Labor History Seminar: James Wolfinger, DePaul University

Center for American History and Culture Programs
Labor History Seminar
Friday, December 2, 2011

3:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Room 101

“ ‘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

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, e-mail the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org.  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.