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Tag: "Gilded Age"

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 117

[ 25 ] July 30, 2017 |

This is the grave of Thomas Nast.

The father of modern American political cartooning, Nast was born in 1840 in Germany. His father was something of a political radical and like many Germans who wanted greater freedom in this era, he moved to the United States, sending his family in 1846 and joining them in 1850. Nast grew up in New York and was a terrible student but one who really liked drawing. Despite his lack of interest in school, he was really smart and good at art. His first drawings appeared in Harper’s Weekly in 1859. After a brief trip to England where he drew cartoons of sporting events, he became Harper’s Weekly’s full time staff cartoonist in 1862. He was a strong supporter of defeating treason in defense of slavery and began to draw many cartoons that supported the vigorous prosecution of the war and opposing northerners who opposed the war. Abraham Lincoln called him “our best recruiting sergeant.”

Nast really kicked it into high gear when Andrew Johnson became president and pursued a white supremacist Reconstruction. It was here where Nast brutally caricatured Johnson, as well as his supporters. He was also rough on the Irish, many of whom were not only loyal Democrats, but who were viciously anti-black, at least in northern cities. Much of this was about self-interest, as they competed with African-Americans for low-paid work, but much of it was also naked racism. Nast repeatedly compared African-Americans favorably with the Irish, unfortunately slipping into anti-Irish stereotypes in his cartoons while doing so. This was motivated by his own anti-Catholicism, which he prosecuted with the zeal of a convert, which he in fact was, as he was born into a Catholic family. He believed Catholicism threatened the existence of the United States, which helped fuel his know-nothingism. But personally witnessing the Irish anti-draft riots that led to the lynchings of African-Americans and the burning of the Colored Orphans Asylum probably did more than anything in turning him against the Irish.

And yet, Nast could also express ideas of racial equality that were really quite radical for the day (and in the Age of Trump, maybe radical for today too), such as this cartoon in support of the Fifteenth Amendment, which was necessary because in the first few years after the Civil War, voters in 9 of 11 northern states rejected black male suffrage, deeply embarrassing Congressional Republicans attempting to institute meaningful Reconstruction on the South.

As his era’s most popular cartoonist, Nast also began moving the form away from the obscure, text-heavy cartoons with tons of insider references of the antebellum period toward more visually oriented cartoons that remain easily understood today. Other than the Irish, his main target by the 1870s was Boss Tweed and Gilded Age corruption. No one did more to destroy Tweed than Nast (except for Tweed himself).

Consider the power of that image. I could repurpose it today for the New Gilded Age (or just a Tuesday in the Rhode Island statehouse) and everyone would see its relevance.

He continued being a very important figure through the 1870s, mercilessly attacking Horace Greeley’s presidential run in 1872 and drawing cartoon after cartoon in favor of Ulysses S. Grant. He and Grant became close friends and frequently dined together until Grant’s death.

Nast peaked fairly young. After the 1870s, his racism deepened and the relative equality he once did much to foster turned into the typical racism of the day. His portrayals of African-Americans and Chinese began to resemble what he drew about the Irish. His attacks on corruption also flew in the face of a national poliitcal elite more comfortable with that and with the extreme partisanship of the era. New leadership at Harper’s Weekly decided to turn the magazine into a Republican hackwork and wouldn’t run Nast’s cartoons attacking Republican corruption. Nast refused to support James Garfield’s 1880 presidential run because of his involvement in the Credit Mobilier scandal, which further distanced himself from Harper editors. By 1884, he supported Grover Cleveland because James Blaine was also really corrupt. It’s believed that Nast’s cartoons, now often appearing elsewhere than Harper’s, helped swing the very tight election to the Democrat. In his late life, Nast suffered from financial difficulties; like his friend Grant, he got swindled by the sharpers and grifters that were so prevalent in the Gilded Age. He gave lectures, tried to run his own magazine which failed, and, finally, in 1902 Theodore Roosevelt, an admirer of the old man, named him Consul General to Ecuador. Four months after arriving in Guayaquil, he died during a yellow fever epidemic.

