Potter, George (DNB00)

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POTTER, GEORGE (1832–1893), trade-unionist, was born at Kenilworth in Warwickshire in 1832, and served his apprenticeship to a carpenter at Coventry. In 1854 he came to London, and was elected a member of the Progressive Society of Carpenters. He first became prominent in the lock-out in the building trades of London in 1859. On 11 April 1864 he headed the deputation of workmen of London who welcomed Garibaldi, and rode on horseback by the side of his carriage. In recognition of his public services he was presented by the combined trades of London and the provinces with an illuminated address and a purse of 300l. With Howell, Allan, Coulson, Applegarth, and the other leaders of trade-unionism he was seldom in agreement, and they in their turn denounced him as an aider and abettor of strikes. He started in 1861 a paper, ‘The Beehive,’ which exercised some little influence, but he never held any important position in the trade-union world. He was elected to the London school board for the Westminster district on 27 Nov. 1873, and served for nine years. He was the first member of the board who brought before his colleagues the question of free education, and he had the satisfaction of moving for and obtaining the appointment of the educational endowment committee. In his attempts to enter the House of Commons he was not successful; he contested Peterborough in 1874 and Preston in 1886. In August 1886, as president of the London Working Men's Association, he opened the trade-union congress held in St. Martin's Hall, Long Acre, London. His last public appearance was at the demonstration against the Local Veto Bill in Trafalgar Square, London, in March 1893. He died at 21 Marney Road, Wandsworth, Surrey, on 3 June 1893.

Though a self-taught man, he was an able writer on labour questions, upon which, from time to time, he contributed articles to the ‘Times’ and the ‘Contemporary Review.’ He in 1861 published ‘The Labour Question: an Address to the Capitalists and Employers of the Building Trade, being a few Reasons on behalf of a Reduction of the Hours of Labour.’

[Holyoake's Sixty Years of an Agitator's Life, 1893, ii. 194; Webb's History of Trade Unionism, 1894, pp. 213, 230, 237, 256, 282; Times, 5 June, 1893, p. 10.]

G. C. B.