Newspapers representing the interests and concerns of working men and women have been published in Indianapolis since the 1870s. Although some papers appealed to the general laboring community, most were sponsored by specific unions and reported news and labor activities locally and nationwide.

Letter to Madam C. J. Walker from the United Labor Journal, November 15, 1917
Credit: Madam C.J. Walker Collection, Indiana Historical Society

The International Typographical Union, No. 1, started the city’s first labor newspaper. Begun as a daily by the Union Publishing Company, The Union became a weekly by July and ceased publishing later that year. The Workingmen’S Map, published by labor radical Calvin A. Light, along with International Typographical Union members George S. Bonnel and Joseph G. Charlton, was a general labor paper that lasted from March 1876 until May 1877. The Labor Signal (later The Signal), published 1881-1896 and edited for several years by Thomas M. Gruelle, who also led the Knights Of Labor, was the official organ of the Central Trades and Labor Union, Indianapolis’ federation of local unions.

Several other labor newspapers appeared in the city for short periods of time and addressed the particular needs of blue-collar workers. The Appeal and The Union Standard were published briefly in 1887 and 1896, respectively. The Indiana Labor Bulletin (1908-1926), which became the Union Labor Bulletin in 1916, changed from weekly to twice-monthly publication and addressed labor issues facing unions throughout the state.

Since Indianapolis was home to numerous national and international unions, many union publications originated in the Hoosier capital. The United Mine Workers Of America, headquartered here from 1898 to 1934, published Italian, Slovak, and English editions of the weekly United Mine Workers Journal until the 1910s. The Buchdrucker-Zeitung, published for German members of the Typographical Union, was the only other Indianapolis paper providing labor news in the workers’ native language. Other union papers included the Locomotive Fireman And Engineman’S Magazine (ca. 1885), the Typographical Journal (ca. 1893), Bricklayer And Mason (ca. 1898), Teamster (ca. 1903), the Carpenter (ca. 1905), and Journeyman Barber (ca. 1905).

Serving as the voice of the Indiana Federation of Labor and the Central Labor Union of Indianapolis, The Union, founded by one of the best-known labor leaders in the country Edwin F. Gould in 1888, probably had the greatest impact in the city. Gould reputedly was identified with “every great labor organization or movement afoot” between the years 1873 and 1900. He remained owner and editor of the Union until his death on May 4, 1906. Initially opposed to the candidacy of Benjamin Harrison, The Union endured several controversies during its 80-year run.

In the 1890s, the International Typographical Union No. 1 placed the paper on its “do not patronize” list for failing to use union printers. During a subsequent competition among local labor papers, The Signal accused Union publisher Harry W. Bassett of being Mayor Joseph E. Bell’s personal secretary and an opponent of union projects. Organizer of the Bookbinders’ Union and a close friend of Indianapolis mayor Thomas Taggart, Bassett owned the Union from the 1910s to the early 1930s, was elected as a Democrat in the Indiana House of Representatives to represent Marion County in 1908, and was appointed a deputy commissioner of the United States Employees Compensation Commission for the Chicago district by President Calvin Coolidge.

This allegation against Bassett appeared in a three-inch block of every Signal edition between March 16 and August 25, 1916. Bassett responded with a notice on page one of his paper, showcasing a statement of support and endorsement from the Indiana Federation of Labor. The Union ultimately survived the tumult of union politics and became the official voice of the Indiana State AFL before ceasing publication in 1968.

Another paper for the general working community was the Indiana Labor Tribune (1955-1974), launched by Maury E. Rubin, who edited a labor newspaper in St. Louis before coming to Indianapolis, and later edited by Harry Berns, a labor mediator and arbitrator who also served as counsel to the Indiana Conference of Teamsters.

In 1974 Labor News, sponsored by the Indiana AFL-CIO, became the official voice of the local labor community. Founded by Sol Levin in 1965 and published by sons Marty and Fred Levin, the 20-plus page paper utilized a paper-within-a-paper format to highlight local unions and their activities. Amid differences over content and advertising procurement practices, the state AFL-CIO terminated Labor News as its official publication in 1992.

Revised March 2021
 

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