Reign of the Rabble: The St. Louis General Strike of 1877

Reign of the Rabble: The St. Louis General Strike of 1877

Reign of the Rabble: The St. Louis General Strike of 1877

Reign of the Rabble: The St. Louis General Strike of 1877

Excerpt

The prosperous French fur-trading settlement of St. Louis and the nearby village later called Carondelet somehow acquired, early in their existence, the derisive nicknames of " Pain Court " and "Vide Poche" respectively. " Pain Court " has by some been interpreted to mean "Short-of-bread" or "Little Bread"; and "Vide Poche" means "Empty Pocket".

Some hundred years later, in the year 1877, these forgotten taunts might have had real meaning. In that year, St. Louis was a greater trading center than ever, and not merely of furs. Its flour mills provided much of the nation's bread; and the foundries of Carondelet, now part of the city, supplied important materials for the nation's industries. Yet, after four years of steadily deepening, nation-wide business depression, St. Louis workingmen could see nothing ahead of them but...little bread and empty pockets.

The country was struggling through the most serious and prolonged economic crisis of its history; and the distress of St. Louis workingmen resulted in one of the chain of social explosions that rocked America from coast to coast in the summer of 1877, giving notice of the beginning of a new era of violent and sometimes bloody conflict between workers and employers, out of which American industrial society and its labor movement took form.

What happened in St. Louis during the last week of July was characterized by none of the bloodshed and little of the destruction of property that marked the strikes and riots in other cities. Yet the disturbances in St. Louis were, in certain respects, even more alarming to business men and property owners. Only around St. Louis did the original strike on the railroads expand into such a systematically organized and complete shut-down of all industry that the term general strike is fully justified. And only . . .

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