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Philadelphia Cordwainers Trial: 1806

The Shoemaking Trade In Philadelphia, If The Shoe Fits.…, Verdict And Aftermath

Defendants: Underl Barnes, John Dubois, John Harket, John Hepburn, George Keimer, Peter Pollen, George Pullis, George Snyder
Crime Charged: Conspiracy to raise their wages
Chief Defense Lawyers: Caesar A. Rodney, Walter Franklin
Chief Prosecutors: Jared Ingersol, Joseph Hopkinson
Judges: John Innskep, Mayor of Philadelphia, ex officio; Moses Levy, recorder, presiding; Andrew Pettit, Abraham Shoemaker, Philip Wager, aldermen, jury.
Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Date of Trial: January 2, March 26, 28-29, 1806
Verdict: Guilty
Sentence: Each defendant fined $8 plus the costs of the suit

SIGNIFICANCE: The history of the American labor movement can be traced through a series of trials that, stage by stage, mark its struggle to gain the right to organize. The earliest of these trials happened to involve shoe-and bootmakers. Of all these early trials, the one in 1806 of the Philadelphia Cordwainers is regarded as perhaps the most crucial.

From the earliest days of the European colonies in North America, shoe-and bootmakers played a special role in society. Everyone, poor or rich, needed footwear, so such craftsmen were found everywhere. Making durable and/or stylish leather footwear led to pride in one's craft, which in fact required intelligence, discipline, and special skills. Yet it was the widespread need for and nature of this product that exposed it to ongoing changes in both industrial and commercial practices—mass production in the former case, retail competition in the latter case.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1637 to 1832