The Greatest Public Relations Coup of All Time

The branding campaign which transformed the labor movement into the "Worldwide Communist Conspiracy"

By Jack Barkstrom

Labor Struggles in the United States

Marx and Engels might have looked to America and its labor movement, instead of the stock market, for signs of their hoped-for revolution. The factory workers, railroad workers, and miners many times exhibited the kind of no-compromise willingness to fight against the capitalist class that Marx and Engels admired. Yet this militant spirit was difficult to harness for long-term objectives or movements. It was diluted by the diversity of economic activity - factory production was not the same as mining - by the disparity in wealth and economic power - workers, even at the high end, did not earn enough to match the wealth and economic power of large corporations, particularly in a protracted strike - by regional and geographical differences - states, and their workers, were both competitors and consumers of the products of other states; textile factories in the north were consumers of the cotton produced in the south - by racial and ethnic differences - white workers in the north felt little in common with the black slaves of the south; workers in the west often came into conflict with immigrant workers from China - and by differences in the skills required for different occupations as well as by the skill level of individual workers - skilled workers were not eager to include unskilled laborers in their organizations. The impact of technological advances, as well as the timing of their introduction, also had an impact on the labor movement in the United States. In the steel industry, while Andrew Carnegie's efficiencies and increased output offered the promise of more employment for more workers in his factories, his desire to employ new technology to eliminate jobs was a longterm phenomenon which threatened to undercut whatever gains were made.

The Great Strike of 1877

In early 1877 John Rockefeller, through his Standard Oil Company, had decided that shipping oil by rail was costing too much and decided to switch to pipelines for transport rather than rail.[1] This decision angered Tom Scott, the President of Pennsylvania Railroad, known as the Penn, who warned Rockefeller to leave oil transport to the railroads. The end result was a war between Rockefeller and the Penn. Rockefeller canceled transport contracts with the Penn, closed his refineries in Pittsburgh, controlled by the Penn, increased production in Cleveland, and gave most of his business to Penn's rivals. Although the Penn was the largest corporation in America, valued at $400 million, by June 1877 it had lost a million dollars.[2]

It was not long before the unions would feel the fallout. On June 4th Tom Scott met with a delegation from the engineers' union and convinced them that, although they had already accepted a 20 percent cut, they needed to give more - or the company would go under. He was successful, but his success convinced other railroads, including the Baltimore & Ohio, to follow suit. On July 16, at Martinsburg, West Virginia, the Baltimore & Ohio workers reacted to a 10 percent wage cut, by abandoning a cattle train, after uncoupling the locomotive, and leaving the cars on the main east-west line. When management tried to move other trains, workers uncoupled their locomotives as well.[3] The mayor of Martinsburg ordered the police in, but after making several arrests, freed the prisoners when the townspeople sided with the workers. Company officials persuaded the governor, Henry Mathews, to send in the state militia - to ensure the safety of the trains and freedom of commerce.[4]

The local militia arrived on a special train in Martinsburg. Since none of the local engineers would move the locomotives, the troops took over. However, when they tried to move the stranded cattle car a striker threw a derail switch. One of the soldiers ran from the train to throw the switch back. The striker fired a pistol, which missed, and the soldier fired back, grazing the striker in the head, but not killing him. He was killed when other soldiers opened fire. Other strikers fired at the soldier, wounding him in the hand. Many of the militia afterwards, sympathetic to the strikers, simply left, forcing Governor Mathews to appeal to President Rutherford Hayes, who ordered federal troops in.[5] That had happened once before, in 1834, when Andrew Jackson sent troops to the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, to deter a strike by construction workers.[6]

The arriving federal troops managed to restore order sufficiently to allow trains to move through the town. Yet, they found themselves engaged in a guerrilla war with locals sympathetic to the unions. Other workers - ironworkers,canal men, and miners - threw stones at trains, blocked the tracks, and sometimes skirmished with the crews, the attacks coming from woods or bushes, at blind curves, or from beneath rail bridges.[7]

Fearing that the situation was getting out of control, management of the Burlington & Ohio sought the help of Maryland governor, John Lee Carroll, requesting that he send the Maryland militia to the rail junction at Cumberland. Two regiments of the Maryland National Guard were ordered to board trains at Baltimore's Camden Station. It would prove to be an inauspicious, even embarrassing start. The Guard's Fifth Regiment started its march from its armory just as factory workers were getting off work. The workers cheered at first, but after learning where and why they were going, the mood turned ugly. They started yelling at the soldiers, then began throwing stones and brickbats. The Guardsmen quick-marched at first but then broke ranks and started running toward the depot, covering their heads as they ran to protect themselves from the incoming objects.[8]

By the time the Sixth Regiment started, the ranks of the workers lining the streets had grown to an angry mob of fifteen thousand. The rain of bricks and stones continued. Nearly half of the 150 soldiers in the regiment deserted. Those who remained fired over the heads of the crowd, at first, but when that didn't intimidate the workers, they fired directly into the crowd. Ten men and boys were killed. There are reports that some in the crowd produced weapons and began shooting at the militia. Whether the militia shooting or a bayonet charge intimidated the crowd, the regiment managed to reach the depot. However the depot itself was now under siege. To make matters worse, Governor Carroll and other state officials, who may have hoped to benefit from a show of support for the departing militia, were inside the station for the send-off, along with National Guard officers. All were trapped. They were fortunate that the telegraph lines were still open and telegraphed President Hayes for federal troops. The mob did not attempt to storm the depot. However, the rail equipment in the yard was now unprotected and they began vandalizing empty cars and equipment. Three men (or boys) commandeered a locomotive, allowed it to build up a head of steam and then opened the throttle before jumping off. On what would be its final run, it crashed into some rail cars, destroyed a loading platform and dispatcher's office and overturned. Its wheels were still spinning. Others attacked the track, ripping rails off the track and breaking windows. Wooden freight cars at the south end of the train yard were set on fire. When firemen tried to battle the fires, the rioters cut their hoses and sabotaged their pumps.[9],[10]

The unrest appeared to take on a national dimension when workers on the Pennsylvania Railroad sided with the Burlington & Ohio protesters and began a work stoppage in Pittsburgh. On Thursday, July 19, just three days after the Martinsburg workers had started their strike, a Pittsburgh flagman refused to put together an eastward-bound "doubleheader" freight train - two locomotives and extra cars. (Flagmen were responsible for managing, or putting together, the assembly of locomotives and freight cars which went into a train load.) Other flagmen followed his example and refused the request. A crowd began to assemble.[11] The stoppage came at a time when many steelworkers in Pittsburgh had been laid off and, being out of work, added to the growing crowd size. The next day, the elite Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers would announce its support for the Trainmen's Union.[12]

The proletarian class struggle envisioned by Marx and Engels seemed about to happen. The "Pittsburgh Leader" quoted a worker as saying that the recent events "...may be the beginning of a great civil war in this country, between labor and capital."[13] That opinion was not limited to Pittsburgh. The New Orleans Times expressed a similar view: "War between labor and capital has begun in earnest."[14] If Marx wanted a no-compromise commitment to the proletariat, well the workers seemed to be showing some backbone and, in addition, were aware that they needed to stick together, if they wanted to win. The reporter quoted the worker: "The workingmen of this country can capture and hold it, if they will only stick together." The workers would "have our revenge on the men who have coined our sweat and muscle into millions for themselves."[15] The workers, if not quoting Marx directly in 1877, seemed to have adopted the concepts and arguments he had first introduced in the Communist Manifesto in 1848. One of the steelworkers in Pittsburgh may not have been quoting Marx, but apparently found that his terminology had a certain appeal: "I won't call employers despots; I won't call them tyrants. But the term capitalists is sort of synonymous and will do as well."[16]

If Pittsburgh signaled the start of the 'civil war' between the proletariat and capitalists, the railroad owners were struggling to find local support for their side. The police, hit by recent layoffs, had only eight officers available to deal with trouble in the rail yards. The local militia proved 'unreliable,' when it came to strike breaking. One of the units which did show up, stacked their weapons and began socializing with the strikers.[17] City officials were forced to look for help across the state, to Philadelphia, home of the First Division of the Pennsylvania National Guard. It was not a popular move in Pittsburgh. One local newspaper later referred to the units as the 'Roughs of Philadelphia,' and there were also references to an 'invasion' force from Philadelphia entering Pittsburgh.[18] Popular or not, the First Division was considered a crack unit, made up in part of Civil War veterans. The six hundred members, even members of an elite unit, would hold their own, but such a small force would prove insufficient to deal with the unrest facing them.

After leaving Philadelphia, the militia, transported in a convoy of two trains carrying several pieces of artillery and Gatling guns, found itself traveling through a Pennsylvania which had become enemy territory. Passing through Harrisburg, Altoona, and other towns, the trains were bombarded with stones, bricks, and chunks of coal thrown by angry strike supporters. The troops inside did not respond but still had to deal with broken windows and the sound of thrown objects hitting the cars, leaving the roofs covered with debris.[19]

At a railroad crossing outside of Pittsburgh a crowd of workers had gathered to wait for the convoy. As the trains approached the crossing workers began throwing rocks and stones. Although the militia pointed rifle barrels out the windows of the cars, they did not open fire. Instead the trains moved slowly through the crowds until they reached the downtown depot. Once there the militiamen were ordered to return to the crossing and clear the crowd from the tracks. This was on a Saturday. A local Pittsburgh steel manufacturer advised a Penn manager that it might be better to wait until Monday - not only were the workers usually drinking on weekends but, being off work for the weekend, they might turn out in support of the railroad strikers. His advice was ignored.[20]

By the time the soldiers reached the crossing the crowd had grown to several thousand. However daunting the job seemed they were under orders to clear the tracks. They began by leveling their bayonets and advancing. Those in the front of the crowd initially retreated but, with the size of the crowd, it was difficult to move anywhere. Some in the front tried to take the rifles away while those in the back began throwing stones and chunks of coal. Shooting began, although no one knew how it started, and whether the first shots came from the crowd or the militia. The crowd retreated from the crossing but more than a dozen people were dead or dying.[21]

The militia members retreated toward town and took cover in a roundhouse in the Penn rail yards.[22] It lay at the bottom of an incline. The crowd milling around the yards began setting fire to freight cars, as well as cars containing oil and coke destined for the steel mills, and rolling them downhill. When the cars derailed the burning content spilled across the tracks and ground.[23] Some of the cars derailed close to the roundhouse. By Sunday morning it was burning. The guardsmen evacuated the building and headed for the safety of the U.S. Arsenal. None were killed but some were hit and wounded by gunfire from the crowd in the retreat. The commander at the arsenal ordered a Gatling gun to fire toward the crowd, discouraging further attacks on those inside the building. The militia force could defend the arsenal and itself but was too small to do much else against the strikers. The rail yards and the town were unprotected. By Monday morning the mob had destroyed more than a hundred locomotives and two thousand freight cars, as well as a grain elevator and the city's main passenger depot.[24] Some of the rioters invaded the downtown area, both looting and starting fires. By Monday morning, smoke from the fires could still be seen rising from the rail yards, although most of the participants had gone home. Having destroyed some two square miles of the city and most of the railroad property, perhaps they felt there was little else worth destroying or perhaps the destruction in the rail yards had taken some of the edge off their anger. If the strike was over in Pittsburgh, it was only just beginning in other parts of the country.

