Joseph T. Ryerson and Son, Inc.


In the early 1840s, Joseph T. Ryerson arrived in Chicago as an agent of a Pennsylvania iron firm, and soon opened his own shop at a site on the Chicago River. Although the 1871 Chicago Fire destroyed the Ryerson warehouse, the company rebuilt and continued to grow on the Chicago River until 1903, when it moved to this facility served by North Lawndale's many industrial rail lines. In 1935, Joseph T. Ryerson and Son, Inc., became a subsidiary of Inland Steel. The Ryerson plant, with significant capital investments, has remained in North Lawndale even as most of the neighborhood's industry left in the decades after World War II, and especially after 1970. Recently, the company has also funded community development and organization initiatives in the North Lawndale neighborhood. Ryerson also maintains a plant on the South Side near the intersection of 111th Street and the Bishop Ford Expressway (Interstate 94). The two accompanying photos show an aerial view of the North Lawndale plant (Chicago History Museum, ICHi-39815), and white-collar workers at the plant in 1941 (ICHi-39919). Today, the plants employ approximately 540 union workers represented by the joint United Steelworkers and Teamsters Union Local 714.

Labor Trail




W 16th St & S Rockwell St

Labor Trail

The Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies (CCWCS) is proud to present the Interactive Labor Trail, made possible by a generous grant from the Illinois Humanities Council. This on-line history resource builds on “The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle,” a map of 140 significant locations in the history of labor, migration, and working-class culture in Chicago and Illinois. The Labor Trail is the product of a joint effort to showcase the many generations of dramatic struggles and working-class life in the Chicago area's rich and turbulent past. The Trail's neighborhood tours invite you to get acquainted with the events, places, and people -- often unsung -- who have made the city what it is today. In addition, the statewide map is just a starting point for further exploration of Illinois' labor heritage. This Interactive Labor Trail expands the number of locations and provides a greater depth of information, while giving map users the chance to add their knowledge of locations and events in the Chicago area’s working-class history.

We invite all individuals, groups, and institutions interested in the labor and working-class history of Chicago, Cook County, the Calumet Region, and Illinois to contribute to the map. Users can add new sites, edit or build upon existing entries with additional text, photographs, primary sources, audio and video files, as well as links to related websites.

Easy-to-use instructions for adding to the on-line version of the map are available at

More information on the Chicago Center for Working-Class Studies is available at:

The Labor Trail: Chicago's History of Working-Class Life and Struggle

Project Director:
Leon Fink, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Advisors:
Tobias Higbie, Newberry Library
Lisa Oppenheim, Chicago Metro History Education Center
Liesl Miller Orenic, Dominican University

Administrative Director:
Jeffrey Helgeson, University of Illinois at Chicago

Project Assistants:
Aaron Max Berkowitz, University of Illinois at Chicago; John H. Flores, University of Illinois at Chicago; Erik Gellman, Northwestern University; Dan Harper, University of Illinois at Chicago; Emily LaBarbera-Twarog, University of Illinois at Chicago

Web Design:
William Atwood and Melissa Palmer