Haymarket and the End of August (as We Know It)

We built that for you” should be the official theme for Labor Day this year. (In your face, GOP looters!)

Establishing a national holiday to honor the contributions and achievements of American workers (actual wealth creators, as opposed to the toffee-nosed posers of the .1%) was a tricky bit of work. You see, there already was May Day (AKA “International Workers’ Day”), a national holiday in more than 80 countries, but that commemorated the Haymarket Affair in Chicago, May 4 1886, and that would bring up some painful memories.

On May 1 1886, rallies demanding an 8 hour work day were held across the United States (what a bunch of hippies, right?). On May 3, Chicago police fired into a crowd of locked-out strikers at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, killing at least two. A rally to protest the police violence was held at Haymarket Square on May 4.

The crowd at the rally was so calm that Mayor Carter Harrison, Sr., who had stopped by to watch, walked home early.  But a peaceful rally was not good news for the Bosses, who felt about the 8-hour workday the same way some backwards people feel about “Obamacare” today. They needed some violence to derail the 8-hour movement.  So at about 10:30 pm the police marched into the Square and ordered the rally to disperse.

At this point it got messy, because someone threw a bit of handicraft made with brittle metal, dynamite and a lit fuse into the advancing mob of police. There was an explosion. One policeman was killed outright and six others mortally wounded. A traditional Chicago police “fire wildly into the crowd” blood-orgy ensued.

Harper's illo

The Chicago Herald described a scene of “wild carnage” and estimated at least fifty dead or wounded civilians lay in the streets. An anonymous police official told the Chicago Tribune, “A very large number of the police were wounded by each other’s revolvers. … It was every man for himself, and while some got two or three squares away, the rest emptied their revolvers, mainly into each other.”

A major round up of anarchists followed. Eight were selected to be charged in connection with the violence at Haymarket. Of the defendants, five – Spies, Fischer, Engel, Lingg and Schwab – were German-born immigrants; a sixth, Neebe, was a U.S.-born citizen of German descent; the remaining two, Parsons and Fielden, were born in the U.S. and England.

After a sensationalistic show trial, Judge Gary sentenced seven of the defendants to death by hanging and Neebe to 15 years in prison. After the appeals had been exhausted, Illinois Governor Richard James Oglesby commuted Fielden’s and Schwab’s sentences to life in prison on November 10, 1887. Lingg committed suicide in his cell: he held a smuggled blasting cap in his teeth like a cigar, “lighting” it over a lamp. The remaining four defendants (Engel, Fischer, Parsons, and Spies) were executed in a botched, slow strangulation hanging that horrified onlookers.

Captain Schaack, who headed the police investigation, was later dismissed from the police for having fabricated evidence in the case. On June 26, 1893, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld, himself a German immigrant, signed pardons for Fielden, Neebe, and Schwab, calling them victims of “hysteria, packed juries, and a biased judge” and noting that the state “has never discovered who it was that threw the bomb which killed the policeman, and the evidence does not show any connection whatsoever between the defendants and the man who threw it.” He also faulted the city of Chicago for failing to hold Pinkerton guards responsible for its repeated use of lethal violence against striking workers.

Christopher Thale in the Encyclopedia of Chicago, writes that lacking credible evidence regarding the bombing, the prosecution focused on the writings and speeches of the defendants. He further notes that the conspiracy charge was legally unprecedented, the Judge was “partisan,” and all the jurors admitted prejudice against the defendants. Historian Carl Smith notes that scholars have long considered the trial a notorious miscarriage of justice. The Chicago Historical Society maintains The Haymarket Digital Collection to provide access to archived primary source materials on the whole sordid affair.

So with May Day out of the picture for a sanctioned workers’ holiday in the States, what were we to do? The September date was originally chosen by the Central Labor Union of New York and observed by many of the nation’s trade unions for several years previous. Radical old Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a state holiday in 1887.

Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike in 1894, the Powers That Be did the PR math and decided to throw workers a symbolic bone: the legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. There, all better now, right?

So enjoy that extra day away from workin’ for The Man… but remember Haymarket just to spite Them.


Speaking of workers, ant foraging behavior mimics  TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) . “Ants have discovered an algorithm that we know well, and they’ve been doing it for millions of years”.

Can baby faces staring down at you actually take a bite out of crime? They’re going to find out in England.

One of the Directors from Thales-Toulouse came to Tulsa to brief us on the company’s “global perspective”, and spoke of the growth possibilities for military flight simulation in Africa (haters gotta stafe huts, right?).  I suggested selling food simulators instead, in light of the perennial famine there. You could have heard a pin drop.
Well, thanks to Tokyo Institute of Technology, cooking sims are now a reality, and their robot barkeeper can entertain your imaginary guests.
Where can I buy a school jersey for ol’ “TIT”?

Here’s another bit of oddball retro-tech: BEHOLD THE iTYPEWRITER! Electronic paper, eat your heart out.

Think the RNC can find time to squeeze in a quick rape-rap?
Their rape is too legit’ to quit! Break it down!

Good (made up) news: Rep. Todd Akin makes the ultimate clarification (via The Onion).

The bad news: Arctic ice shrinks to record low.

The baddest news: Vast reservoirs of methane are stored beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, rising like Lethal Farts in the Bathtub of DOOM!!

Syrian weather report: 90% chance of exploding metal rain on the bread-lines , and an increasing chance of MIGs in the afternoon, some of them erupting in flames.  Egypt is stirring things up for the Assad regime. The Syrian delegation to the NAN meeting in Iran sang this song in response.

I love anagrams. The best anagram for Reince Priebus is: I BE RECUR PENIS (though CRIB SEEP URINE and PEE RUIN SCRIBE are very nice as well).

Is the Moon paying tribute to Neil Armstrong? If not, then WTF, Houston?

This Aleister Crowley Hello Kitty exists and is perversely compelling. “Do what meow wilt!”

Before there were punks in Russia, there were the Stilyagi (or Stilyaga, literally “style hunters”, or “hipsters”). They were a special breed in post-WWII Russia: youth exposed to decadent American culture seeking to recreate it back home, often at great risk. Stilyagi had to cut their own bootleg records (“bones”), make their fashions (sewing western cigarette packs to clothing was big, as was using heated curtain rods as curling irons), even improvise chewing gum (wax was easy to get). This often resulted in a freakish mix of what they knew of Western influences and what they imagined those influences would be like if they could experience them.  It was like being a Trekkie before the internet, but instead of losing your lunch money they sent you to a labor camp, instead.
Stilyagi are mentioned in Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” (perhaps exiled for breach of fashion law) with reference to their outlandish get-ups and being general bad-asses (need to be when you dress like that). The “Stilyagi Air Corps” (named for the Heinlein reference) are still an influential group in SF fandom. The Stilyagi and their travails are featured in the Russian musical-comedy, “Hipsters”, much of which is floating around on YouTube. I hear it’s a good movie.

Kevin Kelly has a nice collection of improvised technology. I especially like the power cart and spring-loaded chopsticks.


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