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The foregoing chapters having presented an account of the strikes and lockouts which have occurred during the years 1881 to 1900, inclusive, it can not fail to be of interest to consider in some detail the disturbances of this character which occurred prior to 1881, in order to discover, if possible, whether strikes and lockouts are novel in our industrial history or have had their beginnings in times and under conditions which have passed away; whether they are the result of the comparatively recent powerful organizations of workingmen, the outgrowth of discontent and dissatisfaction with existing industrial conditions, or the natural result of industrial development. While it may be truly said that the strike, as a method pursued by workingmen to obtain the redress of real or fancied grievances, did not assume such importance as to call for an investigation by the Government of the United States until the year 1880, yet it is equally true that the strike was not a new weapon in the hand of the laborer, for isolated cases of strikes existed before the beginning of the present century. Though it is the very generally accepted opinion that the disturbance in New York City, in 1803, popularly known as the “ Sailors' strike,” was the earliest example of the strike known in this country, this opinion may be authoritatively controverted by facts developed in the present investigation, which afford proof of a series of strikes among the boot and shoe makers of Philadelphia, beginning in 1796, and make it reasonably certain that a strike occurred among the bakers of New York City as early as 1741.
From these beginnings the practice of striking by employees who desired some concession regarding their wages, or were otherwise dissatisfied with the conditions under which they worked, grew until in 1835 strikes had become so numerous as to call forth remonstrant comments from the public press, the New York Daily Advertiser, on June 6, observing that “ strikes are all the fashion,” and that “it is an excellent time for the journeymen to come from the country to this city.” From this period up to the present time strikes have been common, their frequency depending upon the industrial conditions which prevailed.
The information presented in this chapter concerning strikes and lockouts in the United States prior to the year 1881 has been compiled from published works, and presents, in chronological order and in LAB 1901--46
brief form, the records of certain strikes, partial or complete accounts of which were available. To have attempted an investigation of the entire field would have been a task of great magnitude, the results of which could not have been, from the nature of the case, in any degree commensurate, either in value or accuracy, with the labor involved. Such an investigation must have necessitated a review of the files of all the leading newspapers of the country back to the colonial period, and even such an inquiry could scarcely have yielded very accurate information.
In 1880 the Bureau of Labor Statistics of Massachusetts issued a report embracing an account of strikes in that State since 1825, and in 1881 the Bureau of Industrial Statistics of Pennsylvania followed this with a similar report for Pennsylvania, covering the period from 1835 to the date of its publication. In addition to these, the Tenth Census of the United States, Volume XX, contains a report, prepared by Mr. .Joseph D. Weeks, concerning the strikes and lockouts which occurred in
the United States during the year 1880. These reports have been the main sources from which the information presented in the following pages has been derived, though many other published works have been consulted in the hope of adding to the material for this part of the report. A few facts have thus been found, which, like all material herein collated, have been duly eredited to the sources whence they were obtained.
Some cordensation has been found necessary in order to bring the material within the compass that can be allowed to it in this report, but the main facts have been given substantially as set forth in the volumes from which they were taken.
1741.That there was a combined strike of journeymen bakers (probably in New York City) in this year seems clear from the following extracts from the speeches of counsel at the “ trial of journeymen cordwainers of the city of New York," in 1810. In the course of this trial Mr. Colden, of counsel for the defense, said:
I have had an opportunity of examining the records of the criminal proceedings of our tribunals for a great number of years back. I have found an information which was preferred in the year 1741, against certain bakers, for combining not to bake bread but on certain terms. This indictment, however, concludes contrary to the form of the statutes. And it appears that no judgment was ever rendered upon it, etc.
Mr. Emmet, of counsel for the prosecution, in referring to this case of the bakers, said:
It is an information against journeymen bakers for a conspiracy not to bake till their wages were raised. On this they were tried and convicted before the revolution; but, as the counsel says, it does not appear that any sentence was ever passed, etc. [Trial of the Journeymen Cordwainers of the city of New York; reported by William Sampson, esq., New York, 1810; pp. 83, 103.]
1796.-As early as 1792 there was an association of journey men shoemakers in Philadelphia, and in May, 1796, a strike or “turn-out” was ordered by this organization for an increase of wages. The strike was successful. [Lloyd: Trial of the boot and shoe makers of Philadelphia, 1806, p. 29. To be found in the U. S. Supreme Court library.]
1798.-In this year another “ turn-out” was ordered by the journeymen shoemakers of Philadelphia. This was also for an increase of wages, and, like its predecessor, was successful. [Idem, p. 134.]
1799.-In this year the journeymen shoemakers“ turned out,” to resist a demand made by the master cordwainers of Philadelphia for a reduction of wages. The strike lasted about ten weeks, and was partly successful. The association of journeymen shoemakers numbered over 100 members at this time. [Idem, pp. 14, 34, 47, 53, and 134.]
1803.-In November, 1803, a strike occurred in New York City, which is commonly known as the “Sailors' strike," and which has been generally considered the first strike in the United States. A number of sailors who had been receiving $10 per month demanded an increase to $14. The sailors formed in a body, marched around the city, and compelled other seamen who were employed at the old rates to leave their ships and join the strike. The strikers were pursued and dispersed by the constables, who arrested their leader and lodged him in jail—the strike terminating unsuccessfully. [Report of the Bureau of Statistics of New Jersey, 1885, p. 272. See, also, J. B. McMaster: History of the People of the United States, vol. 2, p. 618, where it is stated that this strike occurred in October, 1802.]
1805.-On November 1 a “turn-out” for increase of wages was ordered by the Journeymen Shoemakers' Association of Philadelphia. The increase demanded ranged from 25 to 75 cents per pair, the old scale of prices, and the scale demanded being as follows:
Fancy tops were $4.25; proposed to be raised to $5.00.
Bootees were 2.50; proposed to be raised to 3.00. This strike lasted six or seven weeks, and was unsuccessful. A trial for conspiracy grew out of it, the report of which will be found on pages 930-933 of this volume.. [Lloyd: Trial of the boot and shoe makers of Philadelphia, 1806, pp. 24, 37, and 41.]
1809.-A strike occurred during this year in the shop of Corwin & Aimes, master cordwainers, of New York City. The strikers were defeated by the proprietors taking their work privately to other shops. This being discovered a general “turn-out” was ordered by the Journeymen Cordwainers' Association against all the master workmen of the city in November, 1809, nearly 200 men being engaged in the strike. At that time a stoppage of work in one shop by the journey