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Topics in Chronicling America - Eight Hour Day (1916)

After over a hundred years of strikes and protests, the working man’s efforts to create an eight hour work day finally culminate in the Supreme Court’s approval of the Adamson Act—but not without a brutal fight. Only after the Railroad brotherhood threatens a strike which would stalemate war production does President Woodrow Wilson finally request Congress to pass legislation. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection ( Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.

Picture of the heads of railroads who "will fight to the last against eight hour day"

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Important Dates:

  • Fall 1915 – Railroad brotherhoods adopt a resolution to demand an 8 hour work day and time and a half for overtime.
  • March 1916 – Railroad brotherhoods submit proposal for 8 hour work day to the railroads.
  • Mid-June 1916 – Railroad companies reject the railroad brotherhoods proposals. The railroad brotherhoods set a strike deadline of September 4, 1916.
  • August 1916 – Woodrow Wilson wanting to avoid a railroad strike that would affect war preparedness tries to mediate a compromise. Failing to reach an amicable resolution for both sides on 28 August 1916 Wilson requests Congress to pass legislation granting an 8 hour work day for railroad workers.
  • September 3, 1916 – To avoid a railroad strike Congress passes a federal law establishing an 8 hour work day for interstate railroad workers and time and a half for overtime.
  • January 8-10, 1917 – Supreme Court hears arguments in Wilson v. New, the case the railroad companies brought challenging the constitutionality of the Adamson Act.
  • March 19, 1917 – Railroads agree to provisions of the Adamson Act to avoid a nationwide strike. The Supreme Court rules on Wilson v. New 5 to 4 declaring the Adamson Act constitutional

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Adamson Act, Adamson Law, Railroad Men, Railroad Brotherhoods, Supreme Court.
  • Limit search dates to those close to the important dates mentioned above.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

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