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It was a full eighteen days after the bombing—by which time numerous raids had been conducted, dozens of arrests made, and a grand jury convened—that a Defense Fund Committee was formed. The highly respected German-born physician and socialist Ernst Schmidt, whose formative political experience had been the democratic upheavals in Europe in 1848, headed the committee. The first image is an undated cabinet card photograph of Schmidt; the second is an advertisement for his medical practice from the Arbeiter-Zeitung at the time of Haymarket.
Schmidt was a longstanding leader of the German-American community who had served as Cook County coroner and run for mayor on the Socialistic Labor Party ticket in 1879. Schmidt donated many of the materials in the Haymarket Affair Digital Collection, especially those relating to the trial and the appeal. He was opposed to both anarchism and bomb-talking, let alone bomb-making. He nevertheless believed it was imperative to mount a strong defense for the accused. Schmidt and other members of the Defense Fund Committee organized numerous events to raise the necessary funds to mount this defense. Much of these funds came from working people.
After the trial, the Defense Fund Committee had to find additional resources for the appeal. The committee distributed a flyer early in 1887 soliciting more contributions. The flyer stated that legal expenses for the trial in the Cook County Criminal Court and the pending appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court had cost the committee about $18,000 of the $20,000 contributed to date. They estimated that if the Supreme Court granted a new trial, the defense would cost at least $15,000.
The Defense Fund Committee was practical-minded. It stated that it was "useless to complain of the enormous expense of litigation in this country, and to show that a poor and friendless accused is but too often the victim of any prejudices which may exist against him." The committee advised those who might wish to take to the streets in protest that "an efficient defense can be secured only by raising the necessary means, and not by any demonstration."
Shortly after the Defense Fund Committee was formed in May of 1886, Schmidt retained the services of the legal firm of Salomon and Zeisler. Portraits of these two attorneys are also included on this page, along with their advertisement in the Arbeiter-Zeitung. Not only were the two principals in the firm quite young (Moses Salomon was twenty-eight, Sigmund Zeisler twenty-six), but they also had very little knowledge of criminal practice. (In his reminiscences of the case, published in 1927, Zeisler told of the passing of all the other major figures, remarking, "Thus, of all the prominent actors in that thrilling drama, I am the sole survivor.")
Schmidt felt that he still needed to find an attorney to head the defense, preferably one with high standing in the native-born community. According to Zeisler, Schmidt approached former Cook County State's Attorney Luther Laflin Mills, who turned him down. He also tried to hire William S. Forrest, who at thirty-four was relatively young but who had successfully done criminal work. Forrest, however, asked for too much money, and so Schmidt had to continue his search.