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1886 The Haymarket Riot

by repost Monday, May. 01, 2006 at 7:15 PM

Source: John J. Flinn. "History of the Chicago Police from the Settlement of Community to the Present Time" Chicago, Police Book Fund, 1887. Municipal Reference Collection, Chicago Public Library. "The police followed the retreating anarchists and sent deadly volleys into their midst (p.319)"

Through much of the 1870's and 1880's Chicago was a leading center of labor activism and radical thought. Early in 1886 labor unions were beginning a movement for an eight-hour day. Union activists called a one day general strike in Chicago. On May 1 many Chicago workers struck for shorter hours. An active group of radicals and anarchists became involved in the campaign. Two days later a shooting and one death occurred during a riot at the McCormick Reaper plant when police tangled with the strikers.

On May 4 events reached a tragic climax at Haymarket Square, an open market near Des Plaines Ave. and Randolph St., where a protest meeting was called to denounce the events of the preceding day at the McCormick Works. Speakers exhorted the crowd from a wagon which was used for a makeshift stage. Mayor Carter Harrison joined the crowd briefly, then left, believing everything was orderly. Toward the end of this meeting, while police were undertaking to disperse the crowd, a bomb was exploded. Policeman Mathias J. Degan died almost instantly and seven other officers died later.

The following day, under the direction of State's Attorney Julius Grinnel, police began a fierce roundup of radicals, agitators and labor leaders, siezing records and closing socialist and labor press offices. Eight men were finally brought to trial for conspiracy.

Despite the fact that the bomb thrower was never identified, and none of these eight could be connected with the crime, Judge Joseph E. Gary imposed the death sentence on seven of them and the eighth was given fifteen years in prison. The court held that the "inflammatory speeches and publications" of these eight incited the actions of the mob. The Illinois and U.S. Supreme Courts upheld the verdict.

On November 11, 1887 four men, Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer, and George Engel were hanged. Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison awaiting the death sentence. The sentences of two others were commuted from death to imprisonment for life. On June 26, 1893, Governor John P. Altgeld pardoned the three who were in the penitentiary.

Commemoration of the Haymarket tragedy has, at times, been as contentious as the event itself. Worldwide appeals for clemency for the condemned Haymarket martyrs led to the establishment of May 1st as an International Workers' Day. Though May Day has been commemorated as a labor holiday in many countries, it was never adopted in the United States.

In 1893 a monument was erected to the Haymarket martyrs at Forest Home Cemetery (originally part of German Waldheim Cementery) in suburban Forest Park, Illinois. The site has became a rally point for labor activists since its dedication. Numerous American radical and labor activists have been interred or have had their ashes scattered nearby. The monument became a national landmark in 1997.

The City of Chicago erected a 9-foot bronze Haymarket Riot statue of a Chicago policeman in 1889 near the original site of the riot on Randolph Street near Halsted street as a tribute to the Chicago policemen who lost their lives in the Haymarket square riot of 1886. The police monument has had a more troubled history. Originally erected near the site, it was considered a traffic hazzard. In 1900 the statue was moved near Union Park. In 1928 the park district relocated it to another spot in Union Park. In 1957 the statue was moved to the northeast corner of the bridge over the Kennedy expressway at Randolph Street. In October, 1969, and again in October of 1970 the statue was blown off of its pedestal in unsolved explosions. In January of 1972 it was moved to the lobby of police headquarters, later it was moved to the courtyard of the Police Academy at 1300 W. Jackson Blvd.

A bronze sidewalk plaque was placed at the site in 1992 and later removed. Most recently, to commemorate the international significance of the Haymarket tragedy, the City of Chicago unveiled a new monument on September 18, 2004 by Chicago artist Mary Brogger of a fifteen-foot speakers' wagon at the location on which the labor leaders stood in Haymarket Square in 1886.

For more information, see Haymarket Tragedy in CPL's Deaths, Disturbances, Disasters and Disorders in Chicago selected bibliography.

Also see the Dramas of Haymaket, produced by the Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University.

A Chronological History of Chicago: 1673-

Originally compiled by Chicago Municipal Reference Library, City of Chicago

Last Updated: 02/2006

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The Five Chicago Anarchists

by repost Monday, May. 01, 2006 at 7:15 PM

Commercial Photograph. "The Five Chicago Anarchists. November 11th, 1887. Retail price, 25 cts.

Special Collections & Preservation Division, Chicago Public Library

The only original photographs, taken May 3rd, 1887, in the County Jail, by J. J. Kanberg, 433 E. Division St., Chicago.

To the Public! Ten per cent from the Retail Price, on all copies sold, will be kept separately as a fund in favor of the Anarchist's children. J. J. Kanberg, Photographer."

The five men are clockwise from 1:00 o'clock:

A. R. Parsons

Adolph Fischer

George Engel

August Spies

Louis Lingg (in the middle with two letter g's at the end of his name).

The first four were hanged on Friday, November 11, 1887. Lingg committed suicide on November 10, 1887 by lighting a stick of dynamite in his mouth.

Photograph owned by Special Collections & Preservation Division, Chicago Public Library.

Information compiled by John P. Chalmers, Curator, Special Collections.

Last Updated: 05/2005

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