Showing posts with label labor strife. Show all posts
Showing posts with label labor strife. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

August Spies' Home


August Vincent Theodore Spies, father of American anarchism, hanged for his role in the Haymarket riot, lived here in Wicker Park, at 154 Potomac Ave. (now 2132 W. Potomac).

Born the oldest of five children in a middle-class family in Friedewalde, Prussia (now Germany) in 1855, August Spies’ [pronounced Speeze] childhood was a happy one. As a teenager, he attended college in Kassel, training to be a forest ranger like his father. However, Spies’ life changed course in 1872 after the death of his father. Without the family breadwinner, Spies was forced to drop out of school, and he decided to seek his fortune in the United States. He arrived at New York later in 1872, where he apprenticed to an upholsterer for a few months. From New York, he traveled to Chicago, finding work in an umbrella and parasol factory on the west side, near Madison and Halsted.

He was a hard worker and was more entrepreneurial than most of his fellow immigrants, so much so that by 1876, he was able to open his own upholstery shop before his 21st birthday. The shop was a success and Spies was soon earning enough to bring his family from Germany to Chicago, including his three brothers, Christian, Ferdinand, and Henry, plus his mother and sister. The entire family resided at the home on Potomac.

(Pictured: August Spies)

While the American Dream was a reality for August Spies, he was haunted by the terrible conditions in which the poorest Chicagoans, including many immigrants, lived. Sensitive souls of the 1870s were burdened with the knowledge that, throughout the city, multiple families piled into tiny, dilapidated flats in slums overrun with vermin and other pests, and without access to proper cleaning or bathing facilities. Even for those who escaped the worst conditions, hours were long – a typical worker spent 10 hours per day, six days per week on the job – and work was tedious and repetitive (surfing the web and chatting around the water cooler were unheard of in the workplace of 1880). From this hard life, socialism promised better wages, reduced hours, and less division of labor, meaning more variety in tasks on the job.

Spies first heard of socialism about 1875, and began studying the works of Karl Marx and whatever other literature he could get his hands on. He was immediately attracted to the philosophy, and his adherence was strengthened by the injustices he perceived during the nationwide strike of 1877, in which police and private militias dispersed demonstrators through extreme force and brutality. Like other socialists at the time, he felt the primary means by which workers could even the odds against the political power of the wealthy was by arming themselves, and so he joined the burgeoning Luhr-und-Wehr Verein, a group of labor militants who were expected to be the first line of attack during the expected socialist revolution.

During the late 1870s, Spies came to be well-known in Chicago’s radical circles. He was an excellent orator and an even better writer. He never minced words, and was willing to confront and challenge unfriendly audiences. In an address to a meeting of Congregational ministers, who had invited him to speak on the subject of socialism, he mocked the attempts of Christianity to help the poor with its “little prayer book,” and insisted that only socialism could truly improve society. When one of the ministers replied, “So your remedy would be violence?”, Spies responded
Remedy? Well, I should like it better if it could be done without violence; but you, gentlemen, and the class you represent, take care that it cannot be accomplished otherwise….Besides, what does it matter if some thousands, or even tens of thousands, of drones are removed during the coming struggle? These are the very ones who yearly destroy the lives of hundreds of thousands of proletarians – a fact which you don’t seem to know.
Spies was growing increasingly radical, even relative to other socialists. The final straw was in 1880 when Spies ran for the office of west side tax collector under the banner of the Socialist Labor Party. After losing the race, he rejected the power of the ballot to change society and turned fully towards anarchism. That same year, he left his work as an upholsterer to become the full-time business manager for the German radical daily publication, the Chicagoer Arbeiter-Zeitung. His influence was immediately felt, as the publication began taking a radical turn from socialism to anarchy. Spies’ radicalism was eventually too much for the publication’s editor, Paul Grauttkau, who remained a moderate socialist and left the paper in 1884, after which time, Spies became editor-in-chief.

Through Spies’ tireless work, often amounting up to 16 hours per day, the Arbeiter-Zeitung’s circulation grew, reaching a peak of 20,000 by 1886. At the time, Chicago’s entire population was only 500,000, most of whom did not speak German, the language in which the newspaper was printed. Chicago also became the center for anarchist activity in the United States, led largely by August Spies. The first national anarchist assembly was held in Chicago in 1881, with Spies as the secretary of the congress. While sparsely attended and largely unsuccessful, that event’s promise was fulfilled in a similar conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1883. Spies was also the secretary of the Pittsburgh Congress, where the delegates championed the “Chicago idea,” namely that anarchists should both promote armed insurrection and support trade unions as an organizing idea of society. Spies was crucial in founding the first American anarchist organization, the International Working People’s Association, and in drafting the Pittsburgh Manifesto, which included the following six aims of anarchism:
1. Destruction of the existing class rule, by all means
2. Establishment of a free society based upon co-operative organization of production
3. Free exchange of equivalent products by and between the productive organizations without commerce and profit-mongery
4. Organization of education on a secular, scientific and equal basis for both sexes
5. Equal rights for all without distinction of sex or race
6. Regulation of all public affairs by free contracts between the autonomous (independent) communes and associations, resting on a federalistic basis
While equal rights and widespread education are understandable and laudable goals, the antagonism of anarchists against profit is both puzzling and self-defeating. Profits, after all, serve as signals for where resources should be directed. When the demand for steel increases, profits of steel producers rise, which incentivizes these firms to increase production and signals others to consider entering the steel industry. These reactions allow the increased demand to be met. Without profit, there is no means by which firms know what to produce, how much to produce, or what production technologies to employ. Instead, these decisions tend to be made politically, with tyranny a frequent result. Nothing could be more crucial for individual autonomy and freedom, those keynotes of anarchism, than profit.

The “International”, as the new party was known, quickly dwarfed the less-radical Socialist Labor Party, largely as a result of August Spies’ persistence and hard work. At its pre-Haymarket height, the International claimed 5,000 members nationwide. The success may have gone to his head. In January, 1886, a Chicago Daily News reporter interviewed the 31-year old anarchist leader. In the interview, Spies indicated that the revolution was nigh. As evidence of the strength of the movement, he even gave the reporter an empty dynamite shell casing, saying “Take it to your boss and tell him we have nine thousand more like it – only loaded” (dynamite was an obsession for many anarchists in those days).

It was a statement that struck fear into Chicagoans and hatred for these violent men who sought the overthrow of the government and their way of life. Spies would live to regret saying it when he sat in jail accused of murder by dynamite after the Haymarket riot.

Throughout the spring of 1886, Spies was particularly active, nearly exhausting himself in support of the movement for an eight-hour workday (see the discussion of that movement here). May 1 was the designated day on which workers would walk off the job unless the demand for reduced hours was met, and many expected May 1, 1886 to be the start of a great conflagration between capital and labor which would dwarf the violence of the 1877 railroad strike. The Chicago Mail editorialized
There are two dangerous ruffians at large in this city; two sneaking cowards who are trying to create trouble. One of them is named [Albert] Parsons [another anarchist leader]. The other is named Spies. Should trouble come they would be the first to skulk away from the scene of danger, the first to attempt to shield their worthless carcasses from harm, the first to shirk responsibility….Parsons and Spies have been engaged for the past six months in perfecting arrangements for precipitating a riot today. They have taken advantage of the excitement attending the eight-hour movement to bring about a series of strikes and to work injury to capital and honest labor in every possible way….Mark them for today. Keep them in view. Hold them personally responsible for any trouble that occurs. Make an example of them if trouble does occur!
Instead, however, May 1 passed with a tense quiet in Chicago, as did May 2. On the afternoon May 3, Spies was invited to speak to a meeting of the lumber-shovers' union on 22nd and Blue Island Ave. During the meeting, violence between striking workers and “scabs” broke out nearby at the McCormick Reaper Works at Blue Island and Western Ave., and a confrontation with police led to the deaths of two workers. Spies witnessed the aftermath of the violence, and enraged, rushed back to his office at the Arbeiter-Zeitung, where he penned a circular that inspired the Haymarket meeting the following day.

