Twenty-nine-year-old C. Truman Hulse (front row, second from left, in the photograph above) helped found the Edwardsville Retail Clerks Local Union No. 304 in April 1909. Married with a young daughter, he usually worked 70 hours to earn $12 each week. This weekly wage was equivalent to $689 in 2018 in terms of household purchasing power.
By 1912, Truman was in charge of the carpet department in the Palace Store Company (pictured below).
According to Truman’s membership book (pictured), the retail clerks union charged a $2.00 initiation fee to join and 50¢ a month thereafter.
The book begins with a declaration of eleven principles. Noting that clerks frequently worked up to sixteen hours a day, one of the principles establishes the union’s advocacy for an 8-hour workday. Another principle resolves to abolish child labor, “the school house and not the work shop being the proper place for children.”
The 1912 photograph of Truman and other members of the Retail Clerks Local Union #304 is unique in this online exhibition: it is the only photograph that shows women workers. The sixth principle listed in Truman’s membership book includes the union’s demand for “equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex.”
Constitution and Membership Book of the Retail Clerks International Protective Association, revised and adopted at St. Joseph, Mo., July, 1907. MCHS archival document 1999-024. Available at the Madison County Archival Library.
Edwardsville Intelligencer. Various articles.
Find A Grave. Accessed August 30, 2019. https://www.findagrave.com/index.html
MeasuringWorth. Accessed August 30, 2019. https://www.measuringworth.com/calculators/uscompare/
United States census records and other public records.