John Mitchell, President of the United Mine Workers of America

John Mitchell was born in 1870 in Braidwood, Illinois to Irish immigrants, although some sources say he was of Welsh ancestry. He was orphaned at age six and entered the mines to work at age nine to help support his many siblings and a stepmother. He joined the Knights of Labor at the age of 15, and in 1890 at the age of 19 he joined the newly-formed United Mine Workers of America. Mitchell became vice-president of the United Mine Workers in 1897, and in 1898 at the age of 28 he became president, a position he would hold until to 1908.