RYAN, JAMES A., machinist and labour leader; b. c. 1840 in County Clare (Republic of Ireland); d. 17 Dec. 1896 in Hamilton, Ont.
James Ryan was corresponding secretary and moving spirit of the Nine Hour League in Hamilton when, on 20 Feb. 1872, 120 men struck a Hamilton sewing-machine factory, Wilson, Lockman and Company, over demands for a nine-hour day. Ryan had probably been named to this position at a mass meeting of delegates from various Hamilton shops on 1 February to appoint officers and adopt a constitution for the league, the first in Canada. On 24 February he spoke to another mass meeting of “sixteen or eighteen hundred men” in support of the strike. He said that the workingmen were willing to settle by arbitration, but that they would resort to other means if forced to do so. The strike ended on 27 February by a “mutual understanding,” which Toronto Globe editor George Brown called a victory for the employers. Ryan’s actions in Hamilton and his correspondence with the Toronto Trades Assembly encouraged that group to start its own nine-hour movement, which resulted in a printers’ strike throughout Toronto in March 1872.
Ryan held a “Council of deliberation” in Hamilton on 3 May to gain support for a proposed demonstration on 15 May. There were 12 delegates from Hamilton, three from Toronto, and one each from Montreal, Brantford, and Dundas, as well as supporting letters from several other Ontario communities; a Toronto delegate called it the first labour convention in Canada. The council formed the Canadian Labor Protective and Mutual Improvement Association with the purpose of forming “similar local organizations throughout the Dominion for the purpose of uniting all classes of workmen for mutual benefit.” Ryan was made recording secretary of the new association. Nothing further is known about him until his death.
[At the time this biography was published, in volume X, Ryan’s death date was unknown. It was subsequently found by the Dictionary of Hamilton biography, ed. T. M. Bailey et al. (4v. to date, Hamilton, 1981 – ).]
Canadian Labour Congress Library (Ottawa), Toronto Trades Assembly minutes, 18 April 1872–27 March 1873. Globe (Toronto), 1 Jan.–1 July 1872. The Hamilton and District Trades and Labor Council, T.L.C. – A.F. of L.; 60th anniversary, diamond jubilee, 1888–1948 (n.p., n.d.). Eugene Forsey, “The Toronto Trades Assembly, 1871–1878,” Canadian Labour (Ottawa), X (July-August 1965), 21–22; X (September 1965), 32–33. Bernard Ostry, “Conservatives, Liberals, and labour in the 1870’s,” CHR, XLI (1960), 93–127.