John Young had come to Galveston in the 1870’s and had worked first as a screwman, stowing cotton in the holds of ships, and then as a foreman stevedore for Charles Sweeney and company. During that time he married Mary Ann Adams and, for a few years was proprietor of the New Wharf Saloon which her mother owned – and while Maurice Coffey, his father-in-law, was away seeking his fortune in the Colorado mining towns – and started his family with Florence, Annie, John and Margaret all living on the second floor above the saloon at the north end of 33rd street. By 1892, while still a foreman stevedore, he had moved his family to their first house – a two storey Victorian frame affair with out building on a corner lot at Winnie and 35th – and Laureene, the baby of the family, was born. By 1893, following the death of Charles Sweeney, the Jno Young Company was formed with offices in the Maritime Building at 212 21st street and he had both a home phone – number 633 – and an office phone – number 638.
This post will concern itself primarily with his years as a contracting stevedore during the twenty year period of 1893 to 1913. He may have been Irish but he had an eye for thrift that owed much to his Celtic brothers from Scotland and did not advertise which means that the graphic evidence of the firm is rather thin. Although his reputation was such that the name of the firm endures yet – although it is now owned by German interests – he tended to a reticence that did not allow a wealth of anecdotal history [for that we shall look later to his son, Johnny].
Part of his reticence was due to the public facade of being, or more accurately becoming, through a public metamorphosis from Irish screwman to English gentleman and the striving for social station that would thereby be conferred. A larger part may have been due to the fact that he never quit being Irish, not in the sense that really counted, and was very active in the American efforts to aid Irish independence. These efforts required quiet men who would not stir up the nativist hatreds that emanated from organizations like the Ku Klux Klan nor alert the Anglophiles who were only too happy to see the Klan do their dirty work for them. But these are stories for another day and today we are going to look at stevedoring and Galveston through stories from the Galveston Daily News that we hope will give the flavor and the savor of the work and the times and the reader may extrapolate the man from the story.
A stevedoring firm might have hundreds of ships a year consigned to it and the great majority would be loaded and unloaded without incident and nothing is quite so satisfactory, nor quite so quickly forgotten, as a prompt despatch. As my old friend, Captain Bill Taylor, used to say, “the most beautiful sight in the world is the stern of a ship – outbound!” Of course those aren’t the ones that get reported – at least not in any great detail – and a simple cable like VICTORY ARR 0630 13TH STOP DOCK 0930 STOP COMM 1230 STOP COMP 1300 14TH STOP SAIL 1400 STOP ETA 0600 20TH STOP gratify every owner and charterer for their brevity and efficiency and make for a very thin file. It is when you have to write the letter to the owner’s – and attempt to conceal from the charterers – detailing how after the ship docked the captain went ashore for lunch and pipe tobacco and, while he was ashore, the new chief mate overflowed tank three starboard – but contained the spill to deck – reducing the charterer’s representative to apoplexy and shutting down cargo operations for six hours [the Cardinal sin!] that you have the beginnings of a narrative so our stories all have at least an element of calamity, and often tragedy, but they create a picture of Galveston and the industry at the time.The first incident is reported in THE GALVESTON DAILY NEWS on the 23rd of October of 1894 as follows: John Doyle, the foreman of the John Young stevedore company, fell through the open hatch of the TRONIO, lying at pier 12, yesterday sustaining serious injuries. He was taken to his home. It was a miraculous escape from instant death, he having caught with his hands on the lower deck and alighting on the steamer’s tunnel, a distance of twenty-five feet.
This brief item covers the bare facts for a shipping community interested in the business of shipping but does not begin to tell the story of the ss Masonic and the tragedy that occurred on board. The complete facts – the human side of the story – were covered elsewhere and give insight into how ships were loaded and what the working conditions were like.
John Dixon was smothered to death between 11 and 1 o’clock Thursday night on board the steamship Masonic. Dixon was the white cook for the screwmen on board the Masonic, which was loading with cotton outside the bar. A fire broke out in holds 3 and 4 between 5:30 and 6 o’clock Thursday evening. At 11 o’clock the fire was supposed to be under control and Dixon went down in a little room off the captain’s cabin to sleep. About 1:30 o’clock he was discovered in an unconscious condition, and all efforts to revive him were unavailing. Yesterday morning the body was brought ashore and taken to Ryan’s undertaking rooms. Deceased has a wife and two children, living on Mechanic, between Sixteenth and Seventeenth streets.