The spread of the unrest suggested that it was growing in strength. At the same time, depending on the region, there was a note of uncertainty, even caution, on the part of strikers, especially when local authorities or businesses were quick to take decisive action. In Buffalo a mob surrounding a roundhouse of the Erie Railroad defended by a regiment of militia, started throwing rocks in preparation for an attack. When it looked like the militia were about to open fire however, they scattered. Looking for an easier target, some decided on the yards of the New York Central. The owner, William Vanderbilt, in anticipation of such action, had suspended New York Central traffic to Buffalo. With no trains coming in, the strikers returned to the Erie yards and began attacking cars there. When militia reinforcements arrived by train, the workers fired on the train and moved to take it. Some members of the militia were wounded but this time they responded by returning fire, leaving several rioters dead.[25] Buffalo was different than Pittsburgh. In Pittsburgh, rail workers had a reserve force of protesters - steelworkers who were off work or unemployed - close at hand. The steelworkers may not have liked the owners of the mills but they would be reluctant to jeopardize their jobs by destroying mill property. Buffalo, lacking the industrial facilities of Pittsburgh, could offer the rail workers little in the way of a large force ready to lend support. In fact, Buffalo could rely on a force of citizens openly hostile to the strikers. The sheriff easily found some three hundred volunteers willing to support the regular police against the workers. The police, armed with riot sticks, and backed by the volunteers, went after a small crowd trying to burn some New York Central cars, beating those they could catch and forcing others to scatter as they retreated.[26]

In Reading, Pennsylvania, the depot of the Reading Railroad was sacked - tracks were torn up, cars derailed and burned and equipment was smashed. An iron-and-wood bridge over the Schuylkill River, on the edge of town, was set on fire, after the wooden timbers had been soaked with coal oil. The crowd cheered when it collapsed and fell into the stream. Other rioters turned their anger on militiamen, throwing rocks and firing pistols. When the soldiers responded, their fire left nearly a dozen of the rioters dead or dying. Heavy rain, rather than militia action, discouraged rioters in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rioters managed to burn a bridge there but when they tried to burn other railroad property the rain put out the fires. The police commissioner in Toledo, perhaps short of officers, avoided trouble by expressing admiration - they were not slaves and were asserting their manhood - for the workers.[27]

Chicago did not avoid the strike but, early on, decided not to rely totally on outside help and to meet force with force. In addition,labor leaders sought to channel outrage away from violence and into political action. Two leaders of the recently-formed Workingmen's Party, Philip Van Patten and Albert Parsons, organized a rally, on Monday, July 23rd, which drew a crowd of thirty thousand to Market Street. The downtown rally may have drawn a crowd but that did not protect the rail yards, where mobs began attacking cars and rail property. The violence spread from there to the packinghouses, clothing plants, brickyards, and street cars. The Chicago Board of Trade hired Pinkerton guards and organized private militias to keep watch over affluent residential areas. The Board let the police use its store delivery trucks to transport police reinforcements.[28]

The next day, Tuesday, the police force decided to augment its size by hiring local unemployed toughs and deputizing them as "special deputies." Armed with clubs, they were told to clear the rail yards. Squads of police and the special deputies then attacked and beat the protesters in skirmishes throughout that day and the following day, Wednesday, leaving several fatalities. The police attacks had not intimidated all the workers. On Thursday, one police squad at Sixteenth and Halsted Street found itself surrounded by about five thousand protesters. Once the fighting began, it did not end until the afternoon, with more fatalities. That evening the police stormed a meeting of the Furniture-Workers Union and attacked those attending. One of those attending was shot and killed. The raid seemed to mark the end of the unrest in Chicago. In all, the number of deaths there was thirty.[29]

Other cities experienced unrest. In Galveston, black longshoremen went out on strike over demands for $2 a day. They were joined by whites. In Louisville, roving bands of white strikers were able to close some factories and besieged others, while black sewer workers there attacked the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.[30] St. Louis seemed to avoid much of the violence, perhaps because the business leaders and city authorities, unlike Chicago, were not expecting violence and had made no preparations, and partly because the strikers put on such a strong display of power, when they organized a march which drew some ten thousand through the center of town. The march was peaceful but some of the speakers at the rally adopted a threatening tone, with references to the French Revolution and the guillotine. To appease the strikers, businesses made some immediate concessions, such as wage hikes and shorter hours without loss of pay. Later, after the U.S. Army arrived and martial law was declared, the concessions were rescinded. The city also waited until later to arrest eighty of the strike leaders. No longer able to assemble a large crowd to defend them, some of the Workingmen's Party figures were seen jumping from the windows of their headquarters trying to avoid the arresting police officers. The police had little problem making the arrests.[31]

In San Francisco a mob set fire to a wharf owned by the Pacific Mail Steamship Line, an indirect way of attacking the Central Pacific Railroad, since Pacific Mail was a subsidiary of the Central Pacific. Did this represent a serious commitment to the cause of labor or simply a spontaneous expression of rage? After the wharf burned down the mob rioters did not look for other capitalist targets. Instead they turned their anger on the local Chinese community, spending the rest of the evening rampaging through Chinatown.[32]

The strike may have spread across the nation, from the East Coast to the West. Yet, after the initial explosion of violence, worker interest in confrontation and support for violent protest fell off. If the railroads did not have unlimited resources, they certainly had more than the workers. By the end of August, most workers had gone back to work and the uprising was over. In terms of the overall struggle between capitalism and the working class, the results were mixed. Many of pay cuts, which had contributed to the initial outburst, were restored in whole or in part by the railroads over the years. The Burlington President, Robert Harris observed that a pay reduction for employees could turn out to be as expensive as a pay increase. The city of Pittsburgh was sued by the Pennsylvania Railroad for the cost of the property destroyed in the rioting. The city lost and was forced to float a bond issue to pay for the damage. The person who had started the unrest, John D. Rockefeller, may have been the biggest winner. The Pennsylvania, which had suffered a fall in oil traffic from 52 to 30 percent, agreed to get out of the oil business and sell the Empire Line's assets to Rockefeller.[33]

Tom Scott, the President of the Pennsylvania, who had started the fight with both Rockefeller and the unions, probably turned out to be the biggest loser. A year after the strike, in the fall of 1878, he suffered the first of a series of strokes. He was forced to sell his interests in the Texas and Pacific Railroad, almost a pet project, to Jay Gould. He resigned as President of the Penn in 1880 and died in 1882, at the age of 57.[34]

The Great Upheaval of 1886

The year 1886 would see a labor protest which, in many ways was much larger than the Railroad Strike of 1877. Labor was better organized and did a better job of coordinating the regional protests, than in 1877. More than six hundred thousand workers walked out of shops, factories, and work sites. Fourteen hundred separate strikes affected 11,562 businesses.[35] In the end however, divisions within the Knights of Labor, till then the most successful union organization, and between different classes of workers, a lack of public support, and legal and political opposition doomed the strike effort.

The Great Upheaval began in March 1886, with what seemed like a regional, and smaller strike, with an ambitious name - the Great Southwest Strike.[36] It took its name from the Southwest System operated by Jay Gould. In 1885, Gould had cut wages on several rail lines: the Wabash and Missouri, Kansas and Texas, and the Missouri Pacific.[37] In 1885, following a series of strike actions, the head of the Knights of Labor, Terence Powderly, and Joseph Buchanan, one of its major organizers, had met with Jay Gould and extracted a promise that, if Gould would accept their right to organize, the Knights would not strike Gould's railroads unless they consulted with Gould's management first.[38] The agreement raised the stature of the Knights and their membership increased. Gould stuck to the letter of the agreement, at least formally, through early 1886 but then looked for an excuse to break it, while making it look like the Knights were the ones who had violated its terms. On its surface, the action was unfair, but that unfairness was intended to provoke outrage among union member rank and file. A foreman gave his permission to a local Knights leader to attend a Knight's district meeting. After he left for the meeting he was fired for leaving work. Outraged, Knights District Assembly 101 almost immediately called a strike.[39]

Within the Gould system the numbers for union participation in the strike were sizable - some fourteen thousand workers walked off or were laid off.[40] The number was large enough to impact businesses which relied on the rails for shipping. While some farmers and businessmen were sympathetic to the worker cause, they began to worry that the strike would prevent them from shipping or receiving goods. Public support for the strike began to fall off. In addition, the strikers could not get the support of the most skilled workers. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers would not support a strike and most of those with higher skills - engineers, brakemen, conductors, and firemen - were not sympathetic, or if sympathetic, were not inclined to go along with the strike.[41] Gould had kept their loyalty, or at least bought their neutrality, by not cutting their wages.

The lack of public support would likely have doomed the strike in the long run, but Gould had another card to play, which accelerated its decline. He took the unions to court in Texas, argued that, since the Texas and Pacific was in receivership, the strikers were federal employees and were not entitled to strike. Federal marshals could be used against the strikers. In mid-March, federal courts in Missouri, issued injunctions against the strikers and ordered them to vacate railroad property.[42] Pinkertons, as well as other detectives, were hired by the railroads and then deputized them as federal marshals. In many situations, facing strikers they considered dangerous mobs, the newly-hired marshals, backed up by state militia and police, fired directly into the crowds.[43]

As the strike wound down, it experienced some final spasms of protest - some 350,000 workers walked out on May 1. The Knights called off the strike on May 4, 1886. The day before, Chicago police had fired into a crowd of workers striking at the McCormick Reaper Works, on Chicago's south side, killing six.[44] On the evening of May 4 labor activists held a rally at the Haymarket, at Randolph Street and Desplaines. Just before 10:00 p.m. in the evening it began to rain. The crowd began to drift away and had dwindled to five hundred when one of the last speakers said something considered provocative, which caused the police to move in.[45] As the police advanced, a bomb was thrown from the crowd into the police ranks. There was an explosion, followed by gunfire. Seven police died, as well as five workers. Sixty-seven police were badly hurt, as well as fifty workers.[46] It was unclear whether the police deaths were the result of the bomb explosion or came from the panicked police firing wildly into their own ranks.[47] Seven people would be charged, in a trial which began only six weeks later, on June 21, 1886, six found guilty of murder on August 19, and four hanged on November 11, 1887.[48]

Although the unrest of the Great Upheaval continued through much of 1886, the interest in striking and violent confrontation began to run out of steam with the end of the Southwest Strike and the Haymarket affair.[49] The Knights of Labor, which had seen its membership grow to 729,000 by July 1886, as a result of the victories over Jay Gould in 1885, began to lose members, so that by 1893, it counted only seventy-five thousand.[50],[51],[52] There was a loss of public support and a conservative backlash which created an environment of hostility and violence. The courts favored employers with ruling which went against unions or strikers. Government, at both the federal and state level, was more willing to intervene in labor disputes. Where federal troops were not sent in, state militia were used to put down strikes.

The Racial Divide - Labor Idealism and Ethnic Conflict

Marx and Engels might have seen the workers of the world as an idealistic class willing to sacrifice for the common good against the evils of capitalism. At the same time, they were seeing the class struggle from the perspective of a Europe which, by-and-large, was ethnically and racially uniform. Marx himself, as founder of the International Workingmen's Association (IWA), did voice support for the inclusion of freed slaves in his worker associations.[53] The capitalist system may have created divisions in wealth between the factory owners and workers but both classes had emerged from societies and countries with a common European culture and heritage. The United States, from its very beginnings, had started with a less unified and more diverse racial and ethnic base. To be sure, the conflicts between European states had carried over to the New World. The English settlers came into conflict with the French to the north, in Canada, and with the Spanish to the south, in Florida, Mexico and South America. At the same time, the early American colonists saw themselves as part of a European racial and cultural society which was different from the native American tribes or the black slaves of the South. It had its parallels in the attitudes and actions of the Spanish Conquistadors to the south, in the treatment of the Aztecs by Cortes in Mexico, the Incas by Pizarro, or the Indian tribes of the American southeast during the expedition of Hernando de Soto. As the American West was settled, the same 'European outlook' and racial tensions seen in the East would play out in conflicts between settlers and the immigrant Chinese communities.

Capitalists may be criticized for their willingness to exploit divisions within labor. However, when it came to racial conflict, workers were often all too willing participants in violent action against ethnic or racial minorities, whether it involved labor disputes or not. It was hardly a recipe for uniting the workers of the world.

The New York City Draft Riots - July 1863

When Fort Sumter fell on April 13, 1861, the U.S. Army consisted of just over sixteen thousand men and a thousand officers, most of whom were in service out west.[54] Fearing that Washington itself was in danger and with Congress adjourned, President Lincoln called on the governors of the Union to raise raise a force of seventy-five thousand militia volunteers which, hopefully would arrive in time to defend the capital. The first to arrive, on April 18, was a militia contingent from Pennsylvania.[55] The immediate threat seemed to be over.

