1894 National Industrial Legion Of the United States of America Letter Signed By Paul Van Dervoort, Commander in Chief Omaha Nebraska
(National Industrial Legion Of the United States of America)

Omaha, Nebraska: National Industrial Legion Of the United States of America, 1894. Letter hand written in ink on vignetted N.I.L.U.S.A. letterhead, in Van Dervoort's hand; dated Jan. 19th, 1894 and jovially addressing 'Mr. Mercer' (George W. Mercer) regarding a young man (unnamed) who Van Dervoort is referring to Mercer for employment; going into some detail and noting that "...He is willing obliging and good tempered, Ha Ha - been an office and errand boy, sending out circulars etx. he can write some on a type writer. Does some of my work he writes well by hand, makes out all the Industrial Legion charters. I would like to get him located. He stuck it out for 9 months at a mining camp and stayed as long as he had enough work..."; and asking the favor of Mercer to employ him; signed "Your friend Paul Van Dervoort"; letterhead vignette of the U.S. capitol building and with list of the national officers and the executive council of the Legion; approx. 11" x 8 1/2 " size; a few old fold lines, a little wear and ageing to the paper, old 'Received' stamp dated 19th, 1894; in very good condition; an interesting American labor history ephemeral item from the later part of the 19th century; Paul Vandervoort (1846-1902) "...Perhaps best remembered for the American colony he helped found in Cuba about 1900. Populated chiefly by Union veterans of the Civil War, the colony, La Gloria, was the largest American settlement on mainland Cuba. It survived for more than fifty years, reaching a peak population of about one thousand. Vandervoort was a Union veteran enlisted from Illinois at the age of fifteen, was captured by the Confederates in December 1863, and imprisoned in Andersonville, Belle Isle, and Libby prisons. After the Civil War ended, he entered politics, both in Illinois and later in Omaha, where he worked as chief clerk for the Railway Mail Service. He began his political career as a Republican, but later left the party to become a Populist. Vandervoort joined the Grand Army of the Republic in 1866 and helped reorganize the GAR's Department of Nebraska, eventually becoming commander-in-chief in 1882, the first enlisted man to do so. His one-year term was among the most successful in the GAR's history - Membership rose to a record ninety thousand, and the auxiliary Woman's Relief Corps was organized. After Vandervoort lost his railway mail position, he became assistant general manager of the Cuban Land and Steamship Company of New York and with the installation of a U.S. military government in Cuba in 1899, ship lines, such as the one that employed Vandervoort, transported prospective emigrants and investors to Cuba for a new life and new opportunities, especially in citrus farming. Vandervoort planned much of the La Gloria colonization venture in the Cuban Land and Steamship Company's Omaha office. The settlement was founded in 1900 or 1901 (the exact date is unknown) on the north coast of the Cuban province of Camaguey on unimproved, heavily timbered land that was two days' travel by boat from the nearest town. It was intended by Vandervoort to be a new home for Union veterans looking for a fresh start. Land had to be cleared, houses built, and gardens and orange groves planted...One former resident in 1944 recalled that as many as one thousand people had once lived there; however, a combination of natural disasters, political upheaval, and a shift in focus for agricultural production (away from citrus crops and towards sugar) marked the decline of American colonies in Cuba, and by the mid-1950s La Gloria had disappeared." (Information here is courtesy of a November 2006 biographical article in the Nebraska State Historical Society archives) Very Good (Item ID: 20986)


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