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Honoring Labor

Most medals are for military service which usually represents a very small portion of ones life when compared to the major portion of a life spent “working for the man.” Workers are truly America’s unsung heroes. There once was a time, not so long ago, when a worker could expect to work for only one or maybe two employers during his entire career or until retirement. Those were the days when businesses and manufacturing facilities were bought and sold to increase productivity. People wanted to make money the old fashioned way by producing things which would be sold at a profit unlike the buyers in today’s world who play financial shell games just to make quick and easy money by cannibalizing the companies they buy and suck them dry like vampires leaving only armies of unemployed workers and abandoned buildings in their wake.
In the “good old days” when long term employment was possible many companies issued long service awards in the form of medals or watch fobs. It is a vast uncharted field of collecting for those of us with a pioneering spirit. The best example of one such company is the United States Steel Corporation. In 1926 U S Steel instituted their long service awards program which consisted of a medal awarded to workers who had completed from ten to fifty years of service to the company. The medals were awarded in five year increments thus giving us 10, 15 and 20 year medals in bronze, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 45 year medals in silver and a 50 year medal in gold. The medals come in three versions; no loop, fob loop and a round loop for a cloth ribbon fob . The bronze and silver versions were made by at least two different makers and the gold version was made by three different makers. The years a worker worked for a company before it was absorbed by U S Steel counted towards his U S Steel medal so that when the first medals were issued in 1926 on the company’s 25th anniversary there were already employees receiving their 30 or more year medals!
All the medals looked like the examples illustrated below with Chairman Gary’s portrait on the obverse and the workers on the reverse.

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