The Library of Congress > Wise Guide > July 2010 > I Wanna Be Anarchy
I Wanna Be Anarchy

Perhaps the resounding cry of 1970s-era punk-rock bands and fans alike who followed an often political, anti-establishment mantra, anarchism was actually a popular subject in late 19th- and early 20th-century America. July is a particularly bloody month in anarchist history. July 11, 1892, Francois Claudius Koenigstein (Ravachol) – perpetrator of three dynamite attacks against representatives of the judiciary – is executed in France and becomes an anarchist martyr; July 23, 1892, Alexander Berkman attempts to kill American industrialist Henry Clay Frick; and July 29, 1900, Umberto I of Italy is assassinated by anarchist Gaetano Bresci.

Study for panel mural titled Anarchy, located at the Jefferson Building, Library of Congress. 1895. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-DIG-ppmsca-22974 (digital file from original item); Call No.: DRWG/US - Vedder, no. 21 (A size) [P&P] Meeting at the Haymarket Square, before the explosion of the bomb. 1887. Chicago History Museum. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: ICHi-03669

Mining the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection uncovers several articles reporting on anarchists and anarchist plots, as well as tips on further searching the collections for subject-related material.

The Library’s American Memory collection “Chicago Anarchists on Trial” delves into the Haymarket Affair. The incident (also known as the Haymarket massacre or Haymarket riot) was a demonstration that took place on Tuesday May 4, 1886, at the Haymarket Square in Chicago. It began as a rally in support of striking workers. An unknown person threw a bomb at police as they dispersed the crowd. The bomb blast and ensuing gunfire resulted in the deaths of eight police officers, mostly from friendly fire, and an unknown number of civilians. In the internationally publicized legal proceedings that followed, eight anarchists were tried for murder. Four men were convicted and executed, and one committed suicide in prison, although the prosecution conceded none of the defendants had thrown the bomb.

Italian Americans made up a contingent of anarchists in the Unites States during the 19th and 20th centuries. An article in the September 1995 issue of the Library of Congress Information Bulletin highlights a lecture given by Paul Avrich of Queens College, who discussed that particular faction of the movement.