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Workman's Hall Timeline


Workman's Hall Built

Workman's Hall was built in Over the Rhine at 1314 Walnut St. by German workers. The building eventually became a hub for union and socialist organizing in Cincinnati, and acted as the headquarters for dozens of labor organizations, including the Trades and Labor Assembly, Workingmen’s Party, the Knights of Labor, the Central Labor Council (a local affiliate of the American Federation of Labor), and many local industrial and trade unions.


Rise of the Cincinnati Labor Movement

In the year 1865, there were 40 active labor unions in Cincinnati. Between the years of 1864 and 1867, there were 36 strikes staged within various industries across the city. Individual labor unions that did not have buildings of their own, such as the Brewer’s Union, the Carpenter’s Union, and the union of Carriage and Wagon Workers, used Workman’s Hall as their meeting space, often meeting on a weekly basis.


Workingman's Party elects Samuel Fenton Cary to U.S. Congress

The Workingmen’s Party was a party founded by the Trades and Labor Association which was headquartered at Workman's Hall and whose vision was to unify all workers as a class. In 1867, the Workingman's Party elected Samuel Fenton Cary of the College Hill neighborhood to U.S. Congress in 1867, where he championed the first-ever bill for an eight-hour working day. According to the Cincinnati Bookbinder’s Union, the bill was drafted in Workman’s Hall itself. The bill was initially passed and later overturned, and the eight-hour working day has had to be continually fought for and defended by working people ever since.


Populist Party is Founded in Cincinnati

In 1891, the Populist Party was founded in Cincinnati, eventually eventually becoming a national party championing the interests of agriculture and the urban proletariat. The party used Workman's Hall as its meeting space. The party's platform included public ownership of the U.S. railroad and communication systems, a graduated income tax, public works employment in times of economic depression, initiative and referendum reforms, and calls for the president and congress to be elected by a direct popular vote.


Eugene V. Debs Speaks at Workman's Hall

In 1896, Workman's Hall and several other Cincinnati venues hosted a series of speeches given by the great socialist labor leader, Eugene V. Debs, drawing what was described by the Cincinnati Enquirer as a “monster gathering... One of the largest audiences that ever assembled” in the halls in which he spoke. At his speech at Cincinnati’s Robinson’s Opera House, Debs was greeted by a five-minute standing ovation, and he proceeded to give a two-hour speech, uninterrupted except by frequent applause.


40 Labor Reforms Signed into Law

Local Cincinnati labor organizations used Workman’s Hall as the campaign headquarters to push for nearly 40 amendments to the Ohio Constitution which were signed into law in September of 1912, including the initiative and referendum reforms. Agitations for free text books for school children and anti-child labor laws originated at Workman’s Hall.


The Cincinnati Labor Temple

The Cincinnati Bookbinder's Union wrote and published the following description of Workman's Hall - at this time called the "Labor Temple - in 1920. “[The Labor Temple] is the largest establishment of its kind in the United States. In addition to five large auditoriums, there are several small lodge rooms, committee rooms, and offices for business agents. On the ground floor is a club room, one of the few in the world for organized workers. Here they have pool and billiard tables, a dance hall, card and checked tables, book shelves and racks for periodicals, shower baths and on the same floor a union co-operative store, where strictly label goods, soft drinks and cigars are sold… Now it is at last coming into its own, and Cincinnati will have a real Labor Temple— a real home for the workers— a place of welcome for the thousands of union men and women who will be coming to Cincy to attend the next world’s series— of 1920.”


The Demise of Workman's Hall

By 1950, the building that had housed Workman's Hall for at least 80 years had been demolished. The plot of land at 1314 Walnut was turned into a parking lot.

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