This image, originally drawn by Art Young for the Chicago Daily News, showed Parsons the way all the anarchists wished to be remembered, as ready to face death with equanimity. They were all up by eight, had breakfast, politely refused consolation from a clergyman, wrote a few last letters, and decided on the disposition of their bodies. Engel and Spies both accepted the offer of some wine from their jailers.

In the streets of Chicago, meanwhile, the authorities were considerably less relaxed, if just as resolute. The police intensified their watch on the homes of people connected with the trial, and they stationed men with rifles on the roofs of the courthouse and the jail, as well as on the streets adjoining these buildings. Many stores and offices were closed, and little public business was transacted.

Journalist Charles Edward Russell, who covered the execution, recalled that "the nervous strain upon the public had become almost intolerable," with continuing rumors of anarchists rising up to save their own or to take others down with them. Russell saw a gun store on Madison Street open at ten in the evening, "crowded with men buying revolvers." Other reports, however, had firearms and ammunition dealers locking up their supplies in case of riot and theft. In the First Regiment Armory, the senior officers and about two hundred men were on duty all of the day before, the Gatling gun at the ready, with about one thousand more members of the regiment on alert. The situation was similar at other armories.

The police cordoned off the street around the jail, turning away in separate incidents both Nina Van Zandt and Parsons'swife and children, who were accompanied by Lizzie Holmes. When Lucy Parsons, already dressed in mourning, insisted that she had been promised admission, she was sent from one officer to another, none of who would let her through. She finally tried to push through the line, at which point she and the children were taken to Captain Michael Schaack's East Chicago Avenue station, where they were, in Lizzie Holmes's account, "stripped to the skin and searched" by a police matron.

"And thus it was," Holmes recalled, "that while organized authority was judicially murdering the husband and strangling 'the voice of the people,' the wife and children were locked up in a dungeon, that no unpleasant scene might mar the smoothness of the proceedings." Lucy Parsons and her children were held in wretchedness and misery until several hours after the hangings, when Schaack himself, claiming that he had not known of their presence in the station, ordered them released.