The story of the occurrence is best told by Joe Boardo, a foreman in the employ of Stevedore John Young: “We were loading the steamship Masonic with cotton, bound for Liverpool. We had worked as long as we could without lamps and could stow a bale decently when I went down to get something to eat. This was between 5:30 and 6 o’clock in the evening. The waiter was just about to pour my coffee when I heard that the cotton was on fire. I jumped up and ran up on deck. We worked hard until 11 o’clock, when we began to breathe easy. The ship only afforded us two lines of hose and very short. The Cynthia came alongside and offered assistance, to which we objected, as we felt we could control the fire. When the Cynthia offered help the mate said no. We had got the hatches clear and everything air tight and snug. Finally the mate says to me: ‘Joe, we’ll all take an hour apiece for a little nap.’ The others went below and the mate and I remained up and walked the deck.
Suddenly a cry came from the cabin. It said, ‘Oh, Mr. Mate,’ and froze my blood. To this hour I can’t tell that voice. We both ran. I had a lamp in my hand. The first man we met was the steward of the ship. He appeared very much dazed. What he said to the mate I do not know. It caused him to run to the room where I knew the cook was sleeping. I followed him into the room. John Dixon was lying on a couch, not a berth, his face outward, his hand handing down off the couch. The mate spoke to him, with no return. I picked him up and with the mate’s consent carried him on deck. There I was approached by James Barnes, Tom Davies and other members of the screwman’s union. I laid him down on a coil of rope to incline his head.
We did everything that was in our power to bring him to. We worked on him about an hour and then became convinced that he was dead. When I went into the cabin I noticed a condensed smoke which could have come from any fire where water is applied – a condensed steam, with smoke. The air was very suffocating and warm, such as I wouldn’t want to sleep in myself. I think the gaseous smoke was sufficient to suffocate him. The man went to bed as happy a fellow as any one on shipboard. He said to us that the coffee was hot and we could go down and get a cup whenever we wanted to.
The second mate and steward of the ship laid down in their room with the door open. The mate is a big, strong fellow, and when they were aroused came out, and he said he felt funny. The steward fell at the bottom of the stairs and had to be carried out. When asked how he felt he said, ‘I don’t know; I’m all gone.’ There were two watches over him all night to keep him a going. Had he remained a little longer it would have killed him.
Boardo’s testimony was heard before Justice Barry, as was also the testimony of T. J. Davies and P. A. Devine, the other foremen. Davies said that he had last seen the deceased at 11 p.m., when he told them all that he had prepared coffee and would go down and get a little nap. He left word to be called at 1 o’clock, but the boys thought there was no necessity of getting him up and let him sleep. When he was brought up by Boardo and the Mate every effort was made to resuscitate him. His hands were rubbed with salt, his breast and forehead were rubbed and whisky was poured down his throat.
The deceased is well-known in Galveston, having for sometime kept a restaurant near the police station. The body was removed to the house of the deceased during the afternoon and the funeral will take place this morning.
There is much more to the story of the ss Masonic at Galveston, the beaching, the repairs and returning the vessel to service all of which make wonderful maritime history but none of which form part of this narrative. There must however be one final note. Sailors are a superstitious lot. I have known men who have manned everything from tugs to tankers through conditions fair and foul who will no more dip a toe in the ocean than try to fly off a skyscraper. Less common – but still very common – I have known men who will not serve on a vessel that has suffered a severe casualty. Less than a year after the fire at Galveston the following article appeared in the New York Times so maybe they are right.
Today the longshoreman of old has almost ceased to exist. Almost everything is now packed in containers miles away from the port and trucked to a yard where they are shuffled by cranes that may be 100 feet wide at their base and able to move 65 ton boxes over 100 up and 200 feet out over the water to load a ship that can handle a cargo of containers stacked 22 wide. The men who do these jobs now are every bit as specialized as the screwmen were in the late 19th century. Galveston was an island community and not only were the screwmen for the most part permanent residents but so were many of the longshoremen and a good many of them were Irish and lived in either the 6th ward which was north of Broadway and west of 29th street to the western edge of the city or the 7th ward which covered the same area south of Broadway.
