Ohio History Journal

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No Haymarketfor Cincinnati





As the news spread from Chicago of the events of May 4, 1886, a new word came to

be emblazoned into the hearts and minds of the American people. That word-

connoting fear, revolution, anarchism, and terror-was "Haymarket." Every man

reading the newspapers or talking with his friends and neighbors of the events of

that day could not but be aware of the "fact" that the anarchists who had wormed

their way into the bloodstream of American life had finally let loose their poison.

Innocent victims had paid the price. Who could tell where the vile contagion of

revolution and death might break out again? Would it be in the East, in Boston or

Providence, or would it be in another industrial midwestern city, such as Cleveland,

Cincinnati, or St. Louis? Which city would next be pulled into the fiery cauldron of

revolution and death? Such fears may have been groundless, but they persisted

nonetheless, aided by the newspapers across the land which were filling their col-

umns with inflammatory news from Chicago and other cities for days on end. The

hard facts of what had actually happened were usually obscured or deliberately ig-


The events scheduled for Chicago's Haymarket affair had been arranged long be-

fore May 4, and bloodshed and violence had not been anticipated. The original in-

tention of the organizers was to call a general strike to force acceptance of the eight-

hour day, an idea neither new nor radical in the American labor movement at this

time. The plan for a nationwide general strike had come from the moderate Feder-

ation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions. This national organization of trade

unions, formed in 1881, had voted at its 1884 convention to submit to all labor or-

ganizations the idea of a general strike for the eight-hour day to take place on May

1, 1886. From this beginning the movement grew, especially among the trade

unions, although many members of the rival Knights of Labor also supported the


In Chicago the strikers and the strikebreakers, brought in to work in their place at

the McCormick Harvester plant, first clashed on May 3 after two days of com-

parative quiet. The police intervened, and in the melee that followed four persons

were killed. The local radical-anarchist members of the Black International (very




1. For a scholarly description of the events of Haymarket, see Henry David, The History of the Hay-

market Affair: A Study in the American Social-Revolutionary and Labor Movements (New York, 1936), es-

pecially pp. 162-167, 182-205.


Mr. Morris is Associate Professor of History at The Christopher Newport College of the College of

William and Mary in Virginia.