AT THE BEGINNING of the nineteenth century such a term as "workingman" rarely if ever appeared in public print. The industrial worker as such was unknown. But by the decade of the 1830's, the "workingman" represented a novel but indeterminate force in the American community. He was a product of the Industrial Revolution which, in this first half of the century, was subtly transforming the whole mode of American life.
It was not until the late nineteenth century that the social upheaval brought on by the Industrial Revolution and its impact on the workingman attracted the attention of serious scholars. In 1886, Richard T. Ely, Johns Hopkins Universityof, published the Labor Movement in America. This study, although admittedly inadequate, opened up for the students of American economic and social history a vast, unexplored field for inquiry.
John R. Commons and his Associates at the University of Wisconsin undertook the enormous but exciting task of unearthing the manuscript materials which would disclose the role of labor in shaping the course of American history. Their efforts resulted in two monumental publications: the first being a ten-volume collection of manuscript materials referring to American labor entitled Documentary History of American Industrial Society; and the second being the most exhaustive and significant study of the American labor movement to date -- a fourvolume project entitled the History of Labour in the United States.
Since the appearance of the latter study, all subsequent histories of the American labor movement, especially those referring to the first half of the nineteenth century, have been, with rare exceptions, little more than "generalized summarizations of what had been presented in detailed fashion in the History of Labour in the United States."1
Two exceptions to this generalization are the following: first is Professor Richard B. Morris' brilliant study of Government and Labor in Early America, an original and comprehensive investigation of labor in the Colonial period; and the second is Dr. Norman Ware's challenging history of The Industrial Worker 1840-1860. Dr. Philip S. Foner has undertaken an ambitious project entitled History of the____________________