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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Stationary firemen and oilers union dues button
Catalog #: 1989.0693.2627, Accession #: 1989.0693
Currently on display
From the Smithsonian Collection

Steam didn't just power locomotives, it also powered the nation's factories. Stationary firemen ran the steam plants in factories around the country, as well as in the railroad's shops. The union was organized in 1898 as the International Brotherhood of Stationary Firemen and joined the American Federation of Labor in 1899. Between 1917 and 1919, the union was called the Intenational Brotherhood of Stationary Firemen and Oilers. It dropped "stationary" from its name in 1919.

Physical Description
artifact. 1" diameter; Metal: brown/ white, Local 219, Manchester, NH, June 1918
Date Made:
New Hampshire
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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