Ron Baraff is the Director of Museum Collections at Rivers of Steel in Homestead, PA. He wrote in to Locally Toned this summer to see if the project would be interested in some tones related to the history of the steel industry. My answer was yes–such tones would certainly represent what some of the industrial history in this region sounded like, and I was interested in what tone content might be brought to light from the extensive archive.
The Rivers of Steel museum/archive is located in the historic Bost Building on E. Eighth Avenue in Homestead. It was originally built as a hotel, restaurant and bar.
The building is a national landmark, largely famous because the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (and the international press) chose it as headquarters during the Homestead Lock Out and Strike of 1892. At that time, the building was the tallest building in Homestead and 2 blocks from the Carnegie Steel Company mill. It’s a fascinating story, so if you’re interested in this region’s history, I recommend that you read more about the event.
The collection housed within the Bost Building is impressive–when I visited Rivers of Steel, an exhibition entitled “Safety First” was up. Some of the audio files which Ron submitted to Locally Toned for consideration came from mill-sponsored films associated with this particular archive.
When I asked Ron which audio file was most resonant for him of the steel industry/history as an archivist, he said, “The sound of the tapping of the open hearth. That is the vessel that allowed for the growth of industry in this region. So many men and women worked here and tried to make better lives for their families.” Have a listen to the Open Hearth Tone.
Here’s the very dramatic Steel Plate Shearing Line Tone. It’s the sound of long runs of steel plate being cut, which Ron also described as a sound associated with compressing steel to slab.
The final Rivers of Steel tone has been excerpted from a locally produced industrial film called “With These Hands.” Ron described the movie about mill safety this way:
“This schlock-shock film from 1956 graphically tells the story of a double amputee grappling with his severe injury that’s the result of a mill accident. This kind of movie will scare the hell out of you. It was shot in Renzie Park in McKeesport, in Technicolor. It’s also important to note that the music was performed by the McKeesport Symphony Orchestra. The siren sound you hear goes off in the film every time a flag waves to show the viewer that something dangerous is about to happen.”
I’m calling this tone the Siren Alert Signal (from With These Hands).
Thanks to Ron and Rivers of Steel for sharing these special historic audio archives (and some images) with Locally Toned.