Frank P. Walsh

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Frank P. Walsh

Francis Patrick "Frank" Walsh (July 20, 1864 – May 2, 1939) was an American lawyer. Walsh was noted for his advocacy of progressive causes, including Georgist land value tax,[1] improved working conditions, better pay for workers, and equal employment opportunities for all, including women. He was appointed to several high-profile committees to investigate and report on working conditions. He was also active in championing independence for Ireland.


Early years[edit]

Frank P. Walsh was born in St. Louis, Missouri, on July 20, 1864, into humble circumstances. At age 10 he dropped out of public school and worked as a telegraph boy in St. Louis. He taught himself stenography, and was considered expert in that craft when he was admitted to the bar in 1889.

Walsh was employed as a clerk in lawyers' offices. In 1885 he moved to Kansas City, Missouri, and began working in the office of noted KC lawyer Gardiner Lathrop (who is famous for co-founding the Kansas City Country Club, among other things). He gained sufficient experience in legal matters in that employment that he passed the bar exam in 1889 and immediately began to practice law in KC.

In 1891 Walsh married Katherine O'Flaherty of Kansas City. They eventually had nine children, seven of whom lived to adulthood: Katherine Marie, Sarah Louise, Cecilia,Virginia, Jerome Karnes, James, and John Frederick.[2]


Walsh was active in KC municipal improvement projects, and was a member of the Commercial Club in 1913 when he was nominated by President Woodrow Wilson to head the newly formed Commission on Industrial Relations.[3] Walsh investigated labor-management clashes from 1913 to 1918, and in 1918 was named co-chairman (with ex-President William Howard Taft) of the National War Labor Board.

Walsh was an Irish nationalist who chaired the American Commission on Irish Independence.[4] He fell out of favor with Wilson for pushing for US recognition of the proclaimed Irish Republic.

Walsh's activities in behalf of Irish Independence were analyzed by author Julie E. Manning in her 1989 book, Frank P. Walsh and the Irish Question.[5]

In 1919 Walsh was retained by the National Women's Trade Union League, whose members had been ousted from their jobs as streetcar conductors at the conclusion of World War I. Walsh argued before the War Labor Board that women had the same rights as men to work. At the end of the case the WLB found in favor of the women's organization, and reversed a lower-court ruling on the subject.[6]

The headline from a 14 April 1922 article in the New York Times concerning Walsh's court maneuvers indicates how Walsh was seen by the nation: "FORGET THE LAW, HE URGES". The article describes a legal appeal to the US Railroad Labor Board, to forget the "legal phrases and technicalities of the laws and pay more attention to the humanitarian side in deciding wages for railroad employees . . . Walsh told the board that the wage matter was one far above the law and went down into the deepest moral questions, the structure of society, and even into the fundamental religion . . regardless of the law, the men must have a living wage."

Walsh's activities in behalf of the American Labor Movement were analyzed by author Maria Eucharia Meehan in her book, Frank P. Walsh and the American Labor Movement.[7]

In 1931 Walsh was Chairman of the New York Power Authority.[8]

Walsh served as the first legal counsel to the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, remaining in that role from 1918 until his death in 1939.[9]

In 1936 Walsh was chairman of the Catholic Citizen's Committee for Ratification of the Federal Child Labor Law.

In 1941 the Walsh family donated the collected files of Walsh to the New York Public Library[10]

For a time, Walsh's secretary in New York was Sarah Lucille Turner, who had been one of the first women elected to the Missouri House of Representatives. [11]

Death and legacy[edit]

Frank P. Walsh died of a heart attack while walking along a street in New York City on May 2, 1939. He was buried in Kansas City, Missouri on May 6.[12]


  1. ^ Jorgensen, Emil Oliver (1920). The next step toward real democracy; one hundred reasons why America should abolish, as speedily as possible, all taxation upon the fruits of industry, and raise the public revenue by a single tax on land values only. Chicago Single Tax Club. 
  2. ^ Men Who Made Kansas City
  3. ^ Walsh told a reporter, "Our purpose is to inquire into the general conditions of labor in the principal industries of the United States, including agriculture, into relations between employers and employees, conditions of sanitation, safety, methods for avoiding or adjusting labor disputes through mediation and negotiation, the smuggling of Asiatics into the United States or its possessions, and the underlying causes of dissatisfaction in the industrial situation." New York Times, 27 Sept. 1913
  4. ^ Letter from Éamon de Valera to Walsh, requesting aid in selling bonds to American supporters of Irish Independence efforts
  5. ^
  6. ^ The Woman Citizen, Social Feminism in the 1920s by J. Stanley Lemons (1990), p. 23
  7. ^
  8. ^ Letter from US President Herbert Hoover to NYPA Chairman Walsh
  9. ^[dead link] Publication of the Iron Workers Association, 1940
  10. ^ Frank P. Walsh Papers, Manuscripts and Archives Division, The New York Public Library
  11. ^ Lawrence O. Christensen; William E. Foley; Gary Kremer (October 1999). Dictionary of Missouri Biography. University of Missouri Press. ISBN 978-0-8262-6016-1. 
  12. ^ "Frank P. Walsh Dies," The Socialist Call, vol. 5, no. 8, whole no. 201 (May 13, 1939), pg. 2.

Further reading[edit]

  • Harold Charles Bradley, Frank P. Walsh and Post-War America. PhD dissertation. St. Louis University, 1966.
  • Maria Eucharia Meehan, Frank Walsh and the American Labor Movement. PhD dissertation. New York University, 1962.