of Pittsburgh rightfully pursued a cleaner, healthier earth; the backbone of the entire city of Pittsburgh, its own steelworkers faced a plethora of challenges.  The communities surrounding the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill, particularly those made up of immigrant and African American families, faced significant environmental injustices and employment barriers from 1945 to 1980, with evolving dynamics over these decades. While some activists fought for environmental justice, the steel workers were unable to fight for a cleaner and less polluted environment because it would force them out of their jobs and livelihoods.


The Jones and Laughlin Corporation was established in 1853 and quickly emerged as a leader in the steel industry.  Their steel mill and iron furnace were located on the South Side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania right on the shores of the Monongahela River. Leading up to the post world war era, the company became the fourth largest steel provider in the world, producing astonishing numbers.  The mill would produce 4.8 million tons of steel per year while the company employed 45,000 workers throughout its various mill locations. These mills were controlled by a long line of family members as either a Jones or Laughlin descendant had control of operations into the 1930s. By increasing their steel operations, the corporation’s business continued to increase each year at the beginning of the 20th century.[6]

The Pittsburgh Works mill, located along the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is surrounded by different neighborhoods making up its community. Specifically, these neighborhoods consisted the likes of Greenfield (where my father grew up), Hazelwood and South Side (neighborhood of mill).  Each of these neighborhoods had distinct characteristics to make them what they are.  Joel Tarr and Denise Di Pasquale cover the make up of these “mill towns” and the evolving dynamics of their demographics throughout the city of Pittsburgh’s industrialization.  While discussing the town of Hazelwood Tarr and Di Pasquale explain, “The growing industrial development of the ward, therefore, acted as a magnet for large numbers of native migrants and foreign immigrants, among who there was a disproportionate share of single men. Newcomers who came to the ward because of perceived employment opportunities also had hopes of improving their economic status. To the extent that there was both employment plus upward mobility for residents of the ward, we can maintain these expectations were realized.” There is an immigrant emergence in towns surrounding the mills as they look for economic opportunities.  These mills were the perfect workplaces for immigrant families therefore leading to the formation of these “mill towns”.  Along, with immigrant growth in population, the “mill towns”, like Hazelwood, saw an increase throughout its African American population.[7]            

Throughout these surrounding communities, the mill created a sense of community cohesion.  Union groups continued to form throughout Pittsburgh in the 1930s giving the workers more power and autonomy over their workplace.  John Hinshaw describes this in Steel and Steelworkers, “The Steel Workers Organizing committee (the SWOC) hired numerous communist organizers, who were especially important in signing up large numbers of immigrant, black and Mexican workers around Pittsburgh.” The increased cohesion of workers gave them a better shot of fighting for their own rights in the workplace regarding a variety of issues, but mostly their paychecks.  The unionization of Pittsburgh, especially throughout the steel industry changed the entire dynamic of relationships between working and owning classes.  This is largely due in fact to the actions of the Congress of Industrial Operations. [8] 

The steel mill caused many pollutants to be released into the environment.  During prominent years of the mill, the register of air pollution analyses was done by the US. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare showing issues that the Pittsburgh air quality faced as of January 1, 1956.  Sulfur Dioxide was one of the main issues that was seen in the Pittsburgh Air.  In comparison to other cities the large amount of Sulfur Dioxide was of major concern.  Amongst other pollutions found in the Pittsburgh Air Pollution Analyses included were dust fall, ammonium, chloride, iron oxide, sulfates and tar.[9]  The analyses showed examples of both visible and invincible pollutants. While it is easy to see the clear danger of visible pollutants such as dust fall and smoke, the invincible pollutants such as sulfur dioxide and ammonium can create an impact in which communities are much more vulnerable to falling victim to.  With the invincible pollutants, it is hard for a community to recognize that they have an environmental issue without some sort of air pollution analyses that shows the elusive toxins in the air.

