American Labor’s First Strike


The crucial role of printers in the U.S. labor movement

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Articles on Benjamin Franklin, the 1786 Philadelphia Journeymen’s Strike, Early Printers’ Unions in the U.S., and Their Legacy

by Henry P. Rosemont
Introduction by Dave Roediger

June 2, 1786, journeymen printers in Philadelphia added a whole new dimension to worker’s struggles. For the first time workers went on strike demanding a specific wage, and devised methods of mutual aid to sustain their collective direct action. This book goes on to examine other significant developments in the rise of printing trade unionism, and notably the International Typographical Union. America’s First Strike explores the role of Benjamin Franklin in the June 1786 strike; his lasting influence on organized labor; the early union printers’ support for the abolition of slavery; their leadership in the broader U.S. labor movement, and the struggle for an 8-hour day. Other articles focus on the problems of technological change, and on such epochal labor battles as the Haymarket Affair of 1886, the 1938-40 Newspaper Guild Strike, and the Chicago newspaper strike of 1947-49. Rosemont profiles many brave and thoughtful individuals involved in this colorful history: the 1786 strikers, revolutionary printer-editor George Henry Evans, anarchist Albert Parsons, and others. The son and grandson of printers, Henry P. Rosemont (1904-1979) was himself a lifelong printer and labor activist. Author of much of the ITU’s agitational and educational literature over a span of fifty years, he was also recognized —not only in his own local (Chicago No. 16) but also throughout the international organization—as one of union printerdom’s foremost historians. His massive collection of union printers’ documents is housed at The Newberry Library, Chicago.

Additional information

Weight 7.6 oz
Dimensions 8.5 × 5.5 × 0.25 in


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