The Railroad Strike

This article from the July 28, 1877 issue of the Pittsburgh Daily Post notes a misunderstanding between the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Colonel Thomas A. Scott regarding whether or not Scott could have prevented the outbreak of violence.

Col. Scott in Reply to the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers.
Chief Arthur's Reply to Colonel T.A. Scott.


PHILADELPHIA, July 26.-I see published an account of an interview had with P.M. Arthur, of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, taken from the N.Y. Herald of this morning, in which he states that 'if Thomas A. Scott had gone himself to Pittsburgh bloodshed and riot would have been averted. Whenever the officers of a road have met the Brotherhood and have evinced a disposition to treat with us, we have had no strike. It is only whenever they have refused to arbitrate with us that we have had a strike as the only means of redress.'

"In response to this, permit me to say that this whole statement is most unfair to me and to this company. The first intimation of this strike was given me after I had retired for the night, at a point on the Delaware river twenty miles from Philadelphia, and the strike was inaugurated without any attempt to have a conference with the officers of the company. So much was this the case, that the Superintendent of the Pittsburgh division had started east with his family, and was on his way east of Altoona when the strike took place and the trains of the company were stopped. I immediately came to the office in West Philadelphia about midnight, and there found that the Mayor of Pittsburgh and the Sheriff of the county were endeavoring to restore law and order; that they had found themselves unable to do so, and were forced to make an appeal to the Governor for military aid.

"At all times and under all circumstances when the men in the service of our company have come to meet the officers of the road for conference they have been promptly and courteously met. It is more than a month since that a large delegation of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers had a conference with me at the office in this city, where everything pertaining to the question of the reduction was fully discussed, the result of which was that the committee, representing as they stated to me, the engineers and firemen, addressed me a letter, stating that the reason given for the reduction, caused by the great depression of the business of the country, was entirely satisfactory to them, and that they would stand thoroughly and firmly by the company. Neither this company nor its officers are, in any way responsible for the combinations that have been made against the leading business interests of the country, which have resulted in strikes, riots and destruction to life and property, and the entire suspension of all the material interests of the country by taking possesston [sic] of the trunk lines of railway and preventing the movement of persons and property.

It is certainly well developed now that not five per cent. of the men engaged in these strikes and combinations have ever had anything to do with railway service.

I trust and believe that a large majority of the men in the service of this company, including the members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, will continue to stand firmly by the company and by the best interests of the country, without regard to the influences brought to bear upon them from any source.



NEW YORK, July 27.-P.M. Arthur, Grand Chief of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, states that if Mr. Thomas A. Scott was not aware, as he says, that the strike on the Pennsylvania Railroad had taken place until some time after its occurrence, then of course he is not to blame; but the officers of the company, who accompanied the Sheriff and General Pearson upon the engine to the scene of the disturbance, and allowed General Pearson when addressing the men to boast that he would run trains at all hazards, without notifying his superiors before calling on the militia, are to a great extent responsible for a disaster that could have been avoided. Mr. Arthur says in his opinion had the officer requested the employees in a gentlemanly manner to defer action until he could hear from Col. Scott, the great blunder would not have been committed. Arthur does not agree with Scott when the latter says the financial condition of the company compelled him to make the last reduction. Colonel Scott ought to remember the promise made to the engineers by his predecessor, the late J. Edagr [sic] Thomson, when the engineers submitted to his reduction of ten per cent. in 1874, that as soon as the business of the road will warrant it, it would be restored. We cannot but think, Arthur says, if the report of the net receipts of the company submitted to the public was true, they were in a condition to fulfill that promise in 1876. In Arthur's opinion there ought to be a law enacted that would compel the submission of all disputes between employees and employers to a board of arbitration, whose decision should be binding and final, the only true and proper method of settling the difference and avoiding strikes.

About this Document

  • Source: The Daily Post
  • Date: July 28, 1877