When the period of this post started John Young and his family lived north of Broadway in the sixth ward and by the time covered ended they lived south of Broadway in the 7th ward. During this time the 7th ward became the largest bloc of voters in the city which may account in large part for Sweeney becoming collector of customs and Coffey being placed in charge of the road crews – and the roads were almost all crushed mud shell supplied by the Jno. Young Company which was as busy in this trade as they were in loading cotton.
Getting around the island was done by foot for most, by horse for the booted and spurred, by bicycle for the thoroughly modern young or by trolley – for just about everybody. In October of 1866 the Galveston City Railroad Company was chartered with a capital of $1,150,000 and commenced operations in 1868 with horse-drawn trolley’s. The People’s Railway Company chartered in 1873 began carrying passengers in 1874 but after five or six years the lines were purchased by the City Railroad Company. The Gulf City Railroad and Real Estate Company chartered the 20th of November 1883 consolidated with the Galveston City Railroad Company on the 25th of October 1887 and by 1891 had completed the transition from horse-drawn trolleys to electric rail lines. There were as many as 10 lines in the city, having a total of 45 miles of track and 80 cars in service. Our next vignette comes from the Galveston Daily News of the 29th of August of 1897 and covers the tragic encounter between a longshoreman and a trolley car. More a tale of the town than the waterfront it is included to give a picture of life on the island.
Frank Connolly, a longshoreman, was run over and instantly killed a few minutes before 10 o’clock last night on Church street between Thirty-fourth and Thirty-fifth streets. The body was cut all to pieces. Motorman William B. Baker was arrested on a charge of homicide.
Connolly lived on Broadway, between Forty-fourth and Forty-fifth streets, and was probably on his way home. He worked for Stevedore John Young and had been engaged loading the steamship Fulwell. He laid off at noon yesterday to attend the funeral of the young man Patrick Kelly, who was drowned Friday night.
The car that struck Connolly was No. 25. It is one of the small closed end affairs used on the Market street line. After the car had made the turn from Thirty-third street into Church on the road to the West end the motorman saw a shadow on the track ahead, but the shadow disappeared. He had slowed down when he saw the shadow but when it disappeared he again turned on the current. The car bowled along. Suddenly the form of a man was seen on the track. The motorman made every effort to stop the car, but before he could twist the crank on the motor box there was a shock and then the car suddenly lifted and dropped, again rose and fell and then plunged on.
The car ran on to Thirty-fifth street before the motorman could stop it. Then it was backed to the spot where the shock had occurred. There on the track was the body of a man. There was still a spark of life in the torn, mangled form, but it soon flickered out. The wheels seemed to have passed over the legs and the heavy machinery which hangs lower than the body of the car evidently struck the about the breast and crunched and broke the bones into small pieces. The pilot, or guard rail, of the car was broken by the force of the impact with the body.
It is believed that he was walking home and had taken the middle of the track as the best road, although the car track at the place where the accident happened is very rough and uneven, being filled with brickbats and other debris. It was very dark at the scene of the tragedy, that portion of the street being little used by vehicles or pedestrians. The stretch of track between Thirty-third and Thirty-seventh is about the darkest on the line.
Connolly had a very large family. Some of his children are nearly grown and others are small. He was about 43 years old. He was a member of the Longshoremen’s union. Coroner Barry viewed the body and gave a permit for its removal by the undertaker.
It was exactly one year ago to the day between the time little Louis Pitt was run over. The Pitt boy was run over by a car on a Wednesday night. Motorman Baker was released shortly after 11 o’clock in $500 bail, the Superintendent becoming surety.
Unless the reader should come to believe that we suffer from an excess of morbidity there were accidents that did not result in death. The article above records the first personal injury case against the firm that we have found a published report of. There are those who maintain that the worst possible case with death is finding your soul taken by Satan and being consigned to the everlasting fires of Hell while in a personal injury case both sides are consigned to lawyers and the temporal hell of the courts. This one was apparently no different since our next report comes on the 12th of December in 1902 when the Galveston Daily News reports:
Hon. James B. Stubbs of Galveston was also before the [Texas] Supreme Court this morning in an interesting damage suit, that of John Young vs Conrad Hahn, from Galveston. Hahn was a longshoreman and was injured while loading a vessel by a sack of borax falling on him, and brought suit for $15,000 damages against Young, the foreman or boss stevedore, securing a $500 judgement. The appellate court affirmed the judgement of the trial court, holding that the responsibility or negligence which permitted the sack to fall could be computed to Young, as vice principal, and on this point the case was argued to-day, the Supreme Court having previously granted a writ of error from the Galveston Court of Appeals. If the Supreme Court sustains the appellate court and holds young responsible, the boss stevedores will enjoy [?] a number of damage suits, as longshoremen are frequently injured in this somewhat hazardous work.
