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STUDHOLME, ALLAN, stove mounter, book agent, labour leader, and politician; b. 8 Dec. 1846 in Drakes Cross, England, son of John Studholme and Hannah —; m. 27 April 1874 Priscilla Stearn in Dundas, Ont., and they had three sons and a daughter; d. 28 July 1919 in Hamilton, Ont.

Allan Studholme grew up in the English Midlands, where he was apprenticed to a farmer. As a youth, he became involved in the work of Joseph Arch, founder of the movement to organize an agricultural labourers’ union and evidently a formative influence on Studholme’s political views. After holding various jobs, he emigrated to Canada in 1870; he found work in Dundas first in the Gartshore foundry and then in the Young last factory. In 1872 he attended the huge labour demonstration in nearby Hamilton in favour of a nine-hour working day [see James A. Ryan*]. The next year he moved to Toronto and learned stove mounting (assembling cast-iron stoves) at E. and C. Gurney and Company [see Edward Gurney*]. He followed this trade in Hamilton, but was obliged to give it up in the severe depression of the 1870s. He then joined a firm in Guelph as a book agent covering Haldimand County.

Although he initially supported the free trade policy of the Liberals, like many Canadian workingmen he became discontented with the failure of the traditional parties to address working-class interests. Back in Hamilton in the early 1880s, he joined the Knights of Labor, a new organization that was spreading across North America. He served as master workman of Local Assembly 2225, a metalworkers’ local, and through the Hamilton Labor Political Association, formed in October 1883, helped launch the first electoral campaigns run by independent labour. Blacklisted for this activity and for leading a stove mounters’ strike in 1883, Studholme became manager of the Knights’ cooperative store. An accident in 1886 confined him to bed for more than a year and in 1887, following medical advice, he moved to Australia where he travelled about as a book agent for his former employers in Guelph.

Returning to Hamilton in 1892, Studholme took up stove mounting at the Burrow, Stewart, and Milne foundry and resumed his involvement in the labour movement. Elected vice-president of the Stove mounters’ and Steel Range Workers’ International Union in 1901 and 1902 and president in 1903 and 1904, he would serve on its executive until 1912. At the same time he was a leader in the union’s Hamilton local and, until World War I, he was a delegate to the Hamilton Trades and Labor Council and the Trades and Labor Congress of Canada. His prominence earned him a place on the board of arbitration set up in the fall of 1906 to settle a dispute between the Hamilton Street Railway Company and its workers, led by John Wesley Theaker. The company’s circumvention of the recommended wage increases precipitated a riotous strike in November, one of the most dramatic incidents of class conflict in the city’s history.

Local politics took an unexpected turn after the death in September of the mla for Hamilton East, Henry Carscallen. Spurred in part by the coincidental resolution of the TLC to form a Canadian labour party, a meeting of local craft unionists nominated Studholme to run as an independent labour candidate in the provincial by-election set for 4 December. Embroiled in internal feuds and caught off guard, the Conservatives had trouble finding a new standard-bearer; ultimately, John Jackson Scott, a wealthy lawyer, came forward. The Liberals decided not to field a candidate in the belief that their interests and those of labour “in the present contest are identical.” The Liberal Hamilton Daily Times, the Liberal-leaning Hamilton Herald, and Liberal campaign workers all supported Studholme. His campaign was none the less directed by labour leaders. His platform was simply the declaration of principles passed at the convention of the TLC in 1898 and then adopted by the new Canadian Labor party in September 1906. On the stump, however, he spent most of his time attacking the Conservative government of James Pliny Whitney, especially its apparently unpopular decisions to award a contract for low-paid prison labour in Hamilton, in “direct competition with free labor,” and to close the local normal school.

