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[Detail] The anarchist riot in Chicago

Image Analysis | Public Speaking | Radical Rhetoric | The Press and the Labor Movement | American Literature

The Press and the Labor Movement

This collection provides the opportunity to examine the role of the press in the Haymarket affair and to consider its relationship to the labor movement in the late- nineteenth century. Begin by reading an untitled article , published in Arbeiter-Zeitung, chargingthat "The Chicago Times, in league with all other capitalistic papers, endeavors to bring dissention to the locked-out wage-slaves of McCormick by opposing the Anarchists."

In his courtroom speech, Parsons also excoriated the Chicago press, blaming it for contributing to the passion that surrounded the Haymarket trial, making a just verdict impossible:

". . . there are those who claim to represent public sentiment in this city, and I now speak of the capitalistic press-that vile and infamous organ of monopoly of hired liars, the people's oppressor-even to this day these papers, standing where I do, with my seven condemned colleagues, are clamoring for our blood in the heat and violence of passion."

From The Accused, the accusers : the famous speeches of the eight Chicago anarchists in court when asked if they had anything to say why sentence should not be passed upon them. On October 7th, 8th and 9th, 1886, Chicago, Illinois.

  • What claims do Parsons and the writer of the untitled article in Arbeiter-Zeitung make about the Chicago press?

Act IV: The Voice of the People from the Special Presentation, The Dramas of Haymarket, summarizes the press coverage of the Haymarket affair during the process of appeal:

"In search of personal interest stories, the Chicago daily newspapers frequently reported the visits from members of the anarchists' families. They described the 'affecting scenes' in the prison in terms that humanized the inmates, whom on other occasions these same papers characterized as beasts and cowards. The reporters usually pointed out that the heartbreak they witnessed in the Cook County Jail was another of the terrible costs of anarchy. They also made much of the talk that women were fascinated with the two handsome bachelors on death row, the brooding Louis Lingg and the elegant August Spies. The papers noted with interest Lingg's visits with a young German woman named Elise Friedel, and they had a field day with Spies's prison courtship of the daughter of a Chicago businessman, Nina Van Zandt, whom Spies married by proxy on January 29, 1887."

From Act IV: The Voice of the People, The Dramas of Haymarket

  • How would you characterize the Chicago press' coverage of the Haymarket affair?
  • What do illustrations from popular publications such as Harper's Weekly, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, and The Pictorial West indicate about press coverage of the Haymarket affair?
  • What do these examples suggest about the relationship between the American press and the labor movement?

Do further research outside of the collection to learn more about the role of the press in the Haymarket affair and in the development of the labor movement in the late-nineteenth century.