|Click on this image of this proclamation issued by Mayor Carter H. Harrison immediately after the Haymarket bombing in order to see it in larger form.
Mayor Harrison, who had attended the Haymarket rally but left shortly before the bombing because he anticipated no trouble, met with horrified civic leaders all day Wednesday, May 5. Among his visitors was a delegation from the Citizens' Association, the businessmen's group that since the late 1870s had worked for better government, but had also contributed funds to local units of the state militia for uniforms, bullets, rifles, and Gatling guns. (See the entry "Ten Long Barrels" in the "The Lines Are Drawn" section of the Prologue.)
The delegation included merchant Marshall Field, railroad sleeping car builder George Pullman, meatpacker Philip Armour, and reaper manufacturer Cyrus McCormick Jr., at whose factory on May 3 the specific events that led to Haymarket tragedy began. State's Attorney Julius Grinnell was also present. "The committee indulged in a general discussion of the situation," the Chicago Tribune reported, "and told the Mayor that they would stand by him in his efforts to preserve the peace."
Harrison's official policy is expressed in the remarkable broadside on view here, whose typography is as expressive as its language. The broadside acknowledges both the seriousness of the situation and the essential soundness of Chicago ("this good city"). It declares that the perpetrators of the bombing acted outside the boundaries of the law, and of civilization itself, having essentially declared war on the American people by attacking the sworn defenders of the peace.
Since such "bad men" will likely take advantage of the situation created by large assemblies such as the Haymarket, Harrison bans all such meetings and processions and empowers the police to disperse them. The broadside ends with assurances that the police can and WILL protect the lives and property of Chicagoans and the "good name" of the city itself. For more on Harrison, see Act II, which includes his testimony at the trial in its "From the Archive" section.
The public outcry from far and near following the bomb was, if anything, more fearful and shrill than it had been during the railroad strike of 1877. Between 1877 and 1886 underlying economic concerns had become more profound and more widespread, and the lines of social division were had become even more sharply drawn. The bomb was more terrifying than any mob action because it involved the use of dynamite. And not only workers and rioters were hurt, but dozens of policemen, seven of whom were dead or dying.
From everywhere, as in 1877, the answer to the tragedy at Haymarket was repression. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat demanded a "restoration of the supremacy of the law," while the Louisville Courier-Journal declared that it was time to end "tampering any longer with that lawless element which has assumed to act for labor," and that "the spirit which animates it must be put under control." "Control" meant the club, the gun, and the noose. The Atlanta Constitution told its readers, "These anarchists deserve no mercy, and their skulls should be cracked like egg-shells whenever they begin their devilish work." The Philadelphia Press expressed the same sentiments with a darkly clever pun: "It takes the rain of lead to upset the reign of anarchy. As long as there are lots of bullets the bullies will behave themselves." As with the anarchists' "bomb-talking," part of the motive behind such statements was to make a show of bravado to intimidate the enemy.
Most labor and immigrant voices agreed with these sentiments. Terence Powderly, leader of the Knights of Labor, hastened to dissociate his organization from radical agitators, while the conservative German paper New York Staats-Zeitung condemned "the criminal measures to which the Freiheit [Johann Most's newspaper], the Arbeiter-Zeitung, etc., have led . . . ." The Staats-Zeitung expressed concern that the bomb would encourage xenophobia in general and anti-German feeling in particular.
There was good cause for such concern, if the "American" dailies are any indication. "Such foreign savages, with their dynamite bombs and anarchic purposes," intoned the New York Sun, "are as much a part of the rest of the people of this country as the Apaches of the plains are." This was a very loaded analogy, since at the very same time the United States Army was hot on the trail of Geronimo in the Arizona Territory.
The situation was understandably most intense in Chicago. "The slaughter of a half-dozen officers of the law and the wounding of a dozen or more of their associates by the explosion of a dynamite bomb, thrown into their ranks by an infuriated socialist," a Chicago Evening Journal editorial observed the day after the bombing, "show that the revolt has reached a stage which necessitates an immediate resort to the most heroic measures if the city is to be protected against an appalling catastrophe." The editorial continued, "The community is menaced by a peril the magnitude of which it were folly to underestimate."
The Daily News agreed, and prescribed the proper response: "Let these men, who defiantly boast of their lawlessness, be made to feel the full penalty of long-outraged law." The Chicago Tribune similarly advised, "These alien Communists must be made to know that American laws shall be obeyed, or anarchy and arson will prevail." In phrasing that explicitly employed the drama metaphor and followed the same line of reasoning the prosecution would take, the Tribune called the bombing "the result of a deliberate, rehearsed conspiracy." Albert Parsons's own trade union, Typographical Number 16, called those who were responsible for the bomb "the greatest enemy the laboring man has."