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Topics in Chronicling America - Great Southwest Railroad Strike of 1886

“The order for the general strike upon the Gould Southwestern system reached that place at 10:30 this morning and every man in the Missouri Pacific shops put up his tools and walked out,” read the March 7, 1886 St. Paul Daily Globe. The strike spread from Missouri to Kansas, Arkansas, and even Texas. It was widely covered in newspapers as the Knights of Labor constantly battled Jay Gould for better wages and treatment. The strike climaxed with violent clashes between strikers and police throughout the month of April, then abated over the remaining summer months. Read more about it!

The information and sample article links below provide access to a sampling of articles from historic newspapers that can be found in the Chronicling America: American Historic Newspapers digital collection (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/). Use the Suggested Search Terms and Dates to explore this topic further in Chronicling America.


Newspaper headline.  "Jay Gould fiercely denounced..."

Jump to: Sample Articles

Important Dates:

  • March, 1886. Strike begins when a member of the Knights of Labor is fired for initiating a company meeting in Texas. In St. Louis, strikers of the Knights of Labor board a train and intentionally kill the engine. The executive board of the Knights of Labor enquire about possible conferences between Missouri and Texas Pacific officials to resolve the strike. Jay Gould is first notified by the strike a few days later. On March 20, strikers begin burning railroad bridges in Texas. A week later, governors of Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas demand that roads and railroads in their jurisdictions resume business. After discussions between Gould and the Knights of Labor executive board, the strike is thought to be over in late March.
  • April, 1886. During discussions with the Knights of Labor, Jay Gould specifies the hiring of employees for the railroads to Master Workman Powderley, leader of the Knights. Persons who have injured company property will not be hired nor will any discrimination fall on workers that did not participate during the strike. A few days later, violence erupts at Fort Worth Texas between strikers and police. Texas mobilizes local military to corral the strikers. Knights of Labor call on their members to continue to strike after discussions with Jay Gould break down.
  • May 4, 1886. After violence continues throughout the month of April, a congressional committee advices the Knights of Labor to end the strike.
  • August 1, 1886. Due to internal squabbles, the Knights of Labor fracture and cease to exist. The strike is ultimately a failure.

Suggested Search Strategies:

  • [Try the following terms in combination, proximity, or as phrases using Search Pages in Chronicling America.] Jay Gould, Great Southwest Railroad Strike, Knights of Labor
  • It is important to use a specific date range if looking for articles for a particular event in order to narrow your results.

Sample Articles from Chronicling America:

  • "The Southwestern Strike," St. Paul Daily Globe (Saint Paul, Minn.) , March 07, 1886, Page 11, Image 1, Col. 1.
  • "The Railroad Strike," The Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah) , March 12, 1886, Page 2, Image 2, Col. 3.
  • "Determined as Ever," Wichita Daily Eagle (Wichita, Kan.), March 12, 1886, Page 1, Image 1, Col. 2-3.
  • "The Strike still on," The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, W. Va) , March 12, 1886, Page 1, Image 1, Col. 6-7.
  • "The Labor Crisis," St. Paul Daily Globe (Saint Paul, Minn.) , March 12, 1886, Page 4, Image 4, Col. 1-2.
  • "The Strike at St. Louis," The Memphis Appeal (Memphis, Tenn) , March 12, 1886, Page 3, Image 3, Col. 1-3.
  • "Railroad Strike: Hope of an Early Settlement," The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, W. Va) , March 20, 1886, Page 1, Image 1, Col. 6-7.
  • "Firm in Their Demand," The Sun. (New York, N.Y.) , March 28, 1886, Page 1, Image 1, Col. 4.
  • "Great Strike Ends," Lancaster Daily Intelligencer (Lancaster, Pa.) , March 29, 1886, Page 1, Image 1, Col. .
  • "Settled At Last," Western Kansas World (WaKeeney, Kan.) , April 03, 1886, Page 1, Image 3, Col. 3.
  • "Fort Worth," he Austin Weekly Statesma (, April 08, 1886, Page 1, Image 1, Col. 5.
  • "Knights Appeal," The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, W. Va) , April 07, 1886, Page 1, Image 1, Col. 2.
  • "Peace and Prosperity," St. Paul Daily Globe (Saint Paul, Minn.) , May 04, `886, Page 1, Image 1, Col. 6.
  • "The Knights of Labor Defeated," The Sun. (New York, N.Y.) , August 01, 1886, Page 6, Image 6, Col. 4.
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  October 20, 2014
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