The decisive factor in the election was the street-railway strike. With militant crowds facing soldiers and policemen, it was not surprising that labour canvassers and supporters invoked “the old bogie of capital against labor,” in the words of the pro-Tory Hamilton Spectator, and denounced Scott as “a bloated capitalist and a lawyer in the pay of certain monopolies, including even the hated Cataract Power company,” which owned the street-railway company [see John Patterson]. On election day, however, Studholme was unable to convert this mass discontent into a huge vote for labour. His margin of 853 votes was enough to send shock waves across the province, but in Hamilton voter turnout had actually declined by a third since the general election of 1905. Although the strike had prised loose large numbers of Hamilton workers from their old-party ties, they had not committed themselves wholeheartedly to independent working-class politics. As the election of 1908 approached, the Tories felt confident that, without the strike factor, they could defeat Studholme, especially since this time he also faced Liberal and Socialist opposition. He nevertheless held on with a 75-vote margin over J. J. Scott. His victories in 1911 and 1914 were more substantial.

Studholme’s electoral successes rested partly on the organizational abilities of the local Independent Labor party, formed in November 1907, and on the support of the widely read Herald, but much more on the performance of the self-styled “little stove-mounter” at Queen’s Park, where he would be the only labour mla until 1919. In many ways this stocky, white-whiskered metalworker was an unlikely figure to fill the role of labour’s sole spokesman. Reports of his speeches seldom indicate eloquence or originality of thought, and his rambling contributions often tried the patience of the house, though by 1913 journalists were praising his improved style. He published virtually nothing and, although widely known and invited to speak throughout the province, he showed none of the qualities of leadership that might have extended his influence in Ontario labour circles. Yet, far more than such polished contemporaries in the broader Canadian labour movement as Winnipeg’s Arthur W. Puttee* and Toronto’s James Simpson*, Studholme was probably representative of the craft-unionist milieu. He brought to his task many of the best qualities of the workingman straight from the shop floor: sterling honesty, compassion, blunt common sense, and a prickly class pride.

The hallmark of Studholme’s legislative career was his unwillingness to bargain with the Liberals or the Conservatives. As he explained to William Lyon Mackenzie King* in 1908 when the former deputy minister of labour asked for support in his electoral campaign in Waterloo North, “Labor men have lost all faith in party men and are determined to have their own Class on the floor of the house so as to have some say in making the laws they have to live under.” Studholme, who saw himself as the “Labour Party” in the house, symbolically wore a small black hat during sessions, reminiscent of the cap worn by British labour leader Keir Hardie. In 1909 Whitney recognized Studholme’s special status and had him moved from the rear of the legislature to a front-row seat. His independence none the less brought discrimination in the form of thin attendance and late-night schedules for his speeches.

In his 13 lonely years in the house, Studholme won few concrete victories. Yet his pugnacious representation of working-class interests compelled an often embarrassed Tory government to justify its inactivity on social and industrial policy and helped to push the Liberal opposition towards a more reformist platform. His favourite tactic was to use debate on the budget early in each session to expose the government’s lack of concern for the worker and to highlight the issues he wanted to raise. He repeatedly championed measures that would improve working conditions. He was a member of the select committee of 1907 on child labour, which merely recommended some restrictions, but on his own in the house he regularly attacked child labour. In 1917 he would push to increase the powers of factory inspectors. In the wake of a strike by Toronto telephone operators in 1907, he sponsored a bill to restrict their hours to five per shift. In 1911 and 1912 he took aim at inadequate legislation for steam-engine operators and successfully fought efforts to shelve a bill meant to improve safety on construction sites. When the Whitney government dragged its heels in 1912 on eight-hour-day legislation for miners, Studholme protested that the administration was “playing into the hands of the mine-owners.” Similarly, he loudly defended the workers’ compensation legislation of 1914, which he believed business interests were trying to erode. His most consistent concern before the war was the government-assisted immigration of agricultural labourers and domestics, particularly those brought in by the Salvation Army. By staying in the cities, he claimed, they flooded the labour market and undermined wages. Probably his most celebrated legislative manœuvre for improving working conditions was the bill he introduced in each session between 1910 and 1914 to enforce a legal eight-hour day and a minimum wage of 20 cents per hour for non-agricultural workers. Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberals supported this measure; in 1913 he was left standing with no seconder.