At the Haymarket Square rally on the evening of May 4, 1886, Spies was scheduled to speak second. He and his brother left their home in Wicker Park and walked down Milwaukee Ave. towards the Haymarket, at Randolph and Desplaines Streets. When they arrived around 8:15 p.m., they found the meeting, which had been scheduled to begin at 7:30, was missing its initial speaker (Albert Parsons). With the crowd thinning, the weather worsening, and the evening growing later, Spies moved the group around the corner onto Desplaines Street, and stood atop a nearby wagon, addressing the crowd in English. He was followed by two other speakers. Near the end of the third lecture, given by Samuel Fielden, Inspector Jack “Black Jack” Bonfield and the Desplaines St. police arrived on the scene, gave the order to disperse, and at that moment, the fatal bomb was thrown. At trial, two witnesses would claim that, during the subsequent speeches, Spies had met the bombthrower in Crane’s Alley, handing him the famous weapon which he later used to wreck havoc. At the time the bomb was thrown, Spies was climbing down from the wagon, responding to the police order. During the riot, he was very nearly killed, but was saved by his brother Henry, who shoved a rifle barrel aimed at Spies out of the way. Spies managed to escape to Zepf’s saloon, and then found his way home.

After the riot, Spies was the first of the Haymarket defendants to be arrested by police. At 9:00 a.m. on May 5, Captain Bonfield arrived at the offices of the Arbeiter-Zeitung and arrested both August Spies and his brother Christopher, who also worked at the paper. In their search of the offices, the police uncovered a cache of dynamite, supposedly in a closet adjacent to Spies’ office. It was nothing like the 9,000 shells Spies had claimed to control, but its existence convicted him in the public eye. The “red scare” that followed the Haymarket riot, plus the natural dislike and suspicion many Chicagoans felt for German immigrants in their city, led to a show trial and conviction of Spies and his fellow defendants for murder, although Spies was demonstrably not the bomb-thrower, and the testimony that indicated he brought the bomb to the event was contradicted by several other witnesses.

Every day during the period of their appeals after the trial, newspapers reported on the condition of Spies and the other defendants in prison. One humorous take in the Tribune described a fretful Spies:
Two men were pacing up and down the corridor, a guard on either side. They kept their eyes on the ground and said never a word. They were August Spies and his brother, Anarchists by profession and fools by nature. They were pale, and wore that frightened, expectant look that one often sees on the face of a married man riding home on the owl-car.
Another day’s commentary provided an interview with the supposedly forlorn prisoner, in which he seemed to be in good spirits, though apparently without a sufficient quantity of "spirits": "We live like princes here in jail. The only drawback to life in this bastille is that it is impossible to get anything to drink!"

Besides the usual family visitors, Spies had a large number of female attendants. As a single man and a martyr for his cause, he was irresistible to some. Spies was also known to be quite handsome, with bright blue eyes, a light brown moustache, waxed at the tips, and always in peak physical condition. During the trial, the newspapers said the 31-year old Spies appeared no older than 26.

A particularly frequent visitor was an attractive 20-year old scion to a wealthy family, Nina Van Zandt. She had met August Spies a few years earlier, when he kindly published a classified lost-and-found ad in the Arbeiter-Zeitung after Van Zandt’s beloved poodle went missing. They reconnected during the trial, and Nina Van Zandt attended court every day. During Spies’ time in prison, she visited on every occasion possible, but was limited in her access to Spies since she was not an immediate family member.

Spies and Van Zandt, who had fallen deeply in love, decided to remedy that problem by marrying. When word got out of the proposed jailhouse wedding, the city was in an uproar. Van Zandt’s parents strenuously opposed the marriage, but to no avail. Public comment was uniformly negative, and not a little condescending towards the would-be fiancée. Typical was a damning letter in the Tribune, which stated
What is to be thought of a woman who is willing to bear children to a convict and send their innocent little souls into the world bearing the mark of Cain on their brows as their very birthright?
Van Zandt was an instant celebrity. She was even portrayed for tourists as a wax sculpture in several dime museums in the city. When the prison warden objected to the marriage plans, the wedding was performed by proxy, with Henry Spies taking the vows for his brother. Despite the questionable legal status of this marriage, Van Zandt took Spies’ last name (which she kept for the rest of her life), and remained married to him until his execution date.

(Pictured: Nina Van Zandt)

August Spies initially signed his name to a letter requesting clemency from the Governor – a request that likely would have been accepted – but then immediately withdrew his signature, refusing to admit guilt or to shame his fellow anarchists. He was hanged with four other Haymarket defendants, who constituted the core leadership of the anarchist movement, on November 11, 1887. Anarchism in the U.S. was never again so prominent.

Nina Van Zandt remained active in the anarchist movement. She remarried in 1895, then divorced this second husband in 1903. She operated a boarding house on Halsted St., near Adams St., until her death in 1936. In her will, she left most of her small possessions, around $3,000 worth, to the care of her eight dogs and one cat.

August Spies’ Wicker Park home is still standing.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Lehr-und-Wehr Verein and the Second Amendment


The 1870s were a period of increasingly violent clashes between workers and employers in Chicago and throughout the U.S. The eight-hour workday movement was emboldened by weak economic conditions prevailing throughout most of that decade, and anarchists began publicly advocating resistance against industrialists and strike-breakers. Employers hired armed guards, including Pinkerton detectives, to defend their personal and business interests, and state governments began forming organized militias to put down insurrections. In response, German socialists and anarchists in Chicago formed the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein.

A rough translation of Lehr-und-Wehr Verein is “Education and Resistence Association,” and the group’s state charter, signed by the governor of Illinois in April, 1875, indicated
The Association is formed for the purpose of improving the mental and bodily condition of its members so as to qualify them for the duties of citizens of the Republic. Its members shall therefore obtain in the meetings of the Association a knowledge of our laws and political economy, and shall also be instructed in military and gymnastic exercises.
There were four Lehr-und-Wehr Verein companies in Chicago which met weekly for drill exercises and instruction. Once each month, all four groups converged at Neff’s Hall, a saloon and assembly hall located at 58 Clybourn (now numbered 1265 N. Clybourn Ave.), which is the building pictured above. Their marching uniforms consisted of blue shirts, black hats, and white rucksacks, paired with light-colored linen pants. At socialist picnics, outings, and conventions, they held shooting contests and mock battles, and marched in columns four men wide, carrying a variety of firearms, everything from squirrel pellet guns to .45 caliber rifles and .44 caliber revolvers. Besides support they received directly from socialist political parties, the organization held fundraisers throughout the year, using monies raised to purchase additional armaments.

(Pictured: a Lehr-und-Wehr Verein drill. Image courtesy of Northwestern University Law School).

While socialists and anarchists had long argued that working men needed to arm themselves to enforce their rights, the formal organization of the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein may have been precipitated by the establishment of the Illinois National Guard in 1874. Though privately financed (primarily by wealthy Chicagoans) the Guard was the first organized militia in the state. In March, 1875, one month before the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein was chartered, the first regiment of the Illinois National Guard mustered with arms at a socialist riot in front of city hall.

While the Verein’s state charter was anodyne, its obvious purpose was to protect socialist interests in battles with business interests, police, and the National Guard. In a letter to the Tribune, Hermann Chilz, secretary of the organization wrote explicitly:
The preparations of the workingmen…are simply a necessity in order to protect themselves against future murderous attacks like the one which was made by the police last year against peaceably assembled workingmen.
Likely Chilz is referring to an infamous case during the Great Strike of 1877 in which, during negotiations between Furniture Workers’ Union members and their employers on W. 12th Street, Chicago police broke down the door and began shooting and beating workers as they tried to escape.

Similarly, Chicago’s socialist newspaper the Arbeiter-Zeitung wrote in June, 1875,
Inasmuch as the bourgeoisie of this place are building up a servile militia with its powers directed against the working man, the workingmen, man for man, should join the … organization and willingly give the few dollars necessary to arm and uniform themselves. When the workingmen are on their guard, their just demands will not be answered with bullets.
The sight of armed groups of socialists marching through the streets of the city alarmed many Chicagoans, especially the wealthy, who had more to lose should a general insurrection arise. They perceived the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein as a threat against law and order, and against their life and property. The aforementioned Great Strike of 1877, although it had lasted only a week, showed that collaborative protest by the working classes was possible and could bring the country’s economy to a standstill. During the strike, Marshall Field and other merchants armed their employees and George Pullman organized a “Law and Order League,” which roamed through the city’s neighborhoods armed with rifles. Armed vigilante groups and private and battalions of Civil War veterans also worked to disperse assemblies of striking workers. Labor historian Paul Avrich writes that for business leaders,
…the chief lesson of the strike was the need for a stronger apparatus of repression. Along with press and pulpit, they called for a reorganization of the military forces, so that in the future they might be able to deal more effectively with popular outbursts. The erection of government armories in the centers of American cities dates from this period. State militias were reorganized and strengthened. Special manuals on riot duty and street fighting became prescribed reading for local and federal forces. In Chicago, a Citizens’ Association, spurred by Marshall Field, was established “to fight communists.” The police began to conduct themselves in the matter of an army, drilling regularly in street maneuvers and learning to “handle themselves like soldiers.” [The Haymarket Tragedy, p. 35]
The fear of armed socialist groups is reflected in the following poem, printed in an 1878 weekly version of the Arbeiter-Zeitung:

Our Dear Police
(by Gustav Lyser)

They say our dear Chicago police
Are pretty sore these days,
It seems the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein
Has led their minds astray

It teaches constitutional truths
For all – not just th’ elite,
And that no one the right to assemble
May trample under his feet!

