Today in Labor History: Weekend Edition

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

November 18
Seattle printers refuse to print anti-labor ad in newspaper – 1919

Thirty-one men died on Lake Michigan with the sinking of the Carl D. Bradley during one of the worst storms in the lake’s history. The 623-foot ship, carrying limestone, broke in two. Four crewmen survived – 1958

November 19
Joe Hill, labor leader and songwriter, executed in Utah on what many believe was a framed charge of murder. Before he died he declared: “Don’t waste any time mourning. Organize.” – 1915

The nation’s first automatic toll collection machine is used at the Union Toll Plaza on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway – 1954

The National Writers Union is founded, representing freelance and contract writers and others in the trade. In 1992 it was to merge into and become a local of the United Auto Workers – 1981

Click here for the complete posting. Compiled and edited by David Prosten.