Haymarket Affair Digital Collection

Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial transcript no. 1.
Testimony of Edgar E. Owen, 1886 July 27.

Volume K, 213-237, 25 p.
Owen, Edgar E.
Reporter, Chicago Times.

Direct examination by Mr. Grinnell. Cross-examination by Captain Black. Testified on behalf of the Prosecution, People of the State of Illinois.

Attended the Haymarket meeting. Testified on various topics (page numbers provide a partial guide): call for workingmen to arm themselves (vol.K 217), "Revenge" circular (vol.K 236), "Attention Workingmen" flier (vol.K 235), McCormick Reaper Works strike, meeting or riot (vol.K 214), movement, position or tenor of the crowd (vol.K 213), trajectory of the bomb (vol.K 219), time and place origination of the gunfire (vol.K 220), medical care and wounds (vol.K 220), Spies' speech at Haymarket (vol.K 216), Parsons, Albert (vol.K 214), Parsons' speech at Haymarket (vol.K 215), Schwab, Michael (vol.K 215), Fielden's speech at Haymarket (vol.K 218).

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EDGAR E. OWEN, a witness called and sworn on behalf of the People was examined in chief by Mr. Grinnell and testified as follows:

Q. What is your name?

A. Edgar E. Owen.

Q. You are a reporter on the Chicago Times?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Where were you on the evening of the 4th day of May?

A. I was at the Haymarket Square from half past seven o'clock until about eleven, in that neighborhood.

Q. Will you give in your own way, and describe what you saw and heard at the Haymarket at that time?

A. I first--

Q. Before the hour of half past seven--where were you at that hour?

A. I was on my way from the office of the Times to the Desplaines street Station.

Q. Did you go to the station?

A. I went to the station.

Q. From there where did you go?

A. I few minutes after-wards I went to what is known as Market Square, Haymarket Square.

That is the broad part of Randolph Street?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Between what streets?

A. Between Desplaines and Halstead.

Q. Will you state what occurred there between Desplaines and Halstead, and what you saw?

A. I saw small crowds gathered on the street corners about the square, and walked around two or three times looking for the meeting, and I saw

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at the corner of Halsted and Randolph streets.

Q. About what time was it you think you saw Mr. Parsons there?

A. It was a little before eight o'clock.

Q. What occurred there?

A. I called after him, and he apparently, or did not want to hear me, and went on. I walked faster and caught up with him, took hold of him and asked him where the meeting was to be held.

Q. Where was he about on the street when you approached?

A. He was very near the street-car track.

Q. How far from Halstead street?

A. It was near the corner.

Q. Right near the corner of Halstead and the Haymarket?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Just state what occurred between yourself and Parsons?

A. He said he didn't know anything about the meeting. I said: "You are going to speak, aren't you?" He said: "No, I am going over to the South side." and Mrs. Parsons and some children came up just then, and Parsons stopped an Indiana street car and he slapped me familiarly on the back and asked me if I was armed and I said "No, have you any dynamite about you?" And he laughed and Mrs. Parsons said: "He is a very dangerous looking man, isn't he?" and they got on the car and went east.

Q. Was there any one with you at that time?

A. I believe Mr. Heineman was with me.

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Q. At that time was there any meeting on Desplaines street north of Randolph?

A. There was not at that time.

Q. Where was the crowd?

A. It was not gathered. There were little groups all about the square at the different corners looking--

Q. On the haymarket?

A. Yes sir.

Q. After Parsons left you what then?

A. I walked on East and met the mayor.

Q. Did you see any of the other defendants at that time?

A. I was standing at the corner of Randolph and Desplaines streets a few minutes after I met the mayor with him and Schwab came up, almost ran into the mayor before he saw him. Immediately on seeing him Schwab turned about and went north on Desplaines street.

Q. At that time was there any meeting on Desplaines street?

A. There was not just at that time.

Q. Where was the crowd then?

A. The largest part of it was on the square.

Q. What then occurred?

A. I went to the station with the mayor and one or two other reporters, and was gone about five minutes. As I came back up Desplaines street, the crowd was pushing up on Desplaines north of Randolph.

Q. Coming from what direction?

A. From the west.

Q. From what street?

A. On Randolph street.

Q. From the haymarket?

A. Yes sir.

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Q Then where did you go?