It teacher what is guaranteed,
And read it each man might
To liberty, life, pursuit of happiness
We have a common right!

It teaches how we must defend
‘Gainst tyrrany’s reckless flood;
That freedom much from us demands –
May e’en demand our blood!

That’s why our dear Chicago police
Are pretty sore these days;
For such a Lehr-und-Wehr Verein
Has set their fears ablaze.

As the poem suggests, the issue quickly become a constitutional question. The second amendment to the Constitution reads:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
In the 19th century, the “militia”, as defined in both federal and state code, included all (white male) citizens; hence, one reading of the the second amendment is that it precludes the government from disarming its citizens, who have the right use force to defend their freedom from tyrants or foreign invaders. This is certainly how the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein read the amendment. At the same time, courts of the era also interpreted the Bill of Rights to apply narrowly to the federal government exclusively; thus, the U.S. Congress could make no law infringing the right to bear arms, but the states could.

In May, 1879, Illinois did just that, passing the Militia Bill, sections 5 and 6 of which read:
Sec. 5 It shall not be lawful for any body of men whatever, other than the regular organized volunteer militia of this state, and the troops of the United States, to associate themselves together as a military company or organization, or to drill or parade with arms in any city or town of this state, without the license of the governor thereof, which license may at any time be revoked….Provided, that nothing herein contained shall be construed so as to prevent benevolent or social organizations from wearing swords.

Sec. 6. Whoever offends against the provisions of the preceding section, or belongs to, or parades with, any such unauthorized body of men with arms, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding the sum of ten dollars, ($10,) or by imprisonment in the common jail for a term not exceeding six months, or both.
The statute, with most of the same language (including the amusing bit about wearing swords), is still on the Illinois books today (See Sections 94 and 101 here; 130 years later, the original $10 fine has been increased to “not less than $20 nor more than $100”).

The 1879 Militia law was specifically aimed at armed socialists groups like the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein, the membership of which had grown dramatically since the Great Strike. While no reliable sources exist, the total number of Lehr-und-Wehr Verein members likely exceeded 1,000 at its peak, and may have been as high as 3,000. Verein members saw in the law’s provision for licenses granted by the governor an attempt by the state to monopolize the use of force, and to direct it against groups with little political power, especially workers.

On July 2, 1879, the new law was put to the test when a group of Lehr-und-Wehr Verein, led by their captain, Frank Bielefeldt, marched with arms through Chicago. Bielefeldt was arrested and charged with violation of the militia law. The case was heard in Cook County Criminal Court in late July, and Bielefeldt triumphed. The court held that the right to bear arms was an inherent, inalienable right, independent of any law passed in Illinois or elsewhere, and that arming oneself is “an unconditioned and undeniable right, militia or no militia.”

The Judge in the case also argued that, while the Second Amendment (and other aspects of the Bill of Rights) had not applied to state laws before the Civil War, this was no longer the case after the passage of the 14th amendment in 1868, the text of which reads (in part): “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The right to bear arms being one of the privileges accorded to U.S. citizens by their constitution, the states were thus restricted from abridging that right.

The court further agreed with the socialists that the militia law unnecessarily politicized self-defense, arguing that the statute “empowers the Governor in the granting or withholding of licenses to make odious discriminations based on politics, religion, class interests, nationality, place or similar considerations repugnant to the genius of our institutions and subversive of constitutional equality.”

The case, which was decided 2-1, was a startling victory for the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein, and inspired the conservative Tribune to attribute to the decision epithets including “irrelevant” and “puerile;” nevertheless, its effect was to be short-lived. In the fall of 1878, the Illinois Supreme Court judged in a separate case that the Illinois National Guard, not the public at large, was the state militia; as a consequence, Governor Shelby Cullom announced that the militia law would be sternly enforced against the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein: no one but the militia would be allowed to parade with arms without the Governor's permission. However, since the ultimate question of constitutionality had still not been decided by the courts, the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein prompty offered an opportunity for them to do so.

On September 24, 1879, Hermann Presser, mounted on horseback, led a march in Chicago of 400 Lehr-und-Wehr Verein members carrying firearms. Presser was arrested, convicted in circuit court, and fined the statutory $10. The case was appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which confirmed Presser’s conviction, at which point the case was again appealed the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Court took its time, and did not hear oral arguments until 1885. In the mean time, the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein continued to hold meetings and drills, but did not march publicly without permission (in one instance in 1880, the Governor did grant permission to the group for a public display). The growing anarchist movement intertwined with the Verein’s membership, and many of the city’s foremost firebrands, including those advocating revolution, were members. One of the most zealous of the future Haymarket defendants, Adolph Fischer, was a member. The pages of the Arbeiter-Zeitung persistently urged workers to arm themselves, especially with dynamite, to assist in the coming war with the industrialist elite.

At the Supreme Court, former U.S. Senator Lyman Trumbull represented Presser, arguing in terms similar to those that had been issued in the earlier Bielefeldt case, a de-politicization of the militia:
“To bear arms,” then in the constitutional sense, means to bear the weapons of civilized warfare, and to become instructed in their use. But this is drilling, officering, organizing; therefore, these are claimed to be part and parcel, of the same impregnable right, and placed by the supreme law of the land, beyond the reach of infringement by the provisions of any military code or, the precarious will, and license of whoever may happen to be Governor.
In January, 1886, the Supreme Court released its ruling in the case of Presser v. Illinois. The constitutionality or lack thereof of the Illinois National Guard, which had played a substantial role in the defense's case, was irrelevant, the justices argued; only sections 5 and 6 of the militia law, under which Presser was convicted, were relevant. Turning the Court’s attention to these sections, the decision affirmed that the Bill of Rights did not apply to state laws:
We think it clear that the sections under consideration, which only forbid bodies of men to associate together as military organizations, or to drill or parade with arms in cities and towns unless authorized by law, do not infringe the right of the people to keep and bear arms. But a conclusive answer to the contention that this amendment prohibits the legislation in question lies in the fact that the amendment is a limitation only upon the power of congress and the national government, and not upon that of the state.

…[T]he right of the people to keep and bear arms is not a right granted by the constitution. Neither is it in any manner dependent upon that instrument for its existence. The second amendment declares that it shall not be infringed, but this, as has been seen, means no more than that it shall not be infringed by congress. This is one of the amendments that has no other effect than to restrict the powers of the national government…
The Court further opined that states need the ability to regulate free assembly and firearm ownership in order “to suppress armed mobs bent on riot and rapine.”

After the ruling in Presser, the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein would never again exercise in public, and the anarchist movement in the United States went into the decline. Just four months later, the Haymarket riot led to the imprisonment (and, for some, death) of most of the city’s anarchist leaders. Coincidentally or not, the judge who presided over the trial of the Haymarket defendants was the one dissenting member of the panel that ruled in favor of the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein in the Bielefeldt case.

A decade after Presser, U.S. courts began developing the doctrine of “incorporation,” essentially the same argument as the Cook County Criminal Court made in the Bielefeldt case – that the 14th amendment implies that the Bill of Rights applies to state laws as well as to the federal government. Over the next hundred years, most of the Bill of Rights was so "incorporated," including the first amendment rights of freedom of speech, religion, and assembly, and the fifth amendment protections against double jeopardy and self-incrimination. Notably, however, the Supreme Court has never ruled that the second amendment applies to the states; hence, Presser v. Illinois is still a standard citation in cases throughout the country upholding local ordinances banning handgun ownership.

That is likely to change soon. The Presser case was recently denigrated as outmoded by Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority in its ruling (see p. 48, n23) last summer against the Washington, D.C. handgun ban. That case, however, did not decide the question of whether the second amendment applies to the states since the District of Columbia is not a state. Nevertheless, barring unexpected changes in the Court’s membership, most observers expect a decision in the next few terms will extend “incorporation” to the second amendment. Will we then see a return of the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein?

