William H. Sylvis, founder of the National Molders Union, circa 1868.
flipFlip to "Great Disaster at Avondale Colliery, Ruins of the Breaker," Harpers Weekly, September 6, 1869.
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Photograph of William H. Sylvis.

Credit: From the Terence Vincent Powderly Photographic Collection, Courtesy of the Catholic University of America Archives,

A Pennsylvania iron molder by trade, William Sylvis had little formal schooling but great oratorical skills. By 1859 Sylvis had helped organize the Iron Molders International Union. The Molders were one of Pennsylvania's first unions to require dues, union cards, and a national vote for strikes. In 1866 Sylvis led the drive to build the National Labor Union (NLU), a nationwide union with 54 locals, which elected him president in 1868.

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