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Collection Exhibition Themes
Harry Bridges, later leader of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, onboard a sailing ship

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Harry Bridges, later leader of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union, onboard a sailing ship
Courtesy of ILWU Archives, Anne Rand Research Library, International Longshore and Warehouse Union, San Francisco


This object appears in the following sections:

People on the Move:
People on the Move — Harry Bridges: Immigrant, Adventurer, Traveler

Wedding portrait

Harry Bridges in a Labor Day parade

Harry Bridges as a young man aboard ship
Currently on display
Not a part of the official Smithsonian Collection
This photograph shows a barefoot Harry Bridges playing a ukelele on the deck of a sailing ship. With a full head of hair, wearing dungarees, and holding a pipe in his smiling mouth, Bridges appears as the youthful Australian he was.
Physical Description
Date Made:
about 1920
Dates Used:
about 1920 - about 1920
Born in Australia in 1901, Harry Bridges came to the United States as a young sailor and settled in San Francisco in 1920. He found work as a longshoreman but was appalled at the working conditions: the "shape-up" system for hiring was inherently corrupt; the hours were long and unregulated; and safety measures were largely absent. By the time of the 1934 waterfront strike, Bridges' role as a leader among longshoremen and seamen was well established. In the settlement following the strike, longshoremen were granted a coastwide contract, improved wages and working conditions, and the hiring hall, where a union-elected dispatcher distributed job assignments to union members on a strict rotating basis. Bridges formed the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU) in 1937, by breaking away from the International Longshoremen's Assocation (ILA) and joining the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). As founding President, he created a union whose members became the best-paid longshoremen in the world. Bridges retired from the ILWU in 1977 and died in San Francisco in 1990.

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