Neff’s hall, where the Verein once met for their general assembly and military drills, still stands on Clybourn Ave. While the Verein were active, it was commonly used by anarchists to store dynamite and other weapons. It was frequented in particular by Louis Lingg, the most violent of the Haymarket defendents, who committed suicide in jail before his execution. Known as Thueringer Hall in the 1880s, the building was later home to a hosiery shop in the 1950s. Today, it appears to be vacant.

[Several of the quotes in this post (particularly the poem from the Arbeiter-Zeitung and the clippings from the defense brief in Presser) were found in Stephen P. Halbrook's Summer 1999 article in the University of Detroit Mercey Law Review, "The Right of Workers to Assemble and to Bear Arms: Presser v. Illinois, One of the Last Holdouts Against Application of the Bill of Rights to the States".]

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Black Jack" John Bonfield


Inspector John A. Bonfield was Chicago’s most famous police officer in the 1880s and 1890s. He brought new technology and greater brutality to the Chicago Police Department, along the way becoming a bugbear for labor and a cause célèbre for the Right. At the peak of his career, he was Inspector at the Desplaines street stationhouse, located at Desplaines and W. Court Place, one block south of Randolph (location pictured above).

John Bonfield was born at New Brunswick in 1836, and came to Chicago as a child in 1843. At age 22, he found work as a railroad engineer on the Ohio & Mississippi line, operating a run between Cincinnati and St. Louis. In the 1860s, the Ohio & Mississippi line was the target of the first American train robberies, perpetrated by the Reno Gang in Southern Indiana. After three of the Reno boys were lynched, their father became a drunken terror in that region, and eventually was nearly as despised as his children. That’s why the locals cheered and treated Bonfield like a hero when Old Man Reno wandered drunkenly into the way of his oncoming train.

Perhaps it was this popularity that led President U.S. Grant to appoint Bonfield to a position as a government customs officer in Chicago, where he remained until 1875. After leaving government work, Bonfield opened grocery and fertilizer businesses, both of which failed in short order. Thus, penniless and out of work, he jumped at the opportunity to join the city’s police department in 1878.

In 1880, Chicago had a population of just over 500,000, and in that year there were 190 officers available for night duty, and 76 available for daylight work. Each officer covered a very broad area, and a resident who needed police assistance could wait for over an hour before seeing an officer face-to-face. It was in this year that Detective Bonfield, with two other officers, invented and implemented the first electric police communication system. The system worked through small wooden boxes affixed to telegraph poles on street corners all over the city. Keys to the boxes were furnished to “respectable citizens upon application at the station.”

If police assistance was needed, one would only need to locate someone with a key, who could open the box and pull a lever, which sent a signal through electrical wires to the local station, summoning three policemen and a wagon in less than four minutes. The key, once turned in the box, could not be removed except by use of another key, held only by police officers – an attempt to reduce the number of false alarms.

The success of the boxes was repeated with similar systems in cities throughout the world, and John Bonfield became a local celebrity and a symbol of law and order. Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who became a close friend of Bonfield, appointed him lieutenant at the 12th Street station, and then Captain at Chicago Central Station, and finally Inspector at the Desplaines Street station.

Bonfield’s reputation for police brutality was first made during the January, 1886 west side street car riots. Workers in the Madison streetcar line were on strike that month (the streetcars were run by private companies), and public opinion was strongly on the side of the workers. When the streetcar company employed replacement “scabs” to operate the lines, striking workers physically threatened the replacements and refused to let the cars run. Bonfield led a phalanx of police officers lining both sides of Madison street to allow the cars through. When threatened, Bonfield told his men to use their police clubs freely (Bonfield himself led the effort) and scores of cracked skulls resulted. It was this incident, plus Bonfield’s personal motto, “The club today saves the bullet tomorrow,” that generated for him the sobriquet “Black Jack” Bonfield.

More famous even than his role in the street car riot was his crucial part in the Haymarket massacre of May, 1886. Bonfield was already despised by the Left, but after Haymarket, he became one of its all-time most hated enemies.

The incendiary language of Chicago’s anarchists had aroused the antipathy of many of the city’s residents, and much of that language was directed pointedly at the police, who were blamed for siding with management in battles with labor, such as in the streetcar dispute. With the general unrest surrounding efforts to enforce the eight-hour workday in May, 1886, Inspector Bonfield kept a close eye on the activities of anarchists. It was Bonfield who led a troop of police to settle a street battle between striking workers and scabs at the McCormick Reaper Works on May 3. During that clash, two workers were shot by police, and August Spies, a leading anarchist, was present at the event. Upset at the violence, Spies spent that evening in his office at the anarchist newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung, writing the famous “Revenge” circular, which led to the meeting in Haymarket Square.

While Spies and fellow anarchist Albert Parsons spoke to the crowd near Haymarket, Inspector Bonfield remained at the Desplaines Street Station just one block south, the location of which is pictured above. With him were six companies of officers, constituted of 176 men, of which 50 were tasked with blending into the crowd, taking note of the speeches, and reporting back every fifteen minutes to Bonfield.

Spies, Parsons, and the third speaker, Samuel Fielden, spoke in terms common for socialist meetings, with plenty of language comparing wages with slavery, the failure of capitalism, the evils of the gilded age, and the need for laborers to unite. While the crowds were smaller than expected (only around 2,000 attended) due to poor weather and rumors of violence, Spies, Parsons, and Fielden made the best of it. As Fielden began to wrap up his speech, he spoke of resisting the law:
A million men hold all the property in this country. The law has no use for the other fifty-four millions. You have nothing more to do with the law except to lay hands on it and throttle it until it makes its last kick...Keep your eye upon it, throttle it, kill it, stab it, do everything to can to wound it -- to impede its progress.
When Fielden spoke of “throttling” the law, one of Bonfield’s men ran back to the station house and repeated the quip to the Inspector. While Fielden was probably speaking metaphorically of the "law" of capitalism or economics, Bonfield perceived a direct threat to the police. He gathered his troop, and marched up Desplaines street to where Fielden was wrapping up his speech:
He that has to obey the will of another is a slave. Can we do anything except by the strong arm of resistance?...I have some resistance in me; I know that you have, too; you have been robbed and you will be starved into a worse condition....
Upon the arrival of the police, Fielden broke off his speech, and all eyes turned to Bonfield. “In the name of the people of the State of Illinois, quietly and peaceably disperse,” he announced.

Fielden replied “We are peaceable,” and at that moment, the fatal dynamite bomb was thrown. The police began firing their pistols into the crowd, causing a frightening stampede and riot. In the chaos, seven police officers were killed (though only one directly by the bomb itself), 11 were permanently disabled, 12 were injured so severely that they never returned to duty, and another 39 were injured but were able to work again. The seven dead officers were: Matthias J. Degan, George Miller, John J. Barrett, Timothy Flavihan, Michael Sheehan, Nels Hansen, and Thomas Redden.

In the “red scare” following the Haymarket massacre, Bonfield was hailed as a hero, an ideal police officer, although another view is that it was his rash and needless actions that led to the bloodshed. Nevertheless, on the one-year anniversary of the massacre, the conservative Tribune wrote of Bonfield:
That day -- May 4, 1886, when the city seemed in the utmost peril, the entire police force of 1,000 men recognized the force and courage of their inspector, who directed the movements of the officers to the smallest detail. Where other men seemed paralyzed and powerless to act, John Bonfield held his nerve, and with unaffected coolness laid out for the men their plan of action. That night, and a few hours before the Haymarket tragedy, Inspector Bonfield assembled four companies of police in the squad-room of the Desplaines Street Station. A mob of anarchists and their followers were listening to the incendiary speeches of Spies, Parsons, Fielden and others, but a stone's throw from where the police were drawn up in line of battle. Messengers came and went each moment informing Inspector Bonfield of the utterances of the mob's leaders. When word came that they had advised revenge and urged riot and slaughter John Bonfield, at the head of his men, marched to the scene. What followed is now a matter of history.
While beloved by the Right, Bonfield was utterly despised by the Left. He was frequently a target of assassination attempts, including a bombing attempt by John Hronek in 1888. When Hronek was caught and sentenced to 12 years in prison, the increasingly xenophobic Tribune wrote of the predominantly-German socialists, "The hand of the law is tightening its clutch upon the cowardly Bohemian dynamite conspirators."