Among the first volunteers were Irish immigrants living in New York City. A crowd turned out on April 23rd to watch over a thousand volunteers of the 69th New York Volunteers, later renowned as the Fighting 69th, board a steamboat bound for Washington. They had been organized by Colonel Michael Corcoran, born in Sligo in 1827. Another Irishman, Thomas Francis Meagher, organized a company of a hundred volunteers, which would join the 69th.[56] The incentive, at the time, may have been a steady job and pay for three months but many of the early recruits joined out of a sense of patriotism. In all, nearly 150,000 Irishmen would fight for the Union.

Corcoran, and the 69th, would earn their 'Fighting' reputation at the First Battle of Bull Run in July 1861 when they stood their ground as a Confederate force advanced and surrounded them. Corcoran and some six hundred of his men were captured. Corcoran would stay out of action, as a prisoner, for the next year.[57] Apart from Corcoran's capture, casualties among the Irish at Bull Run were fairly light, allowing Meagher, who had survived the battle, to raise another Irish Brigade, from those mustered out after their three-month service.[58]

The battle of Antietam, in September 1862, would see casualties among the Irish dramatically rise. Meagher's new Irish Brigade held the center of the Union line against Confederate attacks but some of its units lost more than half their men. President Lincoln would issue a Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation on September 22, five days after Antietam, which would free slaves in the states of the Confederacy after January 1, 1863. The proclamation, combined with losses at Antietam, dampened the enthusiasm of potential Irish recruits, as Michael Corcoran discovered in trying to form a new Irish brigade.[59] In December, Meagher's Irish Brigade added to their reputation during the battle of Fredericksburg but also suffered heavy casualties with their charges against the Confederate position on Marye's Heights. At Chancellorsville, in May 1863 they would again suffer heavy losses. Of the five thousand recruited, there were only five hundred left at the end of the battle.[60]

As the Union army continued to suffer battlefield defeats and mounting casualty figures, support for the war began to wane, along with a reduction in the number of volunteers. Lincoln was forced to consider a draft to provide new recruits - the army put the number needed at three hundred thousand. In March 1863 he signed the Enrollment Act, making men between twenty-five and forty eligible for conscription.[61] Although there were protests and opposition nationwide, nothing happened immediately, or at least nothing large enough to make national headlines.

On Monday, July 6, 1863, New York newspapers reported on the Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. If the victories raised hopes about the end of the war, the lists of the twenty-three thousand Union casualties at Gettysburg were a sobering reminder of the cost of the war so far. There was an announcement that the first draftee's names would be drawn that Saturday, July 11th.[62] There had been some signs of opposition. A construction worker had threatened an enrollment officer collecting names at a city construction site with a crowbar, prompting the agent to pull a pistol.[63] Colonel Robert Nugent, a former member of both Corcoran's 69th and Meagher's Irish Brigade who had been wounded at Fredericksburg, now provost marshal of New York, chose to have the Saturday drawing at the draft office at Third Avenue and 46th Street, an undeveloped area away from most populated areas.[64]

While newspapermen reported general grumbling at the bars they visited over the weekend, nothing suggested the complaining would go beyond the grumbling stage. That changed on Monday morning when, around eight o'clock, workers marched from Central Park to the draft office on 46th Street. As the crowd massed outside the draft office, firemen from Engine Company 33 arrived with a wagon of stones. One of their company had been drawn in the Saturday lottery. They were angered that, while exempt from state militia conscription, they were not exempt from the federal draft. The crowd, which at first had been milling outside the office, became more animated. Stones were thrown through the draft office windows, then a shot was fired. The crowd then broke into the offices in an attempt to destroy records. The building was then set on fire. The mob then roamed through the streets, stopping street-cars and beating any blacks they found.[65]

The Colored Orphan Asylum on Fifth Avenue was attacked. While the 237 children were helped to safety, the building was looted and burned.[66] Homes of blacks were targeted. Heavy rain on Monday night did not end the violence. The next morning, a black sailor asked for directions to a grocery store was attacked and beaten so badly he died several hours later. On Wednesday three blacks were lynched - one was hanged from a lamppost.[67] Union troops from units which had fought at Gettysburg began arriving on Wednesday night and Thursday morning. Marching up the streets and avenues in force, they fired on the rioters with muskets and howitzers. This was followed by door-to-door searches for rioters who had taken over abandoned houses. Squads of police and soldiers patrolled the streets.[68]

The official death toll was 119, although the number may have been higher. Of that number, 18 were black. Property damage was estimated at $5 million, and 3,000 were left homeless.[69] The draft riots may have been one of the more high-profile examples of racial tensions and violence in the U.S. and the labor movement. New York itself had suffered other violent outbursts, some fairly close in time to the draft riots. In August 1862 a few hundred white workers had attacked and set fire to a Brooklyn tobacco factory that employed mostly black men, women, and children. The owner promised not to hire any more Negroes. In the following weeks blacks were randomly attacked by white gangs in the streets. In February 1863 shipyard and iron workers, at a mass meeting in front of Tammany Hall, denounced their employers for importing hordes of blacks from the South. In March a thousand strikers on the Hudson waterfront drove off Negro scabs with sticks and fists. This was followed in April by a three-day violent outburst, when hundreds of longshoremen beat any blacks found near the docks. Two blacks were nearly killed before the police stepped in to stop the lynchings.[70]

Racial antagonism within the labor movement went far beyond New York City. The first national labor federation, the National Labor Union (NLU) founded in 1866 wanted to include freedmen, former slaves, in its ranks but gave up and in 1869 asked black delegates to form a separate all-black organization, which they did, called the Colored National Labor Union (CNLU).[71] The Knights of Labor attempted to expand its membership to include blacks but discovered they had little support. In October 1886, at the tenth annual convention of the Knights, held in Richmond, Terence Powderly had one of the black delegates from Assembly 49, Frank Farrell, to introduce him. Black membership in the Knights was substantial, roughly sixty thousand. However, if the convention welcomed Farrell, he and his delegation were denied accommodations at a Richmond hotel, and when they attempted to integrate a Richmond theater an armed mob of whites confronted them the second night.[72] In Louisiana, the Knights failed to support or protect black sugarcane workers in 1887. Some ten thousand sugarcane workers declared themselves Knights and went on strike. The state militia was called in and the strike was broken. The militia maintained order while there but once it was withdrawn a white vigilante force went on a rampage in the town of Thibodaux. Dozens were killed and hundreds injured as the vigilantes hunted down and executed strike leaders and strikers.[73]

The Rock Springs Massacre - September 1885

In the West, racial tensions existed, but most of the hostility was directed at the Chinese community. The Knights of Labor again, fearful of losing white support, found itself siding against the Chinese.[74] The labor movement also mirrored the national mood and outlook. In 1882 President Chester A. Arthur would sign the Chinese Exclusion Act, which provided for a ten-year moratorium on immigration and a ban on Chinese citizenship.[75]

Rock Springs was a small coal-mining town along Bitter Creek in the high desert of Wyoming. Its main historical point of reference was its proximity to the hangout of Butch Cassidy and his Hole in the Wall gang, who had set up operations nearby. In 1885 mine workers numbered just 331 Chinese miners and 150 whites.[76] On September 2, 1885 there was a dispute between the white miners and the Chinese over who had the right to work a particular room, or working section, of the mine. The room in dispute was a premium site simply because it had access to fresh air. A less favorable room did not have the same access, although it would have been easy to bring in fresh air by digging a crosscut or breakthrough. Isaiah Whitehouse, the white supervisor, refused to dig the breakthrough unless the company paid him. The company told him to dig it for free or the premium room would go to the Chinese.[77]

Whitehouse, rather than arguing with management, started a discussion with the Chinese. It turned into an argument, then one of the Chinese swung a pick at Whitehouse, who knocked the Chinese worker down. Co-workers of Whitehouse rushed to his support and the dispute turned into a general melee. By afternoon the underground fight expanded to the town above. White miners turned into an armed mob which invaded the Chinese section, shooting Chinese encountered on the streets and setting fire to houses where the Chinese had taken refuge, burning those inside alive. Some of the Chinese fled into the desert and mountains hoping to escape, although witnesses reported hearing gunshots in the hills that afternoon. The bodies of those killed in the town were not buried immediately, allowing hogs to devour the flesh. The number of Chinese who died in the riot or its aftermath was around fifty. They also lost an estimated $200,000 in savings, which was either stolen or burned.[78]

Other communities followed suit. By the spring of 1886, 150 western communities had expelled, or attempted to expel, the Chinese.[79] In Tacoma, mobs burned down the city's Chinatown, evicted the Chinese, and beat some of them. No murders took place during this outburst. In Seattle, only the presence of federal troops and state militia prevented the expulsion of the Chinese. However, in view of mob action, most of the Chinese decided it was better to leave anyway, accepting a negotiated settlement to abandon the city. Territorial Governor Watson Squire, who had requested the federal troops to protect the Chinese in Seattle, later ran for the U.S. Senate on an anti-Chinese platform.[80] Even the California Knights did not view the Chinese as part of the labor movement. They declared them to be tools of monopolies and a menace to free labor and free men. White Westerners had no choice but to expel those who were unable to assimilate.[81]

Skilled Labor - Market driven barriers

In the US, market forces often dictated the negotiating power of workers. Those with unique or valued skills could command better treatment and higher wages. Those with few skills found their bargaining power reduced. It would have been a natural inclination, on the part of skilled workers, to use their skills try to better themselves. The market created a demand for certain skills, and most workers would be ambitious enough to take advantage of whatever skills they possessed. At the same time, this fact represented another significant obstacle, or barrier to the vision of a united labor movement. The factory system, where machines were capable of producing a uniformly high-quality product, no longer needed the skills of a highly trained artisan. The only skill needed was that of operating the machinery. In many ways it opened up new job opportunities for those with few skills and little experience. The downside of such a low skill threshold was that, while low-skill workers could more easily find employment, they could just as easily be replaced - not unlike the factory system itself - one interchangeable part could be cheaply replaced by another.

