by Robert G. Rodden

The (first?) design for the Machinists emblem was submitted by delegate Frank French, representing Lodge 12 in Houston. It was chosen over several others submitted. The figures on the design were a flywheel, friction joint caliper and Machinist square with the initials of the organization between the spokes of the flywheel. . . ."The flywheel is significant because it generates a lot of power once it gets started." The connection with the trade is clear since most shops in those days were powered by stationary steam engines with large flywheels. Brother French explained that the calipers signify "that we extend an invitation to all white male persons [sic] of civilized countries who are practical machinists. The square signifies that we are square and honest."

In The Beginning
1888 - 1900

When the Knights started to fall apart, following the Haymarket affair, Talbot saw an opportunity to create an order exclusively for machinists. Many, if not most, of his shopmates had undoubtedly belonged to the Knights of Labor at one time or another during its heyday. . . .
Carefully, slowly, he felt out others in the machine shop. He went visiting at night, talking to groups of two or three gathered at the homes of fellow workers. Undoubtedly, word was passed back and forth over lunch boxes and was whispered around lathes and milling machines. As a result of such ground-work, Talbot and eighteen other machinists met secretly on the evening of May 5, 1888. They came singly or by two's or three's to an engine pit where they were sheltered by surrounding locomotives from snooping stooges or spies. . . .
No minutes were kept, no written records survive. But it is reasonable to believe that none imagined that from this gathering would come one of America's great trade unions, the only international directly rooted in the struggle of Southern labor.
From the beginning the others acknowledged Talbot's leadership and he accepted the task of building something out of nothing. . . .Circumstances surrounding his premature death suggest he may have had a short fuse. But during the few short years he led his union he provided the rock-like qualities needed for a firm foundation.
Originally these nineteen machinists called their organization the Order of United Machinists and Mechanical Engineers of America. They adopted and adapted the rather grandiose terminology that had been used by the Knights of Labor. Tom Talbot became Grand Master Machinist and William L. Dawley, another of the original nineteen, became Grand Secretary. This was the beginning of what has come to be one of the largest and most influential organizations of workers on the North American Continent.




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of Siouxland Lodge 1426 IAMAW
Greg Enright