From the Ashes, 1872-1900
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

< Previous Document  |  Document List  |  From the Ashes Introduction  |  Next Document >


May 10, 1886

View Transcription


Nationally organized labor was uniting in a push for an eight-hour workday in late 1885 and in 1886. In Chicago an Eight Hour Association was formed and it was made up of the Trade and Labor Assembly, Knights of Labor, Socialist Labor Party, several independent trade unions, and a few anarchic radicals. Mass rallies were held in March, April and early May. On May 3, a confrontation occurred at the McCormick Reaper Plant. Private guards and police battled striking workers from the plant and a group of other sympathetic workingmen. Several deaths and numerous injuries resulted from the clash. Subsequently fliers were circulated which called for a mass meeting on the evening of the fourth at the Haymarket Square.

That night several speakers, including a few radicals, addressed a large crowd. Most in attendance grew apathetic but as the gathering was about to break up, a group of policemen arrived en masse and ordered the workers to disperse. Suddenly a bomb exploded in front of the police officers and panic ensued during which there was an exchange of revolver fire. Numbers of police officers and civilians were killed and seriously injured. The press and the clergy soundly denounced the anarchists who had initiated the violence. Both locally and nationally there was a fear of further terrorist attacks from unknown numbers of radicals. A major consequence of the Haymarket Riot was the setback it dealt organized labor. It would take several years for the union movement to reclaim the respectability it lost as a result of this incident.

Points to Consider

What kind of compensation did this resolution provide those policemen who had been disabled?

Describe the labor disturbance which took place in Chicago on May 4, 1886.

Were disabled officers being provided for justly?

Explain the irony in that the city's charter did "not permit of making appropriations either for rewards or for giving pensions."

See Related Document:

19 and 29

< Previous Document  |  Document List  |  From the Ashes Introduction  |  Next Document >