The Puddler aka Joe Magarac
300 Sixth Avenue Downtown, Pittsburgh PA 15222
This 27 foot high mural, "The Puddler", shows a man - a steel puddler - with molten metal pouring from a vast ladle amid a shower of fiery sparks. It is located on Pittsburgh's Wood Street, between Sixth and Oliver, at the site of the former Spear and Company. (link)
The original artist is not known. The mural was fabricated in 1939 by the Harrington Carved Glass Company of NY, and made out of carved and colored glass. The mural, titled "The Puddler", is electrified and illuminated at night.
This photograph of "The Puddler", illuminated in the darkness, comes courtesy of Allison Rowlan, proprieter of the blog EverythingBetterPgh. It shows the mural from a time before the GNC signage was installed and we are grateful for her permission to use her photo.
A misappropriation: Wikipedia and other sources have more recently come to describe the artwork as a depiction of Joe Magarac, and in fact the Wikipedia Joe Magarac page uses a photgraph of The Peddler as a depiction of Magarac. This was not the intention of the original artists, and no mention of the pseudo-mythic Magarac was ever made or documented in connection with The Puddler. Although The Puddler is consistent with the Joe Magarac narrative, this seems more likely to be artifact of the Magarac fakelore than an legitimate identification of the artwork.
Although the term "puddler" and the job that it refers to are almost unknown in today's today, during the industrial revolution and within the steel industry it is a skilled and respected position. The puddler converts pig iron into wrought iron by working a puddle of it with a ladle and removing impurities.
Michael McGovern (1848-1933) was a working-class poet who earned national recognition, and he was widely known as "the Puddler Poet" in recognition of his having worked in Youngstown steel mills as a puddler. Here is a Flickr image of The Puddler: link.
There is a song, A Puddler's Tale, and it is sung here by Stan Rogers. (lyrics below)
They neither know of night or day,
The molten rivers boil away
To this, men, charge the hoppers high,
To this, men, raise the ladies high
Wash the steel mill from your hair,
TAGS mural, The Puddler aka Joe Magarac, Downtown, The Puddler, Puddler, steelworker, steel, Harrington Carved Glass Company, Spear and Company, ,
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