Events In Labor History

1915 - 1929

The Economics


In 1920...

  1. A pound of bacon cost 52 cents                                                                 

  2. A dozen eggs cost 68 cents

  3. A loaf of bread cost about 12 cents   

  4. 5 pounds of sugar was 97 cents                                                                                                     

  5. A half-gallon of milk cost (delivered) cost just over 33 cents and a

    box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes was 11 cents.  

  1. 5 pounds of sugar was 97 cents and a 9/16th oz. Hersey bar was 3 cents.

The average hourly wage for production workers was 54 cents.

The average hourly wage of unionized bricklayers, painters, plumbers, and

stonecutters was $1.25.  Unionized bricklayers and unionized painters would

see their hourly wages rise to $1.50 per hour by 1925.  Trade Union

membership in the U.S hits

5 million.   


Unionized typesetters made around 99 cents per hour in 1920 and would make

almost $1.20 per hour by 1925.

$8.60 had the same purchasing power as $100 in 2013.

The Great War, the Nation Goes Dry...Women win the Vote...prosperity and anti-immigrant sentiment mark the era

click on photo to see more at about the Suffrage Movement.

In 1928 Rhode Island abolished the freehold property qualification for city council votes.  You still had to pay a tax to qualify to vote.


1916  Congress passes the Adamson Act establishing an 8-hour day for railroad workers.  The act is passed in anticipation of a nationwide rail strike.

1915  Rhode Island workers strike for eight-hour day.

1919  John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers strike.  Through arbitration they gain a 27% pay increase, but lose on the issue of a five-day, 30-hour week.

Click on image to read more about the battle

Click on image to read about the Rhode Island textile strike

Click on image to read the recollections of Bristol teacher Jessie Molasky and her efforts to improve pay for teachers and end sex discrimination in the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s

18th Amendment ratified, signaling a “dry” nation commencing January 1, 1919

1919  Boston police strike over working conditions.

Click to listen to Eddie Cantor sing the prohibition hit “I Never Knew I Had A Wonderful Wife (Until the Town Went Dry)”

click to take a closer look at the 1920 census taken in the Knightsville section of Cranston


click on image to hear Samuel Gompers’ speech on labor’s service to the war effort

And click here to hear a Library of Congress recording about the Battle of Matewan

1924 Congress passes the Immigration Restriction Act of 1924.  The Act sets quotas on immigrants based on the 1890 census, thereby blocking many of the newer (Italian, Jews, Poles, Slavs, Greeks, and others) immigrant groups.

Samuel Gompers backs the law  in order to block the competitive threat of new workers in the American labor market.

1921  Amalgamated Meat Cutters call for a nationwide strike.  Police kill five

1920’s  Employer associations launch assault on union labor under the label of the “American Plan.”

May 19, 1920  The Battle of Matewan unfolds as mine owners seek to halt miners from organizing with John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers.