Battle of Homestead

OFF 84, Detre Library and Archives / Heinz History Center

The steep drive up P.J. McArdle Roadway takes drivers from the Liberty Bridge to the top of Mt. Washington's scenic overlook. It reveals a stunning view of Pittsburgh’s skyline and three rivers, from the Point State Park Fountain to the Birmingham Bridge. 

Alex Popichak / 90.5 WESA

In 1892, the country’s largest trade union, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, took on the world’s largest manufacturing firm, the Carnegie Steel Corporation. Carnegie’s plant manager Henry Clay Frick increased production demands, but refused to increase wages. Frick eventually locked workers out of the facility spurring a strike.

Only about a fifth of the workers at the Homestead Works Steel Mill were skilled workers represented by the union. But the nearly 3,000 workers agreed to strike for better wages and working conditions.

Oscar Winner Rylance Co-Writing Battle Of Homestead Play

Jul 5, 2017
Matty Sayles/Invision / AP

As an Oscar- and Tony Award-winner and one of the leading Shakespearean actors of his day, Mark Rylance knows a great story when he hears one.

He's captivated these days by the story of the historic 1892 Homestead Strike, when thousands of steel workers and townspeople clashed with Pinkerton guards hired by steel magnate Andrew Carnegie and industrialist Henry Clay Frick to end a labor dispute that turned deadly.

Library of Congress

Most days, Henry Clay Frick liked to take a late lunch with friends at the Duquesne Club, just a short distance from his Fifth Avenue office at the Chronicle-Telegraph building. He’d just returned to his desk on Saturday, July 23 1892, when anarchist Alexander Berkman, wearing a brand new black suit, pushed the door open.  

“Berkman rushed in, drew a .38 caliber revolver, and fired two quick shots right at Frick, point blank,” said Andy Masich, president of the Heinz History Center.

The first shot hit Frick in the shoulder, the second in the neck. As Frick’s associates wrestled Berkman to the ground, he fired a third time, hitting the ceiling. Berkman reached for the dagger in his pocket and struck at Frick’s legs. That dagger remains on display at the museum.