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1850

Jan. 26: Gompers is born in London to Solomon, a cigarmaker, and his wife Sarah Rood Gompers. He immigrates to New York City with his family in 1863, and becomes a U.S. citizen on Oct. 4, 1872.

1852

Printers organize a national union.

1854

Hat finishers organize a national union.

1859

Iron molders and machinists and blacksmiths organize national unions.

1860

Gompers enters the cigar trade.

1861

Bituminous miners and mule spinners organize national unions.

1862

United Sons of Vulcan, an ironworkers' union, organizes.

1863

Locomotive engineers organize a national union.

1864

  • Cigarmakers, ship carpenters, and plasterers organize unions.
  • Gompers joins Cigar Makers' National Union Local 15.
  • Sept.: the International Workingmen's Association (IWA) is founded in London. German socialist Karl Marx writes the party platform and emerges as the leading theoretician of the organization, which is later known as the First International.

1865

Bricklayers organize a national union.

1866

Craft workers and political reformers organize the National Labor Union in Baltimore.

1867

  • Jan. 28: Gompers marries Sophia Julian , a tobacco stripper in a cigar factory. Between 1868 and 1885 they produce at least nine children, six of whom live past infancy.
  • Mar. 7: The Knights of St. Crispin, a national organization for shoemakers, organizes in Milwaukee.

1868

  • Anthracite miners in Pennsylvania organize the Workingmen's Benevolent Association.
  • Glass bottle blowers and railway conductors and brakemen organize national unions.
  • The Trades Union Congress of Great Britain is founded.

1869

  • Colored National Labor Union organizes. Isaac Myers, a ship caulker from Baltimore, is elected president.
  • Dec.: The Knights of Labor organizes in Philadelphia as a secret society open to all members of the producing classes except "parasites" including stockbrokers, gamblers, and lawyers. Uriah Stevens, a tailor who once studied for the Baptist ministry, leads the order.

1870

Coopers organize a national union.

1871

Mar.-May: Paris Commune

1873

  • A serious business depression begins, slowing the U.S. economy until 1879.
  • Furniture workers and locomotive firemen organize national unions.
  • Gompers attends meetings of the IWA and joins the inner circle known as "Die Zehn Philosophen," a group that evolves into the trade-union oriented Economic and Sociological Club.

1874

  • Political activists in the IWA (including P. J. McGuire and Adolph Strasser) form the Social Democratic Workingmen's Party of North America. Those more interested in trade unionism (including Ferdinand Laurell and J.P. McDonnell) organize the Association of United Workers in America. Gompers has friends in both camps.
  • The Sovereigns of Labor, a mutual aid society based in New England, organizes.
  • Horseshoers organize a national union.
  • Jan. 13: the Tompkins Square riot erupts in NYC.

1875

  • E. W. Clark and George Miller are jailed in Thomaston, Me. for mutiny after being abused by a brutal captain. In 1890, the AFL lobbies for a presidential pardon and keeps up the campaign until 1903 when Clark is pardoned. Miller, however, dies in jail in 1894.
  • Feb.: Eugene V. Debs joins Vigo Lodge 16, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, in Terre Haute, Ind.
  • Nov. 24: Gompers is a charter member and first president of Cigar Makers International Union (CMIU) Local 144.

1876

  • Iron and steel workers organize a national union.
  • July: the Workingmen's Party of the U. S. organizes in Philadelphia. In Sept. Gompers becomes active in the newly organized New York American (that is, English-speaking) section, which favors trade unionism. The New York German section is more politically active, and disputes between the two groups soon erupt.

1877

  • Granite cutters organize a national union.
  • June 21: ten coal miners, alleged to be leaders of the Mollie Maguires, a notoriously violent gang blamed for social conflict in the coal regions, are hanged in Pennsylvania.
  • July 14: a series of railroad strikes sweeps through seventeen states in response to wage reductions, irregular pay practices, and generally poor conditions. In Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and other cities, local police, state militia, and federal troops clash with strikers and sympathizers, evoking widespread support for the strikers. Gompers later refers to the railroad strike of 1877 as "the tocsin that sounded a ringing message of hope to us all."
  • Fall: New York City cigar makers strike against pay cuts and restrictive factory rules. Despite community support, the strike is lost in Jan. 1878. As a leader of the strike, Gompers is blacklisted and unable to find work for four months, putting a strain on his family which now included four children and one on the way.
  • Dec.: Political activists gain control of the Workingmen's Party and rename it the Socialistic Labor Party. It is later named the Socialist Labor Party.

1878

  • Greenback Labor party organizes.
  • Flint glass workers organize a national union.

1879

  • Miners in Springhill, Nova Scotia, form the Provincial Workingmen's Union, Canada's first labor union.
  • Henry George publishes Progress and Poverty.
  • Sept.: Terence Vincent Powderly, a machinist and the mayor of Scranton, is  elected Grand Master Workman of the Knights of Labor. He serves until 1893.

1880

Debs is elected secretary-treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and editor of its journal.

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