The lawyers arguing the case came close to being Galveston royalty. James B. and Charles J. Stubbs were half-brothers who were sons of Thomas Bonaparte Stubbs who, as the lieutenant colonel in charge of the First Battalion of State Troops defending Galveston, had given an assessment of the state of the troops under his command during the winter of 1863–1864 that included:
fresh water was more than a mile away, yet they would have to traverse “knee-deep mud and [brackish] water” to approach it. Firewood, a commodity so desperately short that the prior night “two or three men froze till they could not talk,” was even farther away. This was of little surprise, as Stubbs reported that his men had “no tents,” and for shelter they had only “little things that blow over.” Although some of his men were sick, he knew he had “no physicians within miles….” With only one wagon, his regiment could not achieve both “communication and forage,” so his men suffered. So desperate were the conditions, that according to Stubbs, all the other regiments had left the camp and he alone remained to perform all the duty work.
Both of the brothers took on the mantle of their father and served the city in office and out in their capacity as attorneys well into the 20th century. John Grothgar is less well-known but his credentials are no less solid, if a good deal more tragic, having lost both his wife and his son in the 1900 Storm.
In order to more fully understand the circumstances of the case and something of the mechanics not only of loading a ship but of hiring longshoremen at the time.
In the ship’s deck were two openings or hatches through which goods were to be lowered, the large hatch leading into the hold of the ship, and the smaller, or hatch No. 2, leading into what was known as “between-decks,” a compartment separate and distinct from the hold, and separated from it by solid walls or partitions. Both these hatches or openings were on the same side of the mast to which the derricks were fastened, the larger one being nearest the mast, and the smaller being somewhat farther away. Two wooden arms were attached to the mast, one being shorter than the other. The shorter one had sufficient length to reach to the middle of the first hatch, and the longer one to the center of the second hatch. These arms could be raised or lowered by pulleys. To each was attached ropes and pulleys for the purpose of lifting the cargo from the wharf to the ship’s deck, and lowering it through the hatches to its destined place in the interior of the ship. Each of these hoisting pulleys was operated by a separate steam winch located on the upper deck of the ship. Each winch was in charge of a man who took his orders from the gangwayman in charge of the loading of the hatch to which that winch belonged.
The cargo was lifted and lowered in this manner. By means of the steam winch a sling made of rope would be lowered over the side of the ship to the wharf, where it would be filled with the sacks of borax, and the sling tightened over them. Then, at a signal from the gangwayman in charge of that hatch, the man in charge of the winch would turn on the steam, and the load would thus be drawn up an inclined plane, resting against the side of the ship until it reached the edge of the deck. The load would then, under the guidance of the gangwayman, be swung to a position over the hatch, and thence lowered into the ship, where the sling would be released, and its contents stored in proper place by men placed there for the purpose. If the load, when it was stopped at the edge of the ship, was at a point opposite the center of the hatch, the load would swing like a pendulum directly to and over the center of the hatch. If the load did not reach the edge of the ship at that point, it was the duty of the gangwayman to adjust it, and if this was not done it would miss the center of the hatch.
Hahn, in discharge of his duties, was in the hold of the ship, about 20 feet beneath the opening of the larger hatchway. Cargo was being lowered into it according to the method described, and he was engaged in storing the loads thus placed therein. Separate winches, separate hoisting apparatus, separate gangways, separate gangwaymen, and separate gangs of men were used for each hatch. While he was so engaged the winch for the small hatch was put in operation, and they began to load therein sacks of borax. These sacks were about 18 inches long, a foot wide, and 8 inches thick, and weighed 10 pounds. This was done without the knowledge of Hahn, though he knew the other winch was there, and that the hold between-decks was to be loaded. At about the first or second load designed for the smaller hatch the load swung obliquely in the direction of the larger hatch, struck the side of the hatch (which is raised above the level of the deck), causing one of the sacks to fall out of the sling into the larger hatch, and struck Hahn, whereby he was allegedly injured.
