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Jo Labadie and His Gift to Michigan

A Legacy for the Masses





  Exhibit Home
  Browse All Images
  Birth and Early Life
  Marriage and Family
  Intellectual Development
  John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
  Herbert Spencer (1820-1903)
  Darwin and Evolution
  Socialism and Karl Marx
arrow Greenbackism
  Henry George (1839-1897) and the Single Tax Movement
  Knights of Labor
  Judson Grenell (1847-1930)
  Benjamin Ricketson Tucker (1854-1939)
  The Haymarket Affair

Later Relations to Labor Organizations

  Leon Czolgosz (1873-1901)

The Water Board Incident

  Bubbling Waters
  The Labadie Print Shop
  Later Years
  Agnes Inglis (1870-1952)
  Further Reading

Special Collections Library
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor


The Greenback Party, founded by farmers in the 1870s to promote currency expansion, called for the issuance of the greenback (paper currency not backed by gold), with the belief that printing more money was the solution to the country's economic crisis. In 1878 the Greenback Party joined ranks with labor organizations, whose demands included a reduction in working hours, establishment of a federal labor bureau, and restriction of Chinese immigration (perceived as a cause of low wages). The two groups formed the Greenback-Labor Party, and in the 1878 elections polled over one million votes and elected 14 members to Congress.

Michigan was a strong Greenback state, led by labor lobbyist Richard Trevellick. Many socialists were avidly against the Greenbackers, including Labadie's friend Judson Grenell, who criticized their ideas as incorrect and unsound. Nonetheless in 1879, at the age of 29 and still a socialist, Joseph Labadie accepted the nomination to run for mayor of Detroit on the Greenback-Labor ticket, despite his colleagues" criticisms. He received only 110 votes. That was the first and last time Labadie ran for public office.

In the 1880s the party's popularity steadily declined, and many Greenbackers joined the Populist Party of the 1890s.