[Pair of Late-19th Century Manuscript Ledgers Recording the Founding, Regular Meeting Activities, and Membership Rolls of Fidelity Lodge No. 7 of the United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers of America]

Birmingham, Al. 1888-1891; 1888-1903. Two volumes. 130; [79]pp. Folio. Both in similar contemporary three-quarter leather and black cloth bindings. Boards heavily worn, with both spines mostly perished, and thus a bit tender. Cloth of second ledger mostly detached and a bit chipped but present. Closed tears to a few leaves, moderate dampstaining in second ledger, a handful of leaves detached. A well-used pair of ledgers. Good. Item #2340

An informative pair of record books documenting the activities and membership of Fidelity Lodge No. 7, the Birmingham, Alabama branch of the United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers of America. The ledgers record meeting minutes and activities, including reports from officers and members, communications from other union chapters, applications from prospective members, news on officer elections, membership lists, and much more over a fifteen-year period at the end of the 19th century and the first few years of the 20th century.

The meetings book details the activities of the union during its critical first three years, from 1888-1891. The ledger is rich with details on the group's regularly-scheduled meetings. Recorded here are resolutions proposed by various members, details on voting, reports from officers, and a host of other inside information related to the union's history and activities. The first entry of the minutes book records the beginnings of the local union, when on October 10, 1888, "22 machinists of Birmingham met in I.O.O.F. Hall, for the purpose of hearing Mr. T.W. Talbott [sic, Talbot] explain the principles of the United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers of America." After Talbot's presentation, the local machinists voted unanimously "to form a Lodge." The first entry also includes a list of the union's charter members, its founding officers, and the decision on its name as Fidelity Lodge No. 7. A typical entry for April 5, 1889 memorializes speeches from a few members detailing other attempts to create a machinist union, the philosophy and politics behind unions, a recent victory by a carpenter's union in New York that secured 40 cents an hour "simply by organization." This entry also includes a passage by a member who argues that he has a right to organize because "if a man was a free born white citizen of America 21 years of age he could do as he pleased." The entries proceed in much the same way throughout the next hundred-plus pages. Towards the end of the ledger, a couple of deaths of members are recorded, and include newspaper clippings of the individuals' death announcement.

The second ledger is comprised solely of lists of the union's membership. A handwritten title on the first page reads, "Record of Members and Numbers from 1888-1903." The ledger begins with a lengthy alphabetical listing of members, including each member's card number, followed by occasional additions of shorter lists input at later dates. Some of the later lists were designed as a "correction of numbers" for various members of the lodge. The latter listings involve members who transferred, died, withdrew, or were dropped from the union.

The United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers of America is an early trade union founded in the year the present ledgers begin, 1888 in Atlanta, Georgia. The next year, the group changed its name to the National Association of Machinists. Two years later, the name changed again to the International Association of Machinists and finally, in 1965, the group became known as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. The union remains active today, with over 800,000 members. Georgia State University includes a history of the trade union as part of its Southern Labor Archives. They give an interesting account of the group's formation: “Thomas Talbot [mentioned above], a machinist in one of Atlanta's railway yards, gathered 18 of his fellow machinists together in May 1888. Believing that machinists needed a union to cope with problems particular to their craft, they formed the Order of United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers. The Order remained secret for several years since it was formed during a time when employers were often hostile to organized labor. Despite the Order being secret it spread beyond Georgia, partially thanks to the ‘boomers.’ (Boomers were men who traveled the railway lines for work wherever they went. They would establish locals in these areas if there was not one already present.) Within one year, there were 40 lodges; by 1891, there were 189. The First Convention of the Order was held on May 6, 1889 in the Georgia Senate Chamber in Atlanta. Talbot was elected Master Machinist, and the organization's name was changed to the National Association of Machinists (NAM). A Constitution was drawn up at this same Convention and it was agreed that a monthly journal should be published consisting of ‘no less than 16 pages’” (https://research.library.gsu.edu/IAMAWCollections). That journal began its publishing life in February 1889 as the Journal of the United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers, and ran from 1889 to 1956. The union became associated with the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in 1895, and earned early victories in 1898 when it won a nine-hour work day after a strike, then shaved it down to eight hours in 1915. The union continued to develop and expand throughout the 20th century.

A unique and research-worthy pair of manuscript ledgers from an early Southern trade union.

Price: $1,950.00