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.
Join us for the first First Wednesday Reading Series of 2016.
January 6, 7:00, downtown at Suzie’s Dogs & Drafts, 32 Phelps St.
Free parking in the lot behind the Voinovich Building, corner of Hazel and Commerce.
Open mic emceed by YSU historian Thomas Sabatini.
Mahoning County Historical Society Executive Director Bill Lawson will speak on poet Michael McGovern, a Youngstown steelworker who immigrated from Ireland in the 1800s.
McGovern’s collection of poems, Labor Lyrics, came out in 1899 and had a national audience.
McGovern is buried in Calvary Cemetery.
Bill Lawson is the Director of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society in Youngstown, Ohio, serving in that position since 1991. He has been employed by MVHS in a variety of capacities since 1987. Lawson holds B. A. and M. A. Degrees in History from Youngstown State University. He served as a Trustee of the Ohio Museums Association from 1993 to 1995. He served on the Board of Trustees of the Ohio Association of Historical Societies and Museums from 1997 to 2005, and was President of this Association from 2002-2003.