The Strike

This July 23, 1877 editorial in the Baltimore American emphasizes the participation of the "lawless classes" in the strike, hijacking it from the employees and turning it into a dangerous national threat, similar to the Paris Commune.

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Nothing occurred yesterday to encourage the hope that the disastrous strike which has been in progress for a week has run its course. On the contrary, there are indications on every side that the trouble is spreading over the country, and that it has developed a murderous spirit among the lawless classes which vividly recalls the excesses of the Paris Commune. The men employed in the running of railroad trains are themselves but a small portion of the population of the country, but when they refuse to perform their accustomed duties they inflict immense loss upon the business community. This, however, is not the worst effect of the present strike. It has stirred up the vicious and criminal classes, and furnished them with and opportunity for rioting and pillage. Of the men who have been arrested for participating in the riots in Baltimore, we do not know that a single one claimed to be an employee of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. The mobs that have been disturbing the peace of this city are composed in large part of rowdies, loafers, and half-grown boys, who were never engaged in running railroad trains or any other honest employment. We do not think that there was a striking fireman within half a mile of the Armory of the Sixth Regiment when the bloody work began on Friday evening. The crowds that hang about Camden Station and exchange shots with the police are not railroad men.

There is not much change in the condition of affairs on the line of the Baltimore and Ohio road. No riots or other outbreaks are reported from Martinsburg, Cumberland, Keyser or Grafton yesterday, but no freight trains were run. A strike on the Ohio and Mississippi road is imminent. The strike of trainmen on the Pennsylvania road has become general, and the moving of freight trains has been suspended, and passenger trains are only run at the sufferance of the strikers. The movement which began at Pittsburg has extended eastward, and has culminated in a strike at Philadelphia. As yet the mob has not crowded the strikers from their own ground, and no excesses have been committed in that city.

The terrible work of the mob at Pittsburg overshadows all other incidents of the strike. All the depots and shops of the Pennsylvania Company and of the roads that connect with it at Pittsburgh were burned, one hundred and twenty-five locomotives were destroyed, and hundreds of cars were broken into, rifled of their contents, and then pushed into the burning sheds, where they were quickly consumed. The regiment of Philadelphia militia which was hurriedly despatched from that city on Friday night to protect the Company's property, after a skirmish with the mob on Saturday afternoon, in which many persons were killed on both sides, was driven into the engine house, where it remained until the building was set on fire. It cut its way out and retreated across the Allegheny river pursued by the rioters. At last advices the regiment was encamped on a hill ten miles from the city and was throwing up fortifications. Yesterday afternoon the splendid elevator on Liberty street and the Keystone Hotel were burned. The loss of the Pennsylvania Company at Pittsburgh is estimated at three millions of dollars.

Strikes are also in progress on the Erie, Lake Shore, New York Central, Lebanon Valley, and a dozen other railroads in the East and West. The work began on the Lebanon Valley road by the burning of the splendid bridge across the Schuylkill at Reading. Truly, the railroad companies have fallen upon evil times.

In Baltimore on Saturday night the frequent alarms sounded by the Fire Department occasioned much apprehension. Early in the evening an unsuccessful attempt was made to burn on of the Baltimore and Ohio transportation barges at Fells Point; almost simultaneous with this a building was burned in West Baltimore. About midnight a train of oil cars was burned on the track of the Baltimore and Ohio Road a short distance beyond the city limits; and about daylight on Sunday morning a large lumber mill and sash factory in the southeastern section of the city was entirely consumed.

Not less than six hundred United States troops are now in the city, and are assisting the police in guarding the property of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company and suppressing the mob. The passenger trains of the Company are now running as usual, and it is expected that within the next day or two the freight traffic will be resumed. In fact, occasional freight trains are now arriving at Camden Station. Two hundred of the Baltimore rioters are in jail to be dealt with according to the law.

About this Document

  • Source: Baltimore American
  • Citation: page 1
  • Date: July 23, 1877