About this Archive
(1845-1904) trade unionist
James Bedford was born in Birmingham in 1845, one of eight children of a guard on the London and North Eastern Railway, who was severly injured in the course of his duty. The father died at the age of 45, when Bedford was 11, leaving him little prospects in terms of education. However, Bedford soon found employment working as a newspaper boy at Euston Station. After working on the railway for three years, he took a job as a porter and collector for a wholesale publishing company, although shortly after his whole family moved to Sunderland and Bedford found himself apprenticed to Dawson Brothers, ship owners. During this employment, he served his time in the East India trade, visiting Persia, Arabia, Ceylon, India and Abyssinia by sea and earned himself a 'Chief Mate's' certificate.
Bedford left shortly after and established the first teetotal public house in London which was a commercial success. He proceeded to travel the country lecturing on temperance and the business of teetotal public house keeping and published several essays on the subject. Bedford also became a tailor, teaching himself cutting and other skills and established a tailor's shops in Bethnal Green Road and Hackney Road. Bedford was also heavily involved with trade-unionism, serving as President of both the General Railway Workers Union and the Society of Firewood Choppers, and served as a Vestryman and Guardian for Bethnal Green. He died in 1904.
Scope and Content
Three scrapbooks containing press cuttings, correspondence, manuscripts and printed material regarding Bedford's experiences as Labour candidate for Norwich in the 1892 General Election, his presidency of the General Railway Workers Union, work on the Bethnal Green Board of Guardians and accusations of corruption levelled at him by labour colleagues and trade unionists, 1891-1897.