Belleville Labor & Industry Museum wows Sheet Metal Local 36 retirees

IMPRESSED – Members of Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 Retirees Club and their wives enjoyed a trip back into the history of the local labor movement during a March 11 visit the Belleville Labor & Industry History Museum. – Photo by Club President Vern Kraemer

Belleville — Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 Retirees Club paid a recent visit to the Labor & Industry Museum here after reading about it in the Labor Tribune and discovered “a little known gem right around the corner.”

That’s the description Local 36 retiree LeRoy Kraemer made following the March 11 visit by retirees and their spouses.

“This is truly an historical gem, and a much deserved public tribute to the dedicated volunteers and supporters who made it possible,” he said.

Kraemer said the club’s interest in the museum was stimulated in part by the feature story in the Labor

Tribune and the prominent role the museum had in last year’s 200th Anniversary celebration for the City of Belleville.

Their curiosity peaked; Kraemer said club members decided to pay a visit to see “first hand a part of labor history that is seldom or rarely found in history books.”

As Labor Tribune Illinois correspondent Carl Green noted in his original story on the museumon Sept. 19, 2013: “The place is loaded with displays about the industries of the past – stoves, coal, stencil machines, cigars, bottles, beer, steam engines, tool and die, pattern-making, foundries and more.” The Labor Tribune won an award for Green’s story last year from the International Labor Communications Association.


RELIC OF THE PAST: Local 36 retiree Tom Gruenloh looks over an 1895 Harrison Machine Works steam engine tractor that also had the ability to power other farm equipment, part of the incredible collection at the Belleville Labor & Industry History Museum. The museum is open on Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and by appointment. – Photo by Club President Vern Kraemer

The museum is divided into four sections:

• Industrial Hall – A permanent display chronicling the importance of Belleville’s cast-iron stove industry and pattern making.

• Union Hall – A reference library of documents and books chronicling the struggles of the working man and woman and the creation of the American middle class.

• Archives and Library – A collection of 4,535 historic images and U.S. Patents awarded to area residents since 1850.

• Artifacts – Industry exhibits ranging from casting and machining to glass making, brewing, brick making and stencil making. The museum’s collection includes 1,073 historical objects.


“Our members and spouses enjoyed this trip to the past, and returned with a greater appreciation of the working conditions and benefits we now enjoy because of our ancestors sacrifices and organizational efforts,” Kraemer said. “It was an educational and rewarding trip.

“We would encourage other labor clubs or retiree groups to visit and support the museum and its dedicated staff of volunteers.”

The museum is open every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. or by appointment by calling 618- 222-9430.

For more information, visit the Labor & Industry Museum website at


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