This new archive provides a unique and interesting portrait of the lives and struggles of working class people in Wolverhampton in the lead up and into the First World War.
monthly newspaper of Wolverhampton Trades and Labour Council (now known as Wolverhampton, Bilston & District Trades Union Council), circulation 17,000.
Working class newspaper first published May 1913, ceased April 1915 due to First World War efforts.
Organising newspaper of trade union and housing campaigns and the fledgling local Labour Party and promoted the Womens' Labour League and Daily Citizen newspaper.
The entire set of publications was purchased by Wolverhampton, Bilston & District Trades Union Council in October 2016 using some of the money raised by our volunteers at music festivals.
We have digitised it online so it is available to view for all. Thanks to Kim in the UNISON office for all help.
We intend to donate the documents to relevant archives.
There were 24 editions published. Click on link or page image to read each paper in full.
The first eight-page issue leads with "Fight the Landlords, Don't Pay" reporting on a mass meeting of the Wolverhampton Trades and Labour Council which was besieged by tenants, demanding action (which was then taken). They were angry at private landlords who had sent out 9,000 notices of increases of rents.
The first Trade Union Mission Week was advertised with 36 outdoor meetings to be held in the May Day week.
Article against conscription - the true imperialism. MP interview, cartoon, campaign for minimum wage, letters page. Advert for Labour Party mass meeting.
The one use of inappropriate language out of all the editions happened to be in the first article in the first edition!
Reports of Trades Council, Labour party, other local labour movement as well as Wolverhampton's Town Council.
It analyses the jobs of Town Council members, 3 Labour out of 48 total. One Tory councillor's job was listed as "Manure Manufacturer", still a popular Tory profession!
Published from 35 Queen Sq, now an opticians. Initial 15,000 circulation.
Circulation increased to 17,000.
Attack on Lloyd George's Liberals killing Midlands industry.
Welcome messages for the Wolverhampton Worker continue including one from Kier Hardie MP and Womens' Labour League..
Report and photo from Tenants Defence League, over 1,000 strong. which had held meetings of 2,000 and 3,000.
"Why I'm in the Labour Movement" by local vicar.
Analysis of jobs of MPs all 40 Labour MPs are ex-miners or other trades. The Liberals and Tories include an equivalent number of heirs to peerage in their ranks.
Between 1,000 and 1,500 workers in Wolverhampton joined their trades union after being recruited in previous month's Trade Union Mission Week despite heavy rain all week at the outdoor meetings, over 30 were held to recruit trade unionists from the existing estimated low level of 5,000 trade unionists in the town.
Reports from Womens Labour League on their role in the union week and campaign "against starvation and sweating conditions at the Works at Monmore Green".
Reports from Labour Party and also on the local PSA, the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon movement. Cartoon of the tenants' war.
Article explaining the minimum wage demand by corporation workers for 25 shillings and how "the two capitalist parties joined together to defeat Labour".
Denigrates politicians out of touch with the conditions of the Black Country.
Wolverhampton conference on the newly passed Trade Union Act(1913) addressed by Ramsey McDonald MP. Long letter from McDonald on need for Labour press also appers
Article on election fraud by ruling class using motor cars to cast up to 20 votes each. It calls for those eligible to register to vote, noting no women can vote still.
Another taking the Tories to task.
Gas Workers union resolution for the council to give part time employment to a pensioner who had worked 51 years for the Corporation starting at 10s and never earning more than 20s in his career who had never been able to afford to marry and now had 5 shillings/week pension to survive on.
The 3 Labour councillors were appointed to General Purposes Committee to discuss the minimum wage of 24s not the demanded 25s.
Success of Tenants' Defence League in getting council to form a Housing Committee. Campaign against overcrowding.
Another Trade Union Mission Week to be held in September.
Reports from Labour Representation Committee, Independent Labour Party and Friendly societies.
Leads with "Revolution of reactionary Toryism... Peaceful revolution of Liberalism.... Revolution of Socialism" and predicting the end of the Liberals, "it's wealthiest men will go over to Toryism, and the more progressive minority will come into the Labour Party. Then the fight - the great fight of the future - will be between Labour and Capital, and everyone will have to decide, clearly and honestly, which side he means to defend."
