The following article was one of several that were published the day afer the death of George M. Pullman.
Chicago Tribune, October 20, 1897
The Pullman strike, which developed into one of the most serious labor disturbances in history, began on May 11, 1894. The trouble resulting spread through the length and breadth of the country, and ultimately necessitated calling into active service one of the largest bodies of troops that had taken field in the United States since the civil war. The depression of 1893 had affected the Pullman company and the Detroit works were closed. A threatened reduction in wages, together with a list of grievances cherished by the employés of shops at Pullman, resulted in a strike being ordered. The Pullman company closed its shops and awaited developments.
For six weeks the strike was conducted quietly, and the mass of the people were hardly aware a strike was in progress. On June 22, however, a committee of the American Railway union served notice on the Pullman company that unless the company submitted to arbitration the questions involved in the strike a general boycott be ordered against all roads using Pullman cars. The company refused to arbitrate and on June 28 every member of the American Railway union was ordered not to handle a Pullman car or any train hauling a Pullman car.
Burning of Six Hundred Freight-Cars on the Panhandle Railroad, South of Fiftieth Street, on the Evening of July 6th.
Harper’s Weekly, July 21, 1894
Railroads in Confusion.
The result was three-fourths of the railroads of the country were thrown into confusion within ten days. Eugene V. Debs assumed leadership of the strike, and established offices in Chicago.
June 30 several small riots took place in the vicinity of Kensington and Pullman, and several Illinois Central trains were stoned. For the next few days rioting continued, and several cars were destroyed by strike sympathizers on the Illnois Central tracks south of the Grand Crossing. The local police and 1,000 special deputies found it impossible to maintain order.
July 2 Judges Grosscup and Woods of the federal courts issued restraining injunctions against Leader Debs, prohibiting interference with mail trains or interstate commerce. Disorder increased, not only in Chicago, but throughout Illinois, and in other Western States. Governor Altgeld took no steps to order out the National Guard, and the local authorities confessed themselves unable to maintain the public peace.
Troops Ordered Out.
President Cleveland saw the necessity for prompt action and directed General Miles to order the United States troops from Fort Sheridan to Chicago. Eight companies, heavily armed, arrived during the night of July 3, and were immediately detailed to points where rioting has been most pronounced. Three days later troops arrived from Fort Riley, Fort Niobrara, and Sackett’s Harbor, and there were in all nearly 4,000 regulars, including artillery, cavalry, and infantry, in the city. Governor Altgeld, in the meantime, after protesting the “invasion” of the State by the United States soldiers, had called out every available regiment and independent company in the State service, and Chicago assumed the aspect of an armed camp.
The strike continued, meetings were held all over the city, and each day different trades evinced their their sympathy with the Pullman strikers by “going out.” Disorder soon ceased, however, and Debs and the other orators railed at the presence of federal troops in the city. July 11 was the date set for a “sympathetic” strike, but on that day only a few men went out.
The Great Chicago Strike: Militiamen on a Wrecking Train Firing into the Mob at 49th Street.
Harper’s Weekly, July 14, 1894
Strikers’ Ranks Dwindle.
From that time on the ranks of the strikers began to dwindle, and men who had gone out at Debs’ call again sought their old employment. The railroad men remained obedient to orders, and the strike became confined almost entirely to that class of labor. The railroads in the meantime had been able to resume their old schedules and by degrees everything became settled down. though many men still remained on strike.
As soon as the trouble quieted down the troops were withdrawn slowly, one or two regiments at a time, and after being out six weeks the last soldiers returned to their quarters, and the great Pullman strike to all intents and purposes was over. It had failed in its objects, and had cost both laboring men and industries untold millions.
Mr. Pullman’s Attitude.
During the strike Mr. Pullman published several statement setting forth the attitude of the company with regard to the strike, and offered to expose his books to inspection of an authorized committee in order to show that the Pullman company had been run at a loss for several months, and that it had kept its works open merely to afford employment to its workmen.
The Pullman works reopened early in the fall, taking back many of the men that had been on strike.
Eugene V. Debs and other officers of the A.C.U. were arrested and sentenced for violating Judge Woods’ injunction. The arrest, trial, and conviction caused considerable excitement at the time.
Mr. Pullman was severely criticized by certain newspapers for the stand he took during the strike, and it said since that time his disposition saddened.
Chicago Tribune, June 29, 1894
Labor Day Now a National Holiday
The bill creating a “Labor day” a national holiday has become a law, for Mr. Cummings of New York, who first introduced the bill, took it to the President today and had it signed.
Chicago Tribune, September 4, 1894
Organized labor of Chicago yesterday observed in an appropriate manner the first Labor day which Congress has declared shall hereafter be a holiday for the entire Nation. The unions turned out with full ranks, parading the streets of the city, and in the afternoon listened to the speeches by Comgressman Lawrence E. McGann, John F. Waters, and other men interested in the prosperity of labor.
Showers of rain and muddy streets were no drawbacks for the men who toil. They forgot the discomforts and fatigue attending a march of four miles and fell into the ranks with a proper spirit of pride and good will. Sixty-five hundred men marched to the merry music of bands to Ogden’s Grove.
The wage earners who assembled there took the first step which, in opinion of their leaders, will lead to the emancipation of labor. A resolution which was passed amidst deafening cheers proposes that at each recurring Labor day a national convention of trades unionists shall be held at which such measures shall be framed as will prove most beneficial to the toiling masses. These propositions are then to be presented to the House of Representatives and the Senate with the request to make them laws.
Rain Makes No Difference.
For the first time in many weeks when the day dawned a heavy rain was pouring down and all day long with only short intervals it kept pattering on the muddy streets. The various labor bodies assembled as early as 7:30 a.m. at their headquarters and at 10 o’clock, according to arrangements, the word to march was given in front of the Bricklayers’ Hall, which was the place of rendezvous. With a platoon of twenty-seven police under command of Lieut. Bowler the procession started the in the following order:
Cheered by Thousands iof Spectators.
All along the line of march from Bricklayers’ Hall to Ogden’s Grove crowds of interested spectators stood on the sidewalks. Women whose husbands were in line, as well as children who knew their fathers would be there, watched the marchers with the same interest displayed by the young women whose sweethearts tramped the streets with almost military precision. At Lincoln Park and at the Lincoln Monument where the Mayor was to review the parade thousands of people waited for the procession to arrive. It was nearly 12 o’clock before the bright banners became visible at the northern end of Dearborn avenue, and a few minutes later the first strains of music from the bands were heard.
Around the monument were placed benches and chairs, but the rain made these so uncomfortable that most people preferred to stand up under the sheltering covers of umbrellas. The Reception committee of the organized trades was early on the grounds to make necessary preparations.
The carpenters had the greatest number in line and were awarded the first prize. The painters in white jackets and caps with a blue ribbon made an excellent showing, and as they passed in double file presented their walking sticks. Everybody expected that they would receive the third prize for the best uniformed body in line, but the horseshoers had not made their appearance. The bridge and structural iron workers came next. They wore blue sweaters with initials P. and S. I. W. across the chest. Strong, brawny fellows they were, and were received with cheers.
The float of the Omaha bridge, in course of construction, was a novelty. Then came the plumbers with their banner:
By a singular chance the Mayor arrived at the time when Ryan’s own union, the gas-fitters, came along, and then followed the shoemakers, gravel roofers, clothing cutters, horseshoers, bricklayers, and miscellaneous organizations.
Labor Day Parade March
Composer: H. C. Verner
Published By S. Brainard’s Sons Co.