17. Pittsburgh Steel Mill

Steel Workers Strike scene on The Gilded Age
Photograph by Barbra Nitke/HBO

At the end of episode 6, George Russell’s fraught relationship with the union steelworkers at his Pittsburgh plant reaches a breaking point. The workers go on strike, demanding eight-hour work days. This fictional conflict was inspired by a real-life altercation. The Homestead strike occurred in 1892 and involved workers of the Carnegie Steel Company in Homestead, Pennsylvania. While Andrew Carnegie was away in Scotland, he left operations of the company to Henry Clay Frick (of the eponymous art museum). In Carngie’s absence, Frick cut wages.

The union workers were expectedly upset by this. Frick responded by firing the workers and blocking them from the plant. He hired Pinkerton Detective Agency security guards to keep the workers out. The workers knew the next step Frick would take was going to be hiring non-union workers. The workers stormed the plant and a violent battle between the workers and Pinkterons ensued, leaving at least three Pinkertons and seven workers dead. The strike in the show has a peaceful ending.