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Haymarket Affair: Topics in Chronicling America

In 1886, a national strike for 8-hour workdays led to clashes, deaths, and a bomb in Haymarket Square, Chicago. This guide provides access to material related to the "Haymarket Affair" in the Chronicling America digital collection of historic newspapers.

Introduction

Sketch of the seven men complicit in the Haymarket Affair. November 16, 1887. Watertown Republican (Watertown, WI), Image 3. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers.

On May 4, 1886, a bomb detonates near Haymarket Square in Chicago after police arrive to break up a rally in support of striking workers. This protest is one of a number of strikes, demonstrations, and other events held by workers and their supporters in Chicago from May 1-4 to advocate for an eight hour workday. Many police officers and protesters are wounded or killed by the blast, and ultimately 8 individuals are arrested, tried, and convicted in relation to the bombing. Read more about it!

The information in this guide focuses on primary source materials found in the digitized historic newspapers from the digital collection Chronicling America.

The timeline below highlights important dates related to this topic and a section of this guide provides some suggested search strategies for further research in the collection.

Timeline

May 1, 1886 Industrial workers across the U.S. go on strike, demanding an 8-hour workday.
May 3, 1886 During a strike at McCormick Reaper Works in Chicago, demonstrators clash with police, and several of the strikers are wounded or killed.
May 4, 1886 A bomb is detonated after police break up a meeting of labor activists near Haymarket Square in Chicago.
One police officer is killed by the blast, and several men, both strikers and police officers, die or are wounded in the ensuing violence.
May 27, 1886 Thirty-one men are indicted and 8 men—Albert Parsons, August Spies, Oscar Neebe, Louis Lingg, George Engel, Adolph Fischer, Michael Schwab, Samuel Fielden—are arrested and charged as accessories to murder.
July 16, 1886 The eight men go to trial. On August 19th, the men are found guilty, and seven are sentenced to death by hanging. The eighth man, Oscar Neebe is given a lighter sentence of 15 years in the penitentiary.
September 14, 1887 After an appeal is filed, the Illinois Supreme Court upholds the lower court’s ruling.
An appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in November is denied.
November 10, 1887 Louis Lingg commits suicide in prison.
November 11, 1887 Parsons, Spies, Engel, and Fischer are executed. Their funeral is witnessed by over 150,000 people.
June 26, 1893 Illinois governor John Peter Altgeld pardons Neebe, Fielden, and Schwab.