Labor activists were thrilled then, at the spectacular charges of the Democrat-leaning Chicago Times, which in January, 1889, published a front-page article accusing Bonfield and two fellow officers of stealing property from prisoners and selling it for profit. Specifically, the paper accused Bonfield of selling the personal affects of one of the Haymarket defendants, Louis Lingg. Lingg was perhaps the least liked of all those who went on trial for Haymarket; even his fellow defendants thought him a sociopath. When Lingg committed suicide in prison by biting down on a lit stick of dynamite days before his scheduled hanging, Bonfield purportedly appropriated his clothes and other effects, hiding them at a fellow officer’s ex-wife’s house until they could be fenced.

Bonfield, naturally, blamed his political enemies for the scandal:
Does it not seem a trifle strange that the three men most prominent in securing the conviction of the Anarchists should be the victims of this scurrilous attack? The "Reds" plotted to blow us skywards with dynamite. They failed, and some of their number will spend a good portion of their lives in Joliet. Now they are trying to ruin us.
He sued the Times for libel, but the damage was already done, and Bonfield could no longer effectively police the streets. Mayor John Roche suspended him from duty after he refused to step down, and with that indignity, John Bonfield swore off the Chicago police for the rest of his life. Upon hearing of his departure, Lucy Parsons, Albert’s wife, who had continued as an anarchist leader, rejoiced:
Mrs. Parsons while addressing an Anarchist meeting in Waverly Hall last night was interrupted by the announcement of Inspector Bonfield and Capt. Schaack's suspension. Mrs. Parsons was wild with joy and the Anarchists in the room cheered.
After leaving the police force, Bonfield capitalized on his famous name by opening a detective agency. Note the prominent references to the Haymarket Massacre in the text of the advertisement below.

The Bonfield agency’s most famous case took the Inspector and 20 of his crack detectives to Salt Lake City, where the Mormon “People’s Party” had controlled state government for over 40 years, but were threatened in the 1890 election by a non-Mormon Liberal party. The Mormons accused the Liberals of fraud in voter registration, and hired Bonfield’s men to keep watch over the election. Despite his best efforts, however, the Liberal party won. The ironic Tribune headline the next day was “Babylon is Fallen!”.

With the Salt Lake City debacle behind him, Bonfield returned to Chicago, where he became a conservative cause célèbre. His name was constantly rumored as an appointment for Chief of Police, a political token politicians used to signify their support for “law and order”. But Bonfield was Shermanesque, refusing to return to the Department which had shunned him (though the charges leveled by the Times were never disproved – Bonfield’s libel case was dismissed).

The old Inspector’s popularity never waned, though, and in 1893, Bonfield was appointed to head the special service police force keeping order at the World’s Fair in Jackson Park. Bonfield announced a plan, in common with the “internationalist” flavor of the Fair, to bring together the 400 greatest police officers from every city in the world to keep the peace.

The special force received mixed reviews. Early on, there were few arrests and many pickpockets, and there were persistent rumors that Bonfield was up to his old tricks, using his position to enrich himself with stolen goods, and of course, the city’s most sinister murderer, who lured unknown scores to their deaths during the Fair, went unapprehended. But by the end of the Fair, with the general goodwill associated with the event’s acknowledged success, Bonfield
was generally cheered.

John Bonfield died at Chicago in 1898. The old Desplaines Street police house has been replaced by an upscale condominium complex.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Striking Waitresses at Henrici's


Philip Henrici opened his first lunchroom counter in 1868 on a corner in the block where the Macy's/Marshall Field's is now. In 1893, he opened a new restaurant at this location, 67-71 W. Randolph, which stayed open until 1962, when the city condemned the property to build the Civic Center building (later renamed the Daley Center, pictured above). During the Spring of 1914, however, Henrici's was at the center of a labor maelstrom in one of the city's first female-organized strikes.

Philip Henrici was Austrian by birth, but ran away as a boy to New York in 1845, finding work as a baker's apprentice. In 1868, he arrived in Chicago and opened his own lunch counter. His Viennese-style pastries were an immediate hit, and he made good use of his European baking skill when he opened his first Henrici's restaurant on Randolph street during the city's international-themed Columbian Exposition in 1893. The restaurant, decorated in the style of a Viennese coffee house, had stained glass windows and a pastry counter in the window to attract passers-by. Over time, despite (or possibly because of) its proletarian atmosphere, it became a hot spot for the city's political and celebrity class. Mayor Richard J. Daley met with the power elite over breakfast there practically every day of his long administration. As Tribune society columnist Will Leonard wrote, Henrici's "was a resting place for the elbows of celebrities when the No. 1 booth at the Pump Room wasn't even a twinkle in an architect's eye."

The advertisement below, from 1922, promotes an unusual feature of the restaurant much ignored among today's culinary critics: clean air (click to enlarge).

Henrici's was famously cheap. The restaurant's original slogan was "All you can eat for a quarter." The original bill of fare (the word "menu" not then being in use in the U.S.) in 1868 offered sirloin steak (15c), veal cutlets (10c), three fried eggs (15c), hot cakes (5c), and apple pie (5c).

Later, the restaurant became famous for the words scribbled at the bottom of the advertisement above: "No orchestral din" -- an indication that, unlike other restaurants that offered music to diners, Henrici's kept costs (and prices) at a bare minimum.

Philip Henrici died in 1904, bequething a $250,000 estate to his heirs, including his namesake, Philip Henrici, Jr. The latter, however, lost his rights to the estate when he eloped, shortly before his father's death, with a woman disliked by the family. The marriage ended in divorce (followed by quick remarriage on Henrici's part) within a year. Apparently, alcohol and religion were inciting factors:
It was a compromise divorce, [Henrici] said last night. At the time of the divorce he had charged her with drinking thirty-one highballs at a sitting. Mrs. Henrici the first said that would have been a physical impossibility, and that, anyway, whenever she drank, it was in company of her husband. She claimed that her desire to take up Hindoo philosophy was the real cause of the disagreement.
Four days after the divorce, young Henrici remarried a Miss Frances Kavanagh. Under Illinois law, however, a man could be arrested for remarrying within a year of a divorce, and so the newlyweds hid out for a year before having a second formal ceremony to legitimize themselves before the state's archaic marital statues.

Because of Henrici, Jr.'s flightiness, he never got far in his father's business, and control of the Henrici's on Randolph passed to a son of one of Philip Henrici, Sr.'s daughters, William M. Collins. It was Collins who owned the shop during the waitress strike of 1914.

During the 1910s, women were exercising increasing political power in America, with most of their attention focused on suffrage issues, schooling reforms, and dry laws. But labor market regulations for female workers were not far down the list. In 1910, agitation to reduce the working hours of women began in earnest in Chicago, with attempts to regulate a maximum 10-hour day, and 6-day week. One strike in favor of lower hours at a diner in the financial district is described below; note the union president's silence -- verbally calling a walk-off could put one at risk of court suppression and injunction.
A silence fell o'er that hungry group - broken only by the sound of someone eating soup. For through the doorway there had walked two women, who uttered not a sound. The first one raised her finger and calmly glanced around. Each diner paused with knife and fork poised, wondering and waiting. Who could the women be? What meant that index finger shaking? Each waitress promptly dropped her plates on tables or on the floor, and doffed her apron, donned her hat, and started for the door. The owner of that finger was their union president, its shaking was a signal, and "on strike" each waitress went.
In 1911, the Illinois legislature passed a law limiting women's hours worked. One wonders, however, whether the real beneficiaries of the legislation weren't male workers, who were able to limit their labor market competition by force of government.

Regardless, emboldened by the victory, advocates pushed for further concessions, higher wages, and fewer hours. February, 1914, saw a general strike against 35 major restaurants in the Loop district, demanding recognition of the waitresses' union, and closed-shop conditions. Henrici's was selected as the first and primary target. The sidewalk outside the restaurant was continuously picketed by women carrying signs and calling out to patrons not to enter.

