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Labor History
Philip Dray
There is Power in a Union
Chapter 2: Hell With the Lid Off
Philip Dray: Labor Historian
Main Items in Chapter 2
1. Lynn [Mass.] Shoemakers: Model for US
Labor History: Artisan to Worker
2. National Labor Union
3. Molly Maguires
4. Knights of Labor
5. 1877 Railroad Strike
Alan Dawley
• Alan Dawley was a
professor of history at
The College of New
• Dawley was a 1965
graduate of Oberlin
College, and completed
his M.A. and Ph.D. at
Harvard University.
Lynn Shoemakers
• An examination of the structure and
culture of Lynn, Massachusetts
shoemakers, their relations with their
owners, changes in their work situation
due to the displacement of craft skills by
factory machines, local and vocational
distribution of property and income, social
and geographical mobility, and the
interaction among the workers, the
industry, and the town.
• A sophisticated, scholarly look at an
American town during the Industrial
National Labor Union
• The National Labor Union (NLU) was the first national
labor federation in the United States.
• Founded in 1866 and dissolved in 1873, it paved the
way for other organizations, such as the Knights of
Labor and the AFL (American Federation of Labor).
• It was led by William H. Sylvis.
• The National Labor Union sought to bring together all
of the national labor organizations in existence, as
well as the "eight-hour leagues" established to press
for the eight-hour day, to create a national federation
that could press for labor reforms and help found
national unions in those areas where none existed.
• The new organization favored arbitration over strikes
and called for the creation of a national labor party as
an alternative to the two existing parties.
Historical Background
During the mid 19th century, "hard coal" mining came to dominate northeastern
By the 1870s, powerful financial syndicates controlled the railroads and the
Coal companies had begun to recruit immigrants from overseas willing to work for
less than the prevailing local wages paid to American-born employees, luring them
with "promises of fortune-making".
Historical Background Continued
22,000 coal miners worked in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania. 5,500 of these
were children between the ages of seven and sixteen years who earned
between one and three dollars a week separating slate from the coal.
Injured miners, or those too old to work at the face, were assigned to picking
slate at the "breakers" where the coal was crushed into a manageable size.
Many of the elderly miners finished their mining days as they had begun in
their youth.
Definitions and Key Figures
• The Molly Maguires-The Molly Maguires were a 19th century
secret society of mainly Irish-American coal miners.
• Ancient Order of Hibernians- an Irish Catholic fraternal
organization. Members must be Catholic and of Irish descent.
Largest membership is now in the United States. Many members
had a background with the Molly Maguires.
Definitions Continued
• Franklin B. Gowen- Served as president of the Philadelphia and
Reading Railroad in the 1870s and 1880s.
• Coal and Iron Police- The first Coal and Iron Police were
established in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, under the
supervision of the Pinkerton Detective Agency.
• James McParland- a Pinkerton agent who infiltrated and helped to
dismantle an organization of rebellious Pennsylvania coal miners
(The Molly Maguires).
• Pinkerton- Pinkerton Government Services, Inc., founded as the
Pinkerton National Detective Agency, worked to investigate the
labor unions in the company's mines.
The Molly Maguires
• The Molly Maguires were a 19th century secret society of
mainly Irish-American coal miners.
• Many historians believe the "Mollies" were present in the
anthracite coal fields of Pennsylvania in the United States
between the time of the American Civil War until a series of
sensational arrests and trials from 1876−78.
• The Molly Maguires were accused of kidnapping, beatings
and murder amongst other terroristic activities.
• Fellow prisoners testified against the defendants, who were
arrested by the Coal and Iron Police, who served Gowen,
who acted as prosecutor in some of the trials.
Famous Mollies
• John “Black-Jack” Kehoe, Jack Berrigan, James
Boyle, Thomas Duffy, John “Yellow Jack”
Donahue, Alexander Campbell, Hugh McGeehan,
James Carroll.
• Historian Kevin Kenny explains that, “The
convicted men were all members of the Ancient
Order of Hibernians (AOH), which many
contemporaries claimed was merely the Molly
Maguire’s under another name (10, Kenny).”
Workingmen’s Benevolent Association
• 19th century labor organization that consisted
mainly of coal-miners.
• It was organized in 1868 in Schuylkill County,
Pennsylvania, with John Siney as president.
• Members of the Molly’s were also members of
this association.
Knights of Labor
Terence V. Powderly
An injury to one is the concern of all!
The Strike Begins
• The Pennsylvania Railroad
had already slashed wages
by 10 percent when it cut
wages by another 10
percent in June 1877.
• Meanwhile, on July 13, the
Baltimore & Ohio cut the
wages of all workers
making more than a dollar
a day, also by 10 percent.
• On July 16 firemen and
brakemen refused to work.
The Great Railroad Strike
of 1877
• Protest pay cut.
• Militia units called in.
• Theme: National
power to be used not
to protect former
slaves, but to
guarantee the right to
Significance of 1877 Strike
The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 was the first
major strike in an industry that propelled
America’s industrial revolution.
• It was the first national strike, stretching
from Atlantic to Pacific.
• In some cities, especially St. Louis, the
struggle became one of the nation’s first
general strikes.
The Great Railroad Strike
of 1877
Federal Troops
• The Great Railroad
Strike of 1877
began on July 14
and ended some 45
days later after it
was put down by
local and state
militias, as well as
by federal troops.
• President Hayes sent in
federal troops to stop
the strike.
Lessons Learned
• Even as they agreed to some worker
demands, bosses were determined to
never again allow workers the upper hand.
• "The railroads made some concessions,
rescinded some wage cuts, but also
strengthened their ‘Coal and Iron Police.’"
writes one historian. "In several large
cities, National Guard armories were
constructed, with loopholes for guns."
Lessons Learned
• Working people learned that without strong
unions and nationwide organization they
could not defeat the alliance of capital and
• Knights of Labor