The New International Encyclopædia/Knights of Labor

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1217233The New International Encyclopædia — Knights of Labor

KNIGHTS OF LABOR. A national labor organization in the United States formed in December, 1869, by leaders of a dissolved local union of garment-cutters in Philadelphia. Until 1882 the name and purpose of the order was kept secret, its only official representation being a line of five stars. This secrecy was instituted on the ground of the dislike of employers to organized labor, and on the alleged ground that open associations of working men had hitherto proved failures. Admittance to the order was granted to all persons over sixteen, except liquor-dealers, gamblers, bankers, and lawyers. The government of the Knights of Labor is vested in local assemblies, district assemblies, national trade assemblies, and State assemblies. The administrative power is given to a general master workman, a general worthy foreman, a general secretary-treasurer, and a general executive board, consisting of the master workman, the worthy foreman, and three other members. Until 1886, when the order became involved in the Missouri Pacific strike, the membership increased, at first slowly and then rapidly, until it numbered, as was claimed, over 700,000. Thereafter, split by internal dissensions, and weakened by failing strikes, the membership declined, until in 1900 it was officially 200,000, and practically perhaps 50,000. The political platform adopted by the Knights of Labor advocated the unlimited coinage of silver, compulsory arbitration, equal rights for both sexes, the ownership by the Government of telegraphs, telephones, and railroads, and the common ownership of land. Coöperative enterprises, such as joint partnerships and mutual benefit funds, were started by the order. The official organ was the Journal of United Labor. Consult: The Quarterly Journal of Economics, vol. i.; Ely, The Labor Movement in America (New York, 1886). See Labor, American Federation of; Labor Organizations; Trade Unions.