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A marker stands at this spot to commemorate the founding of the Mechanics' Union of Trade Association in 1827. It was the first association of its kind, uniting working professions from all over the city to organize and agitate for better labor conditions. Among other activities, the union engaged in workers' education and advocated for a ten-hour workday.

Mechanics' Union of Trade Associations historical marker, by National Park Service via (reproduced under Fair Use)

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In 1827, an anonymous pamphlet written by someone spending the harsh winter in debtors' prison inspired workers from a variety of trades formed the Mechanics' Union of Trade Associations to advocate for better working conditions and to educate workers in the city. Textile mills, particularly in the Manayuk district of the city, were harsh working environments. An economic depression from 1819 to 1822 eliminated many workers' unions as well as severe unemployment. By 1823 the economy had begun to recover and union activity resumed.

The anonymous pamphlet encouraged workers to unite across professions and trades. It advocated a free library for workers, a ten-hour working day, universal suffrage, and a free press. Later in 1827, the Mechanics' Union of Trade Associations formed. This was the first city-wide union in America which sought to unite tradespeople. The union had its own constitution, advocated for higher wages to stimulate economic growth, and formed the Mechanics Library Company which published the Mechanics' Free Press.

The union supported strikes throughout its brief history. Other unions, such as the Philadelphia Trades' Union, sprang up in the city during this time, and labor issues anchored political parties seeking office. 1835, workers succeeded in securing a ten-hour working day in the city as well as a wage increase.

This union disestablished itself in 1837. The Philadelphia Historical Commission placed a marker at this spot to commemorate the union in 2004.

Explore PA History. Mechanics' Union of Trade Associations Historical Marker, Explore PA History. Accessed February 25th 2021.

Pfingsten, Bill. Mechanics' Union of Trade Associations, Historical Marker Database. August 19th 2019. Accessed February 19th 2021.

Prescod, Paul. A Labor Day History of Philadelphia, Home of America’s First General Strike, Jacobin. September 2nd 2019. Accessed February 19th 2021.

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