Studholme also tried to defend workers’ household economies. He routinely voiced concerns about the rising cost of living and, throughout the war, denounced any hint of profiteering on food. During the severe economic depression of 1913–15, he charged the government with insensitivity to the plight of the unemployed and fought unsuccessfully for stronger legislation to protect workers from losing their homes through default on mortgages. Probably drawing on his early experience in England with the agricultural labourers’ union, he urged the government of William Howard Hearst* to support colonization schemes in northern Ontario. In 1917 he was delighted to see such projects incorporated into the government’s resettlement program for soldiers. He frequently reminded the legislature of the needs of war veterans, for whom, he felt, labour had particular sympathy. In 1918 he supported the campaign of Sergeant William Varley as a “Soldier-Labour” candidate in a provincial by-election. Conscious of the postwar demand for low-cost homes, in 1919 he urged the government to make the terms of its new housing act more generous.

In his social and economic analysis of labour’s problems, Studholme was more of a principled, working-class liberal, in the tradition of late-19th century Radicalism, than a full-fledged socialist. Indeed, he often castigated the socialists he encountered in the labour movement. His interventions at the conventions of the TLC seem to have been directed at no particular figure, but rather at the “impossibilists” who dominated the socialist movement in British Columbia in the first decade of the 20th century. By World War I his sense of a looming social crisis, brought on by what he believed was the deterioration of working-class standards of living and intensifying industrial conflict, moved him to an occasional rhetorical defence of an undefined socialism, but at root nothing had changed in his view of politics and society. Studholme was an uncompromising democrat, devoted to collective self-help for workers through class-based organization, especially trade unions, and hostile to privilege. He described rich capitalists as “aristocrats” or “gentry,” and he scorned inherited wealth. In the house he attacked the use of the state to entrench class distinctions and prerogatives, among them the recruitment of domestic servants and tax exemptions on such upper-class recreational facilities as the Hamilton Amateur Athletic Association’s cricket grounds. Although a lifelong teetotaller and prohibitionist – stances buttressed by his Methodism – he bristled at the possibility that upper-class clubs might be excluded from Liberal leader Newton Wesley Rowell*’s proposal in 1912 to abolish bars.

Seldom did Studholme’s rhetorical outbursts against the evils of modern industry carry a direct challenge to economic exploitation or the ownership of industry itself. His views had been shaped in an earlier, entrepreneurial stage of capitalist development, when manufacturers, like craftsmen, could be seen as producers. He believed that “all should have a fair percentage of profit – both the capitalist and the laboring man.” Workers simply wanted “a square deal,” he stated in 1910. He put more faith in workers’ ability to use their unions to win economic gains than in any state program of social security. Despite his recognition of capitalism, he had no tolerance for land speculators or utility magnates. The former had long ago pushed him to accept the doctrine of Henry George’s single tax on land values, and in 1910 he became vice-president of a revived single-tax society. “Tax reform is at the root of social reform,” he argued in the legislature in 1914, and he supported private bills to tax land speculation. At the same time, he was an enthusiastic advocate of public ownership of railways, natural resources, and utilities, especially hydroelectric facilities. In 1917 he denounced the province’s refusal to allow any form of competition in the field of nickel production. His criticism of special economic privilege made him a relentless opponent of tariff protection – an increasingly unpopular position among many Hamilton workers in factories that were reliant on tariffs.

As a working-class liberal, Studholme was committed to unselfish service and democracy. From the time he entered the legislature in 1907, he had resisted moves to increase the salaries of mlas, arguing that, since they were public employees, the issue could be decided by referendum. When salaries did rise, from $1,000 to $1,400 in 1911, he donated his extra $400 to Hamilton charities. Periodically he also attacked property qualifications for municipal office. Undoubtedly his most important campaign towards a fuller democracy was his sponsorship of women’s suffrage. Each spring between 1910 and 1914, supported by such prominent suffragists as Flora Macdonald Denison [Merrill*], he introduced a bill to grant women in Ontario the same rights as men to vote and hold public office. His stand embroiled him in a major debate in the Hamilton press with Hamilton’s leading anti-suffragist, Clementina Fessenden [Trenholme]. In 1917 he described the legislature’s decision to enfranchise women as “the proudest moment of my life.” Studholme’s faith in democracy also explains his support for the war effort, including voluntary recruitment though not conscription.