Article by vicar "relation of religion to the working-class movement". Another on benefits of trade unionism.
Workers Educational Association, Tenants Defence League, Womens Labour league and other reports; letters, poem.
Comedy attack on School Medical Officer who'd said "children attend school in a filthy and disreputable condition, and that poverty is not the cause of most of it"!
Strikes in Black Country spread to Wolverhampton. Reports on local solidarity.
September 1913 http://issuu.com/fidel267/docs/sept1913?e=5929024/41319634
Settlement of strikes, 30,000 strong across Black Country. "The men and women workers involved were those of the lowest paid class, working amomg real bad conditions. That part of our country has long been known in Trade Union Circles as a weak and almost helpless one for the acceptance of Trades Union principles....it was the revolt of the disorganised and the weak...which at last broke through the dam of bastard political economy, of statistics and the make believe of the politician and social reformer".
42 open-air meetings listed for the second Trade Union and Labour Mission Week, up to 7 meetings being held simultaneously outside various workplaces.
Trades Council appeal for workers who lost their tools at the "disastrous Star Motor Works fire" raised a record £258.
Wolverhampton Wanderers given support for coming season along with the comment: "The Wanderers club have always done their utmost to keep the sport clear from all deteriorating influences of the betting evil".
A year before WW1 starts, the Wolverhampton Worker reports on states begin wars amongst themselves in the Balkans after attack on Turkey "in name of Liberty and Christ". It's advice: "if force is still to have its use in the world, let at least it be used by the people against their oppressors, and not by the people against themselves for the benefit of those oppressors".
Call for railway nationalisation. Engine driver killed due to profiteering.
Need for workers' education, so that "the aspirations of an awakened and educated democracy will express themselves".
Report on successful second Trade Union and Labour Mission Week with increased attendances.
Start of column "Women in Politics" by Marion Phillips, General Secretary of Womens Labour League who later became an MP, leading on the establishment of baby clinics.
Exposure of senior council officials pay rises agreed at a 13 minute meeting, whilst still they had not paid the 4s a day minimum wage (on a six-day week) from June. Comedy conversation with the mayor over the issue.
Letters page, cartoons and reports of distribution of the Wolverhampton Worker.
Call for election of 4 Labour councillors in municipal elections along with photos and articles from each candidate.
Report of £20,000 raised by Daily Citizen appeal for workers at Dublin lock-out, paying for food ships being sent via TUC from Manchester.
Railway clerks union overwhelming vote for political fund in ballot under the new Trade Union Act.
Other articles include "Is Wolverhampton Drunken?".
Labour to hold monthly mass meetings in the Empire. They invite this month,"outspoken Labour MP" John Hodge, who became the first Minister of Labour and claimed that all strikes during war-time were acts of treason.
Drafted-in police brutality at the "Battle of Bugle" in Cornwall as 5,000 china clay workers strike for minimum wage, fortnightly pay and union recognition.
Two Labour councillors elected. In Graisley it was a straight fight against capital. The Tories' slogan was "Vote for George and no Socialism" won by just 7 votes. Slander by Liberals and their "insidious and underhand" collusion with Tories.
"Old and new methods in industrial dispute" article.
Second column "Women in Politics" by Marion Phillips, General Secretary of Womens Labour League on the exclusion of women in politics.
Report on Dublin Struggle, £64,000 now raised for food ships.
Trades and Labour council resolution passed against the "menace to social progress and working class welfare involved in war, and the terrible suffering and loss of life" and condemned the government for military build-up. It condemned the British War Trust for profiteering, mentioning an "engineered 1909 German scare" which pushed up military spending. "Britain spends nearly £50m a year on her navy, twice as much as Germany".
Photos inside local housing and articles on slum housing in new column "What's the matter with Wolverhampton?".
More on the PSA brotherhoods.
more editions on next pages
Click on link or page image to read each paper in full.
Continued failure of the Council's Education Committee to impliment the Feeding of Necessitous School Children Act caused uproar when it agreed an extra £400/year grant to the Grammer School, which was already costing ratepayers £600/year, with no extra "free" places. The Grammer school it reports was set up "as a free school for the education of the sons of the poor" but this was done away in in 1874 and currently only 45 "free" places which ratepayers pay £22/head while the well healed pay only £15.
