Haymarket Affair Digital Collection

Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial transcript no. 1.
Testimony of William Urban, 1886 Aug. 3.

Volume L, 340-361, 22 p.
Urban, William.
Compositor, Arbeiter-Zeitung and member of the Central Labor Union; German immigrant.

Direct examination by Mr. Foster. Cross-examination by Mr. Ingham. Testified on behalf of the Defense, Spies, August et al.

Attended the Haymarket meeting. Testified on various topics (page numbers provide a partial guide): the Arbeiter-Zeitung (vol.L 341), Spies, August (vol.L 341), Central Labor Union (vol.L 341), Typographical Union #9 (vol.L 341), Greif's Hall (vol.L 342), McCormick Reaper Works strike, meeting or riot (vol.L 342), Parsons' speech at Haymarket (vol.L 345), Lumber Shovers' Union (vol.L 343), Captain Ward's command to disperse (vol.L 347), weapons in the hands of the police at Haymarket (vol.L 347), time and place origination of the gunfire (vol.L 348), trajectory of the bomb (vol.L 349), movement, position or tenor of the crowd (vol.L 350), socialists and/or socialism (vol.L 351), Fielden's response to the police advance at Haymarket (vol.L 352), the American Group (vol.L 354), actions of police during the Haymarket meeting (vol.L 355), eight-hour movement (vol.L 359).

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a witness called and sworn on behalf of the defendants, was examined in chief by Mr. Foster and testified as follows:

Q What is your name?

A William Urban.

Q Where do youre side?

A 86 Mozart Street, Humboldt.

Q What is your business?

A I am compositor.

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Q How long have you lived in Chicago?

A Since 1879.

Q Are you acquainted with Mr. Spies?

A Yes sir.

Q Where did you work as compositor on the 4th day of May last?

A I worked at the Arbeiter Zeitung.

Q Do you work there now?

A Yes sir.

Q How long have you worked at the Arbeiter Zeitung?

A Since I am in Chicago.

Q How long has that been?

A Since 1879.

Q How long have you lived in this country?

A I am here since 1873.

Q I will ask you whether you went to the haymarket meeting at any time on the 4th day of May?

A Yes sir, I went there.

Q At what time did you go there?

A I went there, I suppose it was a little after ten.

Q Where had you been before going there?

A I had been at a meeting of the Central Labor Union.

Q What branch of the Central Labor Union?

A I am a member of the Typographical Union, No.9.

Q Had you been at a meeting of the Typographical Union No.9 that night?

A No sir, I was there as a member from this society to the Central Labor Union.

Q You were there as a delegate from the Typographical Union?

A Yes sir.

Q Where did that meeting take place?

A It was at 54

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West Lake Street.

Q Where abouts at 54 West Lake?

A It is between Clinton, I guess Clinton and Canal Streets.

Q What place in the building?

A It was at the same place where the saloon is, in the back,--there is a small place for meeting, I guess room enough for about fifty men.

Q A small hall that is just back in the rear of the saloon?

A Yes sir.

Q On the same floor with the saloon?

A Yes sir, on the same floor.

Q I will ask you what you know, if anything, about a request for Mr. Spies to speak at the Black Road on the night of the 3rd, that came under your observation as member of the Central Union, on the afternoon of the 3rd?

A Well, Sunday Morning, May 2nd, we had a meeting of the central Labor Union.

Q Where?

A At the same place I told you before; and some delegates of the Lumber yards, lumber, wood shovers--- what you call them--they asked for speakers for a meeting to be held on Monday afternoon, and we said "We haven't any other speakers except Mr. Fielden, Parsons or Spies. If one of these three would suit them". They said, "Well, yes, send us any one of these three gentlemen".

Q Who was it said this?

A It was one of the delegates from that Union.

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Q He represented them?

A He represented a union.

Q Do you know his name?

A I don't know his name. It is in the book.

Q Are you the keeper of that book?

A No sir.

Q You are not the recording secretary?

A No sir.

Q Now, I will ask you, pursuant to that request from this person representing that he was a member of the lumber shovers Union, what was done with reference to obtaining a speaker, and when, if you know?

A Well, just the way I said that, we told them we hadn't any other to send out there, except one of these three gentlemen; and so Mr. Zeller, Chairman of the committee for agitation, he spoke to Mr. Spies in the evening where we had at that time another meeting.

Q Were you present, did you hear it?

A Yes sir.