To privilege Studholme counterposed notions of meritocracy, drawn from his wage-earning experience, and of Christian brotherhood, derived from his Methodism. He was a passionate promoter of public education, especially technical schools, and urged, particularly in 1919, the raising of the school-leaving age from 14 to 16. His religious principles were important to his politics, and his vocabulary was laced with Christian imagery, although a churchgoer, he frequently criticized organized religion for its insensitivity to workers’ concerns. He nevertheless saw the usefulness of coalitions with sympathetic church leaders and in 1910 was elected a vice-president of the Moral and Social Reform Council of Canada, an alliance of church and labour groups. His behaviour as an isolated figure in a political world full of rewards for the opportunist reveals the discipline and commitment to service that his Methodism had taught him. When a rumour spread in the summer of 1914 that he might be appointed to the new Workmen’s Compensation Board, he indignantly denied any interest in the position. He saw himself as a responsible steward, first and foremost in the service of his working-class constituents. As he reminded them that summer, “I have never missed a sitting nor shirked a vote; no consideration of party interests could operate to prevent me from giving every question consideration on its merits alone from the standpoint of the workingman, and I have honestly tried to record my opinion on all questions, both in the House and in committee from this point of view.”

Studholme’s unflinching commitment to his class was exemplary, but his political isolation and powerlessness allowed many of the ambiguities and weaknesses of his Labourist politics to go unnoticed. He thus avoided the fate of the Labour mlas, among them Walter Ritchie Rollo of Hamilton West, who had to cope with the actual use of power as part of the United Farmers of Ontario government in 1919. Certain elements of Studholme’s politics, especially temperance and free trade, were archaic remnants and would not be carried on by the new generation of labour leaders in Hamilton. None the less, he was far from atypical in the world of labour there, and his positions in the legislature reflected the main currents of thought among the organized craftsmen of his city.

From 1914 Studholme often appeared on platforms across Ontario to promote new ILP organizations. But in Hamilton he was increasingly eclipsed by the younger Labourists who, during the war, began to win seats in municipal government. His health started to fail in 1915, though he insisted on sitting in the legislature and maintaining his many speaking engagements. He suffered a fatal stroke in July 1919. His funeral drew hundreds of mourners, and all segments of Hamilton’s population paid warm tribute, as did the press. In 1923 he was further honoured when the local labour movement gathered for the dedication of the new Allan Studholme Memorial Labor Temple.

Craig Heron

AO, F 5. HPL, Hamilton Recruiting League, minutes, 1915–16; Hamilton Trades and Labor Council, minutes, 1910–14. NA, MG 26, J1, 11: 9558. Globe, 1907–19. Hamilton Herald, 1910–19. Hamilton Spectator, 1906–19. Industrial Banner (London, Ont., and Toronto), 1906–19. Labour News (Hamilton, Ont.), 1912–19. New Democracy (Hamilton), 7 June 1923. C. L. Cleverdon, The woman suffrage movement in Canada (Toronto, 1950). G. S. Kealey and B. D. Palmer, Dreaming of what might be: the Knights of Labor in Ontario, 1880–1900 (Cambridge, Eng., and New York, 1982). Ont., Chief election officer, Return from the records of the general election to the Legislative Assembly (Toronto), 1906, 1908, 1911, 1914. Stove Mounters’ and Range Workers’ Journal (Detroit), 1901–12. Trades and Labor Congress of Canada, Report of the proc. of the annual convention ([Ottawa]), 18 (1902)–30 (1914).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Craig Heron, “STUDHOLME, ALLAN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 17, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/studholme_allan_14E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/studholme_allan_14E.html
Author of Article: Craig Heron
Title of Article: STUDHOLME, ALLAN
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1998
Year of revision: 1998
Access Date: April 17, 2014