What followed over the next few months was a flurry of allegations from both sides of unfair and violent tactics. Restaurant manager Collins claimed that, after the union came to him and made its demands, he asked for two weeks to decide his response. The waitresses refused, saying "you either unionize or we'll ruin you." Collins further complained that the picketers were intimidating his patrons, threatening them and disrupting the peace on the busy street outside. He told a reporter:
"I asked my employees if they wanted to join the union, but they are unwilling. Then the representatives of the unions asked me to sign an agreement which virtually would compel me to force by employees into the union or discharge them. The employees here are satisfied, and I don't want to do anything that would cause them to become dissatisfied."
For their part, the waitresses claimed physical violence from Henrici's from the start, hiring Pinkertons to intimidate the strikers, and suffering injuries from police aggression. One striker said:
We were met by gunmen the first day the strike was started. They told us they would make footballs of us before we got through with the strike.
The waitresses complained that the police cursed them and attempted to interfere with their picket line in front of Henrici's. They claimed police had dragged some women so violently that their shoulders were torn and bruised. In one case, the union president, a Miss Carrie Alexander, was arrested for disturbing the peace in front of Henrici's. When the police arrested her, they asked her to walk with them to jail. She refused, sitting down in the February sidewalk slush, to the cheers of a growing crowd. The police attempted to pick her up and carry her, at which point she began to kick and scream, and a crowd of 5,000 supporters began jeering for a riot. To avoid violence, Miss Alexander proceeded to jail, but after posting bond, returned to Henrici's, where she was arrested again twice that day.

When they found out about the purported violence, Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, founders of the famous Hull House, lent their support to the women, with Starr leading many of the protests, and union meetings taking place at Hull House.

Finally, on April 7, after weeks of conflict, an court injunction limited striking on public streets. Handbills could be passed out, but no words could be spoken. Below is what the waitresses began handing out to Henrici's customers the next day:


Eventually, however, legal appeals were exhausted, and the strikers ended their protests in June of 1914 with little to show for it.

With the strikes over, Henrici's on Randolph continued developing into a Chicago institution, with several other locations opening in other parts of the city, as well as in St. Louis and other towns. In 1962, the Randolph St. location closed and was torn down to make way for the Civic Center, later named the Daley Center. Henrici's was later owned by the Pillsbury Corporation, which maintained the other retaurant locations until the early 1980s. The restaurant in the Ramada on Manheim in Rosemont was one of the last Henrici's to go.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Haymarket Speakers' Wagon

At the time of the Haymarket Riot, during the 1880s, a typical laborer in the United States worked ten hours per day, six days per week. Today, the average is below 40 hours per week (even if you count only male primary family "breadwinners"), and almost all of the 33% decline in hours worked has been converted directly into increased leisure time. Additionally, there is the dramatic improvement in the types and variety of entertainment options today that did not exist then (such as reading -- and writing -- blogs) which improve the quality of the leisure time we take, not to mention the many ways in which the tedium and exhaustion traditionally associated with work have been ameliorated (are you reading this blog post at your job?). We are truly pampered on a colossal scale compared to our forefathers of only 120 years ago -- barely the blink of an eye in human history.

In perspective, then, it's easy to see the attraction socialism and anarchy held to workers of the day. With low levels of education and little modern technology, labor productivity was low and the going wage rates reflected this low productivity. Thus, a laborer typically needed to work many hours in order to earn enough to feed himself and his family.

This work truly was miserable, protracted, and repetitive, and with the government providing few of the "social safety net" benefits that the New Deal and Great Society would bring during the 20th century, many workers felt trapped in a life of hopeless tedium, unable to consider quitting for fear of literally starving themselves and their families to death. That phrase, "wage slavery," so key to socialist rhetoric, seems offensive to the modern ear in its analogy between freely entered employment contracts and the violence of whip and chain, but would not have fallen on such deaf ears in the 1880s.

Organized labor, as a movement, was in its infancy, but May of 1886 was a turning point. Like all cartels, workers' groups of that day and today sought to lower production levels (hours worked) in order to raise pries (wages). Naturally, such actions benefit workers with jobs, who receive higher wages, but at the expense of the unemployed, who find it harder to get work at the higher rates. A regulated and enforced eight hour workday was seen as a solution to this tradeoff, as it would in theory share wage gains more broadly across workers, rather than enriching some and punishing others.

Legislation in some states had enforced maximum ten hour workdays for several decades, although there were generally relaxed rules for cases where both employer and employee mutually desired longer days. With productivity (and wages) at such low levels, many workers wanted to work longer hours in order to earn more.

In order to force the question of the eight-hour day, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, an early labor organization, designated May 1, 1886 ("May Day") as the day when workers would simply walk off the job after eight hours. However, the lack of solidarity among workers and the desire of many to work more than eight hours, doomed the effort. The radicalism at the fringes of the labor movement, displayed in the Haymarket Affair, also turned public opinion against legislation that would enforce shorter workdays.

These events filled the early days of May, 1886 in Chicago with clashes between groups with varying interests: workers seeking to fulfill the promise of the eight hour day, workers who wanted to work more than eight hours, employers who wanted to hire workers for more than eight hours, the unemployed who wanted to work any hours they could, and the police. On May 3, a walk-off at McCormick's Reaper Works on the Southwest side led to a clash with police in which two workers died.

August Spies, the editor of the radical daily Arbeiter-Zeitung, witnessed the bloodshed (though he mistakenly believed six, not two, were killed), and returned to his Wells St. office where he penned a passionate leaflet calling for retribution. The English version of Spies' copy (which was also printed in German) read:
Workingmen to Arms!!! Your masters sent out their bloodhounds -- the police; they killed six of your brothers at McCormick's this afternoon. They killed the poor wretches, because they, like you, had the courage to disobey the supreme will of your bosses. They killed them, because they dared ask for the shortening of the hours of toil. They killed them to show you, "Free American Citizens," that you must be satisfied and contented with whatever your bosses condescend to allow you, or you will get killed!

You have for years endured the most abject humiliations; you have for years suffered unmeasurable iniquities; you have worked yourself to death; you have endured the pangs of want and hunger; your children you have sacrificed to the factory-lords -- in short: you have been miserable and obedient slaves all these years. Why? To satisfy the insatiable greed, to fill the coffers of your lazy thieving master? When you ask them now to lessen your burden, he sends his bloodhounds out to shoot you, kill you!

If you are men, if you are the sons of your grand sires, who have shed their blood to free you, then you will rise in your might, Hercules, and destroy the hideous monster that seeks to destroy you. To arms we call you, to arms!

Your brothers.
A copy editor at the newspaper added the word "Revenge!" in bold face at the top of the leaflet, thus giving it the name it became known later at the trial, the "Revenge Circular." 2,500 copies of the Revenge Circular went out, including to a Westside meeting of radical anarchists run by Adolph Fischer, a printer at the Arbeiter-Zeitung, and George Engel. At that meeting, a protest was planned for the following evening at Haymarket Square. Haymarket was chosen because it was large enough that the planners felt escape would be possible if a clash with police occurred. Fischer printed up 25,000 handbills, which included the phrase:
Workingmen arm yourselves and appear in full force!
Fischer then went to his job at the Arbeiter-Zeitung, and convinced Spies to speak at the meeting and to print the handbill in the next day's newspaper. Spies objected to the handbill's violent tone, and printed the bill without the offensive "arm yourselves" line. Also in the same issue of the paper mysteriously appeared the word "Ruhe" (rest) in a prominent position, a signal previously determined to designate the start of outright revolution.

The evening of the protest, May 4, was rainy and cold. Albert Parsons, a major anarchist leader in the city, and alone among the Haymarket defendants, a native-born American, was supposed to open the meeting in English, but he had been delayed, and at 8:15 the meeting had still not begun. The weather -- and possibly the whiff of violence -- had kept many potential attendees at home, and the late start led others to assume the meeting was canceled.

When Spies arrived to begin his speech at 8:15, he noted the poor attendance and decided to move the group around the corner on to Desplaines Street, where he found an empty wagon, which he appropriated as a podium. Standing on the podium, he began addressing the crowd. The speakers' wagon from which Spies spoke has been commemorated by the sculpture which stands today on the location of the real wagon, pictured above.

After Spies finished speaking, Parsons arrived and spoke for another hour to a rapidly thinning crowd. Those who were left, however, were among the most radical, and they repeatedly shouted slogans and affirmations to what they heard from the wagon. One attendee waved a pistol above his head in defiance.

As the weather worsened, Parsons told the attendees that a final speaker, Samuel Fielden, would be the final speaker, and those who wished could then continue the discussion at Zepf's tavern, just north of the Haymarket. Fielden concluded his talk, which included some incendiary, though circumspect, language:
He that has to obey the will of another is a slave. Can we do anything except by the strong arm of resistance?...I have some resistance in me; I know that you have, too; you have been robbed and you will be starved into a worse condition."
At this moment, a police force arrived to break up the meeting. Fielden began stepping down from the platform, as his speech was essentially finished at the point anyway. Spies, who was sitting at the edge of the wagon, was about to remind everyone about the post-protest meeting at Zepf's.

