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The Formation of Hamilton’s Nine-Hour League

On January 27, 1872, a large meeting convened in the hall of the Hamilton Mechanics’ Institute. So many showed up that seats were removed to fit in more people.  Even so, “standing room commanded a premium.” Speakers explained to an excited audience that more productivity should mean more time off. Workers should be given more time for their families and communities, and to think and to learn. James Ryan, a Great Western Railway shop machinist, implored the audience:

We want not more money, but more brains; not richer serfs, but better men.

A multi-coloured insurance map of Old Market Square. The image provides basic blueprints for dozens of structures on the perimeter of the square. In text, the map highlights the location of the Shakespeare Hotel in the south-west corner of Old Market Square.

The meeting of the Nine-Hour League was held at the Shakespeare Hotel in Old Market Square.

Momentum was strong. Four days later, representatives from shops across the city met at the Shakespeare Hotel and formed the Hamilton Nine-Hour League.

Ryan was elected as secretary to the League, with shoemaker, John Pryke, serving as president. The assembled delegates resolved that:

[T]he banding together of the workingmen of Canada in Trades Leagues is an indispensable prerequisite to the success of the nine hour movement.

With Ryan as its chief voice, the stage was set for the Hamilton Nine-Hour League to encourage the movement to take root in towns and cities across Canada.