Aikins, born in Philadelphia, was one of America's first industrial photographers. He began his photographic career at the Philadelphia Inquirer as a news photographer in 1917. He later joined the New York Times, and eventually opened his own studio and did magazine work. In the 1930s he decided to devote himself to documenting business and industry. Shortly before World War II, U.S. Steel hired Aikins to document its various mills, mines and factories.
The albums contain from 980-1200 photographic prints. The predominant print size is 8" x 9-1/2". The prints are mounted on spiral-bound pages, 15-1/2" x 12-1/2". Subject matter varies widely, depicting the process of manufacturing steel or steel-related products. The photographs have a strong human and dramatic emphasis. The strongest theme is industrial mobilization for the war effort. Many photographs document female wartime work in industry, and African American workers are also represented. The theme of worker safety is well documented with images depicting safety glasses, protective garments, etc. Printed captions below each photograph usually identify workers by name and occupation.
U.S. Steel Corporation Photograph Albums, Archives Center, National Museum of American History