McBride was the foreman in charge of the work. He had relieved the gangwayman Kirwin, and took his place, the latter having gone to get other men. Just as the sack fell out of the sling McBride cried out a warning, but plaintiff did not hear it. It was the duty of the gangwayman to cry out a warning for the benefit of the men below whenever a sling load approached the hatch. Hahn did not hear the warning, though others in the same hold did. It was possible for Hahn to see the rope working under the arm which passed over the large hatch, and in that way tell that the other winch had started. He might also have known it from the noise, but, as there was much noise from various sources about the ship, he would not necessarily have acquired the knowledge by the noise of the winch.
It was also March 18th when the accident occurred – the day after St. Patrick’s day – and it is a fair assumption, although not offered in evidence anywhere, that much of the gang working the ship was at least seriously hung over if not still somewhat impaired. What other reason was there for Kirwin to have to go look for more men? Although the suit was for $15,000 the jury had awarded only $500 which may have been indicative of their opinion of the true nature of Hahn’s alleged injury. In the first story in this entry a foreman named Doyle had been injured. He was attended to, his bills were paid, his family was fed, his job was there when he recovered since John Young was a benevolent employer who met his obligations to his workers – he did not sue. Even though Hahn had received a mere token settlement John Young, encouraged and supported by the other stevedores as well as civic and business leaders, fought the verdict and was still fighting it three years later.
On 15th of December 1902 John Young got the result he wanted – and that his industry needed – in the language of the court:
In cases not affected by the statutes regulating fellow servants, mere difference in the grade of employment or the fact that one servant is the foreman or the boss of another does not take them out of the general rule of the common law, and the common master is not responsible for the negligent acts of the foreman or boss, unless the latter has been intrusted with the power to employ and discharge.
The assumption, in instructions in an action for injury to an employe through the negligence of the foreman, that the foreman was a vice principal, and not merely a fellow servant, is error; there being, at most, only evidence for the jury that he had power to employ and discharge, and some of the negligence charged against him not being the omission of duty owed by the master, from obligation to perform which he cannot free himself by delegating it.
The engagement of men by other employes is as consistent with one assumption as with the other. They may as easily be assumed to have acted as messengers of Young as of McBride. Or if the fact that others did secure help is to be taken as evidence of authority from the master to employ, it by no means follows that such authority came through the foreman. It seems to us that there is nothing showing affirmatively that such power had been delegated by the master. There is also an utter absence of evidence of power to discharge. But if there were circumstances tending to raise an inference of the necessary authority, the question as to their sufficiency to establish it was one for the jury; the evidence certainly not being so strong as to necessitate the conclusion. We find no other error for which the judgment should be reversed.
Reversed and remanded.
Having worked for the best part of twenty years as a screwman and a gang foreman John Young was a member of the oldest labor union in the state of Texas, The Screwman’s Benevolent Association, organized in 1866 and was well enough respected that, even though he had made the transition to stevedore, he was still called upon to mediate and help set rates for work well into the 1930’s. Our next look at the business of stevedoring takes place in the 1912 to 1913 time frame by which time he had formed a partnership with Charles Suderman that would, with the passing of the elder Suderman, become a partnership with the son, Adolph Suderman, and the name of their firm – Suderman & Young – still endures with harbor tugs. By 1912 Galveston was the most highly unionized city in the state of Texas and to give the reader an idea here is a list of some of the unions that had locals there:
- Allied Printing Trades Council
- Amalgamated Association of Street Railway Employees of America, No. 78
- Amalgamated Sheet Metal Workers, Local No. 144
- Bakers’ Union, Local No. 251
- Bartenders’ Local Union, No. 749
- Boat and Line Runners’ Association, No. 438
- Bricklayers’ International Union, Galveston Local No. 1.
- Brotherhood Railway Carmen of America, Local No. 342
- Carpenters’ and Joiners’ Union, No. 526
- Dock and Marine Council
- Dredgeboat Men, Tugboat Men, Bargemen, Fishermen, Oystermen, Piledriver Men and Scowman’s Union, Local No. 8 & 9
- Galveston Bookbinders’ Union, No 59
- Galveston Labor Council
- Galveston Printing Pressmen’s Union, No. 25
- Galveston Typographical Union, No. 28
- Gulf City Lodge No. 115, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen
- Hotel and Restaurant Employees, Local No. 69
- International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers, No. 135
- International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local No. 604
- International Longshoremen’s Marine and Transport Worker’s Association, Local No. 319
- International Union of United Brewery Workers, Local 130
- Journeymen Barbers’ Union, No. 109
- Local No. 585, Brotherhood of Painters and Decorators of America
- Lone Star No. 6, International Association of Machinists
- Musician’s Protective Union of Galveston, Local No. 74 of the A. F. M.
