American Labor Movement and Unions

Brooke Muenzenberger

Cornelius Vanderbilt Entrepreneur

Cornelius Vanderbilt was involved with the shipping business. When he was just 16 years old, he started his entrepreneurship by buying a boat, and being a ferry man. Vanderbilt would carry soldiers to and from their destinations (Famous Entrepreneurs 2). Soon after his business started, he purchased many more boats. He continued onto being into a steamship business until he was about a millionaire. Then Vanderbilt traded in all of his ships for railroads. He started out buying stocks of the New York Central railroad. Consequently, he fell in love with the business. He bought many railroads in New York, for the Hudson River railroad and the New York Central railroad (Famous Entrepreneurs 2-3).


Vanderbilt built his fortune on steamboats and railroads. If he were here today, he would tell you that education wasn't very important to him. Vanderbilt states, "If I had learned education I would not have had the time to learn anything else" (Quotes Daddy 1). At the age of 16, he started in the steamboat business. His business took off because of the War during the time. He quickly became a millionaire. Vanderbilt found a new love; he was in love with the railroad business. (Famous Entrepreneurs 3-4). The entrepreneur soon entered it, and in no time he became very rich. He became rich from holding stocks, and from financing the Hudson River railroad and the New York Central railroad. He also was very smart in business, which helped him in his path to becoming rich. Vanderbilt was also a tough guy to work with. Proof in this is when he once said, "You have undertaken to cheat me. I won't sue you, for the law is too slow. I will ruin you" (brainy quote 1). Vanderbilt built his fortune up to twenty-five million dollars (Famous Entrepreneur 1-5).


Vanderbilt was said to have helped shape the American economy. He also made a huge impact on the Civil war by giving his fastest and most efficient ship to the Union Navy (History 5). The entrepreneur also was a huge impact on the railroad industry. He put together tons of short railroads to combine to one long stretch of railroad. This opened the door for other railroad industries to do the same. This method was more efficient, costed less, and sped up travel (History 6).



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"5 Things You May Not Know About the Men Who Built America." History.com. A&E Television Networks, 16 Oct. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

"Cornelius Vanderbilt." History.com. A&E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

“If I had learned education I would not have had time to learn anything else.”

"Google Images." Google Images. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

BrainyQuote. Xplore, n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.


Knights of Labor

Contributions to the Labor Movement

The Knights of Labor were basically a group of tailors that formed a secret society. Eventually, their group expanded in the 1870s because of the hardships. This group became massive after the labor strike for the railroads of 1877. The Knights of Labor were smart, and got a Knight of Labor member into office, Terence Powderly (History 1-3). They put their efforts into trying to get an eight hour work day. By 1886, the Knights of Labor had over 700,00 members. This influential group held strikes, boycotts, and arbitration all over the railroad systems. After bomb went off in a New York labor rally, everything fell back, and the Knights of Labor were blamed. Membership went way down to just over 100,000 members, but that didn't stop the Knights to gain a huge commotion over the hardships of labor (History 2-4). Also, what made this group so powerful is that they included everyone, which was blacks, whites, women, and children. The Knights also established the single labor union for skilled and unskilled workers. A quote from the Labor Union helped to gain many members, which stated "Any Injury to one is a concern to all" (Knights of Labor 1). The Knights of Labor were so influential that eventually, they would get their eight hour work day (Knights of Labor 2).





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"Knights of Labor Welcome Page." Knights of Labor Welcome Page. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

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The Founders of the Knights of Labor

These are the founders of the Knights of Labor.


Pullman, Illinois

Life in Pullman, Illinois was glorious, if you were rich. This town was built literally for the rich. It had beautiful landscape, big houses, the works, but one thing it didn't have was saloons. This picture perfect place to live was not all it seemed to be though. The average span of living there was four and a half years. This town was built for the high experienced officers, and professionals. The town was an attraction all over the United States, but it was greatly watched (The Pullman Strike 2). Most railroad workers lived outside of Pullman because it was so expensive. Pullman was built buy the railroad for workers to work on the railroad systems. This town would not let workers have freedom, but to have the people just do work, work, and more work. Pullman's town attracted single males, and the population soon became to a ratio of 2 women to 31 men living there. Many workers complained at the loss of alcohol or saloons in the town (The Pullman Strike 3-6).


"The Pullman Strike: The Town of Pullman." The Pullman Strike: The Town of Pullman. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

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Pullman, Illinois

This is a picture of what Pullman looked like after it was built.


Pullman Railroad Strike

During the time of the Labor movement, many went on strike because of their poor work conditions, small wages, and over-time work. Specifically, the workers of Pullman, Illinois went strike when the owner of the railroad car manufacturer fired over 2,000 workers, and reduced wages twenty five percent. The American Railway union led a strike by stopping all railway stations in Chicago, that used Pullman cars. George Pullman was outraged by his factory, so he closed it (About 5-8). The American Railway Union got over 260,000 workers from all over the United States to join their boycott. This stopped all of the nation's production, and it gave George Pullman (owner) little time to negotiate a deal. Consequently, Pullman and many other railway owners contacted the President at the time, Grover Cleveland. Cleveland sent troops to get the railways up and running again (About 9-12).


"Strike Against Pullman Palace Car Company Paralyzed Railroads in 1894."About.com 19th Century History. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013.

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Labor Unions In The U.S. Today

The Labor Unions are the same as they first started out. The higher class is gaining money while the lower class suffers. Most of the Labor Unions focus on trying to gain better profits, which hurts the workers (Union Plus 1). Many workers are out on strike for their hardships today as well. The owners of companies are trying to provide better health care, improve wages, and the work environment. Some succeed and some don't (Union Plus 3-4). Labor Unions play an important role in our American economy, and that will continue in the future.


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"Google Images." Google Images. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Nov. 2013