In the first few years of the 20th century, approximately 35,000 deaths and 1 million injuries per year occurred on industrial jobs in America.
Many of the deaths occurred on railroad jobs, which were especially dangerous.
The newspaper cutting below describes the horrific injuries that caused the death of switchman James G. Blaine of Cumberland as he shifted cars. Switchmen worked in the railroad yards, hooking cars together, sometimes while the cars were moving.
No federal regulation of safety nor enforcement of state or local safety regulations existed, and courts were not sympathetic to worker claims.
You will be able to see the story of how labor organizations fought for the right of workers to safe working conditions in our display of artifacts, photos and cuttings during the Smithsonian Way We Worked exhibition, February 3 to March 24 2017 – free!