- National Association of Letter Carriers, Local Branch No. 23
- O. P. I. A., Plasterers’ Union, No. 177
- Oleander Lodge, No. 451, Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen
- Retail Clerk’s Union, No. 130
- Screwmen’s Benevolent Association
- Southern Pacific Coastwise Transportation Workers’, Local No. 385 I.L.A.
- Switchmen’s Union of North America, Oleander Lodge No. 70
- United Association Journeymen Plumbers, Gasfitters and Steamfitters’s Union, Local No. 200
- Women’s Union Label League, Local No. 142
Our story will explore the wages earned by longshoremen and an early effort to amalgamate the workforce. It is made all the more interesting since neither labor nor management was monolithic and although it involved integrating the workforce, putting black and white screwmen side by side in the same gangs, it was being done to guarantee jobs for white screwmen and not necessarily for the benefit of black screwmen. The size and leverage of Young & Suderman is described in the articles and their apparent success may have had a good deal to do with the special relationship with Cotton Jammers’ No. 3. The story opens with a longshoremen’s contract dispute described in the Galveston Daily News of the 4th of September 1912.
Labor troubles between the longshoremen of Galveston and the stevedoring firms and steamship men seem no nearer a final settlement than when the first developed several days ago. With the defeat Tuesday morning by the stevedoring firms and the steamship men of the new form of contract proposed by the cotton screwmen to replace the old contract which expired May 31 and with the refusal at the meeting of the joint committee Tuesday night of the counter proposition offered by the stevedoring firms, the labor situation is viewed in the same light as when it first developed. The joint committee from the longshoremen and screwmen which met in the Screwmen’s hall Tuesday night unconditionally rejected the counter proposition offered by the stevedoring firms and went on record as being unwilling to sign the old contract as it was in force last year and has been for several years.
The new form of contract as offered by the screwmen and longshoremen at the meeting Tuesday morning between the shipping interests and the representatives of the labor organizations affected, asked for an increase of 3.5 cents per bale in wage scale, a scale of 16 cents per bale instead of 12.5 cents per bale as heretofore in force, being asked. This new form of contract also stipulated that equal numbers of white men and negroes should be worked in the gangs loading any ship. This proposed contract was rejected by the shipping interests and a counter proposition in the form of an offer to sign the old contract for any period from one to three years was made. This counter proposition the labor men rejected at their meeting Tuesday night.
It will be recalled that the organization of negro screwman known as Cotton Jammers No. 3, an organization chartered under the laws of Texas, but not affiliated under the International Longshoremen’s Association, recently signed a contract for one year with the stevedoring firm of Young & Suderman and are now at work loading their ships. This organization is not affected by the present troubles. The other three organizations of water front labor, Local 317 (screwmen), Local 310 (longshoremen) and the negro organization known as Cotton Jammers No. 2, are involved in the present trouble. Those three organizations are affiliated with the International Longshoremen’s Association through the Gulf Coast District Association.
J. H. Fricke, president of the Gulf Coast Longshoremen’s Association and member of the Galveston Dockworker’s and Marine Council, is a member of the joint committee, and following the meeting of this committee on Tuesday night said that the counter proposition of the stevedoring firms had been refused. “We unconditionally refused to accept the proposition submitted by the shipping interests,” said Mr. Fricke, “and I think it is certain we will not sign the old form of contract. Other conferences will be held tomorrow and thereafter in an effort to reach an agreement and a satisfactory form of contract. In the meantime, all members of the locals affected have been instructed to stay away from the wharves.”
It is represented by the shipping interests and by some members of the labor organizations who are opposed to the new form of contract that several stevedoring firms and steamship men have already signed contracts for handling their cotton at 12.5 cents per bale and that those same organizations that are demanding 16 cents per bale in Galveston have signed contracts with Texas City shipping interests to handle cotton there at 12.5 cents per bale. To insist upon the new contract with those stevedoring firms in Galveston who have not already closed contracts with cotton screwmen, these men say, would be altogether unfair to those shipping interests.
