Module 05: Industrialization and Its Discontents: The Great Strike of 1877

Evidence 8: Strikers Clash With Sixth Maryland Regiment, 11 August 1877

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Local and national newspapers closely followed the events of the Great Strike of 1877. While some local papers were clearly sympathetic to the strikers, most with a more national circulation strongly condemned their actions. They also tended to sensationalize the events they covered: large crowds inevitably became "lawless mobs," while even peaceful protests became "riots."

Harper's Weekly, a national newspaper that began publication in 1857, closely followed the strike. The heavily illustrated "Journal of Civilization" brought news and commentary into the homes of more than 200,000 subscribers. Beginning with its August 11 issue, Harper's provided extensive coverage of the strike, including many illustrations of its key events. In an article accompanying the first set of illustrations, the editors made it clear that they had little patience for the demands of strikers, no matter how desperate they might be: "The reign of terror inaugurated by the rail-road strikers in Baltimore on the morning of the 16th of July, is unexampled in the history of strikes in this country. Scenes of riot and bloodshed accompanied it such as we have never before witnessed in the uprising of labor against capital. Commerce has been obstructed, industries have been paralyzed, hundreds of lives sacrificed, and millions of dollars' worth of property destroyed by lawless mobs."

The cover illustration for the August 11 issue featured the Maryland militia firing upon striking workers in Baltimore, who, in turn, were pelting them with bricks and stones.

Questions to Consider

  • Why did the editors choose this particular scene to feature?

  • How are the militia portrayed in the illustration?

  • How are the strikers portrayed?


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Harper's Weekly (11 Aug 1877), 1.

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