Graphic: Uncle Sam, Henry George, and anarchist
Uncle Sam: "You did splendidly, my boy, for a first attempt; but, for your own good and that of the country, get rid of that dangerous companion of yours . . . .
Working with the New York City Central Labor Union, a coalition of trade unionists, socialists, Knights of Labor, and reformers launched a campaign in 1886 to elect Henry George as mayor of the city. A well-known reformer and author of Progress and Poverty, George opposed monopolies and favored land reform, equal pay for equal work, an end to government use of contract labor, and the public ownership of utilities.

The coalition behind the campaign was unusual because many of the groups involved were often locked in bitter controversy – trade unions regularly vied with KOL assemblies; socialists and land reformers were often at odds; and the various immigrant groups in the city usually kept to their own kind.

However these disparate groups managed to work together in the campaign. They published The Leader, a newspaper that was produced by local journalists (who donated their time), financed by local trade unions, and printed at the New Yorker Volkszeitung’s facilities. They hostedmass meetings and established campaign organizations in every precinct and trade.

George lost the campaign to Democrat Abram Hewitt, but he did beat the Republican candidate, Theodore Roosevelt, by some 3,000 votes – a remarkable outcome given the fact that the business community, the Catholic Church, and Tammany Hall (the Democratic political machine) worked to defeat him. In fact his relatively strong showing encouraged the CLU, the Socialist Labor Party, and members of the KOL to organize the United Labor Party in January 1887.