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[graphic] Terence V. Powderly House


[photo]
Terence V. Powderly House from street
Photograph by Kristen Carsto

[photo]
Terence V. Powderly House frontview
Photograph by Kristen Carsto

Occupied by Terence V. Powderly for many years, this house gained historical significance during the years of the American Labor movement, and today is designated as a National Historic Landmark. The labor movement of the late 1880s was dominated by Powderly, a leader of Jeffersonian idealism. Born January 22, 1849, in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, Powderly became a union man early in his life. Powderly's quest was to promote an all-inclusive union and to promote arbitration as labor's principle bargaining tool. After leaving school at the age of 13, Powderly worked on a railroad and eventually became an apprentice machinist. Powderly was elected president of the Machinists' and Blacksmiths' union, which he joined in 1871. As a result of his union involvement, Powderly was among the first to lose their jobs during the depression of 1873.

Powderly's natural leadership led to his position of Grand Master Workmen of the Knights of Labor. The Knights of Labor, originally a secret organization, was the leading labor organization of the 1880s. Under Powderly's leadership for 14 years, the Knights of Labor promoted the unity of labor and union organization. In an attempt to form a large union the Knights counted both African Americans and women as members. By 1886, with a membership between 700,000 and 1,000,000, the union had become the largest and most influential in the country. During his involvement with the Knights of Labor, Powderly was elected Mayor of Scranton in 1878. He served as Mayor for three two-year terms. As Mayor, Powderly laid the ground work for city hall and helped authorize the purchase of land for the city's municipal building. Powderly was the nation's outstanding labor leader from 1879 to 1893.

The Knights of Labor union collapsed following its peak in 1886, mostly due to its opposition of strikes. The Knights of Labor remained in existence for 13 years, following Powderly's resignation in 1893. Many of the Knights former members joined the American Federation of Labor, led by Powderly's aggressive personal rival, Samuel Gompers. Prior to his resignation from the Knights of Labor, Powderly studied law in his spare time and was admitted to the Lackawanna County State and Federal Courts in 1894. President William McKinley appointed him as the United States Commissioner General of Immigration in 1897. In 1907, Powderly assumed a new position as chief of the division of information of the Bureau of Immigration and held that office until 1921. Following his appointment as commissioner general he moved to Washington, DC, where he died June 24, 1924. Powderly's home in Scranton remains much as it was when he occupied it.

The Powderly House is located at 614 North Main Street, Scranton. It is not open to the public.


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