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ribbon, 1916

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ribbon, 1916


This object appears in the following sections:

Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927
Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927 — Railroad Conductor

closeup of top of ribbon, showing name of convention attendee.
closeup of top of ribbon, showing name of convention attendee.

close up of bottom of ribbon.
close up of bottom of ribbon.

Railway conductors' convention ribbon
Catalog #: 1989.0693.3986, Accession #: 1989.0693
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection

This ribbon would have been worn as a nametag at the Order of Railway Conductors' union convention. These conventions, often held annually, set the union's policies. Railroad conducters first organized as the Conductors union in 1868. The union changed its name to the Order of Railway Conductors of America (ORC) in 1878.

Physical Description
artifact. 1 3/4" W x 4" long; silver colored metal clasp at top with the date May 1916, and St. Louis Convention in design. Name E. W. Smith. cloth ribbon, red, white and green, initials ORC on ribbon. A pendant hangs from the bottom of the ribbon, the words "Order of Railway Conductors" are written around the edge of the triangle-shaped metal colored decoration. There is a scene pressed into the metal, showing passengers boarding a rail car.
Date Made:
American railroads were one of the nation's first big businesses, and, as such, workers joined the new industrial order in its infancy. Many rail workers responded their working conditions by trying to organize themselves into unions. Most railway workers organized along craft lines. That is, people doing the same jobs like conductors banded together, rather than all the workers on the trains. Other skilled workers joined unions based on their trades: they joined the machinists or boilermakers unions. Workers who performed railroad-specific tasks, notably those done on the trains themselves, were often more successful in getting their unions recognized by employers than those workers who did jobs that were transferrable to other settings. By the 1920s, railroad workers were organized into both independent unions and into those that were affiliated with the American Federation of Labor. Craft unions in the early 20th century often excluded women and people of color from their membership rolls and most railroad unions followed the conventions of the day, restricting membership to white males.

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