Scranton general strike

Strikes and riots in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1877

The Scranton General Strike took place in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and was a part of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877. The strike led to violence and the deaths of three to six people. Railway workers were joined in strike by coal miners, iron mill workers, and laborers. The next year Scranton elected as mayor Terrence Powderly, a leader of the Knights of Labor. The strike and ensuing riots marked the beginning of decades of labor unrest in Scranton, as workers struggled for better wages and working conditions, culminating in the strike of 1902.

The Scranton Citizens' Corps fires on strikers, August 1, 1877, by Frank Leslie


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  • Whereas, by a call dated July 25, 1877, the Mayor of this city has called upon the businessmen for organization; and whereas, the present state of affairs in the city and vicinity warrants a feeling of insecurity on the part of the business portion of the community; and although a creditable determination is express by all parties to the present conflict of interests, and while we have the fullest confidence in their good faith, still we feel that an organization, on our part, will present tangible support to their efforts in sustaining the legal authorities in preserving peace and good, order, and, will guarantee protection to property in the event of intrusion from such elements of discord as might present themselves. We, therefore, proffer our services as a company, to be known as the "Scranton Citizen Corps" in the furtherance of the objects above set forth.
    • Paper circulated by members of the mayoral Special Police, in Margo L. Azzarelli; Marnie Azzarelli (2016). Labor Unrest in Scranton. Arcadia Publishing. 
  • Whereas, we, the employees of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company, believe that we are not getting a just remuneration for our labor or a sufficient supply for ourselves and families of the common necessaries of life, therefore Resolved, That we demand twenty-five pet cent. advance on the present rate of wages; also it is further Resolved, That with a refusal of these demands all work will be abandoned from date, as we have willingly submitted to the reduction and without murmur or resistance and finding that it now fails us to live as becomes citizens of a civilized Nation we take these steps in order to supply ourselves and little ones with the neccesaries of life.
    • Declaration from the miners of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Company, July 25th 1877, in Hitchcock, Frederick; Downs, John (1914). History of Scranton and Its People, Volume 1. Lewis historical publishing Company. 
  • The general public opinion, as expressed to me, seems not to apprehend any violence or danger unless a too free use of liquor shall be indulged in; and at the request of committees of the workingman's organizations and others, who have called upon me this morning, requesting me to close all places where liquor is sold. I, therefore, in compliance with said request, ask of you to close your bars, and to strictly abstain from the selling of all kind of liquor for the present.
    • Proclamation by Scranton Mayor Robert H. McKune at the beginning of the strike, in Margo L. Azzarelli; Marnie Azzarelli (2016). Labor Unrest in Scranton. Arcadia Publishing. 
  • In view of the excitement throughout the country occasioned by the labor troubles and the lamentable loss of life and property in our own and other States, it become the duty of all good citizens to use their best efforts to preserve peace and uphold the law. Recognizing, as every one must, the unfortunate condition of the business, and financial interests of all classes of the community, and especially the hardship and suffereing of the laboring men, we must yet unitein maintaining to the fullest extent the majesty of the law and the protection of life and property. I therefore earnestly urge all good citizens, and especially the workingmen themselves, to abstain from all excited discussion of the prominent question of the day. The laboring men of our city are vitally interested in the preservation of peace and good order and the prevention of any possible destruction of property. I trust the leading men among the workingment fully realize that the interests of the whole city are their interests, and that any riot or destruction of life or property can work only injury to all classes and to the good name of our city. Every taxpayer will realize that any destruction of property will have to be paid for by the city, and would by so much increase the burden of taxation. In one day Pittsburgh has put upon herself a load that her taxpayers will struggle under for years. I again earnestly urge upon men of all clases in our city the necessity of sober, careful thought and the criminal folly of any precipitate action.
  • I hereby order all places of business to be immediately closed and all good citizens to hold themselves in readiness to assemble at my headquarters, at the office of the Lackawanna Iron and Coal Company, upon a signal of four long whistles from the gong at the blast furnaces.
We found that we had to answer at the bar of public opinion, for what we thought had been both courageously and patriotically done
  • Dear Sir, I have the favor of the will thank Mr. Taylore and the other gentlemen most heartily for their kind expressions. The paper and dispatches will have posted you as to our actions of yesterday. The troops arrived this morning, and a great fright has been lifted from our minds. Our treatment by the local force has been simply infamous.
    • W. W. Scranton, letter of thanks sent August 2nd 1877, in Margo L. Azzarelli; Marnie Azzarelli (2016). Labor Unrest in Scranton. Arcadia Publishing. 
  • The great trouble here in Scranton is our population, an excess of miners for the work to be done."