If the labor movement, or Karl Marx, saw itself as championing the workers of the world, its first challenge was to overcome the barrier, or divide, created by the skill-level of individual workers. For labor, uniting skilled and unskilled workers under one tent was a steep climb, probably too steep. In market terms, workers with greater skills were in greater demand and could command higher wages, while unskilled workers found that the market would not generate the demand they needed to find employment. Labor leaders, despite their best efforts, never really reconciled the realities of a labor market which was willing to pay premium prices for in-demand skills with the aspirations of unskilled laborers whose market demand was low. Jay Gould, before the Southwest Strike, if nothing else, was more realistic than other business owners in recognizing the existence of a skills divide within the labor force. He was also more adept at exploiting that division. He treated his engineers, brakemen, conductors, and firemen better than ordinary laborers so that, when the call for a strike went out, the unions lacked the support they needed.[82]

The Legal System - From Hostility to Neutrality to Acceptance

As if problems of race and skills differences weren't bad enough, the labor movement also had to face a legal system which was, at best neutral, at worst, openly hostile. In 1805 the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers (FSJC) went on strike against Philadelphia shoemakers for higher wages. Eight of the leaders were arrested and tried for conspiracy under English Common Law. The 'conspiracy' involved a manufacturer's agreement with the union that prevented the manufacturers from hiring non-union workers. The jury found the defendants guilty and they were fined eight dollars each (about a week's wages). When the Philadelphia court issued its ruling in 1806, it declared that union members were engaged in an illegal conspiracy, effectively making union organizing attempts illegal conspiracies.[83] The case may have involved more than differing views of contract law, since the prosecution accused the defendants of threatening shoemakers hired to fill their jobs.[84]

For many years the 1806 Philadelphia ruling was accepted and followed by most courts. Some twenty indictments were issued against worker groups in the following decades.[85] At the same time, the intensity of prosecution efforts seemed to parallel the business cycle. Strikes, boycotts and similar union actions were prosecuted more vigorously in depression years while court action during prosperous times for the same union activities tended to diminish.[86]

Not until 1842, with the Massachusetts case of Commonwealth v. Hunt, would the courts take a different view of union activity.[87] Where the earlier Philadelphia case held that workers were essentially engaged in an illegal conspiracy simply by joining a union, the 1842 case held that there was nothing illegal about negotiating for or asking for more money and simply belonging to an organization whose goal was to bargain for higher wages did not constitute a conspiracy.[88]

The change in attitude by the courts at least allowed unions to organize. By 1870 there were thirty-three national unions with overall membership of around three hundred thousand.[89] Neutrality by the courts could not generate worker support or enthusiasm. Even before the Great Strike of 1877, union membership had been on the decline. In 1876 union membership was only fifty thousand and in 1877 there were only nine national unions.[90] If the 1877 strike brought the grievances of labor to the attention of the nation, it had a negative impact on public perceptions and the political landscape. The unions may have seen the unrest as a sign of their power but the destruction that came with it unsettled many and created a backlash and push to put down civil disorder in the future. There was an expansion of the National Guard and, with the support of business leaders in the North, an increase in the construction of armories in urban industrial areas.[91] In the 1880s New York state funded twenty-six armories outside the city of New York. The new National Guard units created were less likely to be sympathetic to labor, since they were recruited from the middle classes. They were also better-financed and better-armed. The federal government also doubled appropriations to equip National Guard units in 1887. Between 1886 and 1895 governors used the Guard to quell civil disorder 328 times.[92]

At a time when unions were struggling to justify their worth in the eyes of workers they found themselves facing an increasingly hostile legal system. The pendulum which had swung against the unions in 1806 in Philadelphia, had swung in their favor in 1842 in Massachusetts, now reversed direction again. Around 1886 federal courts began to view contracts between workers and employers as deserving of a special status, almost sacrosanct. Whether they called it 'liberty of contract' or 'freedom of contract' or 'natural law,' they saw strikes as restricting free trade and competition.[93], [94] Notions of conspiracy were still there. However strikes or boycotts were now conspiracies, not just against employers or the market system, but against the rights of other workers. Federal courts took this idea a step further when they began to invalidate state laws involving workplace safety and health - state legislatures could not even limit hours or regulate conditions.

The first major application of the liberty of contract theory was in the Southwestern strike of 1886. The federal court overseeing the receivership of Jay Gould's Texas and Pacific line ruled the strike by the Knights illegal and authorized the use of federal marshals to suppress it. Short of marshals, the railroads hired and deputized Pinkertons to augment their forces. The strikers responded with acts of arson, disabling of trains, and stoning of crews. Fort Worth, St. Louis and East St. Louis, Illinois saw pitched battles in March. The federal courts in Missouri joined the Texas courts and issued injunctions against the strikers.[95]

The passage of the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, which was aimed at curbing the monopolistic activities of large corporations, provided federal courts with an unexpected new tool to use against unions.[96] The legal justification for action against unions switched from violations of "natural law" to charges that union activities were combinations in restraint of trade under the Sherman Act. Between 1890 and 1897 the Court would invoke antitrust law thirteen times in its decisions. Twelve of those decisions involved labor activities. The Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), a creation of the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, was largely stripped of most of its powers in 1897 in the case of U.S. v. Trans-Missouri Freight Association, but the case also ruled that any agreement in restraint of trade was illegal. Strikes could be considered agreements in restraint of trade.[97]

Unions could claim a small victory in 1898 with the passage of the Erdman Act, which acknowledged the right of railroad unions to exist, provided for federal mediation of labor disputes, and outlawed yellow-dog contracts, which required new hires to agree not to join unions.[98] In 1908 however, in Adair v. United States, the Supreme Court held that Congress had no authority to govern trade union membership or limit employer's rights to contract with labor. The decision was only one of a number of anti-union decisions which were part of what was known as the Lochner era, which was named for the 1905 decision in Lochner v. New York, which invalidated an 1895 New York law regulating the hours of bakers.[99] In 1915, the Court would uphold an award of treble damages under the Sherman Act against the United Hatters of North America, enforced by the attachment of the union member's individual bank accounts coupled with a threat to foreclose on more than two hundred of the workers' homes. The union members were rescued from financial ruin by the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which managed to raise the money to pay the fines with a national donation campaign.[100]

Unions seemed to gain another victory in 1914, with the passage of the Clayton Act by Congress, which tried to exempt unions from the anti-trust provisions of the Sherman Act, while allowing peaceful strikes, picketing and secondary boycotts. In 1921, however the Supreme Court largely invalidated the Act. Perhaps the last major ruling of the Lochner Era court came in 1923, when the Court held that a 1918 federal law setting a minimum wage for women workers in the District of Columbia (mostly nurses) was invalid, based on the old 'liberty of contract' theory.[101]

Despite the Supreme Court, attempts at federal legislation continued. In 1926, the Railway Labor Act guaranteed railroad workers the right to join a union. The Norris-La Guardia Act, passed in March 1932, abolished yellow-dog contracts, restricted injunctions in labor disputes, and largely removed the federal courts from involvement in labor disputes.[102] In 1933 Congress would add Section 7(a) to the National Industrial Recovery Act (NIRA), which guaranteed workers the right to organize and bargain collectively.[103] In 1935, the NIRA would be declared unconstitutional.[104] In July 1935, Congress would pass the National Labor Relations Act, known as the Wagner Act, which would set up the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). (Union Power, p 450 & 453) The Wagner Act limited employer interference in union organizing and recognized union legitimacy with federal oversight of the union election process. [105] In 1937, the Supreme Court, in a philosophical reversal, perhaps resulting from Roosevelt's overwhelming reelection in 1936, narrowly upheld the constitutionality of the Wagner Act.[106]

Labor Struggles - Violent Action and Violent Reaction

England, although it seemed to manage its labor conflicts with relative success, had seen periods of relative calm and examples of extreme violence. If it could not be described as a model for American labor relations, labor conflict in the U.S. seemed to pattern itself after England. It seemed to start from relatively small beginnings. During one of the protests which led to the trial of the Philadelphia shoemakers in 1806, someone threw a potato through a window. The prosecution also claimed that some of the strikers had threatened other workers in the course of the strike.[107]

Prior to 1800 the American economy was so diverse and growing that labor unions and collective bargaining were rare, although not unheard of. Industrialization, and large-scale factory production were still in the future, but a not very distant future. The oldest trade guild in America was the Carpenters' Company of the City and County of Philadelphia, which completed its guildhall, known as the Carpenters' Hall, in 1770. It would serve as the meeting place for the First Continental Congress in September 1774.[108]

About halfway between Salem, Massachusetts and Boston, lies the town of Lynn. Known for its shoemaking tradition, industrialization had come later than its neighbor to the west, the textile-producing town of Lowell, established in 1821. Lowell had seen the beginnings of a labor movement in 1844, when, the mostly female workforce, had created the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association (LFLRA) with the goal of reducing the work day to ten hours.[109] Save for a few rallies, and a verbal attack which led to the demise of the journal "Lowell Offering," a 'factory girl's' publication which was seen as more of a public relations tool for mill owners, the protests remained relatively peaceful.[110] The "Lowell Miracle" was coming to an end anyway and an economic slowdown in the late 1850s led to reduced demand and layoffs.[111]

Lynn, Massachusetts, on the eve of the Civil War, in contrast, would see the beginnings of a period marked by growing labor unrest and violence. It did not reach the levels experienced during the Great Strike of 1877 but it slowly snowballed. The first treadle sewing machine appeared in Lynn in 1852 and by 1860 production of shoes had doubled.[112] In February 1860, after factory owners lowered wages, shoemakers declared a strike. February 22, 1860 was Washington's birthday and the strikers held a rally. The next day strikers, believing that the factories were shipping out surplus inventories of shoes, roughed up a wagon driver, stopped a second wagon and threw out stocks of shoes being carried. The city marshal, trying to restore order, had his hat knocked off and his coat torn by strikers. A town constable, trying to stop the destruction of shoes at a loading dock, was also knocked down and dragged along the ground, until he pulled a gun. Lynn authorities requested help from Boston, which sent a squad of thirty Boston policemen. As they advanced, the crowd chanted "Brass Buttons! Brass Buttons!" Then someone threw a stone, which hit one of the policemen in the head, resulting in a short fight with the strikers being hit by police clubs. Tensions eased when the police were withdrawn the next day. After three months the strike ended without factory owners giving in to their demands. Although the unions had seemingly lost the strike, factory owners nevertheless increased wages after the strike was over.[113]

Anthracite Mining, Schuylkill County, and the Molly Maguires

The New York City draft riots of 1863, only a few years after the Lynn unrest, represented a significant increase, both in the level of violence and a step-up in the governmental response. The end of the Civil War brought a period of relative peace. There was some sympathy for the cause of labor. Following the Avondale mine disaster, in which 179 miners died as a result of a fire in September 1869, Pennsylvania passed the Mine Safety Act of 1870, which required mines to have two means of entry and exit.[114] Relative calm would prevail for the next few years, although, when violence reappeared, Pennsylvania would serve as the battlefield.

Pennsylvania's labor problems would come at a time, oddly enough, when mine operators and the miner's union, the Workingmen's Benevolent Association (WBA), had signed an agreement.[115] The miners were up against an extremely ambitious capitalist, Franklin B. Gowen, the president of the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad. The dispute involved a coal-mining region of southeastern Pennsylvania, centered around Pottsville, the county of seat of Schuylkill County, about fifty miles northwest of Philadelphia. Pennsylvania has other coal beds in its western region, part of the Appalachian fields, but they are mostly bituminous coal. The Schuylkill coal beds were primarily anthracite, a relatively rare form of coal produced under high pressure. Anthracite, or hard coal, is difficult to ignite but is dust-free and smokeless, once it starts to burn. In comparison to wood, coal has more energy per pound, and anthracite, despite difficulties with ignition, provides a very high heat content.[116]

Anthracite may have been valuable as a fuel but hardly in a class with gold or silver. The problem, from an economic perspective, was the cyclical nature of demand and prices, which fluctuated. Keeping anthracite off the market could create relative scarcity and drive up prices. Going on strike certainly kept coal off the market and led to wage increases but also brought long periods of unemployment for the miners, undercutting whatever gains were made on the wage front. From the perspective of the mine owners, the increased prices which followed strike-created scarcity were never high enough to make anthracite profitable.[117]

Franklin Gowen attacked the economic problems on several fronts. In the 1870s he began buying up coal leases as they came on the market through a front organization, the Laurel Run Improvement Company, then leased them back to mine operators, who served as mine superintendents or land agents. By 1874 it would own a hundred thousand acres of coal producing property.[118] He had the Reading lend money for improvements, hoping to increase the value of anthracite by improving the quality of what was produced. When this did not create a stable and profitable market, he formed a cartel with competing railroads to divide up the market. The cartel members agreed to limit rail line shipments of coal for their individual railroads in return for a base price of $5 a ton. This worked on the revenue side, however depression during 1874 reduced factory demand for coal and the price fell below the $5 floor. The only other option, in terms of profits, was to cut costs, and the cartel cut wages by 10-20 percent.[119] The response of the WBA and its members was to call a strike on January 1, 1875. What became known as the "Long Strike" would last through June, when the workers and the WBA, both out of money, called off the strike.[120]