Thomas Nast is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, Bronx, New York.

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Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 106

[ 26 ] July 17, 2017 |

This is the grave of Charles Pillsbury.

Born in New Hampshire in 1842, Pillsbury graduated from Dartmouth in 1863. Rather than fight in the Civil War, Pillsbury moved to Quebec, where he worked for the next 6 years as a clerk and then as a partner in a mercantile firm. A lot of Midwestern grain was processed in Quebec so he figured he would have some opportunities there and moved to Minneapolis in 1869. He worked for his uncle in flour milling for awhile and was thinking about how he could improve upon it. He did so by transforming the technology to become more efficient and producing a high quality flour. He started the Pillsbury Corporation in 1872 and soon became the nation’s largest flour producer. It also significantly changed the agricultural economy of the northern states by creating a strong market for its spring wheat, which was before this a secondary production to southern winter wheat. He traveled to Europe to see the largest flour mills there and reproduced them in Minneapolis. He produced ever larger and more efficient mills and began selling his wheat around the world. Now wealthy, he ran for the Minnesota state senator in 1878 and won, serving until 1897. It helped that his uncle was governor as he rose. He became chair of the Finance Committee and was a typical Gilded Age capitalist who used politics to promote his own business interests. He sold the controlling interest in his mills to a large British company in 1889 but remained in control of them.

Pillsbury died of a bad heart in 1899.

Pillsbury did produce specific Pillsbury products, but the modern ubiquity of Pillsbury as a brand of baked cake mixes and the like originated mostly in the 1950s. The Pillsbury Doughboy originated in 1965. The name is probably far more famous today than it was during Pillsbury’s life, although he certainly became wealthy enough at the time.

Charles Pillsbury is buried in Lakewood Cemetery, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 91

[ 42 ] June 21, 2017 |

This is the grave of George Hoar.

Born in Concord, Massachusetts in 1826 to a politically prominent family, Hoar graduated from Harvard in 1846, moved to Worcester, and started a law practice. He quickly became involved in politics, first joining the Free Soil Party and then the Republicans. He was elected to the Massachusetts House in 1852 and then the state senate in 1857. He was elected to Congress in 1869 and the Senate in 1877. He aligned himself against the corruption of the Gilded Age and in favor of treating Native Americans like human beings. He opposed the Chinese Exclusion Act and argued in favor of women’s suffrage. He was an anti-imperialist and met with native Hawaiians resisting annexation in 1898. He did not support the Spanish-American War, resisting the media-driven jingoism of the time (Judy Miller would have been a hell of a yellow journalist). He strongly opposed the U.S. war on imperial conquest against the Philippines, where acts of rape, torture, and mass murder by American soldiers were a daily occurrence as we brought them “liberation.” In his opposition to imperialism, he could not have disagreed more with his fellow Republican senator from the Bay State, Henry Cabot Lodge. In 1902, he said this in a Senate speech:

You have sacrificed nearly ten thousand American lives—the flower of our youth. You have devastated provinces. You have slain uncounted thousands of the people you desire to benefit. You have established reconcentration camps. Your generals are coming home from their harvest bringing sheaves with them, in the shape of other thousands of sick and wounded and insane to drag out miserable lives, wrecked in body and mind. You make the American flag in the eyes of a numerous people the emblem of sacrilege in Christian churches, and of the burning of human dwellings, and of the horror of the water torture. Your practical statesmanship which disdains to take George Washington and Abraham Lincoln or the soldiers of the Revolution or of the Civil War as models, has looked in some cases to Spain for your example. I believe—nay, I know—that in general our officers and soldiers are humane. But in some cases they have carried on your warfare with a mixture of American ingenuity and Castilian cruelty. Your practical statesmanship has succeeded in converting a people who three years ago were ready to kiss the hem of the garment of the American and to welcome him as a liberator, who thronged after your men when they landed on those islands with benediction and gratitude, into sullen and irreconcilable enemies, possessed of a hatred which centuries can not eradicate.