 Among the steel mills in the city of Pittsburgh, Jones and Laughlin was certainly an issue when it came to polluting the environment, as Fred Jones said in the Pittsburgh Press, “The Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp plant at Hazelwood provides the highest readings on sulfur dioxide pollution anywhere in the Country, as well as smoke.” Jones highlights the issues from the mill and discusses the pollution in more detail, “the steam contains a particularly-sticky compound which forms droplets on cars and is hard to get off without taking the finish off. Given a mild east wind, smoke from these plants drifts down the valley and blankets under a grayish-yellow haze that produces an acrid taste in the mouth and watering eyes.”[10]

While steel mills release pollutants into the air, they also cause water pollution in the surrounding bodies of water.  This is significant because of the Jones and Laughlin Mill being located directly next to the Monongahela River.  Studies done on water pollution caused by steel mills show that these pollutants are generally released in forms of suspended solids, cyanides, phenols and ammonia.  The type of pollutant released into the water would depend on the specific plant for example; cast iron manufacturing or steel manufacturing.[11]  While techniques have been designed to help limit water pollution caused by the steel mill, issues continuously occurred throughout the 20th century because of the industries lack of control over the pollution.  In a 1973 Sarasota Herald-Tribune newspaper article, leader of the Council on Economic Priorities, Alice Tepper Marlin was quoted saying, “No major steel producer emerged with an overall good record in water pollution control.”[12]  The steel producers were dauntingly tasked with keeping water pollution under control.  Different methods could be used to help stop the different types of pollutions.  Overall, pollution caused by mill operations reach either the air or different bodies of water surrounding the mill.  Historically, the steel industry has done a below average job of limiting pollutions.  Specifically, the city of Pittsburgh’s entire river system, made up of the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio river are environmentally impacted by the steel mills.

Impact of Mill Pollutants on Health:

            While pollutants are released into the surrounding air of the steel mills, the local community’s entire health is being put at risk.  Airborne pollutants have huge risks and lead to serious health effects.  There are increased cancer risks from different out door air toxic concentrations. Studies have shown that  downtown Pittsburgh had elevated concentration rates in comparison to non-urban areas.[13] 

Along with cancer being a major risk from the mills air pollutants, Health studies done throughout Pittsburgh have shown a direct correlation between particulate air pollution and hospitalization rate of individuals with congestive heart failure in Pittsburgh’s medical facilities.  Scientific research done by Gregory A. Wellenius has shown many issues regarding pollution and different heart diseases, “Previous studies suggest that CHF patients are at greater risk of pollution-related hospitalization for ischemic heart disease and acute myocardial infarction, as well as nonaccidental mortality.”[14]  This study is important in regards to the mill because it was mainly done on test subjects of males that were 65 years of age or older. Done in 1987 this is studying the generation of steel workers and the community’s people who encountered the final years of the steel mills and industrial age in Pittsburgh. Air pollutants in Pittsburgh that went uncontrolled from steel mills spiked congestive heart failure rates amongst its communities. 

Those who would deal with the pollution first hand such as workers were directly exposed to the pollutants and their possible affects.  A pollution crisis would occur in November of 1975.  Pollution in the city of Pittsburgh was thought to have caused 14 “excess” deaths. John Bronson of the Youngstown Vindicator wrote, “The investigators compared death statistics for the four day smog with corresponding four day periods in the weeks before and after the incident.  They then compared the average daily deaths last November… They concluded that there were 14 ‘excessive’ deaths.”[15] Since this was the first occurrence of studies being done by the EPA to see if a specific event; in this case, a few days of increased smog, caused deaths it is likely that pollution levels did lead to other specific deaths prior to the event.

A ginormous legal case that was presented against the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation regards the health of a former employee and how the working conditions led to his specific conditions.  The employees faced grueling health conditions that would affect their lungs on an exponential level.  The Case of Jones and Laughlin Steel Corp. v. Workmen’s Compensation Appeal Board (Feiertag), Respondents, shows the health effects that long time employees faced as a result of the pollution and their exposure levels to it.  The claimant began working in the mill during 1945 and eventually was forced to retire because of his conditions in 1974, “It was the doctor’s opinion based on the history, his clinical examination, x-ray findings and pulmonary function studies that the claimant was totally and permanently disabled due to mixed dust pneumoconiosis, chronic bronchitis and emphysema which had occurred as a result of his exposure to dusts, fumes and smoke during all of his employment with various employers from 1928 through January 17, 1974.”[16]  Mill employees would face health consequences from the daily exposure of mill pollutants.  While pollutants were as strong as they already were outside the mill, employees faced even stronger pollutants in their workspace.  Increased exposure to these pollutants inside the mill shows the true impact of the mill’s pollutants impact on health. This case shows the how the owning class of Jones and Laughlin would treat their workers.

