Ohio History Journal

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Strikebreakers, Evictions and Violence:

Industrial Conflict in the

Hocking Valley, 1884-1885



In 1904 Boston trade unionist Frank K. Foster called the strikebreaker

an "industrial excresence . . . the Iscariot of the industrial world."

That same year novelist Jack London coined his famous definition of

the "scab." A strikebreaker, wrote London, "is a two-legged animal

with a corkscrew soul, a water-logged brain, and a combination back-

bone made of jelly and glue. Where others have hearts he carries a

tumor of rotten principles." So damnatory was London that he thought

strikers had the moral right to kill those who took their jobs and broke

their struggle.1

Like most trade unionists and radicals of his time, London assumed

that strikebreakers and violence went hand in hand. Labor historians

have also shared this view. In a recent survey of industrial violence,

H. M. Gitelman contends that the introduction of strikebreakers in-

variably produced sharp conflict. "Most worker-initiated strike vio-

lence," wrote Gitelman, "took the form of physical assaults upon

strikebreakers and upon fellow employees who attempted to cross

picket lines."2 Similarly, Philip Taft and Philip Ross believed that

strikers responded "to strikebreakers with anger. Many violent out-

breaks followed efforts of strikers to restrain the entry of strikebreakers

and raw materials into the plant." In their wide-ranging survey of in-

dustrial violence, Taft and Ross found strikebreakers physically at-

tacked in the Anthracite Strike of 1902, the Westmoreland County coal

strike of 1909-1912 and a host of other labor disputes.3 Additionally,



George Cotkin will receive his Ph.D. in History from The Ohio State University in

June 1978.



1. Frank K. Foster, "Reply to President Eliot," The Papers of Charles W. Eliot, Har-

vard University; Jack London, "The Scab," (1904) as quoted in Leonard Abbott, ed.,

London's Essays of Revolt (New York, 1928), 65.

2. H. M. Gitelman, "Perspectives on American Industrial Violence," Business His-

tory Review, XLVII (Spring 1973), 11, 15.

3. Philip Taft and Philip Ross, "American Labor Violence: Its Causes, Character,