A. Then I went up into the crowd to the middle of Desplaines Street north of Randolph, and I found Mr. Spies talking at the time.

Q Now, just give us what he said as near as you can recollect it?

A. He was saying something about the trouble at McCormick's, about his having made a speech there, and having been interrupted. And stated that a reporter in some morning paper had said for Mr. McCormick or Mr. McCormick had said through the papers, that Spies was responsible for the trouble at McCormick's and for the killing of men there, and that if McCormick had said any such thing he was a liar; that McCormick was himself responsible. The crowd made some derisive remarks at that. I believe it was to the effect that McCormick ought to be hung or thrown into the lake.

Q. What was the temper of the crowd there near the wagon during Mr. Spies' speech?

A Well, they cheered rather wildly just about the wagon. The outside of the crowd seemed to be mere curiosty seekers.

Q Do you remember anything further that Mr. Spies said in his speech--were you assigned, or was it any part of your duty to report speeches there?

A No sir.

Q You were not there for that purpose?

A No sir.

Q Do you recollect any more of the speech Mr. Spies made?

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A I don't recall anything now.

Q You made no notes?

A No sir.

Q What followed after Mr. Spies got through?

A Mr. Parsons talked for nearly three quarters of an hour. He began with comments upon some congressional report of labor statistics, and made an argument that the capitalists took all the money that the working man made. He described a meeting held the previous Sunday I believe at Cincinnati at which he talked, and said that the militia there marched through the streets behind the bearers of the red flag; that the red flag was at the top and at the head of everything, and that the capitalistic press was very silent in regard to the matter. Of course no one would ever hear of it in Chicago without he should tell them, that the capitalistic press never made any mention of the fact.

Q Did you hear the latter part of his remarks?

A I can not relate just all the sense of his argument, but I know that towards the finish he made a sort of dramatic cry, "To arms, to arms, to arms."

Q What did the crowd respond to that, if anything? What was the effect on the crowd?

A Those about the wagon were enthusiastic and hurrahed, yelled out: "Hang Jay Gould and hang McCormick, shoot the police"--something to that effect.

Q Do you remember anything further of the speeches?

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A I do not.

Q What occurred then after Mr. Parsons got through?

A Fielden then spoke for some time.

Q Give us his language as near as you can?

A I had been in the middle of the street up to about that time, and I went up on an iron stair-way in order to rest.

Q Where abouts was it?

A It is on the west side of Desplaines Street nearly opposite the wagon.

Q Did you see any one there on the stair-way that you know?

A I saw another reporter.

Q What was his name?

A Hull.

Q Paul Hull?

A Yes.

Q When did you go up there with reference to the speaking?

A About the time Fielden commenced to talk.

Q Where abouts on the stairway did you go?

A At the top.

Q What did you hear of Fielden's speech?

A I heard him say that the working men could never obtain their rights through legislation and cited the case of Martin Foran of Pennsylvania, who had acknowledged that the working men could obtain nothing through legislation, and the speaker denounced the working men as fools for sending such men to Congress. That the only way to obtain their rights was to take matters into their own hands.

Q Do you remember anything further of that speech, do you

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remember whether he said anything on the subject of the law or not?

A I did not wait until he was through speaking. I left there and went to the police station a few minutes before ten o'clock.

Q Then what occurred?

A About the time that I arrived at the station I saw the police coming out, marching out, and I ran back ahead of them and went back to the stairway up to the top of the stairway.

Q Describe what occurred from that time on? That you yourself saw

A Well, I saw the police coming up and I heard some one give an order to the crowd. I could not understand the words. I was not paying close attention.. Then I noticed Fielden get off the wagon, I thought he jumped off, and at that same moment I heard a sort of fiendish defiant cry, and instantly the bomb exploded. I didn't see anything but the fire going up in the street.

Q You didn't see the bomb in the air at all?

A No sir. at the same instant there was a great many policemen fell upon the ground in the centre. Those about stood their ground; and I had been hit the same instant in the legand I ran down the stairway in order to get out of the way of danger if I could.

Q Do you know what struck you?

A Well, from the nature of the wound, and from others opinions I concluded it was a spent ball.

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Q When were you struck in relation to the firing of the bomb?

