Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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POWDERLY, Terence Vincent, general master-workman of the Knights of labor, born in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, 22 January, 1849, of Irish Catholic parents, who had come to the United States in 1826. His father was a day laborer, and Terence was the eleventh child. He attended the public schools from his seventh to his thirteenth year. Then he began keeping a switch for the Delaware and Hudson canal company, and in 1866 he was employed as an apprentice in the machine-shops of that company. In 1869 he went to Scranton, Pennsylvania, which has since been his home. There he obtained work in the shops of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western railroad company, and at night stud-led drawing and mechanical engineering. In 1871 he joined the Machinists' and blacksmiths' union, of which he soon became president. His interest in industrial affairs has been the guiding principle of his life. In 1874 Mr. Powderly was initiated into the Knights of labor (an order founded in 1869 in Philadelphia by Uriah S. Stevens, of Cape May county, New Jersey) and became a member of Assembly No. 88. During the panic of 1873 he lost his work at Scranton, and went to Oil City, Pennsylvania, whence he went, in 1874, as a delegate to the National convention of the Machinists' and blacksmiths' union in Louisville. This was his first national appearance as an advocate of organized labor, he finally succeeded in getting this union to disband and join the Knights of labor as Assembly No. 222. In 1877 he assisted in organizing in Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania, a district assembly of Knights of labor, of which he became and was district secretary until 1886. In the great strikes of 1877 about 5,000 laborers, mostly of the Knights of labor of that district, were discharged, and emigrated to various parts of the west. In their new homes they established new assemblies of the Knights of labor, and to this Mr. Powderly largely attributes the spread and growth of the order. He and other leaders held the first general assembly of the order at Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1878, and at the next session, held in St. Louis in 1879, he was elected to the second office, grand worthy foreman. At the third convention, held in Chicago in September, 1879, Mr. Powderly was elected general master-workman, and he has since, despite bitter opposition, been eight times re-elected to that office, which he now holds. In April, 1878, by the labor vote, he was elected mayor of Scranton, Pennsylvania, and he was several times re-elected as a Democrat to that office. He helped to establish the "Labor Advocate" at Scranton in 1877. Mr. Powderly writes regularly for the organ of the Knights of labor, the "Journal of United Labor," and has written on "The Army of the Unemployed" and kindred topics for periodicals. When the Irish land league movement was organized in this country Mr. Powderly was made its second vice-president. He went as chairman of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Irish hind league convention of 1883, and called that convention to order. At present he is engaged on a "History of the Origin and Principles of the Knights of Labor."
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