Wilhelm Fink Verlag
This essay evaluates the nature of German artisan culture in gilded-age Chicago and its role in the organization of modem working-class institutions. Three examples- the Workingmen's Associations of Chicago's German workers in the 1850s and 1860s, the Bakers' Mutual Benefit Society, and the tradition of tool ownership among the city's German cabinetmakers- illustrate particular resources that artisan culture provided to German craftsmen, whether it be fellowship, intellectual stimulation, organizational strength, or a sense of personal independence. At the same time, artisan culture became anachronistic amidst the rapidly expanding industries of Chicago, as systematic mechanization destroyed the central role that artisans had played in the production process. When speed and depth of economic change made German craftsmen a receptive constituency for the period's radical political movements, artisan culture played an indispensable role for German workers in their efforts to found Chicago's modem labor institutions.