Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Earth & Environmental Sciences


Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Subject Categories

American Studies | Geography | United States History


Labor, Labor Lyceum, Labor Temples, Union Halls


This dissertation is a historical geography of interior spaces created by labor unions and other working class organizations in the United States between 1880 and 1970. I argue that these spaces-- labor lyceums, labor temples, and union halls-- both reflected and shaped the character of the working class organizations that created them. Drawing on Neil Smith's theories of geographic scale, I spatialize Ira Katznelson's framework for understanding working class formation. I demonstrate that at their best, these labor spaces furthered working class formation at multiple scales, enabling collective action across lines of racial, ethnic, and gender difference, and bridging the division between organizing on the shop floor and organizing in residential neighborhoods. In periods of inclusive organizing along lines of social unionism, these spaces were bustling hubs of cultural, social, political, educational, and recreational activities with close ties to working class neighborhood life. The beginning chapters focus on the Brooklyn Labor Lyceum created by immigrant socialists in Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood in 1882, and on the Labor Temples constructed by AFL-affiliated unions in San Francisco in the early 20th Century. The latter chapters examine the spaces created by CIO unions (in particular New York City's District 65, and Detroit's United Auto Workers) in the mid-twentieth century.