William John Davis

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William John Davis (6 August 1848–20 October 1934) was a British trade unionist.

Born in Birmingham, Davis began working in a brass foundry. In 1869, he represented his local reform organisation at the Trades Union Congress. In 1871, he was a founder member of the Amalgamated Brassworkers Society, becoming its first general secretary.[1]

Davis proved an effective secretary, increasing membership to 6,000 within a year. He was also active in the local Liberal Party, and in 1876 was elected to the school board, then in 1880, he became the first Liberal-Labour member of Birmingham City Council. In 1883, he stood down from the union to become a factory inspector. Under different leadership, membership of the union fell to only 2,000, and Davis agreed to return in 1889.[1]

Davis worked with Alexander Wilkie and Robert Knight to found the General Federation of Trade Unions in 1899. From 1906 to 1910, he published The British Trades Union Congress: History and Recollections.[1] In 1913, he served as President of the Trades Union Congress.[2] He strongly supported the prosecution of both the Second Boer War and World War I, after which he led a short-lived movement for the Labour Party to focus solely on trade union issues.[1]

Davis finally retired as general secretary of the Brassworkers in 1921, after which he retired to Paris.[1]


Trade union offices
Preceded by
New position
General Secretary of the Amalgamated Brassworkers Society
Succeeded by
Preceded by
General Secretary of the National Society of Amalgamated Brassworkers
Succeeded by
Arthur H. Gibbard
Preceded by
Alexander Wilkie
Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress
Succeeded by
Francis Chandler
Preceded by
W. C. Steadman
Treasurer of the Trades Union Congress
Succeeded by
Position abolished
Preceded by
Will Thorne
President of the Trades Union Congress
Succeeded by
James Seddon
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Hodge
Chairman of the Annual Conference of the Labour Representation Committee
Succeeded by
Joseph Nicholas Bell