Meyer London Biography

Meyer London (December 29, 1871 — June 6, 1926) was an American politician from New York City. He was one of only two members of the Socialist Party of America elected to the United States Congress.

Meyer London was born in Kalvarija, Lithuania (then part of the Russian Empire) on December 29, 1871. Meyer's father, Efraim London, was a former Talmudic scholar who had become politically revolutionary and philosophically agnostic, while his mother had remained a devotee of Judaism. His father had established himself as a grain merchant in Zenkov, a small town located in Poltava province of the Ukraine, but his financial situation was poor and in 1888 his father emigrated with Meyer's younger brother to the United States, leaving Meyer behind.

Meyer attended Cheder, a traditional Jewish primary school in which he learned Hebrew, before entering Russian-language schools to begin his secular education. In 1891, when Meyer was 20, the family decided to follow his father to America so Meyer terminated his studies and departed for New York City, taking up residence in the city's largely Jewish Lower East Side.

In America, Meyer's father had become a commercial printer, doing jobs in the Yiddish, Russian, and English languages and publishing his own radical weekly called Morgenstern. Efraim London's shop was a hub of activity, bringing together Jewish radical intellectuals from throughout the city, many of whom met and influenced the printer's son with their ideas.

Meyer earned money as a tutor, taking on pupils at irregular hours and teaching literature and other topics. He later obtained a job as a librarian, a position which allowed him sufficient time to read about history and politics and to study law in his free time. Meyer also frequented radical meetings, gradually developing proficiency as a public speaker and participant in public debates.

In 1896, London was accepted to the law school of New York University, attending most of his classes at night. He completed the program and was admitted to the New York City Bar Association in 1898, becoming a labor lawyer, taking on cases which fought injunctions or defending the rights of tenants against the transgressions of landlords. London did not handle criminal cases, but rather limited himself to matter of civil law.