            In the 1940s, the Pittsburgh City Health Department distributed a survey asking about the health of people throughout the city.  5605 people responded. Gilbert Love explains the numbers seen in the questionnaire, “Of this number, 3,463 persons reported that they experienced throat trouble during smogs, 2,979 said they had difficulty with nasal passages, 1,407 reported coughs and 1,255 said they had increased sinus trouble”[17]  The pollution created health issues of all types throughout Pittsburgh’s communities.  While a portion of these issues were minor, another portion of health impacts had more drastic implications.

Impact of Mill Pollutants on Economics/Properties:

            The pollutants released into the community from the Jones and Laughlin Steel mill had a detrimental impact on the infrastructure of the local community and surrounding neighborhoods leading to economic constraints.  Homes and local businesses took on the brunt consequences of the environmental pollutions.  In Gilbert Love’s article, he explains the situation of what was going on in regards to the surrounding buildings, “Even stone and steel buildings are harmed by the atmospheric pollution. Rain passing through the smoke, becomes a weak solution of sulphuric acid.  The acid mixes with the soot and tar sticking to Pittsburgh’s buildings and gradually “eats away” exposed surfaces.”  The pollution was costly to everyone who lived in Pittsburgh, especially the poor and working-class families.  The budgets became tied up due to environmental issues, “What does this mean to the private citizens? Well, ultimately, he pays these extra expenses of the business establishments.  And he can be sure that is experiencing the same extra expenses on a smaller scale, at home.  Estimates of the amount of money that Pittsburghers spend needlessly, because of smoke, range from $15 to $25 a year per capita. That would mean $60 to $100 a year for a family of four”, says Love.  In comparison to other smoke-free cities, the paint used on homes and office buildings would last only half as long in Pittsburgh. Up to 500 pounds of physical pollution would fall on every house in Pittsburgh communities.[18]

 The burden of these infrastructural issues fell largely on women living near and around the mill.  Women would be tasked with the upkeep of houses near the mill.  While many of their husbands worked at the mill, they were tasked with the daunting and draining job of cleaning up any residue or soot that found its way into the house.[19]  This was costly to these families as they would have to spend more money on cleaning products so that they can keep their house in a habitable status.

            With Pollution increasing throughout the city, activist looked for ways to limit the smoke emissions.  One of the most important aspects of this was finding a cleaner energy source that could be used throughout businesses and homes.  A new ordinance was put into place to force the use of low volatile fuel.  However, this would be more costly to businesses and families.  Low-class and working-class families would have to spend a majority of their budgets to meet these regulations. [20]  While spending hours on end working at the mills.  Employees had to spend their hard-earned money on cleaner fuel because their own place of work was unable to limit its pollution into the community.  This raised many concerns from different environmental activist groups who did not take into thought the situation of the steelworkers. More on this later regarding activism againtst pollution and steel workers.

Steel Mills Societal Impact:

            The foundation and structure of the steel mills allowed for discrimination against a few different groups but particularly the African Americans in its workplace.  Steel companies would openly discriminate against African American workers and refused to give them a fair chance to succeed in the work field.  Jones and Laughlin were specifically known for the actions of doing everything they can to not hire African Americans.  During the time periods of 1945-1970 African Americans were unable to advance up through the ranks of positions throughout the mill, John Hinshaw says in Steel and Steelworkers, that “Jones and Laughlin would use up every white employee in the entire plant before a single non-white could become a pusher.”[21]  This forced the African American workers to accept the lower paying jobs of the mill, therefore making it much more difficult to have a comfortable lifestyle.  The number of hours they would have to work to make a livable earning increased and with that their exposure to the toxic air pollutants would increase. This showed the lack of upward mobility for employees of different races and ethnicities therefore exposing them even more to the environmental injustice occurring.

While the outlook throughout the city and the industry was that the rights for African American employees were advancing, Dennis Dickerson explains in his book, Out of the Crucible: Black Steelworkers in Western Pennyslvania that this was not the case, “Employers in the Pittsburgh vicinity made minimal attempts during the 1950s to erase the blot of racial discrimination from the steel industry.  With only lukewarm support from the United Steelworkers of America, the absence of a federal FEPC, and a weak state fair employment practices agency, Black steelworkers in Western Pennsylvania experienced little occupational advancement.”[22]  While the Fair Employment Practice Committee continued to make waves in advancements in the 1950s under President Roosevelt, the positive affects of it were not seen by African American Steel workers in Pittsburgh as it was not strongly enforced by the Pennsylvania state.[23]  Weak enforcement of national policies throughout the city of Pittsburgh put minority steel workers in an unideal work environment with barriers to occupational growth.       

