George Howell Archive Cataloguing Project Update: March 2007

Since our last update, the George Howell Project has moved forwards with the cataloguing of papers focussing on Howell’s busy years working with such notable bodies as the Reform League and Trades Union Congress. Material relating to the very end of his career and the acquisition of his library by the Bishopsgate Institute has also been catalogued and made available.

Howell was secretary of both the TUC and the Reform League during their formative years and was involved in the passing of some highly important bills and legislation during that time. When Howell later lost his seat in Parliament in 1895 and fell ill, Robert Applegarth, a prominent trade unionist, with the help of the TUC raised a testimonial of £1650 to allow for him to have an annuity. Later, a similar fund was set up to purchase George Howell’s personal library. The many letters received from subscribers to both funds are now catalogued within the collection, as are the minutes and accounts of the Robert Applegarth Testimonial Committee (1910-1912) which worked to raise funds for Applegarth himself.

Preliminary notice of the 6th Annual Trades Union Congress Sheffield (1874)Preliminary notice of the 6th Annual Trades Union Congress Sheffield (1874) (Ref: Howell/15/2/4)

During the 1860s a great number of Trades Councils were established across Great Britain and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) was formed in response to their need for a united mouthpiece in the defence of Trades Union rights. The first Trades Union Congress was held in 1868 and at the meeting of the third TUC in 1871, a Parliamentary Committee was appointed and George Howell became its secretary. He was involved in bringing about some very important legislative changes and was certainly considered to be eminent in radical and trade union politics during this time, working, for example, towards the successful repeal of the Master and Servant Act and the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1871.

The item shown to the left is a pamphlet produced as a preliminary notice of the Sixth Annual Trades Union Congress, held in Sheffield in 1874 during Howell’s period as secretary. The notice calls for delegates from the Trades Societies and Trades Councils and gives a programme for the congress, including discussion of future legislation such as the Factory Nine Hours’ Bill, Truck Bill, Compensation to Workmen’s Bill and the Trades Union Act.

Double Ticket for a ‘Celebration Soiree’The Hyde Park Demonstration of 1866, Double Ticket for a ‘Celebration Soiree’ (1867) (Ref: Howell/11/2E/4)

Howell believed strongly in universal suffrage and was secretary of the Reform League from its establishment in 1865 until 1869. The Reform League pressed for manhood suffrage and the ballot and Howell was significantly involved in work, for example, to push through the 1867 Reform Act. He was also heavily involved in the organisation of a number of key demonstrations in the capital during 1866 and 1867, in which vast crowds collected to push for the cause of reform and came head to head with the authorities. Although the Hyde Park demonstration was initially focussed on demanding the vote for working men, when the chief-of-police called a ban on meeting in the park, the centre of attention quickly shifted to that of a ‘right to assembly’. However, the situation was happily resolved when a final meeting was held in May 1866 at which there

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