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Eight Hour Day (1916): Topics in Chronicling America

In 1916, demand for 8-hour work days led to involvement of Pres. Woodrow Wilson, Congress, and the U.S. Supreme Court. This guide provides access to material related to the "8-Hour Day" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

Eight Hour Day or We Strike. Meeting of Railroad Union Leaders." August 19, 1916. The Goldfield News and Weekly Tribune (Goldfield, NV), Image 2. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

After over a hundred years of strikes and protests, the working man’s efforts to create an eight hour work day finally culminate in the Supreme Court’s approval of the Adamson Act—but not without a brutal fight. Only after the Railroad brotherhood threatens a strike which would stalemate war production does President Woodrow Wilson finally request Congress to pass legislation. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

Fall 1915 Railroad brotherhoods adopt a resolution to demand an 8 hour work day and time and a half for overtime.
March 1916 Railroad brotherhoods submit proposal for 8 hour work day to the railroads.
Mid-June 1916 Railroad companies reject the railroad brotherhoods proposals. The railroad brotherhoods set a strike deadline of September 4, 1916.
August 1916 Woodrow Wilson wanting to avoid a railroad strike that would affect war preparedness tries to mediate a compromise. Failing to reach an amicable resolution for both sides on 28 August 1916 Wilson requests Congress to pass legislation granting an 8 hour work day for railroad workers.
September 3, 1916 To avoid a railroad strike Congress passes a federal law establishing an 8 hour work day for interstate railroad workers and time and a half for overtime.
January 8-10, 1917 Supreme Court hears arguments in Wilson v. New, the case the railroad companies brought challenging the constitutionality of the Adamson Act.
March 19, 1917 Railroads agree to provisions of the Adamson Act to avoid a nationwide strike. The Supreme Court rules on Wilson v. New 5 to 4 declaring the Adamson Act constitutional