A vicar reported on "The Drink Evil" estimating people in Wolverhampton spent £987/day on alcohol with 34 pubs per square mile and average drunkeness 480 per 100,000.
Repoprt on industrial accidents rising with 5,254 workers killed the previous year and nearly 200,000 injured, as many "as there are men in the British Army".
Outlook and forecasts for the coming year locally and internationally.
Feature on slum housing in Monmore Green.
Working Women in Politics column.
Includes review of a pamplet on the "Torture of political prisoners in Russia" under the Czar.
Labour debate at Town Council on slum landord councillors and the lack of town planning.
Adverts for Kier Hardie MP meeting at Empire Theatre and article about him.
Still indignant about Grammer School grant as headline "£400 a year for Snobs" suggests!
Trades Council resolution taken up on the provision of covers for drivers of trams in Wolverhampton, some working up to 10 hours in rain. Only half trams equipped.
International solidarity expressed with South African rail workers and miners whose leaders were arrested and deported under Martial Law imposed after strike. "Let no worker be indifferent to what ocurred in South Africa because the ocean and two continents divide him from the sin of the outrage which has been committed. The cause of the workers in South Africa is our cause."
The Wolverhampton Worker addressed in a class fashion, the growing militarism and a Bill to give "compulsary military training for residents at universities... if the militarists can get it through Parliament they will turn around and say what is good for one class is good for another. It is a trap to ensnare the worker into Conscription..merely a scheme to compel the have nots to defend the property of the haves."
Response to last month's A vicar reported on "The Drink Evil" artivcle with a class analysis.
Coomplaint about the Wolverhampton Day Industrial school, "descibed by Government inspectors as one of the worst in the country" where children under detention orders were sent to chop wood and where the council was sending the poorest Necessitous Children.
Working Women in Politics column raised "the fight reduction of armaments, fight against consciption and the prevention of war with the agreement of the workers" to be the urgent question with the right to vote second.
Gardening column and an advert for "Meat without meat, vegetarian savories and nut meats" in Chapel Ash.
Leads with an interview with Wolverhampton prospective Labour MP on nationalisation of railways.
100 new Wolverhampton Co-op members in last month.
Report on Kier Hardie's visit and rally in Wolverhampton.
Council gives contract to firm paying less than Council's Fair wage Clause.
Comic conversation deriding councils lack of house building. Plus an "Ode to Councillor Jones" who had said "that the people could live in better houses if they only didn't drink."
The monthly Labour meeting to have Dr Marion Phillips who was Working Women in Politics column writer for the Wolverhampton Worker, General Secretary of Womens Labour League, Chair of the Womens International Council of Socialist and Labour Organisations, Kensington councillor, editor of Labour Women and executive member of the Workers Educational Trust plus Frank Goldstone MP and Teachers Union leader to speak.
Open letter to councillors from Red Emma Sproson on local housing.
Working Women in Politics column about single room tenements.
Complaint of the "veritable eye-sore" of the rubbish dump at Lea Road/Penn Road corner.
Several articles and references to the strike breaking tactics in South Africa being used in Wolverhampton.
Gardening column continues.
Front page report of Wolverhampton meeting addressed by H. J. Poutsma, the Rail union's general secretary and one of the nine trade union leaders in the recent strike in South Africa who had been deported back to Britain at gunpoint.
The Women in Politics column also led on support for the families of the deported South African trade unionists.
Former Engineers union Gen Sec and Glasgow Labour MP to speak next month.
Poem in response to request to Wolverhampton Territotials to become strike-breakers.
Expose of arms manufacturing links of the most jingoistic politicians, including Neville Chamberlain.
Reports from Canada and that the "French Labour Council is still working to secure the "English Week" or the free Saturday afternoon with the ten hours' day for women and young persons."
Council's Education Committee overturned its decision to adopt the scheme for the Medical Treatment of School Children which had been highlighted by the Wolverhampton Worker.
"Boy Scouts - a movement which trade unionists should boycott" for teaching servitude to employers.
A retort to the vicar of St.Patricks on his preachings on socialism.
94 people died of starvation in Bitain last year.
Analysis of a "Tory propoganda" election leaflet to save the church from disestablishment!
