Labor History Links




Labor Systems of Early America

Native American Labor

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Indentured Servants

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Slave Labor

Chronologies & bibliographies & source collections

 Sale of Slaves

Great Sale of Slaves ad, 1855


Slave Narratives


Slave Labor and the law


Sources/Lesson Plans

Map of servitude

Slave Resistance brought the "map of servitude"

for 1,235 images, see The Atlantic Slave Trade and Slave Life in the Americas: A Visual Record

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Revolution Through Early National Period

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Early 19th-Antebellum


Lowell Mills

Prof. Zahavi's selections on early industrial period, from his website, with emphasis on Lowell Mills


Lesson Plans:

timetable of lowell mills


Lowell worker

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Civil War, Reconstruction and Labor 1863-1877

South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina
Rice laborers -women and children on rice plantation

Casual' laborers–all women and children--on a Georgetown, SC rice plantation, ca. 1895|
South Caroliniana Library, University of South Carolina

cotton south

chain gang


Freedpeople and their allies struggled to remake the south, mounting struggles that were preserved in memory for decades. But their rights to full citizenship were denied with force in the south, when white power was restored through legal and extra-legal means. Similarly, in the southwest and parts of the west citizenship rights such as those of the loggers below were denied in order to produce a robust capitalist accumulation in the late 19th century.

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Late 19th century through Early 20th century  




Cutting redwoods in California

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Asian Labor (and reaction to) in the late 19th century U.S.


blue label


Cigar Makers International Union Business Card Case


The White Union Label of the Cigarmakers locals of the west originated as an anti-Asian marketing tool. But the first instance of a union label occurred earlier, in St. Louis, as a "red" label signifying union made cigars. The national union later created the blue union label, suggesting that it signified clean conditions, and the quest for shorter hours ( "after the eight-hour day is a completed victory, then may come the seven-hour day and the six- hour day; ever remembering that labor's grand purpose is the economic and social betterment of the masses."

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Sweatshops/Child Labor late 19th-early 20th


Miners and mine strikes

Miner JOe

"Miner Joe" From Life of the People on-line Exhibition

Kelso Ballantine Scottish miner
Kelso Ballantine, a Scottish miner who moved to Braidwood Illinois


    A Lifetime in the Mines An Essay on Watching Films about Coal Mining + Complete filmography (PDF, 102 pages, 558 kb) by Steven Fesenmaier -- terrific!!!!

    Battle of Blair Mountain films (pdf, 45 kb) --by Steven Fesenmaier (Blair Mountain was the largest armed uprising of workers in US history)

    Virden film (this is my site, it is not yet updated, but will be. this is a project on the class and race conflict in Central and southern Illinois in the late 1890s


The Molly Maguires. From Allan Pinkerton’s depiction
Pinkertons in the Couer d'Alene Uprising of 1892 (primary source)
Digging for Answers: A Black Miner Ponders Racism, 1891
' In the Sight of God': Woes of a Miner's Wife, 1900 (document)
The Ultimate Redemption of Coal Miners (document)
No Rest for the Weary: Children in the Coal Mines (1906)
The Boys in the Breakers
Mr. Coal's Story
Anthracite Coal Strike digitized cartoons dealing with the 1902 strike. Also see the
The Sayings of Henry Stephens (pdf) African-American miner, Springfield, Illinois, 1917
Copper mining in Michigan - on line exhibits
Calumet Mine strike 1913-1914
Italian Hall Fire Incident during the Calumet Mine Strike
this site is a wonderful compilation of materials on this tragic incident, believed by miners to be the work of union opponents
United Mine Workers section of the University of Pittsburgh On-line exhibit, links to police reports, Coal and Iron Police photos, Somerset County Coal Strike, 1922 - 1923 Pennsylvania
Herrin ' Massacre southern Illinois 1922 ILHS, with links to essays
Mine Disasters 1900-1972
Borkowski case murder of union supporter by the Coal and Iron Police


Cherry Mine Disaster , 1909


Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

-see section on garment workers labor organization below as well

Labor Organization and Rebellion Late 19th through early 20th century


1877 uprising



Haymarket, 1886 and the Great Upheaval



Labor Day/May Day/shorter hours

May Pole



Left: Walter Crane's "Workers' Maypole"


Knights of Labor


AFL/Samuel Gompers


Labor and Religion in 19th century/early 20th

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Homestead 1892

Pinkertons surrender
Pinkerton agents surrender to workers during the Homestead strike of 1892

In 1892, Carnegie Steel mill owner Andrew Carnegie and his Homestead manager Henry Frick decided to break the steelworkers union. Frick locked out the workers and and hired Pinkerton agents to transport scabs. Community support for the workers initially allowed workers the upper hand, and in a bloody battle they defeated the Pinkertons. But the militia helped the owners eventually break the union, for another generation.


