Workers on the Edge: Work, Leisure, and Politics in Industrializing Cincinnati, 1788-1890

Workers on the Edge: Work, Leisure, and Politics in Industrializing Cincinnati, 1788-1890

Workers on the Edge: Work, Leisure, and Politics in Industrializing Cincinnati, 1788-1890

Workers on the Edge: Work, Leisure, and Politics in Industrializing Cincinnati, 1788-1890

Excerpt

On September 5, 1883, Cincinnati's leading citizens gathered at the opening day ceremonies of an industrial exposition intended to honor the advancements brought by industrialization. The growth of industry and the development of new labor-saving machinery, various speakers remarked, had created more jobs, more opportunities, and greater prosperity for countless numbers of local residents. Yet, these views of the beneficent aspects of industrialization were not shared by all of Cincinnati's citizens.

Less than seven months later, on the evening of March 28, 1884, several thousand Cincinnati workers, shouting demands for justice, burned down the county jail and courthouse. For three nights, the streets of Cincinnati were turned into a bloody battleground while local citizens clashed with the 7,000 militiamen sent in to restore order. By the time the riots were quelled on the morning of March 31, thirty-five men had been killed, nearly 200 lay wounded, and property damage approached $1 million.

Two years later, on May 1, 1886, 32,000 men and women walked off their jobs and launched the city's first general strike. When manufacturers and municipal authorities attempted to intimidate strikers by calling in government troops, Cincinnati workers, angered by what they insisted was an unjustifiable use of military force against law-abiding citizens, united to seize the reins of government from the hands of capitalists and mainstream politicians friendly to capitalistic interests. During the course of their ensuing political crusade, the United Labor Party -- the . . .

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