Speaking of the disagreement over the form of contract J. H. Langbahn, of the steamship firm Langbahn Bros., said:
“The attitude of the officers of the Gulf Coast Council is certainly had to comprehend, for we naturally desire to credit them with good faith to the members of the associations and to the contracting stevedores and the port of Galveston.
“The contract under which the white screwmen worked last season, carried payment at 12.5 cents per bale stowing by hand; 30 cents per bale, screwing in 28 cubic feet; 35 cents per bale, screwing in 26 cubic feet; with extra pay for loading in steamer’s peaks and other places less accessible than ordinary cargo holds, also extra pay for overtime after 5 p.m. and on Sundays and holidays.
“This contract expired May 31st and the loading of cotton continued under the same terms until August 31st.
“On August 15th the steamship agents learned for the first time that a new basis was demanded, the communication taking the form of a new contract proposed by I.L.A. Local No. 317, whereby it demands that equal numbers of white men and colored men shall work in each hold of each steamer loading cotton; further, that each gang of five men shall receive $31 per day of nine hours, that is, $6 per day for each of the four screwmen and $7 per day for the foreman, and further that a day’s work per gang shall not be more than ninety bales to be stowed with screws or 208 bales to be stowed by hand. This equals 16 cents per bale hand stowing and 35 cents per bale with screws, but it actually means more on account of lost time, and there is no guarantee that the number of bales will be stowed.
“Under last year’s contract the men loading certain large steamers made as much as $10 per day, because they stowed as many bales as possible. This facilitated quick dispatch of steamers and quick movement of cotton to destination.
“The proposed contract restricts a man to stow only eighteen bales per day with screws. This is exceedingly undesirable and should be corrected. The consequences need not be enlarged upon.
“Probably the most unfair part of the whole proceeding is that the demand was kept secret until two and a half months after the old contract expired, and was sprung upon the business after contracts had been signed by other cotton screwmen’s associations with certain stevedores to perform the work at Port Aransas and at Texas City, the later for a period of three years, on the identical terms and conditions as prevailed here last year and furthermore, after the steamship lines had contracted with ship owners to have the loading of their steamers performed at last year’s rates.
“Again, practically one-half of the cotton loaded at Galveston wharves is already contracted for by cotton screwmen who do not belong to the Gulf Coast Council on the same terms as last year, hence the council by its arbitrary action is seeking to make certain steamship lines pay more for having their steamers loaded than other lines are paying.
“It has been said that the white men feared some of the steamship lines might employ colored men and therefore they insist that there shall be an absolute equality and that a colored man must be employed wherever a white man is put to work loading cotton. This is manifestly insincere, considering that the three firms now employing white men offer to renew last year’s contract for a period of three years.
It is pretty well-known that some of the loudest takers for amalgamation, which they call the scheme of mating the white and colored, are not going to remain in Galveston and eat the crow they are serving up to their associates but are moving to Aransas Pass to tote gangs under the same contract as prevailed here last year.
“It is currently reported that the whole situation is a scheme to divert business away from Galveston and that when the general membership of the labor unions wakes up the undeclared leaders will have been called home.”
We believe it is true that negroes are coming in from other cities and towns, there is no indication that they are expecting to take work along the Galveston water front. Also despite rumors to the effect that a bountiful supply of ammunition and six-shooters has been sold by Galveston hardware firms, principally to negroes, none of these weapons has been in evidence and everything is quiet. There is no evidence of any possible violence in Galveston and rumors and reports that have been sent out to the contrary are absolutely unfounded.
This last paragraph indicates how much racial tension there was involved in the situation – and speaks volumes about editorial policy. Fortunately cool heads prevailed due, in no small part, to the inability of the union to mount any effective work stoppages and Galveston maintained its primacy as the primary cotton shipping port west of New Orleans. The story of the amalgamated contract continues on the 20th of August 1913 when the arrival of the I.L.A. international president is page 1 news for the Galveston Daily News:
The question of the amalgamation of white and colored union organizations among the longshoremen of Galveston water front has again assumed proportions calling for special effort on the part of union officials in an attempt to avoid open controversy on September 1st, when the present “amalgamated contract” that has held on a major portion of the Galveston wharves for the past year is to come to an end. Working to maintain the present status of International Longshoremen’s Association of white and colored longshoremen now affiliated with the I. L. A. President T. V. O’Connor of the I. L. A. has come to Galveston from his headquarters at Buffalo, New York. For the past week President O’Connor has been resting quietly at Hotel Galvez, combining a partial vacation with his work of bringing to a satisfactory conclusion the present tangle in the longshoremen situation. Tuesday evening he addressed a gathering of longshoremen at Screwmen’s Hall, and Friday evening a final attempt will be made at Screwman’s Hall to bring about and agreement that will result in the renewal of the present “amalgamated contracts'” which are due to lapse on September 1st. With International President O’Connor is Thomas Harrison of New Orleans, Louisiana, president of the New Orleans screwmen.