Pullman, 1894 and beyond

Pullman 1894
Thousands of troops, including calvary, were used to crush the Pullman strike of 1894, where terrific and ferocious fight was launched for labor rights


Labor and Imperialism


Other events/ subjects

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Labor Organization, Radicalism and Uprisings of the Early 20th century

Uprisings of the early 20th century


Cripple Creek strike

Emma LangdonEmma Langdon was a labor journalist/ activist who was there and wrote accounts of the events. The photo is from her book.


It is signed, "Yours in unionism."

  1909 pressed steel strike the struggle at McKees Rocks, PA
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Women Garment Workers in New York 1909-1910

·       The Sun Recalls a Garment Striker’s Fate 1909 garment strike

·       The Uprising of Twenty Thousand. Documents, mostly newspaper sources, from December 1909 to February 1910;  relationship between strikers and the strike's wealthy women supporters, and socialist activists; subscription only now

·   see Triangle Fire site for labor organizing issues as well          


Lawrence Textile Strike, 1912

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Calumet Mine Strike and Italian Hall Fire Incident

Bodies of Victims Calumet
Bodies of Victims of the Italian Hall Fire



The children of Ludlow, before the massacre
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Westinghouse strikes of 1914-1916

turtle creek women 1914

Union Switch and Signal Strike of 1914

Photo Album
June 1914    "In the 1910's. Workers in East Pittsburgh's "Electric Valley" created impressive, if short-lived, workers' organizations. In the 1914 Strike at Westinghouse and Union Switch and Signal, women workers, often employed as coil winders, played a leading role" 





Westinghouse 1916 strikeWestinghouse Strike 1916 -

Coroner's Case Files Cases of three workers killed when Westinghouse marchers went to Braddock and were fired upon by troops.


Rt: strikers meet the heavy hand of the law in East Pittsburgh








Fulton Cotton Bag Mill Strike (Atlanta, Georgia1914-1916)

United States Commission on Industrial Relations Final Report (entire book)

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Radicals of the Early 20th century labor movement


Mother Jones

Mother Jones Shoes for Children

Mother Jones brings shoes for children in union camps during West Virginia miners strike

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Industrial Workers of the World    

Everett, 1916 Free speech fight and massacre


IWW abolition


4 hour day

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn soapboxer
Elizabeth Gurley Flynn became a "soapboxer" at 15, and was memorialized in the song, The Rebel Girl by Joe Hill

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WWI Era, Postwar Uprisings and Red Scare:

Loyalty pledge Wagner Electric St. Louis World War I
click pledge for larger document view

Loyalty pledge required of workers at Wagner Electric, St. Louis, during WWI


Seattle General Strike

Chicago Race Riot of 1919

1919 Steel Strike


Fannie Sellins

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Sacco/Vanzetti Case


seattle general strike

Preparing for the General Strike, Seattle, 1919

strike has failed

Credit: Historical Society of Western Pa.

In 1919, the steel mills used bribery, threats and intimidation, and the press to break the strike. Asserting that the walk out had already failed, this advertisement, written in eight languages, associated union leadership with "aliens\" and the "un-American teachings of radical strike agitators."



Scot Tissue Towels ad from 1920s. "Employees lose respect for a company that failes to provide decent facilities for their comfort."


Passaic strike

Strikers' Children Kitchen, Passaic, 1926

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Great Depression Era


Unemployed 1931

Unemployed Demonstrate in St. Louis, 1931


Joe Jones

Artist Joe Jones' depiction of St. Louis unemployed protest, 1934
courtesy Butler Museum of Art



Minneapolis Teamsters 1934
Mass strike in Minneapolis, 1934

organized wpa wpa


WPA drillers

WPA drillers

Wilsonville sitdow

Wilsonville Illinois miners sit-down takeover of mine

Women on the Maytag strike line support workers who were occupying the factory, 1938

Maytag national guard

National Guardmen patrolling the Maytag plant after governor forced workers back to plant, below 1938Maytag workers


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Jobs at Union wages

The St. Louis CIO's campaign for unemployment benefits after the war

Cold War Era

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(this will be sorted by topic soon, and updated as well)


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Labor, Capital and the growing inequality of wealth 1970-present

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Global Labor

NAFTA's vicious cycle
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