Haymarket Square Tragedy
151 N. Des Plaines St.

Haymarket Square

Crane's Alley-Crane's Alley-Crane's Alley

The northeast corner of Des Plaines and Randolph

2003 NB

Next time you find yourself whining about working 9 to 5, remember the Eight Hour Movement of the late nineteenth century, whose defining moment happened here.

On May 1, 1886, some 30,000 Chicago workers went on strike in support of the eight-hour workday, at a time when many industries forced their workers to work ten to 16 hours a day. Several workers were shot and killed by Chicago police.

On May 4, a demonstration of several thousand people was convened here at Haymarket Square to protest those murders. Towards the end of the evening, nearly 200 hundred police marched up Des Plaines from the police station a block away and tried to break up the crowd. As soon as they arrived, someone threw a bomb into their midst from Crane's Alley, killing one of the officers immediately and six more eventually. The police then opened fire on the crowd.

Desperate for scapegoats, the city arrested over over one hundred anarchists and labor leaders, hastily and dubiously convicting eight for "expressing opinions leading to" the bombing. Four were hanged on November 11 of that year; one committed suicide in his cell the night before. The other three were pardoned in 1893 by Governor J.P. Altgeld, who called their trial a miscarriage of justice. This lot, and the episode it hosted, was a black eye for the city, which left it unmarked until 1992. Now a plaque lies in the sidewalk next to Crane's Alley. May 1, the true Labor Day, has long been commemorated as May Day in memory of the striking workers of 1886. -NB

-"The Dramas of Haymarket" from the Chicago Historical Society.

-"Haymarket Affair" file from the Library of Congress.
-Touring Chicago labor history sites from the Illinois Labor Historical Society
-Haymarket Square plaque inscription from the Chicago Landmarks Commission
-More about the Haymarket Square incident from this engineers union page
-History of May Day from Hartford Web Publishing


© Copyright 2001-2003
Nathan L.K. Bierma