The Workmen’s Circle (Arbeiter Ring), a socialist Jewish mutual aid and political group, first organized in New York. It came to Pittsburgh in 1904 by Eastern European immigrants. At one time, the Workmen’s Circle had four branches in Pittsburgh and six outlying branches in the Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia tri-state area.
As for their presence in Homestead, I can assigned three fragments of information, but no actual members nor precise dates. Given the general frame of the 20s, I want to connect this organization to the later wave of immigration and draw out their differences between the earlier immigrants (and the resulting mid-20s strife in the shul), but I have no evidence to do so. (Also given that we’re talking about Homestead, the formation of this group during the intense suppression after the 1919 strike is also fascinating!)
- 7/3/1921: In the minutes of the shul, there’s a communication from the Arbeiter Ring to shul about burial ground (p. 19)
- 3/18/1921: There’s this one article from the Pittsburgh Jewish Criterion about this “entertainment and concert.”
- Finally, there’s this strange record from national Workmen’s Circle which was sent to me in pieces I attempted to reassemble to make some meaning of them (or confuse the issue?).
One of the confusions is that number 662 belonged to multiple chapters (?!).
The accompanying emails from the Workmen’s Circle explained:
Unfortunately our original branch files are very old and not very clear, and anyone who could really interpret them is long gone, so what information we have is conflicting about where this branch existed and what date is was founded and disbanded. The earliest date I have for founding is in 1926 and the latest I have for dissolution is in 1938. The one clear bit of information I have is that it had a branch name: “Dress Pressers.”
Attached is all the information we have. Like I said, it is very hard for us to interpret these files, as no one who actually wrote them is still around. The first picture is from the pages where we have the branches listed by branch number, with all the information written on the line from branch 662. The second picture is from the pages where we have branches listed by branch name, where I found branch 662 listed with a branch name “Tomashover” and not “Dress Pressers”. The third picture is from the pages where we have branches listed by town, with Homestead, PA’s listing. The fourth picture is the heading from the first page of the branches listed by branch number, so you can correspond the heading to the information below for branch 662. Unfortunately whoever created these charts filled out headings for only a small portion of the page, but expanded the information both to the left and right of the headings, so we have no way of being completely confident of what the information in those areas signifies.
…which suggests that my photo editing above might have made things worse. After I asked about the repurposing of numbers, they responded:
As far as we know, the branch numbers were not reused, as we have branch numbers going up to 2,000. I think perhaps they just did not have the most efficient system of keeping track of all the branches when they set up these branch files, so sometimes these inconsistencies are discovered many years later, with nobody around from the original branch to help set things right.