// you’re reading...

Pretty Pictures

Ernie The Iron Worker

I found these photos from my last trip to the SF Antique & Design Mall. It’s a hand-painted iron worker’s mask. I didn’t get in close enough to snap better pictures, but it’s an awesome example of the crude embellishments that probably added a touch of wit and personality to their otherwise technical and mundane work.


While I wasn’t able to look inside to see if there were any additional information regarding the history of the piece, the 493 carefully painted on the side might leave some clues. Poking around on Google, I found that there is a Trade Union in De Moines, Iowa called Iron Workers Local 493. Relevant? Perhaps. Now to find someone named “Ernie.”


UPDATE: Since writing this post, I couldn’t shake my overwhelming desire to own this piece of history. I was enthralled with it’s beady eyes, menacing grimace, and crude almost primitive design. The more I looked at photos, the more I began to see the striking similarities to the hand-painted decorations of World War II fighter planes (and often the bombs themselves).


WWII Bomber Art

I traveled across town to the Antique Mall and headed straight back to the booth where I first saw the mask. After bringing the mask to the counter, the cashier seemed perplexed as to what I saw in it. He peeled off a little sticker the seller had placed on the lens which stated that this “welders” mask was a piece of San Francisco history, dating to the 1940s. Upon closer inspection, on the inside of the mask I uncovered “Ernie’s” full name: Ernest Francis Samuelson No-39-493.



Using online research tools, I found out that Erniest F. Samuelson died in San Francisco on June 27th, 1998 at the age of 90. This information conflicts with my previous hypothesis that he belonged to a union based in Iowa. I suppose I will need an obituary to confirm that this is indeed the man behind the mask.



4 comments for “Ernie The Iron Worker”

  1. Possibilities:


    google this:

    493rd bomb group


    39 bomb group 493 fighter squadron




    he was probably formerly of that sort of outfit
    the 493rd bomb group goes back to wwII and England. It was the Army Air corps… I’m sure you can find the outfit if you search.

    this is how it breaks down now:

    Wing (rarely used or associated with “who” you belong to)



    with squadron being the smallest unit inside the group. the group fits inside the wing. the wing is rarely used to identify yourself. nobody goes around saying…. i’m with whatever fucking wing it is…

    you say something like this:

    I’m with the 353rd Special Operations Group and the 17th Special Operations Squadron.

    Or even more directly… you’d say:
    353rd SOG (pronounced like Soggy)
    17th SOS (pronounced like S.O.S.)

    It’s the kind of numbers that you identify yourself with later, much later, for whatever is left of the rest of your life. Mostly because you can’t find anything else comparable to that experience. I’m sure this was the case with WWII. It is art. Very valueble too. There’s nothing else like it anywhere I’m sure. It’s one of a kind. In fact, I’m sure part of his soul is there.

    Here Charles… maybe this will help you.

    that is fascinating. i wonder, do you feel anything at all when you hold it? do you get any kind of impression of him?

    Posted by The Shit House Poet | October 8, 2007, 6:42 pm
  2. The 493 is Ernie’s Union membership number. Also called a “book” number. He may have put it on to differentiate himself from another “Ernie”, as when the welding hood is down, facial features are not recognizable.

    Posted by Anthony Lautzenheiser | January 20, 2009, 5:38 pm
  3. the person you are looking for whom owned and painted the iron workers mask happens to be a dear friend of my mother and mine. yes.. he did work in metal and I have to let you know that I have not had my breath taken in years up until this day when I saw the mask online id thought if was gone forever it was stolen from mr, samuelson years ago along with 100eds of other belongings from his home which that also was stolen from him , if you like to truly know the history of this mask I know it and also have photos and handwriting that matches the writing inside of the helmet, you may contact me via email or at 415-572-1811,

    Posted by michele | June 9, 2015, 12:17 pm
  4. hellomy name is Michele…please email or phone me at 415-559-5779..the owner ernie is a old family friend I have history for your item.11-26-2015

    Posted by michele | November 26, 2015, 11:23 am

Post a comment