Labor Herald

Title: Labor Herald
Available online: 13 March 1886 - 17 July 1886 (17 issues)

Place of publication: Richmond, VA

Established by the Knights of Labor, a powerful labor organization of the late 19th century, the Labor Herald began publication on September 15, 1885, in Richmond, Virginia. The Herald's primary purpose was to inform working people of the goals and objectives of the Knights of Labor. Articles in described the plight of women, labor struggles in Richmond and other areas of the country, and national and local politics and the newspaper sought to educate the working people of the demands and tools of union organization against the interests of banks and corporations. The four-page, large-format paper (21" by 27¾") sold for five cents a copy and the subscription rate was one dollar a year.

William H. Mullen, a member of the Knights of Labor and Typographical Union Local 90, edited theLabor Herald. The son of the editor of a Methodist temperance paper, Mullen owned the press on which the Herald was printed. The Herald's motto was the same as the Knights of Labor: "That is the most perfect government in which an injury to one is the concern of all." Particularly noteworthy is the newspaper's support for a boycott of Baughman Brothers, the only nonunion print shop in Richmond at the time. TheLabor Herald regularly printed a blacklist of Baughman's customers until July 1886 when Baughman's obtained an injunction to prevent the paper from doing so.

On September 10, 1886, Mullen was nominated for the House of Representatives at a labor convention attended by representatives from more than forty Richmond-area locals. On September 28, a grand jury indicted Mullen and others for criminal conspiracy in relation to the Baughman boycott. In early October, the Knights of Labor held their national convention in Richmond, where much furor was caused by the New York delegation's insistence upon having a black member, Frank Ferrell, introduce Terence V. Powderly, leader of the Knights from 1883 to 1893, immediately following the Governor of Virginia. After the controversial introduction, the group incited further anger by smuggling Ferrell into a local, whites-only theater. The Richmond Convention seems to have marked both a high point and the beginning of the disintegration of the Knights of Labor. On October 30, just three days before the election, Mullen dropped out of the race and endorsed the Democratic candidate, incumbent, and victor, George D. Wise.

It is uncertain exactly when the Labor Herald ceased publication, but as membership in the Knights of Labor began to wane, it seems probable that support for its Richmond newspaper dwindled as well. Leon Fink, in his book Workingmen's Democracy, wrote, "Within months of his aborted candidacy, Mullen was finding it difficult to get work. Within a year he had suspended publication of the Labor Herald." [p.167]


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