At this point that the fatal bomb was thrown, and the riot begun. The police began firing randomly into the crowd, though they primarily shot each other. Men and women ran in all directions, trampling each other in a mad attempt to escape. The air was clouded with smoke from gunshot and cries from those shot and wounded. Ten men, including seven police, lie dead on the street. Probably over a hundred were wounded.

Eight men, including Fischer, Parsons, Engel, Fielden, and Spies, were tried and convicted on murder charges, though six of them were demonstrably not even in attendance at the Haymarket meeting at the time of the bomb (including Fischer and Parsons, who had already retired to Zepf's), and the two who were in attendance, Fielden and Spies, were both on the speakers' wagon in full sight of all when the bomb was thrown.

Nevertheless, their history of radical behavior and incendiary rhetoric had turned public opinion strongly against the anarchists, and a fair trial was an impossibility. Spies, Parsons, Engel, and Fischer were executed in November, 1887. A fifth convict committed suicide in prison, and the remaining three were pardoned after serving seven years in prison.

While a statue to the fallen police was erected in Haymarket Square soon after the incident, over time, the cause of workers' rights led to a more sympathetic view of the anarchist "conspirators". In 1992, a bronze plaque was sunk into the sidewalk at the location of the speakers' wagon, and in 2004 the pictured sculpture was unveiled.

While the eight-hour day is a reality today for most workers, there is little evidence that the Haymarket Riot, or labor organization and agitation generally, had much to do with it. Improvements in education and labor-saving technology, which vastly increased labor productivity, led to higher wages. Workers then were able to to cut their hours of work without reducing their standard of living.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Crane's Alley


If the Haymarket defendants were guilty of plotting the most famous bombing in Chicago history that evening of May 4, 1886, this is where they planned it. Two witnesses took the stand at the Haymarket trial and declared they say August Spies and either Michael Schwab or Adolph Fischer huddled together in this alley discussing the bombing, then passing a lit stick of dynamite to Rudolph Schnaubelt, who threw it into the crowd, starting the chaos.

The first witness, Malvern M. Thompson, was an employee of the Marshall Fields dry goods store. Under questioning by State's Attorney Grinnell on July 27, 1886, Thompson said:
A. Then Spies got up on the wagon and asked for Parsons. Parsons didn't respond. He then got down and the two men walked in the alley; that is, Schwab and Spies.
Q. Walked in what alley?
A. In the alley that I was standing near the corner of at the back of Crane Bros.
Q. Near which the wagon was situated?
A. Yes sir, the wagon was back a little further. And the first word that I heard between them was, "Pistols".
Q. Between who?
A. Between Schwab and Spies. And the next word was, "police". I think I heard, "police" twice, or "pistols" twice; one or the other, I then walked just a little nearer the edge of the alley; and just then Spies said: "Do you think one is enough, or hadn't we better go and get more?" There was no answer to that that I could hear....And then they came on down and Spies -- just before they got up near the wagon they met a third party; and they bunched right together there, south of the alley, and appeared to get right in a huddle; and there was something passed between them; what it was I couldn't say.
Q. Between whom?
A. Between Spies and the third man.
Q. Look at that picture (handing the witness a cabinet picture of Schnaubelt) and see if that resembles the man that you say made the third?
A. (After examining the picture) Yes sir, I think that is the man.
However, testimony from many other witnesses established that Schwab was only at the Haymarket meeting for a few minutes, and during that time, was never anywhere near Spies or Crane's Alley. Moreover, Spies and Schwab, both being recent German immigrants, typically spoke in German with each other, and Thompson did not speak or understand German (he claimed their conversation had been in English). Finally, under cross-examination by the defense, Thompson admitted he had seen the photo of Schnaubelt before the trial.

The second witness to the meeting in Crane's Alley was even more definite. On the following day, July 28, Harry L. Gilmer, a professional painter, testified under questioning by State's Attorney Grinnell:
A I...was looking for a party I expected to find there, and stepped back in the alley.
Q Which alley?
A The alley between Crane Bros building, and the building immediately south of it.
Q What did you see when you stepped in there?
A I stepped in there and was standing, looking around for a few minutes, noticed parties in conversation there.
Q What were those people doing?
A They were standing holding a conversation there. Somebody in front of me out on the edge of the sidewalk there said, "Here comes the police." There was a sort of natural rush looking to see the police come up. There was a man came from the wagon down to the parties that were standing on the south side of the alley. He lit a match and he touched it off, something or another it was not quite as big as that, I think, (indicating). The fuse commenced to fizzle, and he gave it a couple of steps forward and tossed it over into the street.
Q Do you know the man?
A I have seen him. I knew him by sight. I have seen him several times at meetings at one place and another in the city.
Q You don't know his name?
A I do not.
Q Do you know the man-- you say that somebody came from the wagon towards the group?
A Yes, sir.
Q Describe that man-- is it any of the defendants?
A That is the man right there (pointing to Spies).
Q Spies?
A Yes, sir.
Q Did you see any of the other defendants in the alley at that time?
A That man that sits over there was one of the parties (pointing at defendant Fischer).
Q Fischer?
A Fischer.
Under cross-examination, the defense showed that these statements contradicted substantially statements Gilmer had made earlier to the police. Moreover, several character witnesses testified that Gilmer was an inveterate liar, and Gilmer himself admitted that he had received payment by Detective Bonfield, the leader of the police expedition into the Haymarket meeting, which inspired the bomber.

Probably both men were lying about the defendants. Eyewitness testimony put Fischer at Zepf's Hall at the time he was supposedly plotting with Spies, and Spies never left the speakers' wagon before the explosion.

On the other hand, Rudolph Schnaubelt, the supposed bombthrower identified by Thompson in the photo, may very well have been the culprit. After the riot, he immediately left the country. Unlike Spies and Schwab, who were editors and writers by trade (they jointly operated the anarchist daily Arbeiter-Zeitung), and Fischer, who was a printer, Schnaubelt was a machinist who had come to the United States only two years before the bombing, and was already an anarchist when he arrived. His entire family was active in the anarchist and socialist movements, and he had a reputation for wild and militant talk about revolution.

In later years, those close to the center of the anarchist movement claimed to know who the real bombthrower was, and that it was not Schnaubelt, who lived the rest of his life in Argentina. But Schnaubelt is, nevertheless, one of a few likely suspects.

Despite no real evidence that any of the Haymarket defendants, including those who supposedly huddled together in Crane's Alley, had thrown the bomb, or specifically plotted it, they were all convicted and sentenced to death. Carl Sandburg, the famous poet of Chicago, who gave the city its famous sobriquet, the "city of big shoulders," wrote about his experience during the trial, when he was eight years old:
Then came the murder trial of the eight men and we saw in the Chicago paper black-and-white drawings of their faces and they looked exactly like what we expected, hard, mean, slimy faces. We saw pictures of the twelve men on the jury and they looked like what we expected, nice, honest, decent faces. We learned the word for the men on trial, anarchists, and they hated the rich and called policemen "bloodhounds." They were not regular people and they didn't belong to the human race, for they seemed more like slimy animals who prowl, sneak, and kill in the dark. This I believed along with millions of other people reading and talking about the trial. I didn't meet or hear of anyone in our town who didn't so believe then, at that time.
So violent was the rhetoric of the anarchists, and so virulent were the anti-foreign sympathies of most Chicagoans, that a fair trial was an impossibility.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Mossy Enright


Maurice "Mossy" Enright was one of Chicago's foremost hitmen, and led a gang of enforcers for the plumbers' union. When he pulled up in his trademark fog-colored "gray ghost" sedan, trouble was soon to follow. By late 1919, he was leaving behind his life of petty plunder for a career as a labor leader, and purchased this beautiful home at 1110 W. Garfield Blvd. He didn't enjoy it long, as just two months later, he was assassinated at the wheel of his automobile in Chicago's first recorded drive-by shooting.

Mossy Enright was born in Ireland in 1886, but came to Chicago as a toddler. He attended school intermittently for a few years, then became a plumber's apprentice, eventually joining the local 520 of the United Association of Steamfitters. He was popular and successful -- and was willing to crack skulls when necessary -- characteristics which led to his election as union secretary, an honorary position, but one that carried political influence. He also became known as an enforcer, and man who could "do a job" when needed.

