Steel City: 1980-2004 Exhibit Coming to El Pueblo History Museum
Retrospective Explores the Resilience and Struggle of Steel Workers and Community Members Through Turbulent Period
PUEBLO, Colo., (May 24, 2022) – Steel City: 1980-2004 will open at History Colorado’s El Pueblo History Museum on June 10, chronicling and highlighting a defining period in the city’s history as steelworkers and their families fought for labor rights and held their community together during often desperate times. As one of the museum’s core exhibits, Steel City spans more than two decades during which the steel industry, which was foundational to the region’s economy, collapsed nationwide, and Pueblo steel workers initiated a historic labor strike.
For more than four years, curators have assembled oral histories, archival documents, historic photographs, newspaper clippings, and more to illustrate the integral role the steel mill played in Pueblo history and culture. Visitors will explore the evolution and history of a steel making community in the late twentieth century, as the mill and the city survived downsizing and corporate raiding but endured with solidarity and grit. The exhibition emphasizes individual and collective actions leading up to and through the momentous strike in 1997 (which was eventually settled in 2004), illuminating the strength and tenacity of the community.
“Steel City has been a labor of love for everyone associated with the production of this exhibit,” said Dianne Archuleta, director of El Pueblo History Museum. “We hope that by shining a spotlight on this transformative period in Pueblo’s history, generations who came after can gain a deeper understanding of the communal struggle and eventual victory for steel workers. We also want to honor those who lived through this tumultuous period and share some of their stories of resistance and resilience.”
Post World War II, Colorado Fuel & Iron (CF&I), the largest private employer in the state, employed approximately 10,000 workers in Pueblo alone. However, the steel industry collapsed in the 1980s due to a myriad of circumstances, leading to years of economic and social hardship for the community. Much of the retrospective centers on narratives from a broad representation of workers and their families who give firsthand accounts of how they came together as a community, created new opportunities, aided one another and fought for worker’s rights.
Steel City has been made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy Demands Wisdom. Additional support has been provided by the Southern Colorado Labor Council, United Steelworkers District 12, Robert Hoag Rawlings Foundation, Colorado WINS, and the City of Pueblo.
"Southern Colorado's labor movement is excited to support this project because it is so important for people to understand that workers are really who build a community, and that we don't need to look for someone outside of us to save Pueblo. We've been saving ourselves for a long time,” commented Hilary Glasgow, president of Southern Colorado Labor Council.
About El Pueblo History Museum
History Colorado’s El Pueblo History Museum is located at 301 N. Union Avenue in the heart of historic downtown Pueblo, part of the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk District and the Pueblo Creative Corridor. The museum stands on the site of the original El Pueblo trading post, constructed in 1842. The museum site features beautiful galleries, a gift shop, bookstore, gardens, an active archaeological dig, and a recreation of the 1842 adobe trading post. Trading Post and archaeological tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Current exhibits include Borderlands of Southern Colorado, High Water Marks, Hecho en Colorado, and the Museum of Memory.