Despite our first blast of winter weather, Bill Lawson filled the house in early January when he gave an interesting talk on historic Youngstown “Puddler Poet” Michael McGovern. Lawson put McGovern’s poems in historical, economic, occupational and literary context when he talked about immigration patterns, the job of a “puddler,” and the style and popularity of McGovern’s poems, which take up the cause of the laborer.
We learned that McGovern lived to be 84 or 85 (sources conflict), much longer than most iron workers. It was “hard, heavy, dangerous work; the lifespan of puddlers and helpers after the Civil War was less than 40 years. The hours were long (12-13 per day, six days per week); wages low.” Certainly it was beneficial to McGovern’s health when he “left the iron and steel industry during a strike; worked as a State of Ohio Oil Inspector (obituary) and foreman in the Youngstown Street Department (1920 Census).”
Michael McGovern’s poetry was published in The Youngstown Vindicator and the Youngstown Telegram, cultural periodicals like Gaelic American, and The Amalgamated Journal. His collection Labor Lyrics and Other Poems was published by the Youngstown Vindicator Press in 1899.
Interested in reading poems from this collection? Visit the Ohio Memory Collection.