 While these issues were noticed by the local African American employees, they would fight for workplace justice through civil rights activism.   Leading up to the demise of the steel industry, groups of African Americans came up with lawsuits charging steel companies with racism.  Jones and Laughlin was one of these companies charged by a group of African American says a 1981 article in the The Afro American newspaper, “PITTSBURGH (UPI)- Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp. executives have interviewed 25 of 37 black employees who signed a letter alleging the firm engages in racial discrimination, a spokesman has said.  The J & L Black Caucus told reporters the nation’s third largest steelmaker does not give salaried black workers the same opportunities as whites for advancement into management and supervisory ranks.” the article continues, “Mcneil alleged that J & L has no top black executives and that the company has no black employees.”[24]  While the odds were stacked against African American steelworkers in Pittsburgh, they joined forces together as one, showing resiliency while fighting for workplace advancements in an already difficult industry.

While African Americans worked for justice through their employment in the steel industry, other groups of steelworkers showed signs of cohesion by forming workers unions to fight for better working rights against the owners.  The steel mills’ owning classes were against the formation of these unions as they would make the working class much stronger.   With the formation of these unions in the 1950s, the main goal for the unions were to receive better compensation and better working conditions throughout the mills.[25]  The unions were a way for the employees to stand together as one in solidarity against the owners of the mills.  This would help them settle disputes when being treated unfairly.

  There are multiple examples of disputes between the unions and Jones and Laughlin.  A 1969 article in The Press-Courier newspaper describes one of the issues, “The dispute concerned what local union officers said was a hazardous condition within the plant, 26 supervisors operating trains because regular train men are on strike.  The steelworkers have a no-strike clause in their contract, prohibiting them from honoring the trainmen’s picket lines.”[26]  Many disputes occurred between unions and owners throughout the industry.  The workers gained strength by adding members into their union as the owners knew the mills would not be able to operate without its workers.

Activist Vs Pollution:

            Because of the pollution effecting the local environment of Pittsburgh, environmental activist groups were formed, determined to help put an end to the issue. These environmental groups who were rightfully fighting for environmental justice, would be a threat to the livelihood of steel workers and their low-class families.  A big emphasis was put on smoke and how it can be limited throughout the city of Pittsburgh.  Different groups such as the Civic Club and League of Women Voters along with the Allegheny County Citizens against air pollution contributed to the eventual creation of the 1949 Clean Smoke Ordinance.  Jones and Laughlin Corp. was known to be a prominent offender of smoke pollution in Pittsburgh. [27]  However, this was to no fault of the mill workers.  This pollution was all in part because of the owners overseeing the operations of the mills. While environmental activists saw steelworkers as the ones causing the pollution, in hindsight, they were the ones being affected the most.  

 Throughout the 1940s-1980s, one of the main issues going on was brought up by Mayor Scully during a Pittsburgh City Council meeting, “How can clean air be achieved without hurting the little guy”.  Another politician remarked to city council, “Don’t you know, the poor people, they don’t want smoke control.”[28]  If anyone should have been affected by the pollution occurring throughout the city it certainly was not the steelworkers. The responsibility relies solely on the owners of steel mills such as Jones and Laughlin.

Eventually the efforts made by environmentalist groups in the 1970s and early 1980s would lead to the eventual demise of the steel industry in Pittsburgh.  Steelworkers would show their displeasure in events of mills being shut down. In a 1979 newspaper article, Marvin Weinstock, a national representative of the United Steelworkers union displayed his disdain for the firms throughout the industry as they announced plant closures, “Let’s take this fight and will it all the way. They (the steel companies) have failed consistently to invest a dollar in those plants.  They’ve milked us dry… you (steel workers) invested here, you invested in your churches, you paid your taxes and we want your steel companies to invest here.”[29]  While steelworkers bared devastating effects from the closing of mills, the owners of these companies escaped unscathed as they moved into different industries throughout the country.[30]  This is seemingly what the end of the industrialization of steel in the city of Pittsburgh looked like.