Q Where was that other meeting and what was it?

A At the same place.

Q Same kind of meeting.

A Same meeting.

Q Was Mr. Spies at the meeting in the evening on the 2nd?

A He came there as reporter on that evening to take some reports.

Q He came as reporter for the Arbeiter Zeitung?

A Yes sir.

Q What conversation was had with Mr. Spies on the part of any of your committee in regard to the Black Road meeting?

A Well, I only heard that Mr. Zeller asked him if he

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could go out there, and Mr. Spies said that he was very busy, he didn't know if he could, but if he can, he will.

Q Mr. Spies said if he could he would?

A Yes sir.

Q This was in your hearing?

A Yes sir.

Q Was said by whom?

A It was said to Mr. Zeller.

Q And by Mr. Zeller to Mr. Spies in your hearing?

A Yes sir.

Q You had attended this meeting you say, up to 10 o'clock before you went to the haymarket?

A I was there a little after the meeting was over.

Q What do you mean by that ---that you were at the haymarket meeting a little after your meeting was over?

A I stood in the saloon a little while after the meeting was over.

Q After what meeting was over?

A The Central Labor Union meeting was over.

Q After the Central Labor meeting was over then you stood a little while in the door of the saloon?

A Yes sir.

Q State whether or not you went to the haymarket meeting on Desplaines Street?

A Yes sir.

Q Whereabouts did you take up your position there?

A I came from Randolph Street and went up on the sidewalk and stood about in the middle of the road on the street.

Q Do you know where the wagon stood that the speakers were talking from?

A I couldn't see exactly the wagon.

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because there was a good many people.

Q Did you see the wagon?

A There was a wagon about eight or ten feet north of the alley.

Q Was it from this wagon that the speaking was going on?

A I saw just Mr. Parsons on the wagon.

Q Who was speaking when you got there?

A Mr. Parsons.

Q Did you hear the balance of his speech?

A I heard that he said "Gentlemen"---

Q (Interrupting) I don't ask what he said. Did you hear the balance of it up to the time that he quit?

A I dont know what you mean by that.

Q What did you hear Mr. Parsons say, I will ask you then, at the time you heard him?

A He said that it might rain, and they should adjourn up to Zeph's Hall.

Q That is what you heard?

A That is what I heard.

Q Who was speaking, who was doing the general speaking to the crowd before that?

A I didn't see anybody else. I just came at that.

Q At the time you came and entered the crowd, the first thing you heard was a suggestion from Mr. Parsons that they should adjourn to Zeph's Hall?

A Yes sir.

Q Who replied to that, if anybody?

A Mr. Fielden said--

Q What did he say?

A Mr. Fielden said, "Well, gentlemen, I think it isn't worth while to adjourn. I will only talk a few minutes maybe to you, and then we all go home".

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Q Then what took place?

A I didn't listen very much. I guess Mr. Fielden spoke. I went down to see if none of my friends had been there.

Q Who were you looking for?

A I was looking for friends of the central labor union.

Q Mr. Fielden at that time was talking to the crowd?

A He just talked, yes sir.

Q Now, at the time you were looking about there for some of your friends, how far were you from the wagon from which Fielden was speaking?

A I stood--I cant say exactly--- it must have been about fifteen feet, ten or fifteen feet.

Q Ten or fifteen feet from the wagon?

A In the middle of the street.

Q Which direction was that from the wagon?

A Well, it was---I guess it was a little west.

Q Did you see the police coming?

A Yes sir.

Q What did you do when you saw the police coming up the street?

A I stood there, after they had got almost near to the alley. I went towards the alley and stood right across from this lamp post that is there on the corner of the alleyway.

Q Were you in the alley, way, between the sidewalk on the sidewalk, or were you in the street?

A I stood almost on the edge of the sidewalk and the alley way.

Q How near to where the lamp post stands on that corner?

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Q Seven to eight feet.

Q Did you ever see this map before (Shows witness map of haymarket and vicinity)?

A No sir.

Q This represents the haymarket--this is Randolph Street--this is Desplaines street here--this is Crane's alley and this is the sidewalk along in the front of Crane's alley, and this is the sidewalk down to Randolph St.? Now, whereabouts there were you?

A Shall I come down?

Q Yes, point out about where you were.

A This is the sidewalk, and this is the middle of the street; I stood about here (indicating.)

Q North or south of the alley?

A North.

Q So then you were about the edge of the alley and north?

A At the end.