The collapse of the Long Strike and the destruction of the union might have suggested that Frank Gowen had finally achieved what he wanted. In fact, he was looking, not just for the destruction of one particular union, the WBA, but almost the elimination of the idea of miners organizing themselves at all. It was part of a long-term plan, which had been implemented, starting in 1873. In 1873 the Pennsylvania legislature approved Gowen's request for the creation of a private police force, the Reading Coal and Iron Police.[121] The Reading force was not unique nor was the idea new to Pennsylvania. In 1866 and 1867, the legislature had approved a similar request by other mine owners for a Coal and Iron Police. They may have been a private police force, paid for by the coal industry, but legislative authorization gave them legitimacy and allowed them to exercise many of the police powers of the state. While they were clearly an arm of the coal industry, they might be compared to the Texas Rangers, who were authorized by the state but not officially part of the state organization. It was in 1873 that Gowen, through the Pinkerton Detective Agency, sent an undercover operative into the coalfields to infiltrate the union and the resistance movement.[122]

In September 1875, just a few months after the end of the Long Strike, Gowen ordered two dozen men arrested, accused, not just of murder, but of belonging to a terror group known as the Molly Maguires. The national press became fascinated with the story, encouraged, no doubt, by the editor of the "Miner's Journal," who dubbed Schuylkill County,"Murder County." In some ways, it was an apt description, since there had been a number of unsolved murders, or at least murders in which no one had been convicted. Some of the violence appeared to be directly related to the labor conflict. Mine bosses Thomas Sanger and John Jones, and a miner named William Uren, had been gunned down by five strangers, who had showed up at SM Heaton & Company's colliery at Raven Run, pretending to look for work. Less clearly related to labor tensions was the murder of Tamaqua police chief Benjamin Yost, killed early one morning while dousing Tamaqua street lamps. He had been warned about investigating too much the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), an Irish-associated fraternal order.[123]

Even earlier, during the Civil War, Schuylkill County had seen its share of murders. Gowen had been serving as district attorney for Schuylkill County at the time and had been unable to secure convictions.[124] From his investigations he may have known more about the perpetrators than he could actually prove in court. When he hired Allan Pinkerton for his undercover work, it is difficult to say whether he was thinking as a former prosecutor looking for hard evidence of criminal activity or as the president of the Reading Railroad, looking for ammunition which could be used to tarnish and destroy the union opposition. Gowen, in talking with Pinkerton, certainly emphasized the supposed criminal nature of the Molly Maguires and the Irish community.[125]

Pinkerton found an almost perfect undercover agent in James McParlan, a twenty-nine-year-old Irish immigrant with a policeman's law-and-order view of the criminal world. He had previously worked Chicago's streetcars, gathering evidence against dishonest conductors. Taking the name James McKenna, he claimed to be on the run for a Buffalo murder he had committed, briefly worked in the mines, and was eventually made an officer of the AOH. His most valued skill - his ability to read and write.[126] He would accumulate a list of 374 people he suspected of criminal activity. His undercover work came to an end in early 1876 when one of the railroad conductors from Chicago recognized him and exposed him as a Pinkerton. In March he slipped out of the region before the Mollies could lay their hands on him.[127]

The trials of those arrested, more show trials than anything else, moved quickly. Gowen, a private citizen, announced that he would lead the prosecution.[128] He packed the juries with Pennsylvania Dutch, even including jurors who only spoke German. McParlan, now known as an informer, served as the main witness, along with former Mollie witnesses who gave testimony in return for leniency for other crimes they were accused of. Following conviction, ten of the Mollies were hanged in Pottsville and nearby Mauch Chunk, on June 21, 1876. The last of the trials ended in 1878, resulting in another ten executions, and two dozen prison sentences.[129]

The level of violence related to the labor conflict in the anthracite region, as sensational as it seemed, given the headlines involving the Mollie Maguires and the retribution carried out by the mine owners, was relatively small when compared to the injuries and deaths suffered in everyday mining operations. Whether the dangers of mining in the region were related to the indifference of mine owners to safety conditions in the mines, or to the geological structure of anthracite formations, or even the physical properties of anthracite itself, anthracite miners in the region died at three times the rate of miners in the coal mines of Great Britain. Schuylkill County alone, between 1870 and 1875, saw 556 mining deaths and 1,667 injuries from mining accidents.[130]

Whether Franklin Gowen's obsession with the destruction of the union made economic sense is an open question. In the early 1880s, a few years after the courtroom victories over the Mollies and nearly complete dominance of the Schuylkill County economy, the Reading went into receivership, a result of borrowing more than it could repay.[131]

Andrew Carnegie and George Pullman - Public Images Destroyed

Andrew Carnegie, in building up Carnegie Steel, took pains to cultivate a public image as a friend of the average working man, even getting to know many of his foreign workers by their first names. In 1886, in two articles in "Forum" magazine he had expressed sympathy for the rights of workingmen.[132] Such idealistic expressions were on a collision course with Carnegie's obsession with cost cutting and efficiency. Technology and market forces gave him an advantage. The market was demanding steel, instead of iron, and the Bessemer process was more technology-driven than iron production. One of Carnegie's newer plants, the Phoenix steel mill, employed a chemist to supervise production along with two melters. It may have actually made for improved working conditions. Carnegie's sympathetic statements were at odds with the brutal conditions under which he forced workers to do their jobs - twelve-hour days for six, and eventually seven days a week. Deaths and injuries were high. One of his managers at the Edgar Thomson Works, Captain "Bill" Jones, was killed in a blast furnace explosion in September 1889.[133])

Carnegie, for all his rhetoric, was also not above bringing in scab labor, locking out workers, and employing Pinkertons. He broke a strike at the Edgar Thomson works, as well as the Knights of Labor, in 1888, using such methods.[134] In 1883 Carnegie had bought the Homestead works, one of America's largest steel-making facilities, on the Monongahela River southeast of Pittsburgh. In 1889 he tried to wrest control of the complex from the union representing the skilled workers, the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AAISW). In spite of Carnegie's attempts to intimidate the workers with strikebreakers and detectives, the union managed to maintain a united front among its members, forcing Carnegie to back down, granting a three-year contract.[135]

Carnegie had not forgotten his original goal, the elimination of the union, when the contract came up for renewal in 1892. He did decide to use a different approach - leaving the operation and its details in the hands of the new chairman of Carnegie Steel, Henry Clay Frick. Carnegie himself, at this time, chose to take an extended vacation in Aberdeen, Scotland.

Frick, in the month or so before the contract was set to expire, seemed to be preparing for a war or at least a major battle around the Homestead complex. The workers dubbed the preparations "Fort Frick," for the construction of a ten-foot high fence around the plant, topped with barbed wire, with holes for rifles. In addition, the construction included a series of watchtowers complete with searchlights. When the preparations were complete, Frick made his move.[136]

On June 28th, the entire Homestead workforce was locked out of the plant. On July 1st, the date Carnegie consolidated all of his properties into Carnegie Steel, Frick announced that Homestead would be operated as a nonunion mill.[137], [138] The Amalgamated union immediately went on strike. Frick's plan was to use scab labor to operate the mill. The problem was getting the replacements inside the plant. The Homestead plant was not an island, but there were basically two routes which would lead to the plant. One was through the town of Homestead. The other, easier approach, was from the river side, where the Monongahela flowed by the plant. Most of the residents of Homestead were union members, and the union was able to recruit one thousand volunteers as watch committees, enough to prevent strike breakers from using the town to enter the plant. To deal with the river approach, the union rented a small boat, the Edna, to patrol the waters. On July 5, the Allegheny County sheriff, William H. McCleary, along with some deputies, attempted to officially take control of the plant, was intercepted and taken to Pittsburgh on the Edna.[139]

The next encounter came early in the morning on July 6th. The Carnegie company had purchased two barges, one named the Iron Mountain, the other the Monongahela. The Iron Mountain was large enough to serve as a dormitory for 300 Pinkerton agents. The Monongahela had a kitchen and dining area. A third vessel, the tugboat Little Bill, had been engaged to tow the other two boats up to the Homestead facility. The union had a telegraph connection to the outside world and, about 2 a.m., it was notified that the two barges were headed for the plant. The union's Edna headed out to watch for the approach on the river. When the barges were sighted, the Edna fired a few warning shots, then headed back to Homestead to raise the alarm.[140]

By the time the Little Bill arrived with the barges, a large crowd of strikers and residents of Homestead had assembled at the landing. Some were armed with shotguns and pistols. When the Pinkertons tried to force their way ashore, gunfire erupted, leaving some wounded. The Pinkertons retreated to the barges, then, around sunrise, made a second attempt at landing. Gunfire was again exchanged, leaving several of the strikers dead or wounded. The Pinkertons again retreated to the shelter of the barges.[141] The tug Little Bill left, carrying some of the casualties. The Pinkertons were left alone in the barges, since the tug was unable to return.[142]

Sheltering inside the barges, the Pinkertons were unsure of what to do. Since only forty of the three hundred agents were veteran, trained agents - the rest being recent recruits hired as factory guards - there was little motivation to confront the hostile crowds.[143] In terms of size, the three hundred agents were hardly a match for the thousands of armed workers. The Pinkertons were also extremely lucky during the day. The strikers, not content with yelling insults or taunts, experimented with some ingenious methods of attack, even one of which, if successful, would have ended in death or serious injury for the Pinkertons. A lumber barge was set on fire and pushed toward the barges. Oil was dumped in the river, in hopes of creating a slick large and thick enough to catch on fire, but it failed to ignite. Cannon had been set up above the landing and these were fired at the barges, in addition to the use of dynamite. A flat car, loaded with barrels of oil, was set on fire and sent down the tracks toward the docks. It too failed to do any damage.[144]

By the end of the day on July 6, the Pinkertons hoisted a white flag, in surrender. Allowed off the barges, their ordeal was not quite over. Forced to run a gauntlet as they were marched through the town, many were attacked and savagely beaten by the strikers and their wives. Only the intervention of armed union guard escorts prevented the agents from being killed. A few days later, July 10, Pennsylvania Governor Pattison, ordered eighty-five hundred militia to Homestead to keep order. By July 12, they had arrived and took possession of the mill. Scabs began to arrive the next day. Although the strikers persuaded the first group to leave, they were replaced by others.[145]

The troops would remain until October. The state intervention prevented further violence, but the union did not officially call off the strike until mid-November. In a way, both Carnegie and Frick were bluffing, when it came to threatening union members with replacement. The two thousand new workers who were hired as replacements could not bring the Homestead mills close to full production and the company lost money while the strike lasted.[146] The problem may have been more a function of technology than labor relations. Carnegie and Frick, for all their reliance on technological improvements for cost-cutting, chose not to make that investment at Homestead. What they hoped to do at Homestead, replace skilled workers with an unskilled workforce, was possible at newer facilities because there was less reliance on the skills of workers. In fact, they never made that type of investment at many of the newer facilities either, relying instead for cost-cutting on concessions from workers.

