William Douglass papers1889-1915
William Douglass (1849-1925) worked his entire professional life in the steel industry. He was an educated steel worker and spent many years as foreman or superintendent at various jobs site, the majority being in Birmingham, Alabama. The papers are a collection of items partly documenting Douglass' career as a foreman in the steel industry in the Pittsburgh and Birmingham Districts from 1889-1915.
- Douglass, William, 1849-1925 (Person)
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William Douglass (1849-1925) worked his entire professional life in the steel industry. He was an educated steel worker and spent many years as foreman or superintendent at various jobs site, the majority being in Birmingham, Alabama. Douglass' life as a steel worker is indicative of many skilled workers who were educated and talented enough to rise to lower management levels based on their merit.
Douglass was born John Willard Douglass on September 17, 1849 near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He lived as "William Douglass" until his death in Birmingham, Alabama in 1925. It is not entirely clear why Douglass chose to use a variation of his middle name, but it is possible that he adopted "William" in order to enter the Army.
At the age of fourteen, Douglass ran away from his home near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He fled to Ohio where he joined an unknown Ohio regiment. Douglass served with this regiment until the end of the Civil War. After the war, he returned to Pittsburgh and began his life as a steel worker. It was here that he received his training in the steel industry. His life as a steel worker would carry him all over the United States, even taking him to Canada. Douglass spent time on projects in Alabama, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. Most, if not all of the work done by Douglass, concerned the installation and repairs of boilers. Some of the projects focused on smoke stack work, but the marjority revolved around boilers. He worked on the Bessemer Steel Works in Pittsburgh, the Napier Furnance in Tennessee, was the superintendent of a Stein & Schwarz boiler project, and served as foreman for the Birmingham Boiler Works. Douglass was also a member of the Brotherhood of Boiler Makers and Iron Ship Builders of America, Birmingham, Alabama.
According to Douglass' family, he was known for his perfectionism and his lack of a sense of humor. Though he was known for having almost no sense of humor, he was a family man. He married Louella "Ella" Goss (1870-1944) in Tennesse in 1891. Together, Douglass and Goss had twelve children. In great contrast to his life as a steel worker, Douglass had a particular interest in gardening, growing roses was a relaxing pastime. The last sixteen years of Douglass' life were spent working Alabama. Douglas died on June 6, 1925 in Alabama at the age of 75.
Scope and Contents
The papers are a collection of items partly documenting William Douglass' (1849-1925) career as a foreman in the steel industry in the Pittsburgh and Birmingham Districts from 1889-1915. The collection consists of twenty-four items including notebooks, time sheets, pocket guides, and correspondence. The majority of which are pocket-sized notebooks that contain information on boiler projects including employee names, mechanical drawings, and the hours Douglass worked, along with monthly and weekly time books, and steel industry publications. Many of the notebooks have information that spans more than one year. These notebooks are filed by the first year that appears in the notebook. The collection is completed by a series of correspondence between Douglass the Brotherhood of Boiler Markers and Iron Ship Builders of America, Birmingham, Alabama. The collection spans the years from 1889 to 1915. The Douglass papers represent a sample of the work done by William Douglass. There are notes and drawings on a number of projects on which Douglass worked.
No restrictions on access; this collection is open for research.
Language of Materials
- Douglass, William, 1849-1925 (Person)
Finding Aid & Administrative Information
- William Douglass papers
- Jason Sylvestre
- Description rules:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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- 2020: Ashley Williams
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