Haymarket Riots

Presentation created by Robert Martinez
Primary Content Source: A Story of US by Joy Hakim
• When Cyrus McCormick opened the
McCormick Harvester Works in Chicago
in the 1840s, he worked alongside his 23
employees. Of course, he knew them all
by name.
• A few years later, the McCormick factory
was making more than 1,000 reapers a
year. Cyrus still knew all 200 of his
• By 1884, the year Cyrus McCormick
died, his plant was enormous. It
covered 12 acres, 1,300 men worked
10-hour days, six days a week.
• That year the company showed a profit
of 71 percent. And McCormick no longer
knew his workers.
Cyrus McCormick
• Many of the new factories were owned
by corporations. The owners of the
corporations sometimes didn’t even
live in the same town as their workers.
Carnegie Mansion
• Some of those owners got very rich but
refused to pay their workers a fair wage.
Often they treated workers as if they were
commodities, like coal or lumber. They
seemed to forget they were human beings.
• Steelworkers had to work 12 hours a day,
six days a week, for little pay. Textile
workers, many of them children, worked
60 to 80 hours a week. Conditions were
• Miners worked underground with
explosives, but without safety
regulations. In one year, 25,000 workers
died on the job, many were injured.
• Child workers had three times as many
accidents as adults. If a person lost an
arm in a job accident, and many did with
the new machines, no one helped with
doctor’s bills. If a worker complained, he
was fired.
• Workers organized themselves into unions
to try to fight for better conditions and
better pay. Sometimes they decided not to
work unless they were paid better wages,
called strikes.
• The owners hated strikes. They often fired
anyone who joined a strike or union.
Sometimes they hired police or soldiers to
break a strike. Sometimes strikers were
• Businessmen took the law into their own
hands. Carnegie and Rockefeller hired their
own police forces.
• Workers began to demand their own
power. The unions grew. Many
Americans, especially the new
immigrants, learned about democracy in
the unions.
• Workers and business owners often had
opposing interests. Workers wanted good
wages and owners wanted to keep their
labor costs low. Sometimes the
relationship seemed like war.
• Many people distrusted unions, especially
because some unions were organized by
socialists, who wanted the government to
take over the businesses, like railroads,
electrical power, and telephones.
• Some unions were led by anarchists. They
didn’t believe in any government at all,
which was not a very practical idea.
• Some business leaders wanted capitalism
without regulations (Laissez-Faire).
• 3,000 workers gathered in Chicago’s
Haymarket Square to protest the unfair
labor and violence at the McCormick
factory. Most of the speakers were
Socialists, they were peaceful but angry.
• Then it began to rain, only 300 workers
remained when 180 policemen marched
into the square and demanded the
meeting ended.
Anarchist Labor Activist
August Spies,
Haymarket Speaker.
• Then out of nowhere, a bomb was thrown
at the police. No one has ever discovered
who threw the bomb. One policeman was
killed (six others died later of wounds.)
Police began firing their guns. Four
civilians died. Many were wounded.
• The nation was outraged. Most people
were angry at the strikers. They seemed to
believe that the union workers were all
anarchists who were plotting to overthrow
the government.
Policeman Mathias Degan
killed in blast.
• Many Chicago workers were immigrants.
Stories circulated about foreign
conspiracies (nativism) . Police rounded up
suspects. Eight men were charged with
conspiracy and murder.
• All eight men were found guilty. Four of
them hanged. One was sentenced to 15
years in jail. Two had death sentences
changed to life in prison. One committed
suicide in prison.
• After the McCormick factory, the
workers returned to a 10-hour day.