Guiding Question:

How did the importation of Chinese workers affect the shoemakers' union the Knights of St. Crispin's ideals of worker solidarity, economic justice and civic equality?

Teachers Page

Grade Level(s): High School (9-12)

Age Levels(s): 14-18

Subject Area: U.S. History


  1. Understand the different perspectives involved in the North Adams, MA shoe strike of 1870.
  2. Determine how competing goals can be resolved.

Curriculum Standards:


Copies of testimony, divided by character
Goal worksheet
Settlement worksheet

Timeframe: 3 45-minute class periods

Student Foundational Skills:

Understanding of early labor movements, objectives and role of government in workers relationship with owners.
Some understanding of collective bargaining as a practice.
Background of anti-immigration movement against Chinese in California in 19th century U.S.
Document analysis and discussion skills.

Learning Activities and Organizational Notes:

(1) Day 1

Introduce setting of the North Adams Shoe Strike of 1870.  Then tell students,

“Today you will meet with others representing a variety of interests in the shoe factory and North Adams, Mass. in general. How will you work together to resolve the strike?”

I.  Have students meet in groups of 4-5, each person in the group will be representing one of the following figures in the strike. Keep in mind each person's perspective and how it relates to that of the Crispin union worker.

1. C.T. Sampson, Factory Owner Pages 99-108, below
2. L.W. LeMoine, Shoemaker, member of the Knights of St. Crispin ("Crispins") Pages 114-115
3. Daniel Luther, Shoemaker, not a union member Pages 109-112
4. Lucius A. Ellis, Shopkeeper, Town of North Adams Page 115
5. John Smythe (fictitious), Bureau of Labor Statistics("BLS") Page 46-47 and 116

[Pages refer to the documents from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Report 1871]

II.  Students read the witness statement of your character in order to get their perspective on events. Each witness will be given excerpts to read of their testimony given to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (the pages listed above).  Students will prepare a Goals Chart for negotiation in preparation for the following days' in-class activity. Ask them to make note of wages being paid to each type of worker, and how many hours are being worked. Note what happens when the shoe business slows down and there is no need to make as many shoes. Students should think about why their character would be called to testify about the strike, and how his perspective might be colored by the role he played in the events leading up to the strike.

III. Each group will negotiate a preliminary settlement of the strike and complete one Settlement Chart for the group. The main goals of the settlement should address wages, length of workday, working conditions, what happens when there is less work to do (times when there is a low demand for shoes), whether or not the factory will be a union shop, and term of employment (how long does the factory owner have to keep a worker, and under what conditions can the employee be terminated). Ask students to think about what matters to their assigned character/witness.  Ask the group “What compromises are you willing to make? What agreements can the group reach?”

Students should make note of their agreements to be ready for the next class.

Organizational Notes: none

(2) Day 2:

Agreements will be presented to the class. In groups from Day 1 students choose a spokesperson to explain the agreements the group reached. Each of the negotiation groups will present their group agreements to the rest of the class.

As a class discuss: “What were the main differences in the agreements? Are the agreements fair to all parties?”
Then ask: “What has been left out here?”

Make sure students understand that the Chinese are not present at this negotiation. Ask them, “Why?”

Ask to student look at the Chinese workers' point of view.  They will read these three (3) newspaper articles about the Chinese workers.

Article describing the contract
Article describing "board"
Article describing Chinese New Year celebration

Then discuss: “What was the Chinese workers' point of view about the strike?”

(3) Day 3:

Have students look back at the experiences of all the participants in the strike, answer these questions:

1. What barriers did the unions face in their battle with factory owners? with the replacement workers?

2. What solutions can you propose? Are there acceptable limits that can be placed on all groups to allow them to work together?

3. Is government intervention necessary to protect workers? If so, should those protections extend to immigrants, non-citizens, like the Chinese in this event? Does your answer change if you know the workers do not want to stay in the United States?

Facilitate discussion and assign persuasive essay as homework.


Organizational Notes: none

Assessments: Pre and Post Survey

Results of collective bargaining exercise
Self-assessment by group/debriefing
Persuasive essay

For homework, students write a persuasive essay for or against a law that would set a minimum wage and maximum workday. Include examples from the events and testimony of the North Adams Strike of 1870 to support a position, and explain why or why not such a law would help resolve this strike. Consider, with a minimum wage and maximum workday, whether the factory owner could have hired cheaper labor to break the strike.

Students will be able to: Strong Good Adequate Inadequate Weighting
Read the testimony of witnesses
before the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Board and identify goals
Student is able to identify
more than 3 goals
Student is able to identify
one or two major goals
Student is able to identify one
major issue
Student is unable to
identify any goals
10 points
Discuss with other students how competing goals can be resolved Student is able to explore options with others and communicates well. Enables group to resolve more than one issue. Student is able to explore options and communicate effectively. Enables group to resolve one issue. Student can review the list, communicates with others. Group may be able to resolve one issue. Student does not communicate with the group and makes no effort to resolve conflicts 10 points
Compare results and determine affect of result. Student actively participates in class discussion and demonstrates clear understanding of issues. Student participates in the class discussion and demonstrate some understanding of the issues. Student actively listens, and attempts to participate in class discussions to clarify understanding of the issues. Student does not participate in the discussion, and does not make any effort to understand the issues. 20 points
Evaluate the entire event and determine the relationship of the parties to the ultimate result. Student writes a persuasive essay, applying ideas and issues from the negotiation and class discussion. Student writes a persuasive essay applying an idea from the negotiation Student writes a persuasive essay demonstrating understanding of the issues Student writes a minimal essay, demonstrating no understanding of the issues 60 points



Teacher Notes: none