Eugene V. Debs was on November 5, 1855, in Terre Haute, Indiana.
By the age of sixteen, Debs was working on railroads as a paint scraper, and eventually rose to the job of locomotive fireman.
Debs took short time to rise to power in the BLF, or Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen.
However in the depression of 1873, Debs lost his job and never worked on railroads again. However, when the BLF formed a local lodge in his home town of Terre Haute in 1875, Debs was quick to sign up as a charter member and was eventually elected recording secretary.
Debs eventually rose to power as Associate Editor of the Locomotive Fireman's Magazine in 1879, and Grand Secretary of the BLF.
Debs began to change his mind on certain aspects of his job. He began to question whether large corporations could solely be committed to either industrial cooperation or popular democracy. In 1893, Debs played a key role in a protest with the ARU, or American Railway Union, and again in 1894 with the Pullman Boycott and Strike. George Mortimer Pullman, founder of the Pullman Palace Car Company, cut the wages of railroad employees. Because of this, Debs led a protest calling for all railroad employees whose railroads used Pullman cars to boycott. This led to a mass strike, crippling the country's economy, for it was dependent on the railroads which were not functioning at the time. Congress then called for an injunction of the strike, however those on strike refused to stop. President Grover Cleveland saw this as a national crisis and was forced to send in troops disband the strike. Debs, as well as the other leaders of the ARU, were arrested for conspiracy.
During his time in jail, Debs supported the Democratic Party's candidate, William Jennings Bryan during the election of 1896. When Bryan was defeated, Debs decided to create a new party, called the Social Democratic Party, later shortened to the Socialist Party.
In 1905, Debs founded the International Workers of the World (IWW), which was later nicknamed the "Wobblies". The group called for all workers to join "one big union" and to take over industries using mass strikes. However, in 1908, Debs found this group to be too radical, and resigned from his position.
He ran for President fives times from 1900-1912, and lastly in 1920. In his most successful campaign, Debs received nearly 1,000,000 votes.
After failing to be elected President, Debs received attention again when in 1917, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany and all of its allies, officially entering WWI. This caused Debs and many of his former "Wobblies" to be outraged. Debs delivered many emotional anti-war speeches, causing him to be arrested and given a 10 year sentence, in violation of the Espionage Act, as it was said that he was impeding the war efforts of the time.
During the 1920 election, Debs, or "Convict NO. 9653", put together his final campaign from his jail cell, receiving nearly 1,000,000 votes.
Debs was released after just three years, on Christmas Day, 1921.