Knights of Labor

Ulysses Simpson Grant

Summary and Definition of Knights of Labor
Definition and Summary: The Knights of Labor was an important American labor organization that was established in 1869 and led by Uriah S. Stephens. The Knights of Labor was originally founded as a secret organization of tailors in Philadelphia. The Knights of Labor played an important role in the development of the labor movement in the United States of America bringing together workers from different trades.

Knights of Labor for kids
Ulysses Grant was the 18th American President who served in office from March 4, 1869 to March 4, 1877. One of the important events during his presidency was the establishment of the Knights of Labor, an important American labor organization.



Knights of Labor History (KOL) for kids: The Origins and Uriah S. Stephens
The Knights of Labor history began in 1869 when Uriah S. Stephens led the founding of this secret organization of tailors in Philadelphia. The reason that the Knights of Labor started as a secret society was to protect its members from employer retaliations. The secrecy and ideals of fraternalism strongly appealed to its members and increased their belief in its importance. The secret society was founded by Uriah St evens, the Grand Master Workman, with just eight original members. It was a brave action to take as union members were summarily fired during this period in US history. The Knights of Labor began as a replacement for the failed Garment Cutters Association of Philadelphia. The secret society spread across Philadelphia during the early years of its history with over 80 local assemblies but by 1875 the society started to spread to other districts.
The early Knights of Labor developed ornate rituals to preside over their meetings, similar to those practiced by Freemasons. Membership was restricted according to occupation and religion (it was initially a Protestant society). The Knights of Labor members developed a system of secret symbols and these symbols were chalked on to sidewalks to alert members of imminent meetings. Other secret worker organizations were being founded at this time including  including the shoemakers' Knights of St. Crispin, the miners "Molly Maguires", the Sovereigns of Industry and the Industrial Brotherhood.

Knights of Labor History (KOL) for kids: Expansion and Change led by Terence V. Powderly
The Knights of Labor history moved to another level by 1877 achieving national importance. Increased interest in the organization was sparked by the
Great Railroad Strike of 1877 which highlighted the grievances of workers. Membership expanded as other labor organizations, including those of the miners, disbanded. In 1878 the first national officers were appointed after a Knights of Labor convention in Reading, Pennsylvania. In 1879 Uriah Stephens resigned the position of Grand Master Workman and was replaced by Terence V. Powderly. Under the leadership of Terence V. Powderly the Knights of Labor underwent significant change. The secrecy surrounding the organization was abandoned, as were the secret rituals, and in 1883 the leader's title was changed to the less pretentious General Master Workman. The Knights of Labor became better organized with a stronger sense of purpose and their name changed to the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor. The Knights of Labor became a national organization open to all workers, regardless of their skills, sex, nationality, religion or race. The only occupations excluded from membership were gamblers, bankers, stockholders, lawyers, and saloonkeepers. 

Knights of Labor Goals under Terence V. Powderly
The Knights of Labor goals under the leadership of Terence V. Powderly became more radical and were politically motivated. The aims and objectives of the KOL were to make demands for:

Knights of Labor goals: An eight-hour working day

Knights of Labor goals: Improved safety in factories

Knights of Labor goals: Compensation for on-the-job injury

Knights of Labor goals: To abolish child labor

Knights of Labor goals: Equal pay for equal work

Knights of Labor goals: Equal pay for women

Knights of Labor goals: To end the use of prison labor, which deprived other workers of jobs

Knights of Labor goals: Political reforms including the graduated income tax.

Knights of Labor goals: Government ownership of railroads and telegraph lines

Knights of Labor goals: A new land policy that benefited settlers rather than speculators

Knights of Labor Accomplishments
Terence V. Powderly and the Knights of Labor did not initially advocate strike action but this became common practice as the depression bit deeper and workers became more militant. The Knights of Labor accomplishments included winning the strikes against the Union Pacific Railroad in 1884 and the Wabash Railroad in 1885.

Knights of Labor Membership
The Knights of Labor membership started with just nine members. By 1880 it reached 28,000 members which swelled to 100,000 by 1885. In 1886 the membership saw a massive increase to 800,000 members in 1886 but after this time the number of members went into decline.

Knights of Labor for kids
The info about the Knights of Labor provides interesting facts and important information about this important event that occured during the presidency of the 18th President of the United States of America.

Knights of Labor: The Decline of the KOL
The Knights of Labor
failed to win the Missouri Pacific strike in 1886. In the same year the Haymarket Square Riot erupted, during which a bomb exploded, killing several policemen. Public opinion was turning against the militant actions of the Union and the terrifying riots. Non-union members believed the strikes and riots were nothing more than rebellion and insurrection. Strikers were accused of being communists who were in opposition to the American system of government and economy. By 1900, the Knights of Labor had lost most of their power and their support and other less radical unions became more popular.

Knights of Labor and AFL (American Federation of Labor): Samuel Gompers
The problems encountered by the Knights of Labor were closely observed by Samuel Gompers, the leader of the New York City branch of the Cigarmakers' International Union who became the key organizer of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Samuel Gompers was extremely focused on achieving higher wages and improved working conditions for workers. In 1886, Samuel Gompers met with leaders from other unions who he persuaded to amalgamate in order to form the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Unlike the Knights of Labor, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) only represented skilled workers. The AFL believed in organized and strong negotiation tactics to obtain improved working conditions and wages for workers. The AFL also took a far less radical approach and their moderate, less politically motivated views and realistic goals proved popular and at the height of its success the AFL attracted over 3 million members.

Knights of Labor: Rise of Big Business and Corporations
For additional facts and info refer to the Rise of Big Business and Corporations involving the monopolies and trusts. Learn about the wealthy industrialists referred to as the Robber Barons and the Captains of Industry and discover facts about the Industrialization in America that led to Riots, Strikes and Unions.

Knights of Labor for kids - President Ulysses Grant Video
The article on the Knights of Labor provides an overview of one of the Important issues of his presidential term in office. The following Ulysses Grant video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 18th American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1869 to March 4, 1877.

Knights of Labor -  American Labor Organization

Interesting Facts about the economic depression for kids and schools
Definition of the Knights of Labor in US history
Facts about the Knights, Terence V. Powderly and Uriah S. Stephens
Ulysses Grant Presidency from March 4, 1869 to March 4, 1877
Fast, fun, facts on the Knights and the AFL
Foreign & Domestic policies of President Ulysses Grant
Ulysses Grant Presidency and the Knights, Terence V. Powderly and Uriah S. Stephens for schools, homework and kids

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