Stephens, Uriah Smith


Stephens, Uriah Smith
born , Aug. 3, 1821, Cape May, N.J., U.S.
died Feb. 13, 1882, Philadelphia, Pa.

U.S. labour leader.

Apprenticed as a tailor, he became involved in reform movements such as abolitionism and utopian socialism, and in 1862 he helped organize the Garment Cutters' Association of Philadelphia. In 1869 he cofounded the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, the first national labour union in the U.S., and became its first leader (or grand master workman). The high calling of the union and the hostility of union-busters led Stephens to favour secrecy and ritual in its meetings, which became increasingly controversial, as did Stephens's opposition to strikes. In 1878 he resigned his post.

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▪ American social reformer
born , Aug. 3, 1821, Cape May, N.J., U.S.
died Feb. 13, 1882, Philadelphia

      American utopian reformer who was instrumental in founding the Knights of Labor, the first national labour union in the United States.

      Stephens wanted to become a Baptist minister, but family financial reverses (largely brought about by the Panic of 1837) led him into an apprenticeship to a tailor. After working as a tailor in Philadelphia from 1845 to 1853, Stephens traveled to California by way of the West Indies, Central America, and Mexico. When he returned to Philadelphia in 1858 he became caught up in antebellum reform movements, advocating abolitionism and a utopian socialism that would later underlie his union-organizing efforts.

      Those efforts began in 1862, when Stephens helped organize the Garment Cutters' Association of Philadelphia. When that union collapsed in 1869, Stephens joined with six others that same year to found the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, with Stephens becoming the union's first grand master workman. Open to all working people (excluding bankers, lawyers, stockbrokers, gamblers, doctors, and liquor manufacturers and salespeople), the Knights were supposed to serve as a voluntary association of producers, brought together in a great fraternal body to replace the ugly materialism of the new industrial age with a cooperative economic order. In Stephens' view, the Knights constituted something akin to a secular church and thus required substantial secrecy and ritual to bind together its diverse membership. In an era that saw several brutal union-busting struggles, secrecy was also regarded as an essential survival strategy.

      As the Knights grew into the most powerful labour organization of its day, Stephens found himself and his beliefs more and more the targets of attack. Secrecy and ritual became the central issues of controversy, and many members took exception to Stephens' opposition to strikes and other job actions. In 1878—after losing a congressional bid as a Greenback Party candidate—Stephens resigned as leader of the Knights.

      His successor was Terence V. Powderly (Powderly, Terence V.), and Stephens and Powderly clashed bitterly over the secrecy issue until in 1881 Powderly triumphed and the Knights repudiated the rule of secrecy and employed less ritual, stripping the union of the quasi-religious trappings in which Stephens believed so devoutly. Under Powderly the Knights of Labor went on to acquire almost 700,000 members by 1886—four years after Stephens' death. But by that time it was an entirely different organization from the cooperative commonwealth that Stephens had envisioned.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Stephens, Uriah Smith — (3 ago. 1821, Cape May, N.J., EE.UU.–13 feb. 1882, Filadelfia, Pa.). Dirigente sindical estadounidense. Cuando era aprendiz de sastre, participó en movimientos de reforma, como el abolicionismo y el socialismo utópico, y en 1862 ayudó a organizar …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Uriah Smith Stephens — (* 3. August 1821 in Cape May, New Jersey; † 13. Februar 1882 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) war Baptist, amerikanischer Gewerkschaftsführer und Gründer der Knigh …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Uriah Smith Stephens — Infobox Person name = Uriah Smith Stephens image size = 180px caption = birth date = 1821 birth place = death date = death date|1882|2|13|mf=y death place = occupation = Founder of Knights of Labor spouse = parents = children =Uriah Smith… …   Wikipedia

  • smith — /smith/, n. 1. a worker in metal. 2. a blacksmith. v.t. 3. to forge on an anvil; form by heating and pounding: to smith armor. [bef. 900; (n.) ME, OE; c. G Schmied, ON smithr, Goth smitha; (v.) ME smithen, OE smithian; c. ON smitha, Goth… …   Universalium

  • Smith — /smith/, n. 1. Adam, 1723 90, Scottish economist. 2. Alfred E(manuel), 1873 1944, U.S. political leader. 3. Bessie, 1894? 1937, U.S. singer. 4. Charles Henry ( Bill Arp ), 1826 1903, U.S. humorist. 5 …   Universalium

  • Smith — Smith, Adam Smith, George Smith, Hamilton O. Smith, Ian Douglas Smith, John Smith, Joseph Smith, Theobald Smith, William * * * (as used in expressions) Abigail Smi …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Stephens — /stee veuhnz/, n. 1. Alexander Hamilton, 1812 83, U.S. statesman: vice president of the Confederacy 1861 65. 2. James, 1882 1950, Irish poet and novelist. * * * (as used in expressions) Stephens Alexander Hamilton Stephens John Lloyd Stephens… …   Universalium

  • Stephens — (as used in expressions) Stephens, Alexander H(amilton) Stephens, John Lloyd Stephens, Uriah Smith …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Stephens — may refer to:People:: You may be looking for someone whose family name is Stevens, Stevenson or Stephenson. *Alexander Stephens (1812 1883), Vice President of the Confederate States of America *Ann S. Stephens (1813 1886), U.S. dime novelist… …   Wikipedia

  • Uriah — oder Urijah (Hebräisch אוּרִיָּה, Ivrit Uriyya, Tiberianisch ʾÛriyyāh) ist ein männlicher Vorname und der Name verschiedener Männer im Tanach, der Hebräischen Bibel. Wörtlich bedeutet er Der Herr ist mein Licht. Bekannte Namensträger Alexander… …   Deutsch Wikipedia


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