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Scant evidence exists documenting the history of the Ohio Valley Worker. A single, four-page issue, dated September 10, 1904, is all that remains of this publication, one of several turn-of-the-century Louisville labor newspapers. Where its contemporaries--James McGill's Journal of Labor, Edward L. Cronk's New Era, and William M. Higgins's Kentucky Irish American--were each their editor's creature, the Ohio Valley Worker was put out by the Union Publishing Company, an entity of the International Typographical Union No. 10. In late 1902, the members of "Old No. 10," angry that the New Era was supporting non-union political candidates, established their own "non-partizan" organized labor paper. Ironically, Cronk, like William Higgins, was himself a typesetter and member of I.T.U. No. 10, while James McGill was a harness maker who had created the Journal of Labor to respond to repeated personal attacks by Cronk.

A committee headed by Fred W. Bonte worked throughout 1903 to ready the presses for the Ohio Valley Worker and subscriptions were taken late that same year. The first issue appeared in January 1904. A. C. Briggs, an active union member, served as editor. The masthead of the paper's sole surviving issue proudly declares the Ohio Valley Worker to be the "Official Paper of the Federated Trades Council of Louisville, Trades and Labor Council of New Albany, Central Labor Union of Jeffersonville."

The evidence suggests that the Ohio Valley Worker routinely offered a mix of national and local news. Not surprisingly, this newspaper was in direct competition for readers with the Journal of Labor and the New Era. The Ohio Valley Worker denounced both of its rivals in an article entitled "Crooked Labor Papers" and featured a front-page story on the importance of an independent labor press. A profile of American Federation of Labor president Samuel L. Gompers sits alongside "Base Ball News" describing a game between two local union teams (the Cigarmakers defeated the Butchertowns, 5 to 4.) Local labor news was reprinted, while a roster listed meetings of a number of union locals, including the Candy Makers' Union No. 124, the Bindery Women's Local No. 126, and the Colored Waiters' Union Local No. 261. Also notable in this issue are two contributions by Lucien V. Rule (1871-1948)--prolific Kentucky author and poet, Presbyterian minister, and prison chaplain: a description of a recent campaign visit to Louisville of Socialist Party presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, and a poem extolling Debs as "The Lincoln of Labor."

In 1905, James McGill sold the Journal of Labor to the Union Publishing Company. The Ohio Valley Worker briefly assumed the cumbersome title The Journal of Labor and Ohio Valley Worker before being renamed the Journal of Labor. By 1907, the Journal of Labor had passed into private hands and apparently continued publishing without interruption into the 1930s.

Provided by: University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY