Seventy Years of Life and Labor: An Autobiography

Seventy Years of Life and Labor: An Autobiography

Seventy Years of Life and Labor: An Autobiography

Seventy Years of Life and Labor: An Autobiography

Excerpt

When Samuel Gompers arrived in the United States from England in July 1863, he was not a newcomer to urban industrial society. Born and raised in a working class district of London, Gompers had served by age thirteen an apprenticeship to both a shoemaker and a cigarmaker. In contrast to the majority of nineteenth-century immigrants to New York, Gompers already had experience with patterns of industrial work that a rural immigrant would yet have to acquire. Most important, through his father's membership in the British Cigarmakers' Society, the young Gompers was familiar with trade unionism and with a variety of critics of British industrial capitalism, ranging from the reform-minded Chartists to the followers of Karl Marx. The intense activity and apparent chaos of New York's streets might very well at first have intimidated Gompers. But as he mastered New York's initial foreignness, he found he possessed certain advantages over other immigrants: he knew the English language, had at least the rudiments of his craft, and was familiar with the expectations of industrial employers.

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