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Daniel Joseph Tobin
(1872 - 1955)

A Labour Activist in the United States, Daniel Tobin was born in Miltown Malbay, County Clare on April 1st, 1872. He was the son of John Tobin and Bridget Kennelly. Daniel’s mother died following the birth of her fourth child, when Daniel was two years old. His father ran a grocery business and bar and was also an expert weaver. Daniel attended the local school. Daniel’s sister went to live with cousins in America at a very young age. By the time she was twelve she was working as a nurse girl. Daniel and his brother emigrated around 1889, travelling on a Cunard liner from Queenstown to Boston. In his memoirs he describes the journey as "the roughest, dirtiest experience of my life".

Daniel settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts, attended night school and found employment in a sheet metal factory there. He worked sixty hours a week, for five dollars per week, without holidays. In 1894 he got a job as a driver and motorman with the West and Street Railway in Boston. On Christmas Eve, 1896, he was called out on a strike which he later discovered had been unnecessary and which had been initiated by untrained leaders. This incident was to have a major impact on his future life. Following the strike, he was discharged from the company and, having been branded an agitator, found it extremely difficult to find employment. Eventually, he joined the packing house firm of John P. Squires & Company, driving a horse-drawn vehicle in Boston. In later years he wrote

"any fool hot-headed agitator can bring about a strike, but it takes a real brainy man of courage to stop strikes and bring about better wages and working conditions for the membership and their families".

In 1900 the Teamsters Union was founded in Boston and Daniel became a member of Local 25, Truck Drivers of Boston. In 1903 he was sent to Niagara Falls as a delegate of the Truck Drivers of Boston and was involved in amalgamating the disputing factions of the Teamsters Union. In 1904 Daniel was elected Business Representative of the Truck Drivers Local 25 of Boston. In 1907 he became General President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and held that position until 1952. He visited Ireland in 1911, having completed a trip to a British Trades Union Congress in London. He held the position of Treasurer of the American Federation of Labour (AFL) from 1917 to 1928. From 1933 he was vice-president of the Federation and also vice-president of the Federations National Building Trades Department. President Woodrow Wilson appointed him to a number of important non-salaried positions. During World War 2 Daniel represented the American Federation of Labour, consulting with President Roosevelt on issues relating to labour and the war. Roosevelt sent him to England to examine and report on labour conditions there. By 1940 he was Labour Chairman of the Democratic National Campaign Committee. In 1950 he was the first top union official to give approval to compulsory military training. In 1952 he announced his decision to retire as General President and was elected as president emeritus. During his tenure as President of the IBT, membership grew from 38,000 in 1907 to over 1.2 million upon his retirement in 1952, making it the largest Union in the AFL.

Daniel was regarded as one of America’s shrewdest and most influential labour leaders. He was also a prolific writer and was editor of the monthly journal of the IBT.

In his private life, Daniel was married to Annie E. Reagan and had six children, John, Francis, Frederick, Edmund, Joseph and Catherine. Annie died in 1920. Daniel remarried in 1922 to Irene Halloran.

Daniel Joseph Tobin died in November 1955 in Indianapolis. He is buried in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Clare County Library would like to thank Mr. Vincent Tobin (grandson of Daniel) for his help in compiling this entry.

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Daniel Joseph Tobin, 1872-1955