image 2



President Theodore Roosevelt Jr

President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) is by all accounts already legendary. What deserves more attention is the prominent role Roosevelt played in the early history of the establishment of workers’ compensation in the United States. At the beginning of the 20th century, a system called “workmen’s compensation”, a novel (yet historically not so novel) system of swift and adequate payment for wage loss and medical benefits was struggling to gain acceptance in the United States.

The modern version of workers’ compensation began in Prussia in the 1880s, spreading across Western Europe and England, in large part due to changes to manufacturing and industrial societies, as well as labor unrest and a nascent but emerging labor movement. 1911 is the year and Wisconsin is the jurisdiction to claim the birth of state-based workers’ compensation in the United States. What is often overlooked is that in 1908 President Roosevelt created the Federal Employers Liability Act which provided wage and medical coverage to railroad workers engaged in interstate commerce.

On January 31, 1908, in his Message to Congress, President Roosevelt made an impassioned plea for the necessity of a no-fault-based system of financial and medical benefits for workers injured on the job. “… he entire burden of the accident falls on the helpless man, his wife, and his young children. This is an outrage. It is a matter of humiliation to the Nation.” He continued: “Exactly as the working man is entitled to his wages, so should he be entitled to indemnity for the injuries sustained in the natural course of his labor.”

The passage of early workmen’s compensation laws spurred a lot of appellate constitutional litigation and argument in the second decade of the 20th century. No longer in public office, Teddy Roosevelt wrote an essay entitled “Sarah Knisley’s Arm,” published in installments in Colliers Magazine in early 1913. In this article, Roosevelt provided a detailed and graphic account of crush injuries to Sarah’s arm leading to its amputation. What followed was an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit against her employer for negligence and unsafe working conditions. Doctrines of contributory negligence and assumption of the risk doomed Sarah’s case and others whose only recourse was an inherently unbalanced civil trial system.

Theodore Roosevelt – Legend as President, Vice President, Governor, and civil servant; Theodore Roosevelt – Legend as a Rough Rider during the Spanish American War; Theodore Roosevelt – Legend in the creation and gestation of a fair system of adequate benefits for America’s labor force is known as workers’ compensation.



Benjamin Marcus (1906-2003)

Benjamin Marcus was a noted labor lawyer in Detroit and was counsel for the United Auto Workers in matters of health and safety. He also represented the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) as a member of the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) and was chair of the National Lawyers Guild and the American Bar Association’s Committee on Workers’ Compensation.


John E. Kinnane (1862-1936)

Mr. Kinnane was instrumental in creating the Michigan workers’ compensation system.  His desire to learn and share ideas resulted in the founding of the National Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions, which became the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions in 1915.  He was instrumental in interpreting the newly adopted workers’ compensation laws and creating a system of administration for their implementation.

Crystal Eastman (1881-1928)

In 1910 Crystal Eastman published “Work Accidents and the Law” thereby earning a position with the New York State Commission of Employee’s Liability and Causes of Industrial Accidents. In her position, she drafted the first workman’s [sic] compensation law, which became a model for similar laws across the country. Following her work in New York on the State Commission, she continued to advocate for occupational safety and health for the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations during the Woodrow Wilson administration. A labor lawyer, suffragist, feminist, journalist, and co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, Crystal Eastman stands tall as a Legend in the field of Worker’s Compensation.

Judge Irvin Stander (1907-1993)

The Hon. Irvin Stander, the memorable Pennsylvania referee (later Judge) and bar association lecturer, began his career in the workers’ compensation field in 1972, when he turned 65. He was to work in the referee job for over 20 years, finally retiring as Judge at age 86. So dedicated to scholarship and excellence in the field was Judge Stander that the Workers’ Compensation Law Section of the state bar association awards its top honor in his name, The Irv Stander Award, presented to the lawyer whose dedication to the administration of workers’ compensation law, clients and professionalism serves as an example to others.

Frances Perkins (1880-1965)

In February 1933, President-elect Franklin Roosevelt asked Frances Perkins to serve in his cabinet as Secretary of Labor. She outlined for him a set of policy priorities she would pursue: a 40-hour work week; a minimum wage; unemployment compensation; workers’ compensation; abolition of child labor; direct federal aid to the states for unemployment relief; Social Security; a revitalized federal employment service; and universal health insurance and made it clear that Roosevelt’s agreement with these priorities was a condition of her joining his cabinet. Roosevelt endorsed them all, and Frances Perkins became the first woman in the nation to serve in a Presidential cabinet.

Samuel B. Horovitz (1887-1995)

Samuel Horovitz is best known for founding NACCA, the National Association of Compensation Claimant Attorneys, later to be known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), and now known as AAJ. The formation of NACCA is described in vivid detail in David vs. Goliath; ATLA and the Fight for Everyday Justice, by Richard S. Jacobson and Jeffery R. White, published by ATLA Press in 2004. In late 1944, Sam had just published Horovitz on Workmen’s Compensation and shined an “unwelcome spotlight” on the thousands of injuries and deaths in workplace.

L. Arthur Larson (1910-1993)

Professor L. Arthur Larson is recognized as perhaps the nation’s leading scholar in the field of Workers’ Compensation law. In 1952, while a Professor of Law at Cornell Law School, he published the Law of Workmen’s Compensation (Matthew Bender, 1952). His treatise is well known to all practitioners in the field and has been widely cited before Boards, Commissions and the Courts including the US Supreme Court. His son, Lex Larson, a 2015 inductee as a Fellow, has continued with the publication and update of Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law.