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Terence V. Powderly
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Advocate
    (January 22, 1849-June 24, 1924)
    Born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania
    Birth name was Terence Vincent Powderly
    Attorney, labor union leader and politician
    Leading figure in the Knights of Labor, through the 1880's (joined in 1874)
    Mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania (1878-84)
    Served as the Commissioner General of Immigration (1897–1902) and Chief Information Officer for the Bureau of Immigration (1907–21)
    Author of 'Thirty Years of Labor' (1889) and 'The Path I Trod' (published posthumously, 1940)
    Inducted into the U.S. Department of Labor Labor Hall of Fame (January 2000)
    He was a labor leader who opposed strikes.
    He had the same handle-bar mustache for the majority of his career.
    He was accused of taking a passive approach to workers' rights issues of the day.
    He was known for being venomous and scheming towards his political enemies.
    He sided against the defendants of the Haymarket Square trial of 1886, insisting that the government should be allowed to make an example of radicals within the labor movement.
    He regularly clashed with Lucy Parsons, as well as her late martyred husband, Albert (who was wrongfully found guilty of the Haymarket Square bombings and hanged, in 1887).
    He was in-over-his-head as the lead figurehead of the Knights, unprepared for the level of coordination that it required.
    As a result, the Knights of Labor's membership decreased dramatically under his tenure.
    He was a leading voice in the opposition to immigrants, particularly the Chinese (his advocacy was credited with passing the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882).
    He was in the pocket of President William McKinley, who sought to promote a pro-labor image (not exactly pro-immigrant himself, the President-elect made him commissioner for his administration's Immigration Bureau).
    He was the son of Irish immigrants.
    He worked for almost ten years as a machinist’s apprentice, starting at the age of 17.
    He suffered from a rare form of tonsilitis over the course of his career.
    He was arguably the first union leader to attain the respect and adulation of the general public.
    Although generally against strikes as a rule, he could be a capable organizer when needed, as was the case in the Railroad Strike of 1885.
    His poor tenure may have just been a case of poor timing, as the times were changing rapidly.
    He was tasked with keeping the Knights of Labor a mainstream organization during a time when immigration and radicalism were on the rise (and were becoming competing interest factions within the labor movement itself).
    He made the grave mistake of going after the Robber Baron railroad magnate Jay Gould, who subsequently waged a campaign of character assassination from which he never entirely recovered.
    On top of everything, the Knights were rendered almost obsolete by the newly formed American Federation of Labor, which catered to skilled laborers (and compared to Samuel Gompers, Terence was a pussy cat).
    His advocacy led to the establishment of labor bureaus and arbitration boards in many states.
    Although known for his staunch anti-immigrant stance, he was a key factor in the abolishing of the Alien Contract Labor Law of 1895, which forbade the hiring of foreign workers.

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair


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