Labor Day, 1918

Springfield union members made plans for a giant parade on Labor Day 1918, one designed to highlight labor’s support for U.S. soldiers fighting in World War I as well as for the union movement. But it was rained out.

The march was to have included representatives of labor groups from throughout central Illinois. Most went home disappointed, the Illinois State Register reported the next day.

Hundreds of unionists who arrived in the city yesterday morning were informed at the railroad station that it would be impossible to hold the parade. Most caught the next train back home. A delegation of several hundred from Decatur arrived in the city in the midst of a doun-pouring torrent with a band and also returned to their city when it was decided an impossibility to carry out the morning program.

Speechifying was held inside the Sangamon County Courthouse instead of outside. Even there, however, the hundreds of listeners were shortchanged when the scheduled keynote speaker, William D. Mahon of Detroit, president of the national street car workers union, had to cancel because of labor turmoil elsewhere. (Local street car employees were still officially on strike against the Springfield Consolidated Railway Co., although it had become increasingly clear that the company was not about to agree to strikers’ demands.) Rally attendees had to settle for an address by Sangamon County State’s Attorney Fred Mortimer.

Two resolutions proposed by Robert Woodmansee of Springfield, secretary of the Labor Day committee, tied together the purposes of the day’s ceremonies. They were adopted unanimously.

The mass meeting of workers reassures their brothers and comrades on the firing lines of democracy that we are sparing no effort of muscle or money so that their sacrifice shall not be in vain; and we give further assurance that there will be an abundance of the foods, ships, munitions and armaments of war so urgently needed to carry the conflict to a speedy, triumphant conclusion (and)

That the mass meeting of citizens and workers recognize the advent of Labor Day as a special day on which to reaffirm our allegiance to the nation and the cause for which it fights; that we do hereby again pledge ourselves to the undivided effort and sacrifice in the cause of world freedom and democracy until the forces of barbarism and autocracy shall have been crushed; that we hereby call upon every toiler, be it man or woman, to give till it hurts, and toil till it hurts and by unsparing effort and unstinting sacrifice and a show of loyalty make this Labor Day, 1918, a milestone in the world’s progress toward a better civilization and a free citizenry.

Robert Woodmansee

woodmanseeAs owner, editor and publisher of the Illinois Tradesman, Robert E. Woodmansee (1864-1952) was one of Springfield’s leading trade unionists for more than 50 years.

Woodmansee worked in the editorial and circulation departments of the Illinois State Journal before he acquired the weekly Tradesman, which reported union news and supported labor issues, in 1897. The paper was almost immediately endorsed by the Springfield Federation of Labor.

He continued to operate the paper until 1948, when he sold it to the labor federation.

schs-logo-2Woodmansee also was a member of the Springfield School Board from 1916 until 1948 and served as president of the board in 1937.

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