In the course of my AmeriCorps service at the Morgantown History Museum (located at 175 Kirk Street, Morgantown, West Virginia), I have processed a number of collections. This process involves consulting the accessions inventory and locating the donated item (which can be time consuming). This is followed by tagging each item with a unique number, then scanning or photographing each item, and finally entering a description and image of each item in the Museum’s database. Of all the various collections, perhaps my favorite Museum collection is the Katherine Forman Sterling Faucet Collection. The Museum has many items and objects related to the Sterling Faucet Company, such as Sterling Faucet newsletters, corporate documents, and even a sculpture presented to a retiring executive. These items offer a corporate or a top-down look at the Sterling Faucet. The Forman Collection, however, offers a worker's perspective or a ground-up consideration of work at the Sterling plant.
The now demolished Sterling Faucet Company plant was located along WV State Route 7 in Sabraton, a one-time suburb of Morgantown. Sterling Faucet began operations at the site in 1942 (replacing the earlier American Sheet and Tin Plate works, which ceased operations several years earlier). Katherine Forman joined the Sterling Faucet work force in 1963 and remained employed there until the plant’s closure on March 29, 1996. During Forman’s career at Sterling, she witnessed much change in the workforce, especially change related to women’s role in the workforce.
Katherine Forman and her family donated well over one hundred items to the Museum in 2012. These items run the gamut from Sterling Faucet faucet parts, such as faucet handles to her Sterling Faucet windbreaker to a series of Dominion Post newspaper articles covering the period from 1989 to 1996 and reporting on the plant’s planned shutdown into its final days of operation.
There are many other items of course, some of which are generic, such as, Forman’s service pins, with letters congratulating her on her years of service, but interestingly she also received a brass clock as part of a 25 year service award. Other interesting items include “swag” or awards from plant production competitions, including a pin back button with her picture on it, a Sterling Faucet coffee cup, and even a Mepps fishing lure.
Because Sterling Faucet was a union shop, Forman was a member of United Steelworkers of America Local 6214. The Museum has her membership card and a woman’s watch awarded to her by the USWA for 25 years of service.
Perhaps most interesting of Forman’s Sterling Faucet donations, are some of her tools and work gloves that she used at the plant, and perhaps the most interesting of all is her final time card, which is marked “The End.” This timecard adds a certain finality to her career at Sterling Faucet.
The Katherine Forman Sterling Faucet Collection is an excellent collection which not only represents life as an employee at Sterling Faucet, but provides many insights into the career of a woman whose work experience spanned the 1960s into the 1990s.
Lee R. Maddex
Lee Maddex served as the Preserve WV AmeriCorps member at the Morgantown History Museum during the 2021-2022 service term.
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