A History of Trade Unionism in the United States

By Selig Perlman | Go to book overview

HISTORY OF TRADE UNIONISM
IN THE U. S.

CHAPTER 1
LABOR MOVEMENTS BEFORE THE CIVIL WAR

(1) Early Beginnings, to 1827

The customary chronology records the first American labor strike in 1741. In that year the New York bakers went out on strike. A closer analysis discloses, however, that this outbreak was a protest of master bakers against a municipal regulation of the price of bread, not a wage earners' strike against employers. The earliest genuine labor strike in America occurred, as far as known, in 1786, when the Philadelphia printers "turned out" for a minimum wage of six dollars a week. The second strike on record was in 1791 by Philadelphia house carpenters for the ten-hour day. The Baltimore sailors were successful in advancing their wages through strikes in the years 1795, 1805, and 1807, but their endeavors were recurrent, not permanent. Even more ephemeral were several riotous sailors' strikes as well as a ship builders' strike in 1817 at Medford, Massachusetts. Doubtless many other such outbreaks occurred during the period to 1820, but left no record of their existence.

A strike undoubtedly is a symptom of discontent.

-3-

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