About this picture: Updated 12/16/2008

This is a link to the Howling Mob Society, who had the good sense and good taste to place official looking markers to commemorate this beautiful, inspirational part of our shared history. I must admit to being totally oblivious to this tribute, but I wish to thank the great folks who did this.

This is a view of Penn Station, during the Great Rail Strike of 1877. This was one of a handful of incidents in US history when the failed revolution of 1776 could have been salvaged (no, not the 1960’s, either).

It was estimated that 3 million dollars worth of damage was carried out by the strikers in Pittsburgh, alone.

The rupture was not restricted to the big cities, check out a great article on the 1877 Uprisng in rural PA.

An excerpt lifted from the UE’s website:

BATTLE IN PITTSBURGH

Sympathy for the strikers was even stronger in Pittsburgh. Here, said Boyer and Morais, the strike against Tom Scott’s Pennsylvania Railroad “had the support even of businessmen, angry at the company because of extortionate freight rates.” The police and local militia sided with the strikers, so the authorities had to appeal for troops from Philadelphia.

When the militiamen arrived and marched out of the station, they were met with the cries of an angry crowd — and, according to Harper’s, “a shower of stones.” They emptied their rifles into the crowd, killing 20 men, women and children and wounding 29. “The sight presented after the soldiers ceased firing was sickening,” reported the New York Herald; the area “was actually dotted with the dead and dying.”

A newspaper headline read: “Shot in Cold Blood by the Roughs of Philadelphia. The Lexington of the Labor Conflict at Hand. The Slaughter of Innocents.”

As the news reached nearby rolling mills and manufacturing shops, workers came rushing to the scene. Workers broke into a gun factory and seized rifles and small arms. Wrote Boyer and Morais, “Miners and steel workers came pouring in from the outskirts of the city and as night fell the immense crowd proved so menacing to the soldiers that they retreated into the roundhouse.” By midnight, Harper’s said, some 20,000 surrounded the roundhouse, 5,000 of them armed.

Workers and soldiers exchanged gunfire throughout the night. The workers nearly succeeded in burning out the troops by sending a blazing oil car hurtling against a nearby building.

‘A NIGHT OF TERROR’

A Civil War veteran among the besieged troops told a New York Herald reporter that he had seen some “wild fighting” in that conflict, but “a night of terror such as last night I never experienced before and hope to God I never will again.”

The next morning the troops evacuated the roundhouse and fought their way out of town. Pittsburgh policemen were among those reportedly taking aim at the strikebreakers. The angry crowd then torched the railroad station, roundhouse, company offices and scores of railroad cars. The New York World told its readers that Pittsburgh was “in the hands of men dominated by the devilish spirit of Communism.”

Meanwhile, on July 21, President Hayes had issued a proclamation warning strikers and their sympathizers to disperse within 24 hours. The next day, Pennsylvania’s governor had ordered every regiment in the state to report for duty. Clashes between troops and strikers in Reading added to the death toll among workers.

1 Comment

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