A It was almost simultaneous. I could not distinguish whether it was. It seemed to me it must have been before, because as soon as the bomb exploded I ran.

Q Had you felt the injury before the explosion.

A I felt a tingling sensation in my leg.

Q You were on the west side of the street?

A Yes sir.

Q In what direction from the wagon?

A Almost opposite the alley, the landing of the stairway--the top landing.

By Mr. Black.

Q I understand you were on the top platform of that iron stairway at that time?

A Yes sir.

Q Do you remember what direction you were facing?

A I was facing about east.

Q Fecing then right towards the alley?

A Yes sir.

Q You say that you were not paying much attention at the time that you heard some order, that you supposed was an order of dispersal. What were you doing if not paying attention to what transpired?

A I was noticing more the movements of the crowd and police. I was a little excited myself.

Q Did you have to mkae a footrace in order to keep ahead

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of the police from the station and get up on your perch?

A No sir, I stopped on the way once, the middle of Randolph Street and spoke with some special policeman.

Q Did you go rapidly or slowly in coming from the Desplaines Street station to the platform where you stood?

A I went rapidly enough to get ahead of the police. They had a little the start. I was up in the station when they started out.

Q When you started on your march, had all three divisions formed at that time?

A I think so. The head of them had passed the entrance to the station going north.

Q Did you see how many divisions had formed, and how many divisions were in the street at that time?

A No sir, I did not notice.

Q Did you have any conversation with any person at the station on that occasion?

A I think not, none others than fellow-reporters perhaps.

Q The fact is, you walked down there in your excitement seeing the police were in the street and coming, and you immediately returned and retraced your steps?

A Yes sir.

Q You say just at the moment when you saw Fielden jump down off of the wagon, you heard a sort of fiendish, defiant cry?

A Yes sir.

Q Did you locate the source from whence that came?


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knew it came from the direction of the wagon.

Q What experience with fiendish cries have you that enables you to use that comparison--you don't mean that you have been there, do you?

Mr: Grinnell: What does that mean?

Mr. Black: I want to know how a man knows what a fiendish cry is.

The Witness: The cry of a fiend I should say was a fiendish cry.

Q Are you familiar with the cry of fiends?

A That is, the way it appeared to me.

Q You were excited at the time?

A I was, somewhat.

Q It came from the direction of the wagon you say?

A Yes sir.

Q Is that as fully as you can locate it?

A I think it is.

Q Did it come from the wagon?

A I can't tell you.

Q But from over in that direction, between you and the wagon somewhere came that cry?

A Yes sir.

Q Do you remember what that cry was--was it any articulate word?

A I could not understand any articulate sound.

Q Was it very loud?

A It was much above the average voice.

Q Are you just certain as to the time of that cry, I

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one of the reporters speaks of the howl of defiance and despair, and as you use the word defiant, you are talking about the same thing that he heard after the crowd scattered?

The Court: There is not anything of that sort in any testimony. There was something read from the newspaper, something of that sort, but there was no testimony of that sort.

Mr. Black: Well, all right, if your Honor chooses to be as it seems hypocritical.

Q What I am after is to find out the time of that cry if you can't fix it positively?

A I looked at my watch as soon after the affair was over as I dared to look at it, and I believe the time of the explosion of the bomb was about ten minutes after ten o'clock.

Q With reference to the explosion of the bomb, how long was that cry, before or after that explosion?

A It was immediately preceeding the explosion.

Q You don't remember any word being spoken?

A No sir.

Q Nothing articulate that you could remember?

A No sir, not that I can remember.

Q Simply a cry that you describe as fiendish and defiant?

A Yes sir.

Q What was there about that cry that struck you as defiant?

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Do you know the difference between a defiant cry and any other kind of cry?

A Some others might use a better adjective perhaps.

Q It is in reference to the choice of adjectives that I am inquiring.

A That expresses my opinion as near as I can.

Q In other words, in the language of common mortals, it was, a loud cry?

A That would not express it as it appeared to me.

Q But as I said, you were somewhat excited at that time?

A Not so excited but that I knew enough to write a readable description of the event?

Q Did you write it then and there?

A I did not.

Q You fojnd a convenient place, and wrote up a description shortly afterwards for publication?

A Yes sir, I did.

Q When and where did you write that description?

A At the office of the Times.