Carnegie's investment decisions and his system worked, in terms of profits, which he described as "prodigious." At the same time, the death rate from accidents in Pittsburgh's iron and steel mills nearly doubled between 1870 and 1900.[147] For all the violence of the July confrontation between the Pinkertons and the Homestead strikers, the skirmishing resulted in 10 deaths and some dozens wounded.[148] Between 1907 and 1910 there were 3,723 deaths or serious injuries among recent immigrants - inexperienced new hires - at Carnegie's South Works - 25 percent of those employed.[149]

Both Frick and Carnegie shared similar views, when it came to labor and business operations, and both had demonstrated the same ruthlessness, when it came to union opposition. However Frick's public image rose after Homestead, while Carnegie's took a beating. Frick had survived an assassination attempt in July, when Alexander Berkman, an anarchist born in Russia, had entered Frick's office and opened fire with a revolver. Frick was hit twice in the neck, then stabbed. Doctors removed the bullet fragments from his neck without anesthetic. The incident suggested that he was not only indestructible but also heroic. Carnegie, in contrast, was condemned in newspaper editorials for allowing subordinates to do the dirty work while he took a vacation. The "St. Louis Post Dispatch," citing his philanthropic work and the "Carnegie Public Libraries" insisted it would not compensate for what had happened at Homestead. The editorial praised Frick as a brave man while condemning Carnegie as a coward.[150]

George Pullman was another entrepreneur who saw a carefully crafted public image tarnished by labor conflict. Not everything about his image was calculated. He became interested in the Model Tenement Movement, which argued that predatory landlords contributed to many of the social hardships of urban workers.[151] With that idea as a starting point, he set about creating a model community near Chicago where his workers could live. While his involvement in decision-making and control of worker lives and activities could be intrusive, the planned streets, schools, sanitation, and community amenities were significantly better than workers could find elsewhere. At the same time, Pullman had an obsessive hatred of unions, and little sympathy for the economic difficulties his workers faced during the depression of the 1890s. Many chose to move to nearby neighborhoods when they could. In 1896, a year before his death, the buildings had grown shabby from neglect and he would be facing a lawsuit by the Illinois attorney general, demanding that he divest himself of the town.[152]

In 1880, Pullman had purchased four thousand acres of former marshland along Lake Calumet, about twelve miles south of Chicago's business district. It would take nearly ten years to fully complete but the town, named after Pullman himself, was completed in 1889. The town was laid out in a grid pattern, along which houses and apartments were constructed. The streets were macadamized, lined with elms, maples, and lindens, and sidewalks. Pullman's company trimmed the lawns and trees, swept the streets, and picked up the trash.[153] The buildings were sturdy, mostly constructed of brick, and the rent charged was higher than similar housing. There was cheaper housing available - ten tenements on the town's eastern edge - which cost roughly a fifth of the residents' earnings. Residents who stayed in the private homes, paid about a third of their earnings. It did have universal running water and sewage, as well as illuminating gas lighting, however, the workers were charged for a share of these costs.[154] [155] If company oversight was intrusive, and workers paid a premium to live there, the town had a mortality rate below the urban norm of the time. It avoided the epidemics of cholera, yellow fever, and typhoid which visited other urban centers.[156]

George Pullman, born in upstate New York in 1831, found success in what might be called niche markets or services. Carnegie and Rockefeller had taken a more conventional path to success, exploiting markets for materials or services with traditionally high industrial demand. Pullman's father created a business out of hoisting and moving buildings, even patenting a device for rolling a lifted structure on wheels. When he died in 1853, George took over the business. In 1859 he would be hired to move the Matteson House, a prominent five-story hotel in Chicago, threatened by water seepage from Lake Michigan.[157]

In the 1860s Pullman would look in a new direction, a market having almost no relation to his experience or interests - that of luxury rail passenger travel. The railroads themselves seemed more interested in solving some of the fundamental problems associated with train operations and safety. In 1868, Major Eli H. Janney, a Confederate Army veteran, developed a knuckle coupler which automatically engaged and locked rail cars on impact, eliminating the most dangerous aspect of a brakeman's job. George Westinghouse, in 1869, would create an air brake system which would apply a train's brakes and stop trains automatically. In 1882 he would work on an electric semaphore system for signaling the position of trains on different sections of track.[158]

Pullman saw an opportunity in passenger travel, which most railroads viewed as something of an incidental market, compared to freight operations or raw materials transport. Passenger accommodations were basically hollowed-out carriages fitted with hard wooden benches, or triple-stacked wooden bunks, and windows which allowed locomotive smoke in, cold in winter, hot in summer, - little better than what was offered in junction towns where passengers had to endure layovers when they switched trains. After experimenting with several prototypes, Pullman, in 1864, came out with the "Pioneer," equipped with sliding seats, improved heating, upper berths, which could be folded into the ceiling in daytime, in addition to carpeting and carved woodwork and mirrors.[159] It would be part of the funeral train carrying President Lincoln's remains from Chicago to Springfield in May 1865.[160] The Pullman Palace Car Company found a growing market for the Pioneer, despite a $20,000 price tag - four times the cost of previous sleepers - and an arrangement whereby the cars were owned by Pullman and leased to the railroads.

Chicago hosted the Columbian Exposition, the Chicago World's Fair, in 1893.[161] It officially opened in May, ran for six months, then closed on October 28.[162] By that time, the country was in the middle of a depression, known at the time as the Great Depression, before the phrase became associated with the 1930s depression.[163] What began as the Panic of 1893, was preceded by a smaller panic in 1890, which had begun in Argentina, spread to Great Britain, and then hit investors and railroad stocks in the United States.[164] Events in 1893 began with the collapse of the Philadelphia Railroad in February. This was followed in May by a serious sell-off of stocks - a real panic - on the New York Stock Exchange, which in turn led to cash shortages and bank runs across the country, bank failures, with a reduction in credit, and nationwide business failures. Plant closures led to factory layoffs and unemployment.[165]

Chicago had gotten an economic boost from the Columbian Exposition, which delayed its impact until summer's end. The "island of prosperity" however, came under threat even before the Exposition closed. In late August ten thousand men sought work in the stockyards. The city of Chicago attempted to help by employing hundreds on the Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal. By late September half the workers in the building trades were unemployed.[166]

The Exposition had been a boon for Pullman's company which, in 1893, employed more than fourteen thousand workers.[167] Demand for the Pullman cars increased, along with orders, until late summer, when they began to fall off. More than three thousand workers were laid off. Pullman, for all his capitalist beliefs, was not totally indifferent to the economic plight of his workers. In 1894, he took contracts at a loss to keep men working and by spring had managed to reemploy two thousand of those dismissed in 1893. [168] [169] His sympathies only went so far. He had cut wages for workers who remained employed and those reemployed returned to work at reduced wages. Believing that worker residents of Pullman Town should pay their way, he did not reduce rents or the prices he charged for gas and water. Some of the workers found, after rent and utility charges were deducted from their pay checks, that they had little money left over. Some fell into arrears. The lack of money left some families without the means to buy basic necessities, such as coal for heating.[170] If Pullman insisted on keeping track of what was owed by his workers, he did not take steps to evict them when they fell behind.[171]

If Pullman was somewhat lenient when it came to unpaid rent, he would not tolerate union involvement or interference in his operations. The American Railroad Union (ARU), formed in 1892, found support among Pullman workers. In May 1894, union representatives met with Pullman in an attempt to negotiate wages, complaining that, while worker wages were being cut, executive salaries were not. Pullman defended the wage cuts and promised not to retaliate against members of the committee. However, three of those attending the meeting were laid off the next day.[172] Ninety percent of his workers walked out in response and Pullman laid off those who stayed.[173]

The ARU convened its first national convention in Chicago in June and voted to back the Pullman strike - they would refuse to handle any Pullman cars. The General Managers' Association, the organization representing the twenty-four railroads operating in or through Chicago, threatened to fire any workers refusing to handle Pullman's cars would be fired. Workers responded on June 26 by detaching cars. When they were fired, other workers walked out, demanding their reinstatement. Although labor organizations were divided over the walkout, by June 29, 125,000 workers were on strike nationwide, impacting states from Ohio to California.[174]

In some ways further confrontation could have been avoided if the railroads had temporarily stopped using Pullman cars. Freight trains, the bulk of rail transport, did not carry passengers and normally would not include Pullman cars anyway. Even passenger trains could have done without the cars, absorbing the cost of lost revenue. However, the Cleveland administration, through its Attorney General Richard Olney, decided to intervene. He argued successfully that any train carrying a mail car was a mail train and interfering with a mail train was a violation of federal law. The Sherman Antitrust Act and the Interstate Commerce Act provided the legal basis for the issuance of injunctions against the ARU and its leaders. The railroads now insisted they would not carry mail cars unless the trains also included Pullmans. To prevent workers from stopping trains, Olney allowed the railroads to hire thousands of deputy marshals.[175]

Whether any trains had actually been stopped, federal troops were dispatched to Chicago, to augment local police and the five thousand deputy marshals, arriving on July 4. Violence followed, although ironically, it did not involve Pullman strikers or railroad workers. On July 5 mobs destroyed railroad property in the Union Stockyards. Empty buildings of the Columbian Exposition were set on fire that night. The mobs seemed unstoppable on July 6, when they blocked tracks and burned dozens of railroad cars. However, the reported deaths of six or thirteen rioters, together with fifty-three injuries, put a damper on further activity.[176], [177] By July 7, the rioters had disbursed and the army was in control, patrolling the rail lines or serving as guards on trains leaving the yards. The arrests of Eugene Debs, the head of the ARU, and other union leaders, along with any engineers or brakemen who tried to continue the strike, brought the strike to an end. Debs received a six-month sentence, following a trial, for contempt, but the government gave up on a related charge of conspiracy to obstruct the mails.[178],[179]

A commission of inquiry, set up by President Cleveland, later determined that the strike had caused the deaths of thirty people, engaged fourteen thousand soldiers and police, cost railroads $4 million in revenues, and workers $1.6 million in lost wages. The ARU was criticized for allowing factory employees to join a union for railroad workers. Pullman himself was criticized for acting as both employer and landlord, as well as for his refusal to submit to arbitration.[180]

The Violent West - Assassinations, Murder, and Death Squads

On the night of July 31, 1917, six masked men entered a boarding house room in Butte, Montana, where Frank Little, a labor organizer for the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), more commonly referred to as the Wobblies, was sleeping. Little was dragged to a waiting car, driven around for a few hours, beaten and tortured, even tied by a rope and dragged behind the car. On the outskirts of town, he was hanged from a railroad trestle. A note was pinned to the body: "First and Last Warning," along with the numbers "3-7-77" a reference to the Montana state grave dimension requirements - three feet wide, seven feet long, and seventy-seven inches deep.[181]

Armistice Day, November 11, 1919, would see a repetition of the conflict between owners and workers, similar to that seen in Montana, this time in Washington state and the logging industry. Colorado and Arizona, the Employer's Association of Washington had organized Citizens' Protective Leagues, and enjoyed the support of local police. In the town of Centralia, a logging community about sixty-five miles south of Seattle, there were also chapters of both the Elks and the American Legion.[182]

The anti-union sentiment of the Employer's Association was reflected in the local chapters in the town. They hated union organizers and the IWW in particular. On Memorial Day 1918 they had stormed the IWW Centralia office, carried boxes of records, literature, and furniture into the street, set it on fire, and watched as the bonfire burned. They arrested some of the Wobblies and kidnapped a blind news dealer who sold IWW material, took him by car to a neighboring county and shoved him into a ditch.[183]

By November 1919, the IWW was back, with a new hall in a former hotel. There were rumors that the American Legion planned a new attack during the Armistice Day parade on November 11, and the Wobblies armed themselves. The parade route passed in front of the IWW hall and was largely peaceful. The Legionnaires were the last formation of the marchers. They had passed the IWW hall when they stopped and turned back. Some of the soldiers then moved to attack the IWW hall. The Post Commander Warren Grimm, a former football All-American at the University of Washington, who had served in Siberia, and was also a leader of the Protective League, was said to have organized the attack. He was killed in the first round of firing, as the Wobblies fired at the attackers. The defenders in the hall were soon overwhelmed and sixteen, some of whom hid in a meat locker were taken into custody, beaten, and dragged to the town's jail, then locked up.[184]

Wesley Everest, one of the Wobblies, had escaped out the back of the hall. He attempted to cross the Skookumchuck River, but the waters were too high. He fired a number of shots at his pursuers, killing one before he was grabbed. He was beaten and taken to the jail. The following night, six darkened cars parked in front of the jail, a group of men went inside, bundled Everest into one of the cars, and drove to a bridge over the Chehalis River, where they made two attempts to hang him. They used a longer rope on the second attempt, although he appeared to be still alive and was shot. Police raids in Seattle, Tacoma, and two other cities, led to arrests of 127 Wobblies. Armed vigilantes searched timber camps in the region and seized any IWW members they found.[185]

Before that, strikebreakers in Everett, Washington, had fired on a boat trying to dock and killed five I.W.W. workers, trying to organize lumber workers.[186] Not all such killings took place in the West. In 1919, two United Mine Worker (UMW) organizers in West Natrona, Pennsylvania, Fannie Sellins and Joseph Starzelski, were murdered. The circumstances were unclear. One version is that they were deliberately targeted as they tried to move children to safety from a group of protesting workers as they were being fired on.[187] Another is that they were on their way to file a complaint about a special deputy who had killed a miner, were attacked by a posse of deputies and shot dead. The killings were ruled "justifiable homicide" and no one was ever prosecuted.[188]

In 1903, the home of John Lawson, a union organizer for the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), in New Castle in western Colorado, was destroyed in a dynamite explosion which nearly killed his wife and infant daughter. The suspected dynamiter was the owner of a small mining company in Garfield County, named Perry C. Coryell. Five months after the house bombing, Coryell confronted Lawson on a New Castle street and wounded him with a shotgun blast. [189]

It was reported in the labor magazine "Outlook," that in 33 months around 1900, 198 union men had been killed and 1,966 wounded in battles with corporate guards, state militia, or federal troops.[190]

The violence was not confined to one side. In many ways, mine workers were no different than factory workers, and the work, while strenuous, was also tedious and required no special knowledge or skills. Miners acquired special skills which made them more dangerous. Unlike factory workers, they routinely worked with explosives, skills which could be easily transferred to areas of conflict. Dynamite and other explosives, such as black powder, had almost a dual character. Explosives, by nature, conveyed a physically powerful message, but they also conveyed a psychological message of intimidating. They had other characteristics which made them a perfect messenger - they contained an element of surprise - the perfect ambush weapon, both unexpected and - anonymous. Anonymity was a double-edged sword. It allowed the real perpetrator to escape detection and it could also be used to frame innocent individuals or groups. If it provided miners and union members a tool which might make mine owners think twice about enforcing their demands, miners did not have a monopoly on its use.

