Structural Iron Worker Four Hundred Feet High on the Singer Tower, New York.

Structural iron workers risked life and limb daily in their trade. Early structural ironworkers were not recognized as skilled workers by other building trades and it took years before they gained respect as skilled tradesmen. It also took years of struggle before they received pay commensurate with the dangers they faced on the job. The difference in skill required is demonstrated by the length of the apprenticeships found in agreements and contracts of this time, with the period of time ranging from six months to a maximum of eighteen months for ironworkers. In contrast, most of the other skilled building trades required three to five years of apprenticeship. As a union trade organizer put it in 1914, the trade takes "probably three to four months to learn how to heat and drive rivets" and after that the main learning goal was "to become accustomed to going up high and not falling off." Sidney Fine, Without Blare of Trumpets: Walter Drew, the National Erectors' Association, and the Open Shop Movement, 1903-57, 12 (1995).