Debs was born on November 5, 1855 in Terre Haute, Indiana to French immigrants from Alsace. His father came from a wealthy family, and owned a textiles factory as well as a small butcher's market.
Although Debs did attend public education as a youth, he dropped out of high school at the age of 14 and began to work for Vandalia, a railway company, as a painter and car cleaner, but was later given a higher responsibility as a locomotive fireman.
Debs had joined a union of locomotive firemen (the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen) in 1875, and quickly rose through the ranks, first as an editor of the union's periodical, and eventually becoming the Grand Secretary and Treasurer in 1880.
In 1884, Debs served a term as a Democrat in the Indiana General Assembly. In 1893, Debs resigned from his post at the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen, and then began to organize his own union.
In June of 1983, Eugene V. Debs organized one of the US' first industrial unions, the American Railway Union, aimed at all people who worked on railways in the nation.
Debs organized a strike in April of 1894 against the Great Northern Railway. The strike was notably successful because of the utter shutdown of the railway. Debs grew to become a follower of the One Big Union philosophy of labor organizing after this victory.
Debs intended to organize his union, by then already one of the largest in the nation at 150,000 members, when he received a telegram in May of 1894 that the workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company had gone on strike and wanted the support of the ARU.
Eugene V. Debs served for an unprecedented three terms as the President of the US, which amounted to twelve years in office. During these twelve years, the US underwent its most profound change, going from a government that tended to favor big business to a government that was effectively run by big labor.
Campaign of 1912
Election of 1912
See Main Article: US Presidential Election of 1912