Robert Applegarth (January 26, 1834 – July 13, 1924) was a prominent trade unionist and proponent of working class causes. He was the first secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and under his leadership increased membership 10-fold. In 1860 he helped form London Trades Council. He advocated a moderate approach to trade unionism with an emphasis on negotiations rather than strike action, telling his fellow trade unionists to: “Never surrender the right to strike, but be careful how you use a double-edged weapon”. During the Royal Commission on Trade Unions (1867), (he was the first working man to be invited to be a member of one) he vigorously advocated the benefits of New Model Unionism to the committee, answering a total of 633 questions, and was generally regarded as the most impressive pro-trade union witness. Applegarth campaigned for the pro-trade unionist minority report of the commission to be accepted by Gladstone’s Liberal government, leading to the Trade Union Act of 1871. In 1898 he took up poultry farming in Bexley and introduced a new breed of hen from France.
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