The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969 Page: 20
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
get his goods and every farmer needed the rails to transport his bulky
cotton to market, then the public would take a very different attitude
toward railroad strikes, no matter what their cause. And the railroad
strikes of the 1870's were the first personal contact with labor disturb-
ances for most Texans.
Previously, in fact, few Texans, workers or not, had had any first-
hand experience with labor organizations and their activities. In the
stage of economic development which characterized Texas to the mid-
seventies, conditions conducive to labor organizations of any type ex-
isted almost exclusively in the larger towns. It was here that the early
labor organizations had developed. These had been for the most part
benevolent societies. The few true unions that had been established,
primarily after the Civil War, were weak, and most failed to survive
more than a few months. As a result, organized labor had little impact
on the worker or the public. Work stoppages had seldom occurred,
and when they did, most often represented the spontaneous reaction
of unorganized laborers rather than the actions of organized unions.
The successful strike was extremely rare.
As the railroad came, breaking the state's isolation and stimulating
its economy, the character of the labor movement changed. Railroad
laborers, the first large group of industrial workers, brought militant
unionism to Texas. The history of labor in the state was entering a
new phase, and the strikes of 1877 marked the change.
Yet, what had been the contributions of the meager attempts at
organization of the years 1838 to 1876? Their major importance was
not so much in accomplishment, which was all but nil, but rather as
an indication-a sign that even in Texas' agrarian society labor prob-
lems existed and that at least some workers understood this to the
point of seeking to improve their lot through labor organizations.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969, periodical, 1969; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/m1/36/: accessed June 23, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.