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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 154


This is the grave of George McNeill.

The so-called “Father of the Eight-Hour Day,” McNeill was born in 1836 in Amesbury, Massachusetts. Like many young New Englanders of his day, he started working in the apparel factories at a very young age, in his case he was 10 when he started working in 1846. He became active in the labor movement at a young age, participating in a strike in 1851 to fight for the 10-hour day. He was fired for his participation the strike, with all the strikers being replaced by Irish immigrants, the primary labor strategy for textile factory owners during this era. He became a shoemaker after this and moved to Boston in 1856. As he became an adult, McNeill took what already was a lifetime of experience in fighting for workers’ rights and became involved in a wide variety of reform activities, including labor issues. He was active in the temperance movement (I guess we can forgive him this). More usefully, he co-founded the Boston Eight Hour League in 1863 and served as president for eight years, where he fought for a 10-hour bill in the state house that eventually passed. He also worked to establish the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics of labor, which pioneered the idea that the government should keep track of what was going on with workers. For his work, he was named Deputy Chief of that body. He established and worked on a bunch of labor newspapers, founded the Massachusetts Accident Company in 1883 to provide an early form of workers’ compensation insurance to subscribing workers, became an officer in the Knights of Labor, and ran as a labor candidate for the mayor of Boston in 1886, albeit unsuccessfully. McNeill died in 1906. Samuel Gompers gave the eulogy at his funeral.

George McNeill is buried at Forest Hills Cemetery, Boston, Massachusetts

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