|One measure of increasing concern during the 1870s about the threat of labor and mob violence was the growth of state militias. These were locally organized companies of part-time citizen-soldiers, one of whose major purposes was to protect against so-called internal insurrection. State militias were not comprised exclusively of the native born, but also included some volunteer companies organized by nationality, whose members were eager to display their patriotism to America.
A state guard existed as early as 1874, but a more significant development was the Illinois legislature's 1876 adoption in the winter of a code for the arming and enrolling of a state militia, and its appropriation of $75,000 for armory rentals and related training expenses. The state militia saw active duty alongside Chicago police and federal troops in the railroad strike of 1877. The First Regiment of the Illinois National Guard met, drilled, and stored its weapons in the Gothic structure on Jackson Street, in downtown Chicago. Pictured here is the cover of a march dedicated to these defenders of public order.
In addition to expecting police and soldiers to protect their businesses, corporate executives frequently hired private operatives employed by the Pinkerton National Detective Agency, founded by the famous detective Allan Pinkerton. Pinkerton was born in Scotland in 1819 and was a resident of Chicago from the 1840s until his death in 1884. The Pinkertons came to stand in the minds of labor leaders and political radicals as the embodiment of the brutality and arrogance of capital, and the anarchists singled them out for vilification.
Allan Pinkerton was ready to return the compliment. In his 1878 book, Strikers, Communists, Tramps and Detectives, Pinkerton joined Police Superintendent Michael Hickey in blaming Albert Parsons for the troubles in Chicago in the summer of 1877.
Pinkerton described Parsons as "a young man . . . of flippant tongue," who was "capable of making a speech that will tingle the blood of that class of characterless rascals that are always standing ready to grasp society by the throat; and while he can excite his auditors, of this class, to the very verge of riot, has that devilish ingenuity in the use of words which has permitted himself to escape deserving punishment."