He did have one bad position–he did not believe the Portuguese or Italian immigrants starting to enter the nation were fit for citizenship. He was also pretty naive, having been massively played by Senator J.Z. George of Mississippi in a debate over Mississippi’s literacy test, when the southerner got Hoar to admit that if his state applied a literacy test, it would be OK if it applied to both races. Hoar thought that was a great argument since he didn’t think that Mississippi would ever apply it to whites, when of course they would with pleasure when it suited them and would simply use it as an excuse to let illiterate whites vote and literate blacks not vote based upon the decision of the person applying the test and the mob violence behind him.

Hoar was a major player in establishing the historical profession, serving as president of the American Historical Association in 1895, as well as the American Antiquarian Society. He died in 1904 in Worcester.

Hoar also had excellent Gilded Age beard action.

George Hoar is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Concord, Massachusetts.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 88

[ 70 ] June 18, 2017 |

This is the grave of Roscoe Conkling.

Born in 1829 in Albany, New York, Roscoe Conkling became the prototypical politician of the Gilded Age. He was born into an elite political family. His father was in the House and was a federal judge and his mother was a cousin of British Lord Chief Justice Alexander Cockburn. He knew Martin Van Buren and John Quincy Adams as a child. He skipped college and went straight into the law and also became involved in Whig politics. He worked locally in Utica for the election of Winfield Scott in 1852 and John C. Frémont in 1856, switching easily from the Whigs to the Republicans by that time. He was elected mayor of Utica in 1858 and to Congress that fall. He served two terms, losing in 1862. He then worked for the War Department for two years before regaining his seat in the 1864 elections. In 1867, he was elected to the Senate.

As a senator he became a leading ally of Ulysses S. Grant. He also became a notorious purveyor of patronage politics, with all the corruption that involved. He was pretty good on Reconstruction issues and shepherded the Civil Rights Act of 1875 through the Senate. Grant offered Conkling a position of the Supreme Court, but he refused, believing his powers more important in the Senate. He hated the reform element of the party that led to the Liberal Republican movement of 1872 and their alliance with the Democrats to run Horace Greeley (of all people, what a ridiculous nominee not that any living American knows anything about that) against Grant in 1872. Those Republican reformists were both anti-corruption and wanted the Republican Party to stop caring about black people. Conkling didn’t really like them for the latter reason, but it was his love of patronage that really made him hate them. When the Hayes Administration tried to clean up some of the grotesque corruption of the Gilded Age, Conkling turned on it. When Hayes tried to dump Chester Arthur, a close Conkling ally, from his position as collector of the New York Customs House, a massive source of patronage power, Conkling held up the replacement nominees for 2 years and it wasn’t until 1879 that new people were confirmed, over Conkling’s objections even then.

In 1880, Conkling fought for a third term for Grant and hated the other two possible nominees, James Blaine and John Sherman. When that was impossible, he was unhappy with James Garfield, who was a compromise candidate settled upon by the Blaine and Sherman factions to defeat the Grant faction. His good friend Chester Arthur was named VP, basically at Conkling’s choosing for losing the presidential slot. Garfield then sought to isolate Conkling, naming his enemies to many slots, including the New York patronage positions. Furious at being denied the “right” for senators to control patronage in their own states, he resigned from the Senate in 1882, sure he would be reinstated by the New York Senate. Whoops, didn’t happen. This was all part of a break between Conkling and Arthur over civil service reform, which Arthur supported to Conkling’s outrage. Arthur actually then nominated Conkling to the Supreme Court later that year. He was confirmed by the Senate and then decided he wouldn’t do it. So he went home to New York and practice law.

