Today in Labor History: November 17

The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York is founded “to provide cultural, educational and social services to families of skilled craftsmen.” The Society remains in existence to this day – 1785

Martin Irons dies near Waco, Texas.  Born in Dundee, Scotland, he emigrated to the U.S. at age 14.  He joined the Knights of Labor and in 1886 led a strike of 200,000 workers against the Jay Gould-owned Union Pacific and Missouri railroads.  The strike was crushed, Irons was blacklisted and he died broken-down and penniless.  Said Mother Jones: “The capitalist class hounded him as if he had been a wild beast.” – 1900

To the huge relief of Post Office Department employees, the service sets a limit of 200 pounds a day to be shipped by any one customer.  Builders were finding it cheaper to send supplies via post than via wagon freight. In one instance, 80,000 bricks for a new bank were shipped parcel post from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah, 170 miles away.  The new directive also barred the shipment of humans: a child involved in a couple’s custody fight was shipped—for 17¢—from Stillwell to South Bend, Ind., in a crate labeled “live baby” – 1916

With many U.S. political leaders gripped by the fear of communism and questioning citizen loyalties in the years following World War II, the Screen Actors Guild votes to force its officers to take a “non-communist” pledge.  A few days earlier the Hollywood Ten had been called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities – 1947
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