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Welcome to the Iron Workers Project


The aim of this project is to complement what is known about the economic and industrial development of the iron industry by focusing on the workforce -- the largely Irish, Catholic, immigrant population that surged into the area in the wake of the Irish potato famine and the growth of the region's railroad and iron industries. While its focus is the iron industry, it will include other work available to 19th century immigrants in the railroad, manufacturing, agricultural, teaching, and domestic service industries. And while the project expects to encounter a significant Irish presence among the 19th century workforce, it will also include individuals from other ethnic groups -- French Canadian, Italian, Polish, etc. -- to provide a better understanding of the ethnic diversity of the region during the industrial boom. The goal is to produce as complete a profile of as many representative individual workers as possible to provide a human dimension to the region's industrial history.


While the iron industry's major role in the region's history is well documented and while information is available on the industrialists and entrepreneurs who financed and profited from its growth, there is little information readily accessible on the iron industry's workforce. Who were these workers? What were their names and ages? Where did they come from? How large were their families and what jobs did they hold? To date, these and other details of these workers' lives have not been sufficiently and systematically collected. This project would begin to address this need for historical information on the region's industrial labor force by selecting a targeted demographic segment -- the parishioners of St. Bridget Church and selected immigrant parishioners from other northwest Connecticut parishes which sprung up in the 19th century within well-established, heavily Protestant local communities.

Origins: St. Bridget History Project (SBHP)

This project originated in 2005 with the St. Bridget History Project (SBHP) who, with support from the Connecticut Humanities Council and the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, began conducting an oral and archival history of St. Bridget Church, Cornwall Bridge, Connecticut. Its goals were to uncover and create a record of the parish's history, involve the local community, and preserve the architectural heritage of St. Bridget Church which was built in 1883.

That project led to the Iron (& Other) Workers Project which focuses on the labor and social history of the region. It was made possible by a grant from the Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area.
The Iron (& Other) Workers Projects is supported by the University of Connecticut – Torrington branch – and its Early College Experience Program and is a supporter of Locally Grown History.

rev. 2013