Q Do you remember whether in that description this "fiendish, defiant cry" figured?

A I do not. I have not looked it over since the day after I guess.

Q You don't remember whether the selection of adjectives was made at the moment or whether it is made now?

A I do not.

Q Do you know as to the direction from where you stood that the bomb fell?

A Well, it was possibly a little

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to my south. It was almost directly opposite.

Q And the wagon stood a little to the north of east?

A A little to the left of where I stood.

Q Now, did this cry that you speak of come from the neighborhood of where the bomb fell?

A No sir, it was before the bomb fell.

Q How long before the bomb fell, or do you mean the bomb exploded?

A When it exploded, yes sir.

Q How long before the explosion of the bomb was this cry that you heard?

A Only a few seconds.

Q Seconds may be of importance sometimes. How many seconds?

A I never timed horses.

Mr. Grinnell: It is a difficult matter to state the time.

The Court: (Q) What is your impression about the difference of time between the explosion and the cry?

A A quarter of a minute perhaps.

Q Fifteen seconds that would be?

A Possibly not so. long.

Q According to your best recollection, was it as much as ten seconds before the explosion of the bomb that you heard this cry?

A It might have been.

Q Somewhere from ten to fifteen?

A I am not accustomed to timing by seconds.

Q Did you hear the command to halt when the column came to a stand near the wagon?

A I did not notice it, no.

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Q Did you hear so as to be able to distinguish the exhortation or command of Captain Ward to the crowd?

A No sir.

Q Did you hear Fielden say anything in response thereto?

A No sir.

Q The things that impressed you, as I understand you, and the only things that impressed you were at that moment the explosion of the bomb, the cry which you say immediately preceded it a few seconds, and the fact that you felt a tingling sensation in your leg at that time?

A Yes sir.

Q How soon after that did you take your departure from the platform?

A I left immediately after the explosion of the bomb.

Q Do you think that cry you heard was made by a man?

A I do.

Q Have you any definite idea as to where the man stood who made that outcry?

A I have not, only off in the direction of off across the street, in the neighborhood of the wagon.

Q You have talked with other people about these occurrences since, haven't you?

A Some.

Q Have you ever found one that noticed that outcry you have spoken of?

A I don't know that I have.

Q Now, you say you judge you were hit by a spent ball. What was the character of the wound that was made?

A It was

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a round abrasion in the flesh, sort of dent, fully deep enough to cause the blood to flow slightly.

Q But the flesh was not lacerated specially, was it?

A No sir.

Q And you did not find the bullet or whatever it was itself that made the wound, did you?

A No sir, it did not break the clothing.

Q Did not cut through the clothing?

A No sir.

Q No hole in the clothing?

A No sir.

Q Can you tell when you felt that strike or blow, whatever it was with reference to the outcry you have spoken of?

A Well, I can't distinguish whether it was at the same instant, or before or after. Everything was in a moment there. I know as soon as I realized or fancied the possible dangers of the surroundings, that I got out of there as fast as I could.

Q Did the shot strike you, assuming for the purpose of this question that it was a shot, before or after you heard the noise of the explosion of the bomb?

A I think it was, it seems to me quite positively that it was before the noise of the explosion.

Q In connection with it did you hear any pistol shot from any source or direction?

A I don't know that I did.

Q You heard no shot or sound of a shot preceding the explosion of the bomb that night, did you, at the Haymarket

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A I can't sweat whether I did or not.

Q Do you remember whether or not you heard any sound of a shot at any time, at the time you heard this outcry?

A I heard the explosion of the bomb and pistol shots almost simultaneous with the outcry.

Q You don't mean to say the pistol shots preceded the bomb?

A I don't know which was first.

Q You don't know which was first?

A No sir, the pistol shots came from the side of the street, both sides.

Q Both sides of the street?

A Yes sir.

Q Did you see them?

A I could hear them. I was standing in such a position - the police were right below me.

Q The question is, did you see any pistol shots from the street sides, and pistol flashes?

A I could see flashes on the opposite side;

Q Whereabouts on the opposite side did you see any flahes of pistol shots?

A Near the alley.

Q When was that with reference to the explosion of the bomb?

A As I have said before, it was all simultaneous, and I did not wait there to see just how matters were running from the first minute.

