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Collection Printed Ephemera: Three Centuries of Broadsides and Other Printed Ephemera

Travel, Industry and Labor Concerns in Ephemera

In an attractive tricolored chromolithographic circular featuring a lush rural landscape, The Burlington & Missouri River R.R. Co. offers "Millions of Acres" of Iowa and Nebraska Lands on ten-year credit. Free rooms and discount train tickets lure land-prospecting clients. And for those with a more adventurous spirit, the billowing sails of the clipper schooner Sarah, printed in bright red, beckons the immigrant-traveler to explore the "Free Trade & Free Lands of Magdalena," Lower California. For the farmer interested in the latest in labor-saving machinery of 1875, the manufacturer of "Gale's Patent Horse Hay Rake!" notes that it has taken the first premium at the Michigan State Fair for the past six years, is better than any other in the market, and is "so easily managed that a small Boy can run it with very little effort."

As industrialization brings many workers and immigrants to large cities, some see organized labor as a means to combating low wages, long hours, and poor working conditions. Coverage of speeches both for and against labor and calls for mass meetings of workers are frequent. The year 1886 marked the climax of the workers' efforts in many industries throughout the country to strike for the eight-hour day. In Chicago, in the aftermath of the May first general "walk out," several strikers were shot by police and a mass meeting was called for May 4 to protest police violence. Two versions of the 1886 handbill "Attention Workingmen!" announce this demonstration in Haymarket Square, Chicago, that led to one of the most famous labor riots in American history in which more than thirty policemen were killed or wounded by a dynamite bomb. Both versions of the notice are printed in English and German, but the rare first version includes the command: "Workingmen Arm Yourselves and Appear in Full Force!" This version was used by the prosecuting attorney in the Haymarket Riot case to prove that the inflammatory writings of demonstration organizers were responsible for the violence that ensued. August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, argued that as soon as he saw the first version he ordered it destroyed and prepared the second version with the inflammatory phrase deleted. Nevertheless, he and six other anarchists were sentenced to death.