Q How close were you to the wagon at that time, after you moved?

A I didn't look for that.

Q You were looking at the police?

A I looked downward, yes sir.

Q I will ask you what you saw while you looked at the police there, that attracted your attention, if anything?

A I saw--the way I have seen pictures of the gentlemen-- in command of the police--it must have been Captain Ward, and saw him step forward, and he said "In the name of the State of Illinois, I command you to disperse". And I saw that some of the policemen had something shining in their

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hands, and I guess it was revolvers.

Q That is what I wanted to know. You say that at the time Captain Ward said, "In the name of the State of Illinois, I command you to disperse" you saw something in his hands?

A I saw a few of the police have something in their hands shining.

Q How many of the police did you see something shining in their hands?

A I guess about two or three. That is all I could see.

Q Where abouts did those men stand?

A They stand four or five feet behind the captain.

Q Do you know what it was they had in their hands?

A The way it looked, I couldn't swear to it, I suppose they were revolvers.

Q You believed them to be revolvers at the time?

A Yes sir.

Q When you saw something glistening in their hands, what did you do?

A I looked around--I didn't know what might happen.

Q What did you do after that?

A Well, then my attention was taken by some noise coming from, it seemed to me south of the street, the sidewalk. I looked and saw something in the air, just like a fire cracker will do before it explodes; and I heard a deep noise and shooting.

Q I will ask you whether you heard any shooting before

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you heard this deep noise which followed? What you supposed looked like a fire cracker?

A No, it seemed to me all these noises came all at once.

Q Did you see where this fire, that looked to you like a fire cracker, whereabouts it started from on the sidewalk?

A It must have been about fifteen to eighteen feet south of the lamp post.

Q South of the lamp post?

A Yes sir.

Q That lamp post is south of Crane's alley?

A South of Crane's alley.

Q Just describe how that fire went, the direction that it went?

A It looked from the way from the part that I stood, it looked as though it was going towards the middle, a little north.

Q Did it go straight or curved?

A I can't say--it went awful fast.

Q Did it go in a line like that (illustrating)

A No, it made kind of a circle.

Q It circled as it went through the air?

A Yes sir.

Q How soon was it after you saw this fire circling through the air that you heard this deep noise that you speak of?

A Well, about one or two seconds.

Q Thon what did you do when the deep noise and shooting commenced?

A I run down south, run towards Randolph Street.

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Q Did you get down there to Randolph Street?

A No sir, I couldn't get away down, about half way, and fell over a pile of people lying there, and couldn't get any further, and I jumped over the railing there going down, I guess it is a cellar.

Q Where is that railing you jumped over?

A It is on the east side of the building on Desplaines Street, corner of Randolph and Desplaines.

Q You may state whether or not this railing is between what is called Cranes alley and Randolph Street?

A Crane's alley and Randolph St.

Q How many people were lying down that you stumbled over?

A There was half a dozen or more; they always fell-- one fell over the other by trying to get out of the way of the shooting.

Q Now, I will ask you, all through the time the shooting was going on there, did you see any that composed the crowd, any of the audience, the citizens fire any revolvers?

A I didn't see anybody shoot.

Q As you ran down there, getting away, after the firing commenced, did you see ahead of you, in the direction of your eye, any flashes from the people that were running?

A No, sir. When I turned over that railing, I heard somebody strike either the pole or railing--that is all I heard.

Q Did you hear any bullets as you ran down there?

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A Not that I remember.

Q Did you after you got over into the basement?

A Yes. I heard--because everything was quiet down there, and I could hear.

Q How long did you stay down there in the basement?

A Until the shooting was over.

Q Are you a socialist?

A Yes sir.

Q Are you an anarchist?

A No sir.

Q Do you belong to any armed section?

A No sir.

Q Did you ever?

A No sir.

Q You are a member of the central labor union?

A I am a member of the central labor union.

Q Are you a married man?

A Yes sir.

Q Do you live with your family?

A Yes sir.

Q You were arrested, I suppose, at the Arbeiter Zeitung office?

A I was not.

Q You were not there at that time?

A I was not in the office for about three or four days. I was engaged by the central labor union to stay at 54 West Lake Street.

Q How long had you been staying at 54 West Lake?

A I was engaged to take in the reports made.

Q How long had you been there at that place for that purpose before the 4th day of May?

A I was there since Saturday.

Q Since the Saturday before?

A Yes sir.

