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National Union, Carpenters' and Joiners' International Union,
Bricklayers' and Masons' International Union in 1865.

In 1866 industry entered upon a period of depression, but recovered in 1868. The flush times of the Civil War had passed. Large and profitable contracts no longer existed and, in addition, prices fell, owing to the contraction of the greenbacks by Congress in the early part of 1866. This condition was reflected in the labour movement. Not a single national was organised in 1866; the spinners alone appeared in 1867. In 1868 the Knights of St. Crispin and the Grand Division of the Order of Railway Conductors organised, and in 1869 the wool hat finishers, the Daughters of St. Crispin, and the Morocco Dressers a total of 7 nationals in 4 years, compared with 10 in the preceding 2 years. The unions already in existence, although they gained, did not gain as rapidly as in the previous period. At the convention of the Iron Molders held in 1865, the president, Sylvis, reported 53 locals chartered; in 1866 he reported 38; in 1868, 32; and in 1870, 14. The number of locals organised by the printers shows a similar decline. In 1866, 18 were reported organised during the previous year; in 1868, 14; and in 1870, 11. Not only were fewer locals organised than in the previous years, but many more were suspended for non-payment of dues, for "ratting," and for being composed of "unfair" men. Actual figures of the number dropped are not available, but that they left a big gap in trade union ranks may be gathered from the general amnesty laws passed a few years later by most nationals. The national union of the machinists and blacksmiths fell off to about 1,500 members in 1870.

In the summer of 1870 business, which in the preceding two years had been normal or slightly above normal, became good and remained so for approximately three years — until the panic of 1873. Nine nationals appeared in these three years -the telegraphers', and the International Coopers' Union of North America in 1870; the painters' in 1871; the woodworking mechanics, and the Brotherhood of Iron and Steel Heaters, Rollers, and Roughers of the United States in 1872; the National Union of Iron and Steel Roll Hands of the United States, the furniture workers, the Miners' National Association and

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the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen in 1873. This period, however, is marked by the internal growth of the unions that organised in this and in previous periods. The machinists and blacksmiths, who had 1,500 members in 1870, had 18,000 members at the end of this period. The Sons of Vulcan, who had 1,260 members in 1870, had 3,048 members in 1873. The coopers, who organised in 1870, had a membership of 10,050 at the end of two years. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, whose membership in 1869 was 4,108, had 9,000 in 1873. The anthracite miners grew to about 30,000 in this period, and the Knights of St. Crispin reached the unparalleled membership of 50,000. The cigar makers alone showed no gain.

An estimate of the total trade union membership at one time, in view of the total lack of reliable statistics, would be extremely hazardous. A rough estimate made in August, 1869, by a correspondent of the New York Herald, resulted in a total of approximately 170,000. A labour leader claimed at the same time that the total was as high as 600,000. It appears that it would not be far from the truth to put the membership during 1870-1872 at about 300,000, a figure which seems to provide amply for the increase after 1869.

Thus, during this ten-year period there were organised twenty-six national unions. Taking into consideration those that appeared before 1864, namely, the International Typographical Union, 1850, Machinists' and Blacksmiths' International Union, and the Iron Molders' International Union in 1859, the American Miners' Association in 1861, the National Forge of the Sons of Vulcan (boilers and puddlers), 1862, the Grand National Division of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in 1863, there were altogether thirty-two nationals

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in existence during the ten years. Most of them called themselves "nationals." Those that prefixed the "inter" did so on the claim of a few locals in Canada.

It was the national trade union rather than any other form of nationalisation, such as the formation of a political National Labor party, that gives us the right to call the period of the sixties the period of the "nationalisation" of the labour movement. The national trade union of the sixties marked a lasting change in the basis of trade union action, a change in the daily activity of union officers and members, and one necessarily accompanied by a change in their mode of thinking.