Report of transatlantic cruise ships: "German boats being immensely superior to British and American lines in their catering to the third-class passenger.....trained suave stewards in the third-class section, naval" trained deck hands, all hands taught to row - and that before the Titanic disaster."
Lead article is an arguement for "why trade unoins should 'meddle' with politics" to the "many members of a trade union which is about to take its political ballot".
Attack on "Tory press" over Irish home rule and South African trade unionists by Herbet Morrison who went onto to become a Labour minister, ban the Daily Worker (which preceded the Morning Star) for 18 months during the WW2, orchestrate the 1945 general election victory and become a grandfather, to Peter Mandelson.
New "Chats on Health" column started. More gardening tips.
Editorial notes the first anniversry of the Wolverhampton Worker. "The result has exceeded our expectations. We are surprised and gratified at the reception the Worker has has at the hands of the Wolverhampton public. From being received as something of a mild curiosity on its first appearance, the monthly issue of our paper has become an event which is eagerly looked forward to by thousands of people in Wolverhampton."
Trades Council agreed with NUR to hold a Wolverhampton meeting with Ben Tillett described even then as "veteren trade union leader", split the Labour movement with his support for WW1 and went on to form Transport and General Workers union.
Further inverstigationwith photos,into slum housing owned by the brewery "What's the matter with Wolverhampton? Poverty and beer their connection in Hallets Row"; lack of sanitation causing diptheria. Finally demolished in 50s next to School Street in Wolverhampton centre.
Discussion on the merits of women's involvement in the Pleasant Sunday Afternoon (PSA) movement and Baptist Brotherhoods.
Labour Party propose direct labour scheme for council employed house builders instead of private building syndicates. Council to build 10 homes with bathrooms for Wolverhampton firefighters @ £300 each weekly rent 5s less than half private rent.
An advert offers insurance for domestic servants!
Chats on Health column concentrates on "The Workers' Child" with 40,000 a year dying from pulmonary consumption offering advice on wholemeal food, vegetable cooking and begins on the 13 types of chest.
John D. Rockefeller Jnr's mines in Colorado "drafted in to the strikezone thousands of gunmen and assassins masquerading under the name of detectives......women and children while sleeping have been burnt to death by having the tents set on fire over them, men have been shot in the back while returning under a flag of truce from negotiations".
ILP motion passed against the local education authority for "excluding women from competing for the position of Assistant Medical Schools Officer". A hard-hitting editorial in support describes the town's council as "a body of men of venerable men on whom the cobwebs of time were woven thick...they only wish to be left to dream of the things that were...to them woman is still the servile slave". It notes the "outcry in the town for the medical inspection of the girls to be undertaken by a capable woman practitioner".
"Efforts are being made to bring about closer working arrangements between the trade union movement and the co-operative movement". It highlighted the positive links between them in Belgium which helped bring about a general strike.
Working Women in Politics column on cost of living - food prices had risen by a quarter in last decade, explained with detailed economic causes and an anti-war argument.
Labour Party's summer campaign going well, 14 open air meetings in 4 wards. "One word about The Worker - the quickening interest in the Labour Party is undoubtebly due to the influence of this journal".
Council received 209 fossils, donated to the Art Gallery it was reported that had the councillors adjourned to visit the gallery "there would have been 254 fossils". That is +48 councillors less the three Labour!
Meeting with Ben Tillett the famous dockers leader from the historic 1889 tanner an hour strike, who with Tom Mann had led the growth of The New Unionism, announced for this month.
Conclusion of series of articles on local housing conditions calling for wholesale housing reform. Statistics on increased military expenditure.
September 1914 http://issuu.com/fidel267/docs/sep1914?e=5929024/40886098
rest of editions on next page
April 1915 http://issuu.com/fidel267/docs/apr1915?e=5929024/40885613Final edition.
A HISTORY OF WOLVERHAMPTON, BILSTON & DISTRICT TRADES UNION COUNCIL 1865-1990 http://www.wolvestuc.org.uk/index.php/wbdtuc/our-history
Unknown history of Wolverhampton trade unionists - their members were transported in 1819, before the Tolpuddle Martyrs, for the crime of forming a trade union. http://wolvestuc.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=371
for other Trade Union, Communist, & Labour History Sites visit Chelmsford TUC's page of useful links http://www.chelmsford-tuc.org.uk/article78.html