While the steel workers showed signs of community cohesion by creating workers unions to help create better compensation and work environments for themselves, they were unable to fight for environmental rights because that would put the entire steel industry, their source of income, in jeopardy.  Despite their hesitations towards fighting for environmental injustice, the steelworkers and union members had to worry about different environmentalist groups that would put their livelihoods and work at the steel mills at risk.  The solution to Mayor Scully’s question asking, “How can clean air be achieved without hurting the little guy?”, was unfortunately never properly answered or resolved. It was certainly no secret to steelworkers in the mills that there were environmental issues from their line of work.  However, fighting these environmental injustices to the steelworkers was not worth the risk of losing everything they had.  While the mills provided environmental challenges including health impacts, economic impacts and social impacts for steelworkers, the mills meant everything to those working throughout them.



  1. History of the Steelmark,” American Iron and Steel Institute, 20 October 2020,
  2. Stephen Foster, “Pittsburgh Becomes the City of Steel,” PBS, accessed 6 May 2024,

[3] Edward Muller and Joel Tarr. Making Industrial Pittsburgh Modern: Environment, Landscape, Transportation, Energy and Planning. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019, chapter 4 .

[4] Joel Tarr and Angela Gugliotta. Devastation and Renewal: An Environmental History of Pittsburgh and its Region. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.

[5] John Hinshaw. Steel and Steelworkers: Race and Class Struggle in Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002 p. 1-2.

[6] Records of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation, MSS#33, Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania, accessed 6 May 2024, – gives specific data corresponding to Jones and Laughlin Corp. including employee and manufacturing numbers.

[7] Joel Tarr and Denise Di Pasquale, “The Mill Town in the Industrial City: Pittsburgh’s Hazelwood,” Urbanism Past & Present 7, no. 1 (1982): 1-14,

[8] John Hinshaw. Steel and Steelworkers: Race and Class Struggle in Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002, p 3-4.

[9] Public Health Service, Register of Air Pollution Analyses as of 1 January 1956, Accessed 2024,

[10] Fred Jones. “Steel Mills Most Obvious Polluters.” The Pittsburgh Press, 11 July 1968, p. 2,,2798039&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjToKOQ6uaFAxX9D1kFHRfbBIE4ChDoAXoECAcQAg#v=onepage&q=jones%20laughlin%20pollution&f=false  -accessed through online database.

[11] P. Geny and E. Dohen, “Measures Against Water Pollution in the Iron and Steel Industry,” Pure and Applied Chemistry 29, nos. 1-3 (1972): 191-200,

[12] “Report: Steel Industry Lags on Antipollution Efforts,” Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 24 May 1973, p.18-C, -accessed through online database

[13] Jennifer M. Logue, Mitchell J. Small, Allen L. Robinson, “Evaluating the National Air Toxics Assessment (NATA): Comparison of Predicted and Measured Air Toxics Concentrations, Risks, and Sources in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” Atmospheric Environment 45, no. 2 (2011): 476-484.

[14] Gregory A. Wellenius, Thomas F. Bateson, Murray A. Mittleman, Joel Schwartz, “Particulate Air Pollution and the Rate of Hospitalization for Congestive Heart Failure among Medicare Beneficiaries in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,” American Journal of Epidemiology 161, no. 11 (2005): 1030–1036.

[15] John Bronson. “Pittsburgh Smog Last Fall Tied to 14 ‘Excess’ Deaths.” Youngstown Vindicator, 26 April, 1976, -accessed through online database.

[16] JONES & L. STEEL C. v. WCAB (FEIERTAG), 90 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 567 – Pa: Commonwealth Court 1985

[17] Gilbert Love. “67000 Tons of Dirt Drift Down on City Every Year.” The Pittsburgh Press, 7 November 1945, p.21, – accessed through online database.

[18] Gilbert Love. “67000 Tons of Dirt Drift Down on City Every Year.” The Pittsburgh Press, 7 November 1945, p.21, – accessed through online database.

[19] Joel Tarr and Angela Gugliotta, Devastation and Renewal: An Environmental History of Pittsburgh and Its Region, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.

[20] Joel Tarr and Angela Gugliotta, Devastation and Renewal: An Environmental History of Pittsburgh and Its Region, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.

