National Civic Federation

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The National Civic Federation, was a federation of American businesses and labor leaders founded in 1900 and important down to 1910 (though it persisted to 1950). It favoured moderate progressive reform and sought to resolve disputes arising between industry and organized labor. It emerged first in 1893 as the Chicago Civic Federation (CCF), which was also known as the Civic Federation of Chicago. The key leader was Ralph Easley, the CCF’s gregarious head who wanted it to "serve as a medium of sympathy and acquaintance between persons and societies who pursue various and differing vocations and objects, who differ in nationality, creed, and surrounding [and] who are unknown to each other." This federation of civic and reform leaders community took as its primary goal "to focus the new ideals of civic cooperation and social efficiency on the task of renovating Chicago society."

Easley served as chairman of the NCF’s executive council throughout the federation’s forty-five-year history. Early activists included U.S. Treasury Secretary Lyman Gage, the CCF’s two-time president; social worker Jane Addams; industrialist Franklin MacVeagh; and social scientist and civic commissioner Edward Bemis. The federation's first president was the Republican senator from Ohio, Mark Hanna, while its original vice-president was union leader Samuel Gompers. Over the years, the federation's Executive Council included such other notables as Vincent Astor, Jeremiah Jenks, Seth Low, and George W. Perkins.

NCF suffered a significant loss of influence after World War I. The death of Gompers in 1924 largely ended its relationship to the labor movement, and business leaders, too, withdrew their financial backing. Easley was consumed by anti-communism, and in the 1930s attacked Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal. Plagued by financial difficulties, hobbled by Easley's extreme anti-communism and pushed aside by a rising national consensus in favor of liberalism, the NCF—nearly bankrupt—shut down operations in 1950.


  • Cyphers; Christopher J. The National Civic Federation and the Making of a New Liberalism, 1900-1915 (2002)online edition

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