Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movement and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America
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On May 4, 1886, a bomb exploded at a Chicago labor rally, wounding dozens of policemen, seven of whom eventually died. A wave of mass hysteria swept the country, leading to a sensational trial, that culminated in four controversial executions, and dealt a blow to the labor movement from which it would take decades to recover. Historian James Green recounts the rise of the first great labor movement in the wake of the Civil War and brings to life an epic twenty-year struggle for the eight-hour workday. 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.
History of the Chicago Police from the Settlement of the Community to the Present Time (Chicago: Police Book Fund, 1887), pp. 137–38, 140. Quote from ibid., pp. 142, 144. Jentz, “Class and Politics,” p. 261. Quote ibid., p. 248. See Schneirov, Labor and Urban Politics, p. 61; Einhorn, Property Rules, pp. 219–21, 226–27. Quote in Pierce, Chicago, Vol. 3, pp. 19, 194. Katz, From Appomattox, p. 169. Pierce, Chicago, Vol. 3, pp. 194, 196, 240–41. Einhorn, Property Rules, pp. 233–34, Sawislak,
eight-hour campaign and its betrayal. Then, after several stints as a cook on lake vessels, Neebe found work at good wages in a stove factory, where he labored until 1877, when he was fired and blacklisted for defending the rights of other workers. Neebe endured months of near starvation before he found work selling compressed yeast, a job that took him all over the city and into the company of August Spies.18 Spies, who owned his own shop, and Neebe, who had worked as a salesman, used their
belt from an engine and brought everything to a standstill, and then laughed at the owner’s predicament.2 Map of Chicago showing locations of major strikes taking place during the Great Upheaval from April 25 to May 4, 1886 The Tribune’s leg men also saw more worrisome “specks of war” arising from the freight yards and lumberyards. The dreaded freight handlers’ strike seemed about to become a general one, because the railroad managers had rejected their employees’ proposal. Business came to a
may have died in the hail of police gunfire without having their deaths and burials recorded by the city. In any case, these deaths seemed of no account to the press. What mattered to the public was that in the same span of time six more patrolmen followed Mathias Degan to the grave—seven brave men in all, men who marched with their fellow officers into the Haymarket that night faithfully performing their duties with no inkling of the fate that awaited them.43 Chapter Twelve The Strangest
bomb thrower, was in hiding. Then, on May 14, came the thrilling news that Lingg had been captured after a furious fight with two policemen. After being subdued and disarmed (he had a knife strapped to his wrist), Lingg was hustled to the Chicago Avenue Station to be interrogated by Captain Schaack.42 While newspaper readers waited to learn more about Louis Lingg’s interrogation, they were jolted by another report: an anarchist named Rudolph Schnaubelt was now being sought as the perpetrator