Workingmen's Party of California

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Denis Kearney, founder of the Workingmen's Party of California

The Workingmen's Party of California (WPC) was an American labor organization, founded in 1877 and led by Denis Kearney, J.G Day and H. L. Knight.[1]

Organizational history[edit]

As a result of heavy unemployment from the 1873-78 national depression, Sand Lot rallies erupted in San Francisco that led to the Party's formation in 1877.[2] The party won 11 seats in the State Senate and 17 in the State Assembly by 1878 and then rewrote the state's constitution,[3] denying Chinese citizens voting rights in California. The most important part of the constitution included the formation of California Railroad Commission that would oversee the activities of the Central and Pacific Railroad companies that were run by Crocker, Huntington, Hopkins and Stanford.[4]

The party took particular aim against cheap Chinese immigrant labor and the Central Pacific Railroad which employed them.[5][6] Their goal was to "rid the country of Chinese cheap labor."[7] Its famous slogan was "The Chinese must go!"[8] Kearney's attacks against the Chinese were of a particularly virulent and openly racist nature, and found considerable support among white Californians of the time. This sentiment led eventually to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

Kearney's party should not be confused with the less influential Workingmen's Party of the United States, which was based in the Eastern United States.


  1. ^ Cross, Ira. "Denis Kearney Organizes the Workingmen". West Valley College. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  2. ^ William B. Secrest (October 2004). California Feuds: Vengeance, Vendettas & Violence on the Old West Coast. Quill Driver Books. pp. 106–. ISBN 978-1-884995-42-2.
  3. ^ Stephanie S. Pincetl (10 March 2003). Transforming California: A Political History of Land Use and Development. JHU Press. pp. 23–. ISBN 978-0-8018-7312-6.
  4. ^ "Denis Kearney and the California Anti-Chinese Campaign". The Chinese Experience. HarpWeek, LLC. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
  5. ^ Dunn, Geoffrey (1983). Santa Cruz is in the Heart. Capitola Book Company. ISBN 0932319025.
  6. ^ "Appeal from California. The Chinese Invasion. Workingmen's Address". Indianapolis Times. 28 February 1878. Retrieved 2018-09-06.
  7. ^ ""Our Misery and Despair": Kearney Blasts Chinese Immigration". History Matters, U.S. Survey Course on The Web. American Social History Productions, Inc., George Mason University & Graduate Center, CUNY. Retrieved 2017-05-05.
  8. ^ Huping Ling; Allan W. Austin (17 March 2015). Asian American History and Culture: An Encyclopedia: An Encyclopedia. Taylor & Francis. pp. 1346–. ISBN 978-1-317-47644-3.

Further reading[edit]

Books and pamphlets[edit]

  • George W. Greene, The Labor agitators, or, The Battle for Bread: The Party of the Future, the Workingmen's Party of California: Is Birth and Organization. Its Leaders and Its Purposes: Corruption in Our Local and State Governments. Venality of the Press. San Francisco: George W. Greene, n.d. [c. 1879].
  • Denis Kearney, The Workingmen's Party of California: An Epitome of Its Rise and Progress. San Francisco: Bacon, 1878.
  • Speeches of Dennis Kearney, Labor Champion. New York: Jesse Haney & Co., 1878.
  • Chinatown Declared a Nuisance! San Francisco, 1880.
  • Neil Larry Shumsky, The Evolution of Political Protest and the Workingmen's Party of California. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992.

Journal articles and dissertations[edit]

  • Frank Michael Fahey, Denis Kearney: A Study in Demagoguery. Ph.D. dissertation. Stanford University, 1956.
  • Roger William Hite, The Public Speaking of Denis Kearney, Labor Agitator. M.S. thesis. University of Oregon, 1967.
  • Helen Havens Ingalls, The History of the Workingmen's Party of California. M.A. thesis. University of California, Berkeley, 1919.
  • Charles Herzl Kahn, In-group and Out-group Responses to Radical Party Leadership: A Study of the Workingmen's Party of California. M.A. thesis. University of California, Berkeley, 1951.
  • Carole Carter Mauss, The San Jose Branch of the Workingmen's Party of California, 1878-1880. M.A. thesis, San Jose State University, 1997.
  • Doyce B. Nunis, Jr., "The Demagogue and the Demographer: Correspondence of Denis Kearney and Lord Bryce," Pacific Historical Review, vol. 36, no. 3 (August 1967), pp. 269–288.
  • Mary Gabriel O'Connor, Denis Kearney, Sand-lot Orator: A Chronicle of California. M.A. thesis. Dominican College of San Rafael [CA], 1937.
  • Robert Dean Potter, Denis Kearney: A Reappraisal. M.A. thesis. Chico State University, 1969.