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Q I will ask you, whether you at any time, while you were about there, heard Mr. Fielden, or anybody, when the police were approaching, say in substance, or in form, "There come the bloodhounds; now, you do your duty and I'll do mine?"

A No sir.

Q No words to that effect?

A No sir.

Q When Captain Ward said to the audience there that he commanded them to disperse, you could hear what Mr. Fielden said?

A I heard his--by his words he said, "we are peaceable". That is all I could understand.

Q That is all you understood?

A That is all I could understand.

Q Did you see Fielden get off the wagon?

A No sir.

Q How did Mr. Fielden speak when he said, "we are peaceable".?

A Well, I didn't pay much attention to that.

Q As to whether it was in a loud tone or low tone?

A It was as if one would make a private remark. It sounded as if he would have been talking to the Captain.

Q It sounded as a private remark to the Captain?

A Yes sir.

Q You knew Captain Ward?

A I have seen the pictures and I guess I would recognize him now.

Q You know it was Captain Ward there, who made that announcement?

A Yes sir.

Q You saw him at that time?

A Yes sir.

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Q Now, before the explosion of the bomb, or this deep sound you speak of, did you hear from any source any pistol shots?

A No sir.

Q You then didn't hear one from the wagon?

A No sir.

Cross Examination by

Q What group of the International do you belong to?

A I don't belong to none.

Q What group did you ever belong to?

A Four years ago I belonged to a group on the north side.

Q What year was that?

A It must have been 1882 or 1883.

Q What group did you belong to in 1883?

A I only belonged to that group--that is all.

Q What was your number in that group?

A I never had any number.

Q Wasn't your number 43?

A No sir; that time we had no number.

Q When did you have numbers?

A I never was at a society when we had numbers.

Q When did you leave the north side group?

A Years ago.

Q How many years ago?

A Four years ago.

Q What group did you go to then?

A I didn't belong to no group at that time any more, except last year in September--I

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guess it was at a meeting when Mr. Ballow spoke in the meeting of the American Group. I took a card. I was the only one.

Q That was the American group?

A That was the American Group.

Q September last year?

A Yes sir.

Q How long have you worked at the Arbeiter Zeitung office?

A I worked since January, 1879, since I was in Chicago.

Q Where did you live before coming to Chicago?

A In New York.

Q How long did you live in New York?

A A couple of years.

Q Where were you born?

A In Austria.

Q You have been in this country how long all together?

A Since 1873.

Q You say you saw revolvers in the hands of policemen before any shots were fired?

A Yes sir.

Q And before the bomb exploded?

A Yes sir.

Q Where were the policemen that had the revolvers out?

A. They stood a few steps behind Captain Ward.

Q. In the first rank of police?.

A To the side, on the east side.

Q Near to the curb?

A Near to the outside line.

Q How many men had revolvers out?

A As much as I could see two or three.

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Q And did that attract your attention?

A Yes sir, by the glistening and shining.

Q What did you do as soon as you saw those revolvers?

A I went back towards the alleyway.

Q Then what did you do?

A I looked, and I heard some kind of noise down south, and I saw something going up in the air.

Q Then after seeing the revolvers in the hands of policemen, you turned around and looked south?

A I had to.

Q Why did you have to?

A It was almost in the same direction.

Q That the police were coming?

A Yes sir.

Q The police were right opposite you in the street -- they were directly west of you?

A West?

Q Yes sir.

A The Captain stood almost right across from me. He stood a few steps in front.

Q Was there anybody between you and the officers when you saw the revolvers?

A Yes sir, there was some between.

Q How many between you?

A I couldn't say.

Q Was it those people who had the revolvers or the officers?

A I am sure it was not the people.

Q How can you be sure that the officers had revolvers if there was people between you and them?

A I could see they were among the police.

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Q There is no mistake about that?

A No sir.

Q The next thing you did was to turn around?

A i looked cross ways to see if it was there, and here would be the sidewalk---- I could see.

Q Did you see the revolvers before Ward spoke?

A No sir.

Q At the time he spoke?

A I see them then.

Q At the time he spoke?

A At the time I watched the captain.

Q You turned around and looked south?

A At the time I watched the captain, and by the same time I looked around and saw these things shining.

Q Then what did you do?

A Then I looked further and just saw these things.

Q Did you give the signal for that bomb to be thrown?

A I don't know if I should do such a thing.

Q I am asking whether you did or not?

A I never gave any signal.

Q But you did turn around and look south just as you saw those revolvers shining?