Striking miners in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in 1892 were not concerned about anonymity. They loaded an ore car with 100 pounds of dynamite, lit the fuses and rolled it downhill toward a mill where strikebreakers and guards were holed up. The explosion killed one man, seriously injured 20 others, and demolished a large part of the mill.[191] The element of secrecy and and anonymity was demonstrated in 1904. On June 6, 1904, an explosion at two in the morning rocked the district railway station in the town of Independence, Colorado. Thirteen nonunion night-shift mine workers were killed and a number seriously injured.[192] On the surface, it had all the markings of a UMWA job, although the union denied involvement. But when bloodhounds were brought in that day, one of them followed a trail to the home of a Citizens' Alliance detective, and another to the powder magazine of a non-union mine. [193] The Mine Owners' Association had little doubt about who was behind the attack and was quick to point the finger of blame at the union. Yet the real answer remained a mystery.

Colorado had seen an earlier confrontation involving dynamite at Cripple Creek in 1894. As in Coeur d'Alene, it was intended to be an open demonstration of the military potential of dynamite, not a hidden or disguised attack. When 500 miners went on strike, the mine owners sent in 125 strikebreakers, some hired off the streets of Denver, on two flatcars. As they began getting off the cars, an explosion blew the shaft house 300 feet into the air. This was followed, a few seconds later by a second explosion which sent the boiler into the air. A gunfight started between the two sides, which left two dead, one on each side, and several wounded. The miners were prepared to continue the fight, having taken up positions on a bluff above the mine, improvising a catapult which could fire beer bottles filled with dynamite. In addition, the miners had created crude grenades - five sticks of dynamite fitted with percussion caps which would explode on impact. If these devices failed, the miners were prepared to destroy the mines, where they had planted charges, connected with electric wires, and set to detonate at the push of a button. This time, the state militia, which often sided with the owners, played a neutral role, positioning itself between the two sides and ordering both to disburse.[194]

Coeur d'Alene had seen another display of dynamite's destructive power in 1899. Where strikers had used just 100 pounds of dynamite in 1892, they increased the amount to 3,000 pounds in 1899. The explosion turned a concentrator and its building to rubble.[195]

Not every incident of violence involved large-scale confrontations or major armed clashes. Dynamite was sometimes used, sometimes not. On July 28, 1903, the transformer plant of the Sun & Moon Mine, near Idaho Springs, was destroyed by dynamite. It was likely carried out by union members, since an Italian miner and union supporter, was fatally injured by the explosion.[196] In November of that year, railroad detectives claimed to have discovered that spikes and bolts had been removed from passenger rail lines in the Cripple Creek district. A few days later, on November 21, a mine superintendent and shift boss were killed by an explosion in a mine-shaft elevator at the Vindicator Mine.[197] Arthur Collins, manager of the Smuggler-Union mine, near Telluride, in Western Colorado, had been assassinated in his home in November 1902.[198] One of the more hard-line managers, he had imported 150 'scabs' to break a strike in 1901. The attempt to break the strike had resulted in an armed confrontation which started when the union representative was gunned down, then continued as a day-long gun battle in which a number of people on both sides were killed.[199]

In August 1913, detectives from the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, killed an Italian union organizer named Gerrald Lippiatt, in a shoot-out in the town of Trinidad, Colorado. One of the detectives suspected in the murder, George Belcher, along with a mine guard named Bob Lee, were assassinated shortly after the murder.[200] Perhaps the most high-profile assassination had been that of Frank Steunenberg, the former governor of Idaho, in late 1905. When he walked through the gate of his home, a bomb rigged to the gate exploded, leaving him mortally wounded.[201] He had been blamed for requesting federal troops to deal with a local strike in 1899, although the murder was never definitely tied to union activity.

In a region and at a time when the level of violence seemed to be increasing and increasingly accepted, where large amounts of money were present, and where profits were threatened, it is hardly surprising that enforcement mechanisms and groups would be created to deal with violence perpetrated by one group or another. It is difficult to separate the control of violence which was related to labor conflicts from that related to criminal activity. There were quasi-governmental organizations, such as the Texas Rangers, which were focused on controlling criminal activity in areas beyond the normal reach of government. There were also quasi-governmental organizations, such as Pennsylvania's Coal & Iron Police, which were little more than enforcement arms of mine owners. Legends sprang up around lawmen, such as Wyatt Earp or Bat Masterson, who were called on to deal with criminal activity in towns and cities of the West. There were individuals or citizen organizations who could be called upon on short notice to form posses to deal with criminal activity in their communities. There were vigilante groups formed locally to control crime. There were also individuals who could be hired for protection, enforcement, or intimidation, or, if it came down to murder, as contract killers. Placed in the context of dictatorship, such groups might be considered death squads tasked with carrying out extra-judicial killings.

Towards the end of 1902 a group of cowboys requested permission to organize a posse of "Tough Riders" for the purpose of wiping out the miner's Union in Telluride.[202] If the Tough Riders represented a form of 'guns for hire' contract labor - workers looking for employment - there was also a demand for their services on the employer side - anti-union organizations willing to hire them. While the Tough Riders conjured up images of the Wild West, frontier towns, and the legendary gunfighters, more of the employment involved less glamorous jobs. Many found employment as guards at mines. Some of the work involved protection but some also involved the harassment of union members and organizers.

The mine owners, to more effectively battle the unions, also took steps to coordinate their own activities, forming various local organizations in various cities and towns to protect their interests. The Citizens' Alliance, an employer group aimed at curbing the power of militant unions, was formed in Denver in April 1903.[203] A Citizens' Protective League made its appearance in Golden after miners went on strike in February 1903, vowing to protect non-union miners attempting to work at mines in the Idaho Springs area.[204] In November 1903 a 'Committee of 40' was reported to have been set up to deal with union organizing.[205]

The owners saw elections and elected officials as one method of exercising power. Where elected officials did not seem sufficiently committed to their cause,they took additional steps to either control government actions or to assume governmental powers. At lower organizational levels, this might involve members, such as militia volunteers, who were sympathetic to their cause and would act to carry out intended actions. At another level, it involved control of higher offices. The Colorado Mine Owners' Association, formed in April 1902 , similar to the Colorado Mine Operators' Association (CMOA) or also formed in April 1902, even before the railway station bombing in June 1904, had taken steps to replace local government officials sympathetic to the Union with their own people.[206] The bombing served as an excuse to more aggressively implement their plan. The county sheriff swore in one hundred deputies to search for and arrest the guilty 'union dynamiters' and bring them to justice. A local militia company was mobilized to assist. The militia company was composed entirely of members of the Victor Citizens' Alliance members, which was also led by the alliance chapter president. Within a week about 60 had been arrested and jailed, on charges of murder and other crimes.[207]

On the morning of the bombing, the Mine Operators' Association organized a rally in Victor for later that day. The rally, held across the street from the union hall, attracted a crowd of over a thousand, and turned into an anti-union harangue. When union protesters objected to the anti-union tone of MOA President C.C. Hamlin they were beaten. The beatings turned into a riot, then a gunfight. One person was killed and several wounded. Some of the union men retreated to the union hall, continuing the fight against the local militia, who surrounded the hall. The fighting ended when the militia stormed the hall, wounding several of those inside, and the union men surrendered. The militia company took the twenty men inside prisoner and marched them away. Once the troops left, the crowd sacked the union hall. In other towns in the district, mobs began attacking union stores and halls. By midnight they had all been destroyed.[208]

The Mine Operators' Association and the Citizens' Alliance decided they needed to replace many office-holders with a slate of their own. Gathering at a meeting shortly after the Independence explosion, they not only demanded the immediate resignation of the elected Sheriff H. M. Robertson but threatened to hang him after he initially refused to resign. Edward Bell, one of their members, was then appointed sheriff. They also replaced Robertson's under sheriff. They took more physical measures against the Victor town marshal. When he attempted to disarm the mine owners at a gathering there, they threw him out of the room, then kicked him down a flight of stairs to the street. He was replaced by a National Guard major.[209]

In other towns and settlements across the district, they replaced elected officials with candidates of their own. The entire city administration of Goldfield was thrown out. More than thirty public officials were forced to resign in the district, replaced by alliance choices.[210]

Where the installed governments took no action or moved too slowly, the Mine Operators' Association created 'shadow' governmental units which, without authorization, acted as if they were part of the government. On June 7, the Association secretary C.C. Hamlin, announced a decision to deport union members, who would be tried by a committee set up by the owners. In the next few weeks over 1500 strikers and sympathizers were brought before this tribunal. The strikers were given a choice of either renouncing their union membership or being judged "unfit and undesirable for continued district residence" - a category of crime which had probably not been enacted by the Colorado legislature. The proceedings were given something of an official stamp when General Sherman Bell, a mine manager in Cripple Creek and appointed commander of the national guard by the mine operators, converted the tribunal into a military commission, authorized, he said, because the district remained under martial law.[211]

To hold those detained, the militia set up what would be called Bull Pens. They then set about filling them. Sheriff Edward Bell, the newly appointed sheriff, (not the militia commander Sherman Bell), organized squads of soldiers, deputies, and armed residents to search for union men and union sympathizers. One of the first sweeps netted one hundred and seventy-five men, some of them public officials. Over the next several days county and municipal officers would be arrested. During one of the sweeps, a resident of Dunville, a new mining camp, was killed, while nineteen others were arrested. Whether they were taken to the Bull Pen or had their cases heard by the tribunal first, most were eventually deported or escorted out of the district. Some were assaulted by mobs while being deported. Some were threatened with lynching.[212]

In mid-July, eight men, armed with sledgehammers and weapons, appeared at the offices of the pro-union paper, the "Victor Daily Record," and smashed presses and almost everything in the office. The anti-union campaign was not limited to union members or miners. The Portland Mine, whose owner refused to cooperate with the campaign, was shut down by General Bell. The Mine Operators' Association tried to enforce blacklisting by instituting a card system where miners were required to obtain company permits in order to work. By the end of July, the investigative commission had officially ordered 238 of the 1,500 suspects questioned, deported. Most were placed on trains and transported close to the Kansas and New Mexico state lines. Any who tried to return faced arrest. In August, a mob of more than five hundred men invaded the Cripple Creek union store when it attempted to reopen, destroying or stealing merchandise and smashing the fixtures, assaulted and robbed store employees, before driving them from the district. Those who were held in the military Bull Pen were often subject to interrogation and beatings.[213]

The Bull Pen - Coeur d'Alene, Idaho - 1892

The use of the bull pen in the 1904 strike in Victor, Colorado was not an entirely new method of dealing with union opposition. It had been employed in the 1892 strike in Coeur d'Alene. The strike had started when the Mine Owners Protective Association (MOA) had cut wages and increased hours. Shortly after the end of the Homestead strike in Pittsburgh, the Miners Union in Coeur d'Alene discovered that a Pinkerton agent had not only infiltrated their organization but had also managed to escape, once discovered. Whether this was the reason for what followed, or not, on July 11, 1892, union men attacked the Frisco mine, set off dynamite charges, and took sixty mine guards prisoner. This was followed by an attack on the Gem and Bunker Hill mines in which they rounded up 130 scabs and forced them to board a train leaving the state.[214]

In response, the governor of Idaho, Norman B. Willey, declared martial law and sent in National Guard troops, supported by 20 companies of federal troops authorized by President Benjamin Harrison.[215] In addition to taking back the mines and protecting the scab workers, the troops rounded up union members and supporters - not only miners residing in the nearby villages but also lawyers, bar owners, shopkeepers, and some judges - about six hundred in all, and held them in "bull pens," wooden stockades, for most of the summer. The lack of sanitary facilities, bad food, and brutal treatment led several to commit suicide but it also broke the strike and the strikers agreed to return to work. The defeat of the strike would contribute to the formation of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) in 1893.[216]

The Colorado mine owners who focused so much energy on eliminating union activity in the Cripple Creek district faced a different type of struggle after 1905. Gold production in Colorado was on the decline, the Cripple Creek gold boom was coming to an end, eclipsed by discoveries in Alaska and South Africa.[217] Colorado mining activity, and union organizing, would begin to shift more to coal. Industrial demand would shift from gold to other metals, such as copper, and to other states, such as Arizona and Utah.