The stove moulders have epitomised the American trade union movement not only throughout the sixties, but even to the present day. Owing to the standardised nature of their product, they were the first to feel the depressing influence of a national market and we have consequently seen them driven to organise a national union as early as 1859. But that was not the only respect wherein the moulding industry formed the vanguard: The national organisation on the side of labour was soon followed by an attempted national organisation on the side of the employers. Eventually, after the two had measured strength and had found that neither could completely subdue the other, they did the logical thing and, in 1890, developed the trade agreement system, which became the prototype for all other industries. But confining ourselves to the period, there is still another reason why the moulders' history is of the greatest interest. If their development had been strictly along the road of trade unionism, without deviating either to the side of productive co-operation or to that of political action, they would, to be sure, have epitomised the American labour movement in its broadest aspects, but, at the same time, we could hardly have considered them a typical labour organisation of the sixties. That they did not follow such a straight line of development, at one time almost wholly abandoning trade unionism for co-operation and general labour reform, marks them as part and parcel of the general labour movement of the sixties.

As soon as the industrial depression which had been precipitated by the War had worn away, President Sylvis of the Molders' International began an active campaign of organisation over the country. His weekly letters, which ran in Fincher's Trades' Review through the latter part of 1863 as well as through 1864, described his impressions of the various cities he visited, and bear ample testimony to his untiring activity. The trade was so prosperous that it was sufficient merely to organise in order to obtain concessions from the employers. Consequently the union was not only successful in raising wages but also in enforcing its trade rules, especially with regard to apprenticeship. But the very great initial success was responsible for creating a new set of circumstances in the trade which made it the arena of the hardest fought labour conflicts of the period, namely, the organisation of a national employers' association, the first ever organised in this country.

As early as September, 1863, a group of iron founders from Louisville, New Albany, and Jeffersonville, Ohio, met and organised the Iron Founders' and Machine Builders' Association of the Falls of Ohio and adopted the following principles: "We deny the right of the 'Iron Moulders' Union' to arbitrarily determine the wages of our employés, regardless of their merits and the value of their services to us. We deny the right of the Iron Moulders' Union' to determine for us how many apprentices we should employ. According to . . . their constitution they dictate to their employers that no more than one apprentice shall be employed in each machine foundry and one to every fifteen moulders in each stove foundry."


They stated their grievances and adopted the following course of action:

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"The corresponding secretary of the Iron Founders' and Machine Builders' Association of the Falls of Ohio' shall put himself into communication with all the parties of the principal cities of the United States engaged in similar business to that of the members of the Association and suffering under the same grievances. . . . He shall endeavor to cause the interested parties to form similar associations to ours. . . . In case no association can be formed... the Corresponding Secretary shall correspond with individual firms of other cities. . . Should the employees in any of our establishments stop work in order to force their employers to

submit to unreasonable demands, the . . . Association . . . shall not employ any man engaged in such strike. The names of the parties engaged in any attempt to force their employers to submit to unreasonable demands shall be sent in circular at the expense of this Association to all the other Associations in order that they may be prevented from getting employment until they withdraw from the Moulders' Union,' or cease to attempt the enforcing of their unjust demands." "

In 1863 the West thus took steps towards nationalisation and formed the association of the Falls of Ohio. In 1864 an attempt was made in a similar direction in the East. Employers here too felt that the International Iron Molders' Union interfered with the management of their business, and to protect each other they issued a call to all interested to meet at New Haven in March to form an "American Iron Founders' Association." A number of men met but, without doing very much, adjourned to meet at the Astor House, New York, in the latter part of the same month. The invitation was extended to a larger number of employers covering a larger territory, and, accordingly, at the New York meeting we find representatives from New England, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Employers of both bench and floor moulders were admitted to membership.

This was the end of this association as far as a national body is concerned; it never got farther west than the Atlantic coast. Times were too good in 1864 to fight the workmen. It was not therefore until 1866 that a real national association appeared. Times had grown dull at the close of the War and it was an opportune time to strike a blow at the union which had grown so powerful in the last few years. Delegates representing both sides of the Alleghanies met in Albany, March 4, and formed themselves into the American National Stove Manufacturers' and Iron Founders' Association. They drew up a constitution and adopted a set of resolutions declaring in the main that they organised to resist any and all actions of the moulders' union, to employ as many apprentices as they deemed fit, and to exclude shop committees.

These resolutions they posted in the different foundries of 7 Fincher's, Oct. 3, 1863. 8 Ibid., May 28, 1864. 9 Fincher's, Mar. 31, 1866.

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