Workmen's Circle/Der Arbeter Ring Branch 304 photograph collection
In April of 1892, a group of Jewish garment workers from New York City's Lower East Side formed a mutual aid society called the Workingmen’s Circle. This small collective soon grew to a membership of 300, and it officially became known as the Workmen’s Circle (Der Arbeter Ring in Yiddish) in 1900. The Workmen’s Circle provided benefits that poor immigrants were otherwise denied: life insurance, health benefits, unemployment relief, homes for the aged, and funeral assistance. By 1920 there were over 80,000 members, and The Workmen’s Circle had become one of the largest Jewish organizations in America.
The programs initiated by the Workmen's Circle encompassed a host of social, cultural, and political issues deemed important to the Jewish community. In addition to promoting labor rights and the strengthening of trade unions, the organization provided educational and cultural programs that emphasized Jewish heritage through theater, music, literature, summer camps, and Yiddish instruction. The Workmen's Circle also sold war bonds to provide support during both World Wars, and partnered with other Jewish organizations to actively promote and fund the settlement and expansion of Israel during the early years of its existence. After World War II, the organization de-emphasized their socialist leanings in an effort to distance themselves from communist affiliation.
The Seattle, Washington branch of the Workmen's Circle -- Branch 304 -- was organized in 1909, and their first location was a rented store on 14th Avenue and Main Street. In 1920, the members bought a building at 120 21st Avenue that had previously been a blacksmith shop. Property was then purchased for the organization at 1614 East Union Street in 1937, with the grand opening of this location taking place in December 1942. Activities in Seattle included summer picnics, festive observances of Jewish holidays, New Years Eve celebrations, banquets, and lectures. Though Branch 304 eventually closed its doors in 1973, the Workmen's Circle organization continues to operate in several cities across the country
This collection contains photographs, flyers, and posters of the meetings, members, and activities of the Workmen's Circle in Seattle and other cities. It also contains photographs of Ben Stein, an immigrant to Seattle from Minsk, who served as secretary, financial secretary, and president for the Seattle Lodge No. 304.