(1) H.W. Brands, "American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900," (New York:Anchor Books, 2010), p.94.
(2) Brands, ibid, p. 120.
(3) Philip Dray, "There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America," (New York:Anchor Books, 2010), p. 107.
(4) Brands, op.cit., p.121.
(5) Dray, op.cit., p. 108.
(6) Daniel Walker Howe,"What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848," (New York:Oxford University Press, Inc., 2007), p. 544.
(7) Dray, op.cit., p. 109.
(8) Dray, ibid., p. 110.
(9) Brands, op.cit., p.123.
(10) Dray, op.cit., p. 110.
(11) Dray, ibid., p. 111.
(12) Dray, ibid., p. 112.
(13) Brands, op.cit., p.124.
(14) Brands, ibid, p. 127.
(15) Brands, ibid, p. 124.
(16) Brands, ibid, p. 124.
(17) Dray, op.cit., p. 111.
(18) Dray, ibid., p. 113.
(19) Dray, ibid., pp. 112-113.
(20) Brands, op.cit., p.125.
(21) Brands, ibid, p. 126.
(22) Dray, op.cit., p. 113.
(23) Brands, op.cit., p.126.
(24) Dray, op.cit., pp. 113-114.
(25) Brands, op.cit., p. 128.
(26) Brands, ibid, p.128.
(27) Brands, ibid, p.129.
(28) Dray, op.cit., p. 115.
(29) Dray, ibid., p. 116.
(30) Dray, ibid., p. 114.
(31) Dray, ibid., p. 118.
(32) Brands, op.cit., p. 130.
(33) Richard White, "The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States During Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865-1896," (New York:Oxford University Press, 2017), p. 354.
(34) White, ibid, pp. 354-355.
(35) White, ibid, p. 519.
(36) White, ibid, p. 532.
(37) White, ibid, p. 528.
(38) Dray, op.cit., pp. 124-125.
(39) White, op.cit., pp. 529 & 532.
(40) Richard White, "Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America," (New York:W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2011), p. 339.
(41) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 532.
(42) White, "Republic," ibid, p. 533.
(43) White, "Republic," ibid, p. 534.
(44) White, "Railroaded," op.cit, p. 341.
(45) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 543.
(46) Dray, op.cit., p. 145.
(47) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 544.
(48) Dray, op.cit., pp. 148-149, 158.
(49) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 575.
(50) White, "Railroaded," op.cit, p. 289.
(51) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 518.
(52) Dray, op.cit., p. 161.
(53) Dray, ibid., p. 81.
(54) John Strausbaugh, "City of Sedition: The History of New York City During the Civil War," (New York:Twelve Hachette Book Group, 2016), p. 152
(55) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 164.
(56) Strausbaugh, ibid, pp. 176-177.
(57) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 193.
(58) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 195.
(59) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 245.
(60) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 256.
(61) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 262.
(62) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 274.
(63) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 276.
(64) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 276.
(65) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 277.
(66) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 278.
(67) Strausbaugh, ibid, p. 284.
(68) Strausbaugh, ibid, pp. 286-287.
(69) David Goldfield, "America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation," (New York:Bloomsbury Press, 2011), p. 292.
(70) Strausbaugh, op.cit., p. 275.
(71) Dray, op.cit., pp. 75 & 81.
(72) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 575.
(73) White, "Republic," ibid, pp. 577-578.
(74) White, "Republic," ibid, p. 520.
(75) White, "Railroaded," op.cit, p. 303.
(76) White, "Railroaded," ibid, pp. 305-306.
(77) White, "Railroaded," ibid, p. 310.
(78) White, "Railroaded," ibid, p. 311.
(79) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 521.
(80) White, "Republic," ibid, p. 521.
(81) White, "Republic," ibid, p. 522.
(82) White, "Republic," ibid, p. 532.
(83) Barry W. Poulson, "Economic History of the United States," (New York:Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1981), p. 142.
(84) Dray, op.cit., p. 49.
(85) Dray, ibid, p. 49.
(86) Poulson, op.cit., p. 143.
(87) Poulson, ibid, p. 143.
(88) Dray, op.cit., pp. 50-52.
(89) Dray, ibid, p. 99.
(90) Dray, ibid, p. 99.
(91) Dray, ibid, p. 119.
(92) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 530.
(93) White, "Republic," ibid., pp. 531-532.
(94) Samuel Eliot Morison, "The Oxford History of the American People," (New York:Oxford University Press, 1965), p. 772.
(95) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 533.
(96) Dray, op.cit., p. 204.
(97) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 819.
(98) Dray, op.cit., p. 244.
(99) Dray, ibid, pp. 244, 248.
(100) Dray, ibid., p. 250.
(101) Dray, ibid., pp. 413-414.
(102) Dray, ibid., p. 417.
(103) Dray, ibid., p. 420.
(104) Dray, ibid., p. 447.
(105) Dray, ibid., p. 450.
(106) Dray, ibid., p. 456.
(107) Gloria Skurzynski, "Sweat and Blood: A History of U.S Labor Unions," (Minneapolis:Twenty-First Century Books, 2009), p. 9.
(108) Skurzynski,"Sweat and Blood," ibid, p. 10.
(109) Dray, op.cit., p. 45.
(110) Dray, ibid., p. 47.
(111) Dray, ibid., p. 59.
(112) Dray, ibid., pp. 61-62.
(113) Dray, ibid., pp. 61-65.
(114) Dray, ibid., p. 86.
(115) Dray, ibid., p. 89.
(116) White, "Republic," op.cit., pp. 309-310.
(117) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 311.
(118) Dray, op.cit., p. 91.
(119) White, "Republic," op.cit., pp. 311-312.
(120) Dray, op.cit., p. 95.
(121) Dray, ibid., p. 92.
(122) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 313.
(123) Dray, op.cit., p. 95.
(124) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 313.
(125) Dray, op.cit., p. 93.
(126) Dray, ibid., p. 94.
(127) Dray, ibid., pp. 95-96.
(128) Dray, ibid., p. 97.
(129) White, "Republic," op.cit., pp. 313-314.
(130) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 310.
(131) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 314.
(132) Dray, op.cit., p. 169.
(133) White, "Republic," op.cit., pp. 661-662.
(134) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 663.
(135) Dray, op.cit., p. 169.
(136) Dray, ibid., p. 171.
(137) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 665.
(138) Dray, op.cit., p. 171.
(139) Dray, ibid, p. 173.
(140) Dray, ibid, p. 171.
(141) Dray, ibid, p. 172.
(142) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 666.
(143) Dray, op.cit., p. 172.
(144) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 666.
(145) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 667.
(146) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 669.
(147) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 670.
(148) Bernard A. Weisberger, "The Life History of the United States: Volume 7: 1877-1890: Steel and Steam," (New York:Time-Life Books, 1964), p. 96.
(149) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 670.
(150) Dray, op.cit., p. 180.
(151) Dray, ibid, p. 173.
(152) White, "Republic," op.cit., pp. 775 & 788.
(153) Dray, op.cit., p. 188.
(154) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 775.
(155) Dray, op.cit., p. 189.
(156) Brands, op.cit., p. 519.
(157) Dray, op.cit., p. 186.
(158) Carroll C. Calkins, ed., "The Story of America," (Pleasantville, NY:The Readers Digest Association, 1975), p.265.
(159) Calkins, ibid, p.200.
(160) Dray, op.cit., p. 187.
(161) Dray, ibid, p. 189.
(162) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 764.
(163) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 772.
(164) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 667.
(165) White, "Republic," ibid., pp. 771-772.
(166) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 764.
(167) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 773.
(168) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 783.
(169) Dray, op.cit., p. 189.
(170) Dray, ibid, p. 191.
(171) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 783.
(172) Dray, op.cit., p. 192.
(173) White, "Republic," op.cit., p. 783.
(174) White, "Republic," ibid., pp. 783-784.
(175) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 785.
(176) White, "Republic," ibid., p. 787.
(177) Dray, op.cit., p. 212.
(178) Dray, ibid, p. 217.
(179) White, "Republic," op.cit., pp. 787-788.
(180) Dray, op.cit., p. 219.
(181) Dray, ibid, pp. 359-360.
(182) Dray, ibid, p. 389.
(183) Dray, ibid, p. 217.
(184) Kenneth D. Ackerman, "Young J. Edgar: Hoover and the Red Scare, 1919-1920," (Falls Church, VA:Viral History Press, LLC, 2011), pp. 121-122.
(185) Ackerman, ibid, p. 123.
(186) Ackerman, ibid, p. 121.
(187) Sidney Lens, "The Labor Wars: From the Molly Maguires to the Sit-Downs," (Chicago:Haymarket Books, 2008), p. 203
(188) Dray, op.cit., p. 386.
(189) F. Darrell Munsell, "From Redstone to Ludlow: John Cleveland Osgood's Struggle against the United Mine Workers of America," (Boulder, CO:University Press of Colorado, 2009), p. 141.
(190) Time-Life Books, "The Miners," (Alexandria, VA:Time Life Books, 1976), p. 112.
(191) "The Miners," ibid, p. 112.
(192) Michael Neuschatz, "The Golden Sword: The Coming of Capitalism to the Colorado Mining Frontier," (Westport, CT:Greenwood Press, Inc., 1986), p. 153.
(193) Lens, op.cit., p. 132
(194) "The Miners," op.cit., pp. 113-115.
(195) "The Miners," ibid., p. 110.
(196) Neuschatz, op.cit., p. 127.
(197) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 145.
(198) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 192.
(199) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 189.
(200) Dray, op.cit., p. 337.
(201) Dray, ibid, p. 292.
(202) Neuschatz, op.cit., p. 193.
(203) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 83.
(204) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 107.
(205) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 146.
(206) Neuschatz, ibid, pp. 81, 111 & 149.
(207) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 154.
(208) Neuschatz, ibid, pp. 154-155.
(209) Neuschatz, ibid, pp. 155-156.
(210) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 156.
(211) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 156.
(212) Neuschatz, ibid, p. 157.
(213) Neuschatz, ibid, pp. 161, 165.
(214) Dray, op.cit., p. 289.
(215) "The Miners," op.cit., p. 113.
(216) Dray, op.cit., p. 289.
(217) Neuschatz, op.cit., p. 169.