Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Joe Magarac - The Man of Steel

Joe Magarac is a folk hero of the Pittsburgh area steel mills. Historians debate whether he was an authentic folk legend or manufactured by newspapermen to give the Pittsburgh steel industry a much needed folk hero. Many believe the legend originated 100 years ago among Hungarian immigrant steel workers. In any case, by the 1930s, the stories of Joe Magarac were well established. He was a huge steel man who would appear out of nowhere to right a falling 50-ton crucible that threatened the lives of the steelworkers.

One story alleges that he when he melted himself down in a Bessemer Furnace to make steel for a new mill. Others maintain he’s waiting among the rusting ruins of old Pennsylvania steel mills for the day that the furnaces are burning again. In Hungarian, "Magarac" means "jack ass," a fitting name for a folk hero who worked like a donkey 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

I'll tell you about a steel man,
Joe Magarac, that's the man!
I'll tell you about a steel man,
Best steel maker in all the land
Steel-heart Magarac, that's the man.

He was sired in the mountain by red iron ore
Joe Magarac, that's the man!
He was sired in the mountain by red iron ore
Raised in a furnace - soothed by its roar
Steel-heart magarac, that's the man.

His shoulders are as big as the steel-mill door
Hands like buckets, his feet on half the floor

With his hands he can break a half-a-ton dolly
He stirs the boiling steel with his fingers, by golly

He grabs the cooling steel - his hands like wringers
And makes eight rails between his ten fingers

Joe can walk on the furnace rim
From furnace to furnace - just a step for him

Joe never sleeps, but he's got to eat
Hot steel soup, cold ingots for meat

Now, if you think this man's not real
Then, jump in a furnace, see him cook the steel.

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