Q How many seconds do you think you stood on that platform after the bomb exploded, or after you leard the explosion of the bomb?

A Possibly ten seconds.

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Q But you can't tell whether you felt the concussion of your leg before or after you heard the explosion of the bomb?

A I cannot.

Q You are certain of the fact that the out cry you speak of preceded the explosion of the bomb?

A I feel quite confident of it.

Q Is that a matter of independent recollection as to the time when you heard that out cry, or is it a matter of conclusion as you have thought the matter over?

A Well, I have thought the matter over, but it is independent recollection as I put it.

Q Did that cry have the character of pain?

A No sir, the first cry did not have the character of pain. Immediately after it, there were a great many cries of agony and of pain.

Q The first cry you don't think had that character?

A No sir.

Q Did you notice who was sitting on the wagon at any time during the evening, north of the wagon from which the speaking was going on?

A No sir.

Q Did you get anywheres near that wagon during the course of the wagon?

A I was about twenty feet from the speakers' wagon.

Q On which side of the speakers' wagon were you when you were twenty feet away from it?

A To the south and the

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middle of the street.

Q So that you did not get around north of the wagon or in the neighborhood of the wagon that stood north of the speakers' truck?

A No sir.

Q About what time did that meeting commence, that is, what was your first observation of it?

A Well I think it was about twenty minutes of nine o'clock.

Q When you first noticed it?

A Yes, sir.

Q And Spies was then speaking?

A Yes sir.

Q And he had got started before you reached or got within hearing distance, hadn't he?

A Yes sir, before I was near enough to understand the language.

Q Did you notice your timepiece at that time?

A No sir.

Q Or about the time?

A I had shortly before, I believe.

Q Do you remember what was the last time which you noticed upon your watch before you heard Spies speaking, what o'clock it was?

A I believe the last time I looked at my watch it was about half past eight.

Q It was after that you heard Spies speak?

A Yes sir.

Q When Spies spoke of the McCormick matter, and the crowd cried out "Hang him" or something to that effect, did you notice what Spies responded to that?

A I can't remember anything definitely in regard to it.

Q You don't remember whether he dissented to that, or made

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any suggestion against that or not?

A No sir.

Q How near were you to Spies at that time?

A Not over thirty feet, I guess.

Q When did you see Schwab last that night?

A On the corner of Desplaines and Randolph Street, when I was standing with the Mayor and some other gentlemen.

Q About what o'clock was that with reference to the time when you say you looked at your watch at half past eight--was it before or after that?

A It was before that, I think;

Q Did you see Schwab any time that evening on the speakers wagon?

A No sir, I did not distinguish him.

Q Did you see him taking a car that evening eastward bound?

A No sir.

Q I mean during the evening, I mean during that evening when you were there taking observations?

A I did not see him any other time than the one I stated.

Q You say before the meeting you met Parsons, and Parsons told you he was not going to speak, and was going over on the south side?

A Yes sir.

Q He was at that time accompanied by whom?

A Mrs. Parsons.

Q Anybody else?

A And I think two children.

Q When did you next see Parsons?

A When he was talking on the wagon.

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Q How long was that after you and he parted when he took the car going east?

A Well, it was more than an hour.

Q How long, by the way, have you been acquainted with Parsons?

A Three or four years, longer perhaps.

Q Have you any personal acquaintance with Mrs. Parsons, or did you simply know her by sight?

A I merely knew her from having met het at different gatherings.

Q Do you remember whether any other lady was in company with Mrs. Parsons or with Parsons?

A I did not see any.

Q Didn't you see Mrs. Holmes with her, of the party?

A No sir.

Q Getting on that car at that time?

A No sir.

Q There was some cheering at the time of this out cry, calling for the hanging of Jay Gould, wasn't there, while Parsons was speaking?

A Yes sir.

Q Do you remember what Parsons responded to that suggestion of "hang Jay Gould"?

A I believe it was he that said something to the effect that it was useless to make idle cries, when they wanted to do anything that they must go to work and do it.

Q Do you remember whether or not he said in effect this: "No that socialism don't aim at the life of individuals, but at the system, and that it would do no good to hang Jay Gould, but that another and perhaps a hundred would

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come up after him?

A I feel quite confident he did not use that language.

Q The question is as to the idea, whether he said that in substance?

