Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America

28 Nov

Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America

Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement, and the Bombing That Divided Gilded Age America

James Green

Language: English

Pages: 288

ISBN: B001T6T7W6

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

On May 4, 1886, a bomb exploded at a Chicago labor rally, wounding dozens of policemen, seven of whom eventually died. Coming in the midst of the largest national strike Americans had ever seen, the bombing created mass hysteria and led to a sensational trial, which culminated in four controversial executions. The trial seized headlines across the country, created the nation’s first red scare and dealt a blow to the labor movement from which it would take decades to recover.

Death in the Haymarket
brings these remarkable events to life, re-creating a tempestuous moment in American social history. James Green recounts the rise of the first great labor movement in the wake of the Civil War and brings to life the epic twenty-year battle for the eight-hour workday. He shows how the movement overcame numerous setbacks to orchestrate a series of strikes that swept the country in 1886, positioning the unions for a hard-won victory on the eve of the Haymarket tragedy.

As he captures the frustrations, tensions and heady victories, Green also gives us a rich portrait of Chicago, the Midwestern powerhouse of the Gilded Age. We see the great factories and their wealthy owners, including men such as George Pullman, and we get an intimate view of the communities of immigrant employees who worked for them. Throughout, we are reminded of the increasing power of newspapers as, led by the legendary Chicago Tribune editor Joseph Medill, they stirred up popular fears of the immigrants and radicals who led the unions.

Blending a gripping narrative, outsized characters and a panoramic portrait of a major social movement, Death in the Haymarket is an important addition to the history of American capitalism and a moving story about the class tensions at the heart of Gilded Age America.













hours of work was enough to ask of workingmen and that eight hours of freedom during the day was “none too long for study and recreation.” 33 Oglesby then introduced the state’s new attorney general, Robert Green Ingersoll, who was also a decorated colonel in the Union army and a devoted Lincoln man. Like the governor, the young lawyer was a Radical Republican who supported forceful measures to reconstruct and reform the Confederate states. Ingersoll was a rare character in American politics

Century, p. 131. Quote in Miller, City of the Century, p. 121. Twain’s novel The Gilded Age was published in 1874. See H. Wayne Morgan, “An Age in Need of Reassessment,” in H. Wayne Morgan, ed., The Gilded Age: A Reappraisal (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1963), p. 1. Whitman quoted in John Tipple, “The Robber Baron in the Gilded Age,” in Morgan, ed., Gilded Age, p. 32. Walt Whitman, “Democratic Vistas,” reprinted in Perry Miller, ed., Major Writers of America (New York: Harcourt, Brace

as part of constitutional history, see Oz Frankl, “What Ever Happened to ‘Red’ Emma? Emma Goldman, From American Rebel to American Icon,” Journal of American History 83, no. 3 (December 1996), pp. 903–42. Nonetheless, the labor movement’s memory of Parsons, Spies and their mates as free-speech fighters and fearless organizers had truth on its side as well. After all, the International did call the rally in the Haymarket to make a peaceful protest against the killing of unarmed strikers who had

Republican mayor to place the city under martial law. The Civil War hero and Indian fighter General Philip Sheridan quickly took charge of militia and regular regiments. The elected police commissioner, an Irish Catholic with a labor constituency, protested this usurpation of his authority, as did the governor of Illinois, who said the mayor’s order violated the state’s rights, but to no avail. Chicago’s ruling elites meant to demonstrate their power and extend their control over the city in this

past George Engel’s toy store and Aurora Turner Hall on Milwaukee Avenue, then headed south on Desplaines Street. The two men arrived late at the site of the demonstration, which they expected to be in progress. It was about 8:15 p.m., but nothing had been done to start the meeting. Groups of men were standing in the Haymarket, smoking, murmuring, waiting for something to happen. August Spies had expected Albert Parsons to kick off the rally, but he was nowhere to be seen. After searching the

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