James Green’s Death in the Haymarket clearly explains the events that lead up to the massacre in Haymarket Square.  Green offers insightful information about the background and lives of some of the key players who were involved in the movement of the workers – the socialist movement, the push for an eight-hour workday, and the anarchist movement.  He also provides information on the history behind the people who opposed the strides that the workers were attempting to achieve.  His accounts of the times and circumstances help to demonstrate Chicago’s intermingling of commerce and ethnic diversity lead to both greater corruption and greater cooperation than had been seen in any other city in the U.S.  While big business arrived in Chicago seeking take advantage of its resources to increase its power, workers also came together to improve their conditions and to escape the slave-like conditions of their life of perpetual, seemingless endless toil.  The Haymarket Massacre resulted from the intersection of these dynamic forces.  The Haymarket Massacre stands as violent and defining moment in the birth of the labor movement.  It was Chicago’s grand scale, its confluence of natural resources and historical forces, that made it the logical catapult for the forces of industrialism and labor.

Chicago was in a unique position that influenced her development – “location, location, location”.  America at the end of the 1800’s was seeing a lot of growth.  As the Civil War ended, some men returned to their lives and homes while others headed west.  Immigrants were coming into the country in large numbers.  The East coast was a stopping ground for the newly arrived, but often, these people continued heading west.  As the cities and lands in the East were secure and settled, word of bigger and better opportunities was to be found out west.   Transportation routes went to Chicago via the Great Lakes and the railroads.  Vast amounts of commerce were being generated via the industrial revolution – meat plants, farm equipment, furniture makers, clothing, and pianos are just a sampling of the goods being produced in Chicago.

To a greater degree than any other American city of the time, corruption saturated all levels of government: virtually everyone was on the take.  Know the right people, provide enough cash, and one could have policeman, police chiefs, city aldermen, supporting your issues and causes.  This was a huge advantage to the industrialists who sometimes needed support for their businesses – it was a cheaper alternative to pay-off certain people to insure things would run in your favor.  As the industrialists grew more powerful, business became unstoppable due to the demands of growing towns and cities across the American west.  The Robber Barons, factory owners, meat processors, and other businesses saw large increases on their fortunes.

Another notably distinct feature of Chicago was its ethnically mixed social milieu. Newly arrived immigrants settled in Chicago, but the boundaries or prescribed ethnic areas were not as concrete compared to the Little Italy’s, Irish, Germanic and Polish districts that were found in earlier settled cities such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia.  People came from various European countries, and because Chicago was so new and transient, the immigrants intermingled more.  While these groups came with their beliefs and customs, they also brought their trade groups and the hierarchy that accompanied each skilled job.  As these trade unions grew and intermingled, camaraderie developed between them that allowed a unified effort in a struggle for the common good.  Their efforts included the eight-hour movement for ten hours wages.

Additionally, the cooperation and help that the different trade groups showed towards each other regarding the trade unions, was not limited to the city of Chicago.  Rather, other unions in various cities throughout the United States showed signs of solidarity with their brethren.  Examples of this solidarity would be railroad workers and telegraph operators.  These strikes had devastating effects on the Railroad Barons, packing plants, and other commerce, not only in the Chicago-area but had a ripple effect that branched out to other cities that were serviced by the telegraph and railroad.  Goods and food were not getting out of Chicago to other cities, perishable items were rotting, and industrialists were losing revenue and profits.  These strikes resulted in businesses temporarily bowing down to labor demands.  Consequently, industrialists realized their Achilles heel and many pushed for more automation versus human labor for the production of goods.  Another consequence was the very harsh dealings with the laborers.  These actions took a lot of the wind from the sails of the labor movement.  Workers in other cities saw the consequences that happened to their brethren and really thought twice before embarking on further strikes.

Chicago is a sort of intensified microcosm of the US: with it hordes of people all coming to pursue the American dream, the dream of freedom and prosperity, power and control.  All these people came with their various agendas to commonly create, through toil, corruption, and bloodshed, the fabric of American society.  While each element of Chicago existed elsewhere, Chicago, the second city, featured of convergence of resources and demands.  Growing and developing out of the energy and movement of industrialism and run by experienced veterans of previous powerful cities and sitting at the edge of America’s westward expansion, Chicago possessed both the supply and demand, and it was here that capitalism manifested its critical tension between powerful industrialist leaders and labor.  Capitalism and industrialism weren’t invented in Chicago, neither was the labor movement, but they came of age in Chicago.

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