[21] John Hinshaw, Steel and Steelworkers: Race and Class Struggle in Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh, Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002, p. 20-43.

[22] Dennis Dickerson Out of the Crucible: Black Steelworkers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875-1990. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1986, p 183-186.

[23] Dennis Dickerson. Out of the Crucible: Black Steelworkers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875-1990. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1986 p. 183-186.

[24] “Workers Charge Steel Company with Racism,” The Afro American, 29 August 1981,  -accessed through online database.

[25] John Hinshaw. Steel and Steelworkers: Race and Class Struggle in Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002, p. 1-6.

[26] “Steel Plant Shut Down by Dispute.” The Press-Courier. 9 November 1969, p. 5,,2493012&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwj2z-7Lz_-FAxW2MlkFHTM-BgQQ6AF6BAgGEAI#v=onepage&q=steel%20plant%20shut%20down%20by%20dispute&f=false -accessed through online database.   

[27] Joel Tarr and Angela Gugliotta, Devastation and Renewal: An Environmental History of Pittsburgh and Its Region, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.

[28] Joel Tarr and Angela Gugliotta, Devastation and Renewal: An Environmental History of Pittsburgh and Its Region, Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.

[29] “Angry Steel Workers Protest Layoffs as Firms Announce Plant Closures.” Eugene Register-Guard. 30 November 1979, p. 6a, – accessed through online database.

[30] “Angry Steel Workers Protest Layoffs as Firms Announce Plant Closures.” Eugene Register-Guard. 30 November 1979, p. 6a, – accessed through online database.


Primary Sources:

NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp., 301 US 1 – Supreme Court 1937
This source is a court case between the Jones and Laughlin Corp. and one of its employees who had to retire due to health concerns.  These health concerns were deemed to be caused by the pollutants coming from the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill.

Love, Gilbert. “67000 Tons of Dirt Drift Down on City Every Year.” The Pittsburgh Press, 7 November 1945.
This source is a newspaper article describing the amount of pollution that plagued the city.  It breaks down the cost that the pollution would cause in repairs as well as the distribution of pollution into each house.

“Steel Plant Shut Down by Dispute.” The Press-Courier. 9 November 1969.
This source is a newspaper article about multiple steel mills ran by corporations throughout Pittsburgh shutting down.  The article includes quotes from a union activist protesting the mill owners and their actions of shutting down the plants.

Public Health Service, Register of Air Pollution Analyses as of 1 January 1956.
This source is an analyses of Pittsburgh’s air quality at the beginning of the year 1956.  This was a prominent time for the mills operations as they were producing massive amounts of steel daily.  The analyses shows the main issue of sulfur dioxide contaminating the air along with physically visible toxins such as dust fall.

Jones, Fred. “Steel Mills Most Obvious Polluters.” The Pittsburgh Press, 11 July 1968.
This source is a newspaper article describing Jones and Laughlin’s role in the cities air pollution.  It was well known that the steel mill was an environmental issue.  It describes some of the specific issues and pollutants released from the mill.

Secondary Sources:

Hinshaw, John. Steel and Steelworkers: Race and Class Struggle in Twentieth-Century Pittsburgh. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002.

This source provides information regarding racial and class issues revolving around the steel industry of Pittsburgh. People of different races and ethnicities were treated differently while working in the steel mills.  There were certainly disadvantages for people of color working in these types of environments.  The source also takes a look into women and how they were considered “second-class” workers.  The book explains the U.S Steel company and how they treated employees of color and the fight against these civil injustices.

Tarr, Joel A. Devastation and Renewal: An Environmental History of Pittsburgh and its Region. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003.

This source explains the environmental landscape of Pittsburgh and its history.  It discusses enviornmental issues with the City of Pittsburgh’s three rivers; the Allegheny, Ohio, and Mononglehala. Natural environments vs. man-made environments throughout the city and how they are intertwined are also discussed.  Pittsbugh water and sewage treatment is a main issue that is analyzed in this source along with airquality throughout the city.  The 1948 Donora air disaster and those affected by the disaster is also discussed and is a key part to this project.

Muller, Edward K, and John A Tarr. Making Industrial Pittsburgh Modern: Environment, Landscape, Transportation, Energy and Planning. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2019.

