Abstract: Public Identities and Social Boundaries among Cincinnati and San Francisco Businessmen, 1880-1910

Jeff Haydu


This paper examines differences in local political engagement and civic discourse among late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century businessmen, and how those differences shaped business approaches to the labor problem. The case studies are Cincinnati and San Francisco. Members of these two business communities differed sharply in their civic practices and discourse. Cincinnati employers tended to be active in civic club and cultural improvement, and they celebrated nonpartisan, "above class" political engagement. Their San Francisco counterparts were less involved in civic uplift, but they also recognized class organization as a natural basis for political representation. These different models of municipal governance reappear in the two communities' understanding of labor's industrial rights.