Powderly, Terence Vincent

Powderly, Terence Vincent,

1849–1924, American labor leader, b. Carbondale, Pa. Apprenticed in a machine shop, he joined (1871) the Machinists and Blacksmiths National Union, becoming its president in 1872. He joined the Knights of Labor in 1874 and served as grand master workman from 1879 to 1893, when he resigned because of disagreement with the officers on policy. He was elected mayor of Scranton, Pa., three times (1878, 1880, 1882). In 1894 he was admitted to the bar in Lackawanna co., Pa. He served (1897–1902) as U.S. commissioner general of immigration and was (1907–21) chief of the division of information in the U.S. Bureau of Immigration.


See his Thirty Years of Labor, 1859 to 1889 (1890, repr. 1967) and his autobiography, The Path I Trod (1940, repr. 1967).

Powderly, Terence Vincent


Born Jan. 22, 1849, in Carbondale, Pa.; died June 24, 1924, in Washington, D.C. A reformist leader of the US labor movement.

Powderly was a railroad engineer by occupation. He joined the Knights of Labor in 1874 and was the organization’s leader from 1879 to 1893. He obstructed the development of the tactic of the militant strike, appealing to the workers to accept compromise agreements with the employers and peaceful arbitration. After he was removed from the leadership of the Knights of Labor, Powderly joined the Republican Party (1896). He served as US commissioner-general of immigration from 1897 to 1902 and as chief of the Division of Information of the Bureau of Immigration from 1907 to 1921.