3:00 pm to 5:00 pm
“ ‘It Was Nothing Short of War’: Street Railways and the Spread of Class Conflict in Early Twentieth Century Philadelphia”
James Wolfinger, DePaul University
This paper examines a general strike spawned by Philadelphia transit workers who walked off the job in February 1910 to demand union recognition. Management responded by deploying strikebreakers and the state police and within a week some 100,000 Philadelphians joined a general strike that resulted in twenty-six people killed, hundreds injured, and businesses losing millions of dollars. In examining this strike, I argue that transit is a pivotal, and tremendously understudied, area for historians seeking to analyze labor relations in turn of the twentieth century urban America. Street railways a century ago reached into every neighborhood in Philadelphia, bringing violence, unrest, and ultimately “the labor question” to every resident’s doorstep.
Commentators: Sarah Frohardt-Lane, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Erik Gellman, Roosevelt University
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