A Man of His Own
By all evidence, the Theodore Roosevelt of his first two years at Harvard was oblivious to the larger political events that swirled around the communities of Cambridge and Oyster Bay and the country as a whole. The Panic of 1873 and the ensuing depression had forced his family's firm out of a principal part of its longtime trade, but it rated only the most oblique mention in his letters. He seems not to have noticed the disputed presidential election of 1876, which returned the Republicans to the White House but terminated Reconstruction in the South. The biggest story of the summer of 1877--the labor violence that wrenched much of the nation--seems to have escaped him entirely.
That violence was hard to miss. One epicenter was western Pennsylvania, where June 21, 1877, the day on which Roosevelt was happily packing to leave Cambridge for his bird-collecting expedition in the Adirondacks, was known ever after as "the day of the rope." On that day Pennsylvania authorities hanged ten men for committing or inciting violence in the anthracite coal region of the state. The hangings marked the culmination of a government offensive against assertive labor unionists in the coalfields, epitomized by the radical "Molly Maguires." Opinions differed as to where justice in the coal- fields lay--with the miners or with management and the powers-that- were. But both sides and nearly all observers were shocked at the degree of violence, legal and otherwise, that the dispute provoked.
Yet the killings in the coalfields were almost immediately overshadowed by the violence in another industry. Less than a month after