Conducts research and collects data on the global history of labour, workers, and labour relations

Of Tub and Toil

26 May 1934
Kohler Building at Chicago World Fair 1933-34

The second edition of the Chicago World Fair opened on 26 May 1934. The impressive building of the Kohler Sanitation Company was designed by Ely Jacques Kahn and had a long gallery that displayed Kohler products along with model bathrooms.

Kathryn J. Oberdeck, in 'Of Tub and Toil: Kohler Workers in an Empire of Hygiene 1920-2000' (IRSH 55, 2010) argues that the company sought to ‘‘domesticate’’ workers by inspiring immigrant and native-born alike to embrace an ‘‘American standard of living’’. However, Kohler workers were not uncritical audiences for imperializing claims about the superiority of American sanitation. Workers who struggled to unionize the Kohler plant challenged company definitions of "American" standards and generated alternative, laborite maps of domestic hygiene and the labor associated with it among local immigrant workers and laborers elsewhere in the world.