Harper's Weekly—July 14, 1894

EUGENE V. DEBS, who, as president of the American Railway Union, gave the order for the boycott against the Pullman cars, is a man of thirty-nine, who has been a railway man, a politician, and an editor. Debs is a native of Terre Haute, Indiana, where his father kept a grocery store. The son attended school regularly till he was big enough to help about the store. Then he took his place as a worker, but continued to study nights, and so acquired a very fair degree of education. When he was seventeen or eighteen he went to work in the paint-shop of the Vandalia Railroad. Later he became a locomotive fireman, and on joining the local Brotherhood of Firemen was made a delegate to the national body. Debs filled the place of secretary for fourteen years, during which time he also acted as the editor of the Fireman's Magazine. In 1879 he was elected City Clerk of Terre Haute, and in 1884 he was sent to the Indiana State Legislature. In 1892 he did effective work for the National Democratic ticket.

The same year he decided to leave the Firemen's Brotherhood, much against the wishes of its members, with whom he was very popular. When he insisted upon resigning, the sum of $2000 was voted to him, with the understanding that he was to use it to defray the expenses of a vacation trip to Europe. He declined to accept the gift, and in 1893 set about the organization of the American Railway Union, membership in which is not confined to any branch of railway employees, his idea being, that they would be better able to enforce their demands if all branches of the service combined than if organized separately.

The Railway Union grew rapidly, and late last year Debs inaugurated the big strike on the Great Northern Railway, which extends northwesterly from St. Paul. Several conferences have been held during the last few months for the purpose of harmonizing all existing labor organizations, but the Railway Union seat, no delegations to any of them, and has never had the help of the brotherhoods. At the June convention of the Union some sort of an arrangement for mutual help was made between it and the Knights of Labor. At this convention, also, Debs was chosen president for a term of four years.

This is the record of a man who has always managed to keep himself to the fore, who is now causing the country unprecedented trouble and expense, and who has placed an embargo on the traffic of a nation.

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