President, International Seamen's Union; Known as the "Abraham Lincoln of the Seas"  


Born in Romedal, Norway, in 1854, Andrew Furuseth came to the U.S. in 1880 as a seaman. He remained a seaman.

Eight years after his arrival here, he helped organize the  Sailor's Union of the Pacific, and became its secretary. The International Seamen's Union was founded in 1892, and Furuseth became its leader in 1908, serving until 1938. He was the spokesperson for the nation's seamen, and sought to promote legislation abroad to benefit seamen.

Most noteworthy among his successes was bringing about the Seamen's Act of 1915. Carried by U.S. Sen. Robert Marion La Follette, R-Wisc., it had been crafted by Furuseth. It provided for minimum safety and living conditions and otherwise defined the legal rights of seamen. It is known as the "Magna Carta of the American Seamen."

Though heading a powerful union, he took only the wages a seaman earned. He did sail first class, however, in 1913, at the age of 59. He sailed to London as President Woodrow Wilson's delegate to the London Conference on Safety at Sea.

As Furuseth saw it, "[h]uman freedom and equality is a flower that grows in strife and amongst danger." He urged the choice of freedom over security.


Copyright 2002, Roger M. Grace