Today in Labor History – September 20th

Steel-drivin’ man, John Henry

Upton Sinclair was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Sinclair wrote the 1906 novel The Jungle, which became famous for its vivid portrayal of the unsanitary condition of Chicago meatpacking houses. It was also an indictment of the bosses’ exploitation of workers, political corruption, union corruption, and the abuse of immigrants. – 1878

[click_to_tweet tweet=”Upton Sinclair, the author of The Jungle, was born, John Henry was born a slave and more.” quote=”Upton Sinclair, the author of The Jungle, was born, John Henry was born a slave and more.”]

According to folklorist John Garst, steel-drivin’ man (a man tasked with hammering a steel drill into rock to make holes for explosives to blast the rock in constructing a railroad tunnel) John Henry, born a slave, outperformed a steam hammer on this date. This took place at the Coosa Mountain Tunnel or the Oak Mountain Tunnel of the Columbus and Western Railway (now part of the Norfolk Southern) near Leeds, Alabama. Other researchers place the contest near Talcott, West Virginia. – 1887

International Hod Carriers, Building & Common Laborers Union of America changed its name to Laborers’ International Union. – 1965

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