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. 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.
cigar with a fulminating cap inside remained unsolved. Later on, a story circulated indicating that the explosive had been passed to him by a comrade, the anarchist Dyer Lum, who said so in a letter that became known after his death. Lum had expressed a deep admiration for his young German comrade as a devoted and fearless anarchist who never allowed himself the false hope of salvation from the death that awaited him. And so Lum would have endorsed the Tribune’s comment that Louis Lingg had
miserable slum of wooden shacks around DeKoven Street on the West Side and quickly leapt the Chicago River, devastating the entire downtown business district and most of the North Side up to Lincoln Park. Humble workers’ dwellings and marble mansions on the North Side, factories, lumberyards, banks, even City Hall and the Tribune building—all were incinerated by the holocaust. One hundred twenty corpses were found in the vast burned-over district, and many more bodies of missing persons were
stopping at a ranch on Buffalo Creek owned by a Mexican rancher named Gonzales and meeting the owner’s beautiful niece, Lucy. He lingered and then left the ranch reluctantly, only to return and ask her to be his wife. She agreed, and they were wed at Austin in 1872.15 This was the story Albert and Lucy told of their union when they arrived in Chicago, but they invented some of it. Lucy identified herself as the daughter of John Waller, a “civilized” Creek Indian, and a Mexican woman named Marie
unions of this country are feeling more and more dissatisfied with their position, and they are developing more and more of what might be called a communistic feeling—a tendency or desire to resort to what might be called revolutionary or chaotic methods for rectifying things. They are not satisfied with their division of the profits of business, and they look at the enormous and sudden acquirement of fortunes by a few speculators with feelings of anger.”42 Medill blamed these hard feelings on
anarchist plot had existed to annihilate the police at the Haymarket. On May 27 the jury returned murder indictments against ten anarchists, despite the objections of one troublemaker among them who argued that, before they indicted the men for conspiring to commit murder, they ought to know who threw the bomb.48 By this time, ten labor meeting halls, seventeen saloons and several newspaper offices had been raided; numerous houses had been searched, often without warrants; and 200 arrests had