Thomas Van Lear

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Thomas Van Lear in 1917 Thomas Van Lear in 1917.jpg
Thomas Van Lear in 1917

Thomas Van Lear (April 26, 1869 March 4, 1931) was the Socialist Mayor of Minneapolis from January 1, 1917 to January 6, 1919.



Van Lear was born in Maryland in 1869. As a boy he worked in the area's coal mines and, at the age of 18, he joined the Knights of Labor. He later served in the United States Army (including a year during the Spanish–American War) before relocating to Minneapolis to work as a machinist. He soon became active with the International Association of Machinists and other trade and union groups in the city. [1]

Knights of Labor defunct labor federation from the United States

Knights of Labor, officially Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, was an American labor federation active in the late 19th century, especially the 1880s. Its most important leaders were Terence V. Powderly and step-brother Joseph Bath. The Knights promoted the social and cultural uplift of the workingman, rejected socialism and anarchism, demanded the eight-hour day, and promoted the producers ethic of republicanism. In some cases it acted as a labor union, negotiating with employers, but it was never well organized, and after a rapid expansion in the mid-1880s, it suddenly lost its new members and became an operation again.

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

Spanish–American War Conflict in 1898 between Spain and the United States

The Spanish–American War was fought between the United States and Spain in 1898. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of USS Maine in Havana harbor in Cuba, leading to U.S. intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. U.S. acquisition of Spain's Pacific possessions led to its involvement in the Philippine Revolution and ultimately in the Philippine–American War.

Van Lear led two unsuccessful campaigns for the mayoralty before he was elected on November 7, 1916, with over 33,000 votes. Van Lear did not win control of the city council, and Sheriff Otto Langum worked closely with the Minneapolis Citizens' Alliance, an anti-labor coalition of wealthy business magnates. Main planks of the Socialist platform included factory safety inspections, municipal control of utilities, and opposition to law enforcement involvement in repressing strike actions. In office Van Lear welcomed the People's Council of America for Democracy and Peace to Minneapolis and refused to approve an instruction that would effectively ban the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). The only Socialist mayor in the city's history was defeated for re-election in 1918, amid accusations that he and his supporters secretly desired a German victory in World War I. Van Lear was expelled from the Socialist Party in 1918 and later helped to form a local section of the Non-Partisan League that firmly supported the policies of Democratic President Woodrow Wilson.

Citizens' Alliances were state and local anti-trade union organizations prominent in the United States of America during the first decade of the 20th century. The Citizen's Alliances were closely related to employers' associations but allowed participation of a broad range of sympathetic citizens in addition to those employers apt to be affected by strikes. Originating in the American state of Ohio as the "Modern Order of Bees," the Citizens' Alliance movement spread westwards, playing a particularly important role in labor relations in the states of Colorado and California. Citizens' Alliance groups often worked in tandem with smaller but better financed employers' organizations interested in establishing or maintaining open shop labor conditions, including the Mine Owners' Associations (MOA) or the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

Industrial Workers of the World International labor union

The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), members of which are commonly termed "Wobblies", is an international labor union that was founded in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois, in the United States. The union combines general unionism with industrial unionism, as it is a general union whose members are further organized within the industry of their employment. The philosophy and tactics of the IWW are described as "revolutionary industrial unionism", with ties to both socialist and anarchist labor movements.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

In 1919, Van Lear worked with Herbert Gaston to found the populist Minnesota Daily Star newspaper. The first issue was printed in August 1920. While the paper had some success as a political tool, it had a difficult time attracting advertisers and went bankrupt in 1924. [2]

He died on March 4, 1931. He is interred at Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery in Minneapolis. [3]

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Further reading

Political offices
Preceded by
Wallace G. Nye
Mayor of Minneapolis
January 1, 1917 January 6, 1919
Succeeded by
J. E. Meyers