A Yes sir.

Q And then you saw the bomb?

A I saw something going up in the air.

Q What was that?

A I don't know.

Q What did it look like?

A It was like a fire cracker.

Q Could you see anything except the fire cracker, part

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of it?

A No sir.

Q Did you see anything round in the air?

A No sir.

Q Nothing at all?

A No sir.

Q Nothing except the fire cracker?

A No sir.

Q Could you tell by looking at it whether it was round or a gas pipe bomb?

A I couldn't say nothing at all.

Q Where did that land?

A WHat do you mean?

Q What are you talking about?

A I don't understand your question.

Q Where did it fall?

A It fell towards the middle of the street.

Q Where with reference to your position, north or south of you?

A It went west or northwest.

Q Was it northwest from you?

A No, it could not be, because I stood north.

Q Where it fell, was that north of the position you were in?

A No, it was south, south of the position I was in.

Q You were standing where?

A I stood across the lamp post, to the north side, a little way.

Q What do you man by across the lamp post?

A Just across off-- there was the lamp post and I stood on this side.

Q You were in the alley?

A In the alley way.

Q Just north of the lamp post?

A On the corner way.

Q How far were you from the curbing east?

A Two or

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three steps, I guess.

Q What did you do after the bomb exploded?

A I run south.

Q Down Randolph Street?

A Towards Randolph Street.

Q Were there many people on Randolph Street?

A Yes sir, on Randolph Street, I don't know--- I just walked on the side-walk, I run on the sidewalk and fell over some people.

Q Were there many people on the sidewalk?

A Yes sir, there was quite a crowd.

Q Crowded close together?

A Well, we fell. There was a lot fell over.

Q was there anybody behind you there?

A There was more behind me, I guess.

Q Many behind you?

A Yes, I guess so.

Q Where did you go after you come away from there?

A I jumped over the railing.

Q Then where did you go?

A I stood there until the firing was over.

Q State where?

A Down in the cellar.

Q Then where did you go?

A I went up the steps and went home.

Q Where is your home?

A 86 Mozart Street.

Q Where did you go the n xt day?

A I went to work.

Q Where at?

A 54 West Lake Street.

Q What were you doing there at 54 West Lake street?

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A I took the reports of the eight hour movement.

Q From what bodies?

A The central labor union.

Q What was your position in the central labor union at that time?

A I am a member of the agitation committee.

Q Is that a committee representing all the groups of the central labor union, or all the local societies?

A It is. The central labor union has nothing to do with it. If some society wants to have a speaker, if they want any information, they have to go there. If a new place ought to be started we go there and try to get a man to go.

Q It is a sort of a managing committee for the central labor union?

A Yes sir.

Q Who belongs to that committee?

A Mr. Zeller.

Q And yourself?

A Myself.

Q Who else?

A We were at that time about thirteen men.

Q Do you remember any others?

A I guess there was Mr. Paul Meyer.

Q Where was that meeting held at which the invitation was given to Spies?

A 54 West Lake Street.

Q Greif's hall?

A Greif's hall.

Q When was that?

A Sunday mornings.

Q When was it you saw Spies there and heard Zeller tell him about the invitation?

A Sunday evening.

Q At the same place?

A The same place.

Q At Greif's hall?

A Yes sir.

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Q What time in the evening was it?

A We had our meeting always called for eight o'clock.

Q He was present at the meeting at that time?

A Mr. Spies came. The meeting was in action for a while when he came there.

Q I understand you to say when you saw those revolvers in the hands of the policemen, that they were in the hands of the policemen in the front rank, and nearest the sidewalk?

A I cannot say they were in the first rank. It was near the sidewalk, behind Captain ward.

Q Were there any policemen ahead of them, any number of policemen ahead of them?

A I could not see them% Maybe they stood around him. I didn't look very close.

Q Were they the first rank of policemen back of the captain?

A That is the way it looked to me. I can't say.

Q At any rate they were the policemen nearest you. The policemen who had revolvers were the nearest policemen to you?

A Well, no, the company was nearest to me.

Q Just back of him, the rank of policemen in which you saw revolvers?

A I couldn't say whether the first or second rank.

Q How far apeart were the ranks?

A I didn't look so very close.

Q Didn't you feel a little anxious when you saw the revolvers?

A I did.

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Q You didn't look very carefully?

A No, I couldn't say I looked just close.

MR. INGHAM: That is all.

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