Most likely this pin belonged to my Grandpa Pete Kownacki, though it was mixed in with items from the other side of the family. So… Anyway, the story goes that Pete would pick up seasonal work with the Post Office while he was attending grad school at Loyola. This would have been in the 1930s. I recently found this bit out about him, which could also explain why I now have this old metal postal badge in my possession. The coloring of this pin is really bizarre and must be some form of water damage.
I can easily see how something like this ends up lasting longer than the owner. Think about it… How many random things do you have in the back of a dresser drawer that just sit there? Of course nothing is written down about the significance of them, or why it is you even own a particular item. Decades later it gets passed down to some future ancestor that will have absolutely no clue as to where it came from. Think about that one next time you fill up your life with stuff.
I have no clue as to what this old button is about. It was found among some other old pins that I know came from either my German or Irish side of the family. I did some various Google searches and nothing came up that I can relate to this item. I do know that it is from the early part of the 20th Century, and came from Chicago. Maybe it is related to The Great Depression (soup kitchens and the like). Do any of you happen to know what this little button is about?
An old pin from my Grandpa George on this May Day, or what was often referred to as the International Workers’ Day. I know he had his own side business repairing radios, along with his day job at Stewart-Warner (in Chicago), so I would imagine this is why he was a member of the United Electrical, Radio & Machine Workers of America.
The UE organized in 1936, and while their charter was rejected by the AFL, it was accepted by the CIO. The Union grew to an impressive membership of well over half a million members after WWII, but soon after split from the CIO. (Apparently this split was caused by some institutionalized racial discrimination on the part of the CIO.) This split caused the CIO to create its own union covering the same types of workers. This new union poached many members from the UE.
This was also during the era of McCarthyism, which seriously attacked the UE. Members were fired, blacklisted, jailed, and their leader even faced possible deportation. Through all of that the union managed to remain and is still a strong force today. Remember the Republic Windows and Doors shop that closed in Chicago right before Christmas in 2008? (The manner in which it closed was in violation of Federal law.) This was the one that then President-elect Obama visited to show his support of the workers that had occupied the building in an old fashioned sitdown strike. Well, that was the UE at work.
Today their numbers are much smaller at roughly 35,000 but as shown above they are still quite active. Their ranks include workers from many varying fields ranging from the people that build locomotives to the Ohio Turnpike employees. The UE is also considered one of the most democratically run unions because of the high input that their members have in the direction and policies of the organization.
‘Tis the season for election ephemera. This little button is for a mayoral race in Chicago, and that’s where it gets tricky… First off, there were two Mayor Harrisons. If you’ve read Devil in the White City you know all about the first Mayor Harrison and how he was assassinated during the final days of the Columbian Exposition in 1893. Looking at the style of this pin I seriously doubt it came from his era.
That leaves his son. While he was technically a Jr. he didn’t use that suffix in office. As for which term, well that too is hard to say. He was elected to 5 terms. And if that wasn’t confusing enough, the length of terms changed from 2 years to 4 for his last term. That last term started in 1911 (which is also the first time Chicago held a primary). On top of that, my politically active ancestors knew Mayor Harrison, one of which was of course the Alderman. I looked for examples of Harrison’s campaign slogans but to no avail. So while I can’t tell for certain which year this came from it does have a look that makes me lean towards his last in 1911. What do you think?
Patriotic Leagues existed all over the country during the First World War, and were responsible for various organized war effort activities ranging from financial collections, to Red Cross work, to those now classic WWI propaganda posters. While being very common in their day there is surprising little out there on the internet about their form and structure. I managed to find one document from the University of Colorado that gives a glimpse into their function. It appears that each group was responsible for their own creation and mission with little oversight from any official agency. This is most likely the reason why it is so hard to find any background on them. So whatever they did in Chicago, one of my ancestors was apparently involved.