In what is viewed by union officials as an attempt of the white cotton screwmen to return to former conditions (in which separate contracts were made by white and colored unions, white gangs and colored gangs working separately instead of under the present system, under the so-called amalgamated contract by which gangs composed equally of white and colored workmen handle the cotton), contracts of five years duration, effective September 1, 1913, are reported to have been signed with the three stevedoring firms of Richard P. Williamson, Young & Suderman and the Galveston Stevedore Company. These three firms handle a large portion of the cotton shipped over Galveston Wharves. The Williamson stevedoring interests handle the work for Langbahn Brothers, using pier 14. The Young & Suderman stevedoring firm handles the cotton from Pier 29 to Pier 33, from Pier 15 and from part of Pier 38. The Galveston Stevedore Company handles the cotton from Piers 35 and 36.
Approximately 3,200 white longshoremen at Galveston, Texas City and Port Bolivar are involved in the controversy, and about 400 negro cotton screwmen, all the latter working at the Galveston wharves. The question of the outcome of the negotiations now under way is the chief topic of conversation along the Galveston wharf front, and all possible attempts to bring about and amicable agreement before September 1st are to be made. Of the three screwmen’s organizations in Galveston, two are affiliated with the I. L. A. International body — Local No. 317 of white screwmen (known locally as Cotton Screwmen No. 1) and Local No. 329, composed of colored longshoremen (known locally as “Cotton Jammers” No. 2). The third cotton screwmen’s organization, composed of colored longshoremen, is known locally as “Cotton Jammers No. 3,” or as the “Lone Star Screwmen.” This last local is not affiliated with the International I. L. A..
All indications point to a firm stand by the visiting international president for the resumption of the “amalgamated contract” whereby the cotton was screwed during the past season by gangs composed equally of white and colored longshoremen.
“The International Longshoremen’s Association views a man as a union man, whether he is white or black, once he has affiliated with the I. L. A.,” said on of the local union men Tuesday, “The controversy will doubtless be decided upon that basis.”
Various results are predicted as an outcome of the present condition of affairs.
International President O’Connor, whatever the outcome of the Friday meeting, plans to remain in Galveston until Sunday, when he intends to leave for Port Arthur, New Orleans, Louisiana and Mobile, Alabama making a complete tour of the Gulf Coast district before returning to his Buffalo, New York headquarters.
The “amalgamation” that finally found its way into the longshoring practices in Galveston was to have both white and black gangs employed on the same ships in different holds. When this author was loading grain ships in Galveston in the 1970’s the black gangs worked the aft hatches and the white gangs worked the forward hatches. They had separate hiring halls for separate locals but identical wages for identical work and there were no complaints about equality that we ever heard. It was, in fact, the black locals that did not want amalgamation since they had different rules, especially concerning seniority, and were unwilling to give up their privileges in the name of amalgamation. The Galveston Screwmen’s Benevolent Association never merged with the New Orleans Association maintaining its own identity and management until technology made its services obsolete and it was wholly absorbed into the ILA local.
We are going to close this particular episode by introducing another character in our narrative. John Young had a son, John William Young, who be woven every bit as much into the fabric of Galveston as he was. Where the father had come up through the hawse pipe to fight his way to the top and was a successful entrepreneur the son would follow his grandfather, Maurice Coffey, and be a political operative in Galveston’s Democratic circles and would be the go to guy for labor support and issues until the end of his life. He had many other accomplishments including service as an officer in the artillery in the world war which led him to be one of the founders of the American Legion but he was never the hard man that his father was and although he spent a lifetime in service to his father’s interests he did not succeed him as the head of the firm. The picture below dates from about the same time as his father’s portrait at the beginning of this entry. The ribbon on his lapel identifies him as a marshal of the Cotton Festival – the first of many offices he would hold.