This source examines the advancements of Pittsburgh’s infrastructure over time.  Different forms of transportation form commuting people to and from the city into the suburbs of Western Pennsylvania. Community revitalization is a very important piece of context that is analyzed in this source for the project in regards to the City of Pittsburgh.   A detailed plan for the continued increase of infrastructure in Pittsburgh is outlined throughout this source.

Dickerson, Dennis C. Out of the Crucible: Black Steelworkers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875-1990. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1986.

This source examines black steelworkers in the post World War II era and what their environment looked like.  There seemed to be civil progress for blacks in the steel industry but it truly was an elusion.  The source analyzes some of the events that made it appear that there was progress being made for blacks in the steel industry when these events truly did nothing to help the community of those working in the steel mills.

Geny, P. and Dohen, “Measures against water pollution in the iron and steel industry”; Pure and Applied Chemistry, vol. 29, no. 1-3, 1972, pp. 191-200.

This source examines the types of water pollution occurring from the steel industry.  The source also shows potential ways to combat the water pollution.  The source describes the different types of industries and what types of pollutants are created from each.

Image Analysis:


This image provides an aerial overview of the J and L steel mill located in the South Side of Pittsburgh during a typical day of operation.  This image is produced by the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania which covers the city of Pittsburgh and its greater area.  The image stands out with its large, ample amount of furnaces stemming from the Steel mill and its proximity to downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The environmental justice site is not just the mill itself, but the surrounding neighborhoods in the proximity of the mill.  However, the sprawling steel mill located on the southern shore of the river, and its neighboring steel mill on the adjacent northern shore of the river (across Hot Metal Bridge located in bottom right) are the sources of the environmental contamination.  The Jones & Laughlin Steel Company mill created an industrialized environment for surrounding communities and its inhabitants.  

In this photo, the thick smoke from a multiple steel mill furnaces roams through the air and across the monongahela river on which the mill resides.  The smoke appears to clear the residential areas above the steel mill across the photo, but make no mistake, there are even more residents residing across the river on the North side.  In this photo there already seems to be a large amount of smoke rising in the air and it appears that only half of the furnaces are turned on at this exact time.  If all the furnaces were turned on, one may not be able to see much of the image through the smoke filled air.  There is smoke rising from the bottom of the mill as well.  This image shows the amount of air affected by the steel mill and the effects that it could have on the local community.  Families that lived directly by the steel mill, mostly the families of employees, had to deal with the thick smoky air produced by the vast mill. 

In the distance of the photo, you can see the the skyline of downtown Pittsburgh.  These tall skyscrapers are home to corporate, big name office buildings.  These buildings are not engulfed by mill smoke and appear to be safe from the environmental effect from the steel mills.  It is important to recognize that white collar employees working in these large skyscraper buildings had much to do with the ownership of the steel mills.  These office buildings in which owners and managers worked from had easy access to bridges and infrastructure which would allow them to easily commute to their homes in the North and South Hills, significantly farther away from the Steel mills.  The downtown area of Pittsburgh remained environmentally clean and those who worked there had homes located nowhere near the steel mills.  The corporate buildings in the image earned a much larger wage for its employees than those of the laborers working in the steel mill down the river.  They also had much cleaner air.  

The railroads play another crucial part in the image.  You can see many tracks located in the bottom left of the image.  These train tracks do not look like they were used for individuals to commute, but for industrial use and shipping.  The large amount of steel produced needed to be transported on the railroad creating even more environmental injustice to the local area.  The inhabitants of the area had no other options but to live with the pollutants created by the railroads and pollutants coming from trains.  In the photo there are railroads going in many different directions.  The large stack of tracks on the left side represent the transportation of steel beyond the South Side of Pittsburgh and the Hot Metal Bridge (bottom right) shows a railway that could connect the steel mill to the North. 

This image helps prove that the surrounding communities of the steel mill were essentially living in an industrial jungle.  While employees had to work at the steel mill to earn a living wage to support their families, they could not afford to live far enough from the mill to avoid its environmental effects.  This part of the city was smoked in by the Jones & Laughlin Laughlin Company Steel mill on the south side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Oral Interviews:

This is an oral interview with my father, Frank Craska.  He was born during the 1960s and grew up in Greenfield, PA.  This neighborhood was located within a mile of the Jones and Laughlin Steel Mill.  Throughout the interview he provides insight on what it was like growing up in the community in which the steel mill affected.