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Philadelphia Cordwainers' Case


PHILADELPHIA CORDWAINERS' CASE. In the fall of 1805 the journeymen cordwainers of Philadelphia went on strike to enforce their demands for the wage scale prevailing at New York and Baltimore and for a discontinuance of the rebate of wages for export work. Eight union leaders were then arrested on a charge of criminal conspiracy. Agreeing with the prosecution that "a conspiracy of workmen to raise their wages" was criminal at common law, the Court found the defendants guilty and fined them a token $8.00. The strike was broken, and an important precedent was set for the criminal prosecution of labor union activities which had multiplied with the rise of wholesale manufacturers. This was the first of six criminal conspiracy cases brought against union shoemakers in this period; four of the cases were decided against the journeymen.


Forbath, William E. Law and the Shaping of the American Labor Movement. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1991.

Steinfeld, Robert J. "The Philadelphia Cordwainer's Case of 1806." In Labor Law in America: Historical and Critical Essays. Edited by Christopher Tomlins and Andrew J. King. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1992.

Richard B.Morris/a. r.

See alsoIndustrial Revolution ; Labor ; Restraint of Trade ; Scab ; Strikes ; Wages and Hours of Labor, Regulation of .

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