Economic theory teaches that labor unions operate essentially like OPEC, DeBeers, or any other cartel, cutting the supply of their product -- labor -- in order to raise prices (wages). A crucial element in the success of a labor union, then, is limiting the number of workers available to employers by keeping nonunion labor off the job. Thus the need for "sluggers" or enforcers, who intimidate and incapacitate nonunion workmen. The Tribune described the Enright gang's modus operandi:
Their duties would be to pick out one or two of these nonunionists working on a job, waylay them on their way home, and beat them to such an extent that they would not be able to return to work the next day. Their fate would act to scare the rest of the nonunion workers.
In 1911, Enright's steamfitters' union was involved in a major dispute with another plumbers' union over the rights to work in a number of new buildings under construction in the Loop. Each union sent their enforcers to intimidate the other side into submission. Thus did Mossy Enright kill Vincent Altman, a slugger working for the rival labor group. Fleeing the scene of the crime, an onlooker grabbed Enright, who shed his overcoat in the man's hands and escaped.

The overcoat, which had identification in the pockets, led to Enright's arrest and indictment for the crime. Released on $7,500 bail (paid for by the steamfitters), he worked assiduously to pay off jurors and to kill and intimidate witnesses. After the prosecution's chief witness disappeared mysteriously, it appeared "The Moss" might walk out of court a free man, but in a dramatic turn, the witness reappeared the day before jury deliberations began, having recovered of a pistol wound to the shoulder. The jury returned a verdict of 11-1 in favor of the death penalty, the one holdout saving Enright's life. In late 1911, Mossy began serving a life sentence at Joliet for the Altman murder.

At roughly the same time, six members of the Enright enforcer squad were tried, convicted, and sentenced to serve between five and eleven years in the penitentiary for the death of a nonunion worker they had killed.

But the story of Mossy Enright does not end in 1911, for in 1913, Governor Edward Dunne released him on a pardon. One of the state's main witnesses admitted perjuring himself that year as he lie on his deathbed, and 40,000 union members signed a petition to Dunne to secure his release.

After walking out of Joliet in 1913, Mossy Enright moved into higher levels of union intrigue, attempting to consolidate power over several Chicago unions. He achieved some success in this business, becoming wealthy enough to purchase the large Garfield Blvd. home pictured here. But he also attracted powerful enemies, including rival gangster and union man, "Big Jim" Colosimo.

One of the unions under Enright's control was the First Ward Streetsweepers' union, known as the "white wings" for their uniforms. This was the union where Colosimo had gotten his start in politics, and the Levee vice lord maintained a close affiliation throughout his life. In 1919, Colosimo managed to make his personal bodyguard, Michael "Dago Mike" Carrozzo, president of the union, displacing the Enright-supported man who had held the position previously.

In early 1920, Enright and two henchmen proved they would not accept this action lying down, and attacked Carrozzo and members of his faction at the Vestibule Cafe in the Levee district. Their bullets missed, and Enright was a marked man.

At a secret meeting at Colosimo's Cafe, Carrozzo and two allied union heavies, Frank Chiaravaloti and "Big Tim" Murphy, plotted Enright's murder. They hired "Sunny" Jim Cosmano, a colorful figure who, in 1912, had taken a bullet from Johnny Torrio while trying to extort Colosimo through "Black Hand" letters, to be the assassin. Since they didn't fully trust Cosmano, they also hired an expert hitman from Buffalo, New York, known only as "Tommy the Wop". This group followed Enright for a week to learn his habits and to wait for the right moment.

That moment came on the afternoon of February 4, 1920. Mossy Enright left his office in the Loop at 5:30 and drove the gray ghost down to his favorite saloon at 54th and Halsted, where he lingered, chatting with friends over beers. When the bar telephone rang, it was Enright's devoted wife, Etta, telling him dinner was on the table.

Enright got into his car and drove home, tailed by a rare Chalmers sedan carrying his assassins. As he parked in front of his home, the sedan pulled up next to his car. Cosmano fired twice from a sawed-off shotgun and Mossy slumped over the steering wheel.

His wife, Etta, heard the shots and ran out to the street, only to find her husband dying in the car. "Moss, in the name of God, speak to me!" she cried.

"Oh, Et--." Enright couldn't finish the thought and expired.

After the shooting, the police found the Chalmers sedan, and rounded up Cosmano, Carrozzo, Murphy, and the car's driver, James Vinci. Vinci confessed, and was put on trial first. Though he later renounced his confession, claiming that the state's attorney drugged him, he was convicted. In the mean time, the other three managed to make two key witnesses disappear, and the state's case against them fell apart entirely. They were never tried, and on the day of their release from jail, a celebration was held at Colosimo's. Vinci managed to appeal his conviction, and without the convictions of his partners in the crime, he too was exonerated on appeal.

This was the last known criminal act in which Big Jim Colosimo was involved, as he was assassinated just a few months after Enright, in May, 1920. Vinci and Murphy got theirs in the end, too, dying in beer wars gang shootouts in 1925 and 1926, respectively.

Several of Enright's followers went on to great success in crime. Tommy Maloy, Enright's chauffeur, became head of the fledgling movie projectionists' union , and was the first to realize the profit to be had in extorting theater managers to avoid strikes. He was the inspiration for the famous Bioff-Browne Hollywood extortion case in the 1940s. Walter Stevens, one of Enright's top hitmen, who killed 12 in his employ, went on to an even higher body count as a hitman for the Torrio-Capone syndicate during the 1920s.

Mossy's son, Tommy, who was 12 when his father was shot, also became a union leader, and ran (unsuccessfully) for Cook County Superior Court clerk in 1940.

The home on Garfield Blvd. remained in the Enright family until the 1950s. It is still a private home today.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Arbeiter-Zeitung and The Alarm

"Workingmen, are you armed?"

The Arbeiter-Zeitung was the newspaper of the German Working-Men's Party, and the leading Anarchist newspaper in the country during the 1870s and 1880s. Along with a similar publication, The Alarm, it was edited and published here, at 107 5th Ave. (now 41 N. Wells). Both publications played a crucial role in the Haymarket affair of May, 1886.

August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, and Albert Parsons, editor of The Alarm, used their publications to constantly agitate for workers' rights -- in particular, the eight-hour workday. Some of their rhetoric, especially that praising dynamite, was certainly intended to incite. A letter published in the Feb. 21, 1885 Alarm waxed philosophical:
Dynamite! of all the good stuff, this is the stuff. Stuff several pounds of this sublime stuff into an inch pipe, gas or water pipe, plug up both ends, insert a cap with fuse attached, place this in the immediate neighborhood of a lot of rich loafers, who live by the sweat of other people's brows, and light the fuse. A most cheerful and gratifying result will follow. In giving dynamite to the downtrodden millions of the globe, science has done its best work. The dear stuff can be carried around in the pocket without danger, while it is a formidable weapon against any force of militia, police or detectives that may want to stifle the cry for justice that goes forth from the plundered slaves....A pound of this good stuff beats a bushel of ballots all hollow, and don't you forget it.
This passage was quoted by the prosecution at the Haymarket trial, in which Spies, Parsons, and five other anarchists (several of the others were also linked with the newspapers published at this location) were convicted and sentenced to death. Spies claimed to have kept 9,000 dynamite bombs in his office at the Arbeiter-Zeitung (although this was probably more of a boast than a reality).

In the days leading up to Haymarket, the two anarchist newspapers attempted to rouse their fellow workers against their oppressors. On May 1, 1886, The Alarm editorialized, "Make your demand for eight hours with weapons in your hands to meet the capitalistic bloodhounds -- police and militia -- in proper manner."

On May 3, Spies drafted the famous "Revenge" circular in his office at the Arbeiter-Zeitung, which strongly suggested that the Haymarket meeting would be a violent one, and that attendees should bring weapons (although Spies attempted to delete the incendiary elements of the circular before it was published, a number of the unedited copies went out).

The afternoon edition of the Arbeiter-Zeitung on May 3 included two signals which were widely known to be signs of the start of The Revolution: a letter "Y" and the word "Ruhe" (rest) in the "Letter-Box" column on the front page.

The promotion of violence by the Arbeiter-Zeitung and The Alarm, plus the tension associated with a general strike for the eight-hour day in Chicago at the time, brought events to a head on May 4 at Haymarket Square, where an unknown assailant brought dynamite, and threw it into a crowd of police, who were attempting to disrupt the meeting. The police began firing their weapons, and an all-out riot began, in which ten died.

Spies and Parsons were hanged for their role in the riot, although neither threw the bomb. Their violent publications turned public opinion against them, and their trial, though a travesty, reflected the hatred of the populace towards these rabble-rousers. The Arbeiter-Zeitung continued publishing after Haymarket, in a new location on 12th St., but The Alarm never again appeared.

A sketch of the old building on Wells St. is below: