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McMaster maps and archives help shed light on “pivotal point” in Hamilton’s history

In 1946, 13,000 Hamilton workers went on strike– the largest in the city’s history. A new graphic novel a new graphic novel explores this tumultuous time.
McMaster maps and archives help shed light on “pivotal point” in Hamilton’s history

A new graphic novel a new graphic novel explores this tumultuous time with the help of materials from McMaster’s archives and maps collections.

The year is 1946. 13,000 Hamilton workers are on strike. Once quiet neighbourhoods in the city’s east end are now teeming with striking workers carrying picket signs, fighting for a better life.

It was the largest strike in Hamilton’s history and now this tumultuous time has been recreated in, Showdown! Making Modern Unions, written by Rob Kristofferson and Simon Orpana, a graphic novel created with the help of materials from McMaster’s archives and maps collections.

“It is important to remember the rights and society that people fought so hard for during the 20th century,” says Kristofferson, co-author and associate professor, History and Society, Culture & Environment at Wilfred Laurier University*. “In Canada, one of the epicentres of these struggles—a pivotal point that galvanized the structures that workers had been fighting for decades—happened in Hamilton.”

On July 15, 1946, thousands of Stelco steelworkers, many of whom were veterans recently returned from World War II, walked out on their jobs, demanding, among other things, a 40-hour workweek, higher wages and better benefits. It wasn’t long before they were joined by workers from Firestone, Westinghouse, and The Hamilton Spectator and by mid-summer, nearly 20 per cent of the city's industrial workforce was on strike.

To help tell the story of this seminal event in Hamilton’s history, Kristofferson and Orpana turned to McMaster’s William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections and Lloyd Reeds Maps Collection, which together, house extensive labour studies collections and historical maps from the period.

See the full story here.