James J. Davis

James J. Davis books and biography


James J. Davis


The official portrait of James J. Davis hangs in the Department of Labor
The official portrait of James J. Davis hangs in the Department of Labor

James J. Davis, born James John Davies (October 27, 1873 – November 22, 1947) was an American steel worker and Republican Party politician in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He served as U.S. Secretary of Labor and represented Pennsylvania in the United States Senate. He was also known by the nicknames of the "Iron Puddler" and "Puddler Jim."


Early life and career

James John Davies was born in Tredegar, South Wales in the United Kingdom, and emigrated with his parents, David James Davies and Esther Ford Nicholls Davies, to the United States in 1881 at the age of eight and settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and later in Sharon, Pennsylvania. He was apprenticed as a puddler's assistant in a steel mill, and as a result, acquired his nickname. In 1893, he moved to Elwood, Indiana, and served as city clerk from 1898 to 1902. From 1903 to 1907, he served as Recorder of Madison County, Indiana, before returning to Pittsburgh. He personally signed his name as James J. Davies even though his surname had been Americanized to Davis and he became well known through his Americanized surname. He was married and had five children.

Later career

Davis served as United States Secretary of Labor from 1921 to 1930 under Presidents Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. He is one of only three Cabinet officers in U.S. history to hold the same post under three consecutive Presidents. The other two Cabinet officers to accomplish this were Secretary of Agriculture James Wilson and Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon. During his tenure, he focused on immigration, then a Labor Department responsibility, and established the United States Border Patrol and proposed restrictions in immigration quotas. At the urging of the iron and steel workers union, he successfully urged U.S. Steel to abandon the 12-hour workday. He resigned as Secretary of Labor upon his election to the United States Senate from Pennsylvania, accepting the seat denied to William S. Vare. In 1922, he published his autobiography, The Iron Puddler. During his tenure in the Senate, he was a sponsor of the Davis-Bacon Act. he was defeated for re-election in 1944.

Involvement in Moose International

Davis joined the Loyal Order of Moose in 1906 as its 247th member and staged a successful reorganization. He rose to become the Director-General and took the Order internationally to Bermuda, Britain and Canada. In 1926, he founded the Grand Lodge of Britain at his birthplace in Tredegar, South Wales.


Davies died in Takoma Park, Maryland following a heart attack and is buried at Uniondale Cemetery in Pittsburgh.


  • U.S. Department of Labor Biography
  • Biographical Directory of Congress Entry

This article might use material from a Wikipedia article, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

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