Pittsburgh's Outdoor Murals and Public Art, discovered on bicycle around the Burgh bike

 

The Puddler aka Joe Magarac by Harriton Carved Glass Company

300 Sixth Avenue Downtown, Pittsburgh PA 15222
40.44195,-79.999489


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,
They night and day pour out their thunder.
As every Ingot rolls away,
A dozen more are split 'asunder.
There is a sign above the gate:
Eleven days since a man lay dying,
Now every shift brings fear and hate, and shaken men in terror crying.

The molten rivers boil away
    a fiery brew Hell never equalled,
To their profits the bosses pray,
And Mammon sings in his grim cathedral:
His attendants join the choir,
and Heaven help us if we're shirking!
Stoke the furnace's altar fire and just be thankful that we're working!

To this, men, charge the hoppers high,
'lest you endure the foreman's choler!
To this, men, drain the tankards dry,
And let us toast the almighty Dollar;
It keeps us chained here before the fire,
Where heat and noise send the weak a quaking.
That the Siren's infernal cry the open heart sets the ground to shaping.

To this, men, raise the ladies high
and make them shriek with love and laughter!
To this, men, kiss you woman's eyes,
and raise a song unto the rafters.

Wash the steel mill from your hair,
Beat the table 'till it's breaking.
Don't let terror enter there and in the hearth set the glasses breaking!

 

 



TAGS mural, The Puddler aka Joe Magarac, Downtown, The Puddler, Puddler, steelworker, steel, Harrington Carved Glass Company, Spear and Company, Harriton Carved Glass Company , ,

 

We strive for accuracy. If you can offer any updates or corrections, please email pghmurals@gmail.com

 

 

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