The statue of "Labor," also known as "The Reading Blacksmith," is one element in a monument memorializing Pittsburgh industrialist Col. James Anderson (1785-1861). It is the work of Daniel Chester French (1850-1931), sculptor of the statue of Abraham Lincoln enshrined in the Lincoln Memorial, Washington, D.C.
The monument was the gift of Andrew Carnegie to the people of the city of Allegheny (now the North Side of Pittsburgh) in honor of a man whom Carnegie viewed as his benefactor.
In the words of the monument, Col. Anderson is praised as "founder of free libraries in western Pennsylvania." It goes on to sing that Anderson "opened his library to working boys and on Saturday afternoons acted as librarian, thus dedicating not only his books, but himself, to the noble work."
Mr. Carnegie notes on the bronze plaque of the memorial that he was himself "one of the 'working boys' to whom were thus opened the precious treasures of knowledge and imagination through which youth may ascend."
"The Reading Blacksmith" is heroic, Romantic, mythic. The power and strength evident in his body are an unselfconscious power and strength. He is an image of Pittsburgh, the great industrial city. But, more profoundly, he is an embodiment of a spirit and a confidence that is most nobly democratic,Whitmanesque and American.
"The Reading Blacksmith" is not to be taken literally; and yet, he is. He is less myth than possibility--clearly visible on streetcorners in The Hill, under the hoods of automobiles in Lawrenceville, on baseball fields in Oakland, in bars, in the army, on construction sites, in prisons everywhere.