in collaboration with The Spatial History Project

Rise of the American Railway Union, 1893-1894

The American Railway Union (A.R.U.) was founded on June 20, 1893 in Chicago, Illinois.  Led by Eugene V. Debs, the A.R.U. very quickly became the nation's largest organized union.  The A.R.U. welcomed any railway worker except for those above the rank of foreman.
The growth of the A.R.U. exceeded all expectations-so much so that its leadership allowed cities to create chapters without an official coordinator from the central office.  When at least ten railway workers signed the necessary documents, donated $2 each, elected a chapter secretary, and chose a meeting place, they constituted a local.  
After a boycott against the Pullman Company led to a strike against the railroads, the federal government broke the strike and jailed Eugene Debs after which point the A.R.U. quickly fell apart.  Few members remained by the end of 1895.