A Well, I don't remember the sentiment.

Q How much of Parsons' talk did you hear?

A I believe I heard his entire speech.

Q But you don't remember his saying anything of that kind?

A No sir.

Q Anything of that nature?

A Not to recall it.

Q Making any such response as that to the suggestion "Hang Jay Gould?

A I don't recall it.

Q Do you preserve a pretty vivid recollection of the speeches that night or not?

A Only of certain points in the different speeches.

Q Certain particular things which you have already singled out?

A Yes sir.

Q Now, during this speaking, there was more or less of applauding, wasn't there?

A Yes, immediately about the wagon.

Q Was the proportion of people who applauded out of the entire audience a large or small proportion?

A Well, it did not include more than half of the entire crowd according to my judgment.

Q Is not it a fact that comparatively few of the people who were in the crowd did join in the applause to any ex

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A Well, I did not pay close enough attention to state positively, but it appeared to me that about half the crowd joined in.

Q Did you write the account which appeared in the Times? the next morning?

A The first part of it.

Q The first part you wrote?

A Yes sir.

Q I will call your attention for the purpose of refreshing your recollection to a certain part of that, and ask you whether you wrote that particular part, and if so, just look at that portion right along there--that is the expression (shows witness Times of May 5th). The paper I now call your attention to is a copy of the Times of May 5th, part of that paper?

A Yes sir.

Q Do you recognize the portion of the paper I called your attention to as having been written by you?

A Yes sir.

Q Having called your attention to it, let me ask you whether or not according to your recollection the applauders were comparatively a small portion of the entire audience or not, comparatively few in other words, and let me ask you whether you wrote in your description for publication next morning these words: "Those in the crowd of two thousand who joined on the cheering were comparatively few in numbers?

A It is in the part of the report I wrote.

Q You wrote that, did you?

A Yes sir.

Q You don't mean to say that a reporter ever makes a

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A Not intentionally.

Q Was that correct or not?

A It may have been correct.

Q According to your best recollection, was it or was it not correct?

A I should judge that my statement just now was nearer correct.

Q Then that?

A Yes sir.

Q You say now that not over half joined in the cheering?

A Not over half, possibly not that many.

Q How did you come to go that meeting that night?

A I was assigned to the meeting by my city editor.

Q Had you received any call for that meeting?

A I was shown the copy of a circular.

Q What became of the copy that you saw?

A I don't know; it was left in the office, and I believe that the words of it were printed in the Times of the next morning.

Q Did you yourself take a copy of it, if you remember?

A No sir, I did not.

Q But you saw what you believed to be a correct copy in the paper the next morning?

A I did not look it through; I supposed it was the same.

Q I will ask you to look at this copy, for the purpose of refreshing your recollection, and will ask you whether or not the copy of the circular which you saw closed with, or had in it anywhere the expression: "Workingmen, come armed and in full force".

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Objected to.

The Court: What his recollection is as to the copy of the circular, he may state. There is no reasonable ground to suppose that the copy he saw is preserved. There is no evidence showing that it was.

Mr.Grinnell: There is no evidence on that at all. The circular is entirely new matter.

The Court: As to his recollection of the circular he can state.

The Witness: I don't now remember the circular calling the meeting. I thought it was the revenge circular.

Mr. Salomon: (Q) Did you say you stood on the stairs opposite the alley?

A Yes sir.

Q The head of the stairs opposite the alley?

A I did.

Q There are only one pair of stairs there?

A I guess that is all.

Q Are these the stairs you refer to (pointing on diagram)?

A Yes sir.

Q This is the alley you refer to?

A Yes sir.

The Court: (Q) That is, this was the stairway of the iron works?

A I think it is Metzner hardware.

Mr. Salomon: (Q) Do you know how far back the platform extends from the front of the building which fronts on Randolph Street?

A I don't know; I should think about thirty feet, perhaps.

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Q Do you know how far back the alley is from the corner of Randolph Street?

Mr. Walker: It is ninety feet, the scale shows that.

Q I understand you to say you saw the shots after the bomb exploded, you saw a volley?

A Yes sir.

Q Will you describe where that came from?

A I saw them particularly from the cast side of the street.

Q Had the police fired at that time?

A They had not.

Objected to as not proper re-direct examination.

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