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Empire in Wood: A History of the Carpenters' Union

by Robert A Christie Cornell University Press
Pub Date:
Pbk 376 pages
AU$56.99 NZ$60.86
Product Status: Title is Print on Demand - May take 4 weeks
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First published in 1956, Empire in Wood is the definitive history of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, from its predecessors, the carpenters' trade unions established at the turn of the nineteenth century, to the immediate post-World War II period, when it boasted a membership of 722,000 and was unrivaled among the craft unions in its size and influence.

Robert A. Christie traces the emergence and development of carpenters' trade unions from the earliest known organization, formed in Philadelphia in 1791, through the founding of local and then state-wide craft unions throughout the nineteenth century, to the creation of the national organization in 1881. He then details the campaigns, internal struggles, organizational shifts, and challenges-technological, legal, political, and ideological-faced by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America over the next seventy-five years.

1. The Union, the Industry, and the Carpenter: Present Day
2. The Middleman and the Green Hand: 1791 to 1881
3. The Philosopher Organizers: 1881 to 1886
4. "Eight Hours for Work . . .": 1886 to 1890
5. The Professional Organizers: 1890 to 1896
6. The Industrial Revolution: 1896 to 1900
7. The Last Radical: 1898 to 1902
8. "All That's Made of Wood . . .": 1902 to 1912
9. Craft or Industrial Unionism: 1902 to 1912
10. The Struggle for Power: 1902 to 1912
11. Label Unionism: 1902 to 1912
12. "Or That Was Ever Made of Wood": 1912 to 1915
13. Hardening into Empire: 1912 to 1915
14. Taming the New York City Locals
15. The Carpenters and the Government: 1917 to 1920
16. The Triumph of Jurisdictional Laissez Faire: 1919 to 1929
17. Status Quo: 1920 to 1933
18. Jurisdictional Laissez Faire Challenged: 1933 to 1941
19. Craft-Industrialism Challenged: 1933 to 1941
20. Label Unionism Challenged
21: The Worth of the National Union to the Carpenter

Appendix: Hourly Union Wage Rates for Carpenters and Five Other Skilled Trades, 1913–1941

"Empire in Wood is a choice title for Robert A. Christie's book on the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. Within the House of Labor the leaders of the Carpenters built an empire and guarded it as jealously as ever did any medieval prince his imperial domain. Aggressively and continuously they fought to extend the jurisdiction of the carpenters. First, they asserted control over the job that had been traditionally done by the carpenters; then they claimed control of 'all [work] that's made of wood'; and finally, they sought control of all work 'that ever was made of wood.' They were ready and eager to do battle whenever and wherever threatened. It mattered little, if the interests of the carpenters were involved, whether it was against their parent organization (the American Federation of Labor), the government of the United States, craftsmen in allied and other trades, or capital generally."

The late Robert A. Christie was the president of Millersville University from 1965 to 1968.