Conkling also loved him the ladies. He was married to utter scumbag 1868 Democratic presidential nominee Horatio Seymour’s sister but carried on several affairs fairly openly, most notably with the daughter of Salmon Chase, causing her divorce. Supposedly her husband chased Conkling around their Rhode Island estate with a shotgun. He was pretty famous and many relatively famous people of the next generation were named after him. Supposedly, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle was one of them but his father hated Conkling and named him that because he didn’t think the child was his and as Conkling was a known philanderer, it was a shot at Fatty’s mother. This sounds too pat a story of a comedian’s birth origins to be true, but who knows.

Unlike most wealthy Gilded Age men, Conkling was very into physical fitness and an aggressive masculinity that would later be picked up on by a new generation of men such as Theodore Roosevelt. This had its downside though. When the Great Blizzard of 1888 struck New York, Conkling was downtown. He tried to take a coach home but it got stuck in the snow. So Conkling, impatient and wanting to prove himself, decided he would walk home in the blizzard. He made it as far as Union Square. He collapsed, got pneumonia, and died a month later.

Roscoe Conkling is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Utica, New York.

This post begins Graveapaoolza. In other words, I have such an enormous backlog of these things that I am going to do a grave a day over the next week in order to chip into this before I myself die and have like a thousand grave posts sadly unwritten.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 75

[ 18 ] March 19, 2017 |

This is the grave of Thomas Catron.

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Born in Missouri in 1840, Catron graduated from the University of Missouri in 1860 and joined the treasonous Confederate army in his home state. He fought throughout the war, rising to the rank of 1st Lieutenant after having fought at such battles as Mission Creek and Pea Ridge. After the war, Catron moved to New Mexico Territory and studied law, settling in Mesilla, near Las Cruces. He learned Spanish, became a Republican, and rose quickly in the territory’s white political elite.

Catron quickly learned what it took to succeed in the Gilded Age: a complete lack of scruples in stealing resources from the poor. What learning Spanish and the law did for him was to allow him to become incredibly wealthy by stealing land grants from the territory’s Hispano population. The Spanish and Mexican governments had sought to settle their northern boundaries by offering settlers large land grants. This was communally-held property that could not be sold by a particular individual. This of course was counter to the individualistic property rights regime of the British-descended United States. When the U.S. stole the northern half of Mexico in a war of conquest to defend slavery, the Mexican government tried to protect the land heritage of its citizens now forced to live in a foreign land. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the Mexican War in 1848 guaranteed the land grants. But after that, once whites began moving to New Mexico in relatively large numbers after the Civil War, the courts treated the Hispano New Mexicans about the same as they treated African-Americans and Native Americans during these years: as lesser beings with no rights.

This is the world Thomas Catron stepped into and helped to create. Admitted to the bar in 1867, he was appointed district attorney for the territory’s Third Judicial District in 1868 and 1869 became Attorney General. He became law partners with another of the territory’s white elites, Stephen Elkins. When Elkins was elected to Congress as the territory’s representative in 1872, Catron took his job as U.S. Attorney, which he held until 1878. He moved to Santa Fe and ran for various offices, sometimes winning, sometimes losing.

What made Catron exceptional though is not his political career, but rather his role as a member of the Santa Fe Ring. While historians have debated whether this actually existed in concrete form, it doesn’t really matter. It was a group of white elites looking to cash in on the territory’s wealth. The real wealth was in the land. But it had to be separated from the land grant descendants who relied on it for their grazing, logging, and gathering needs. These were huge chunks of land with very few people on them. But the people had developed long-held traditions of collective use of that land. For whites, this was a waste of land, just as the sparsely populated Indian reservations were. So they sought to grab it. Because Republicans controlled the patronage in the territory for most of the territorial period, these local Republicans had a free hand to act and in an era where even wealth and power were for those who anyone who could ruthlessly acquire it, no one in Washington was going to care about what happened to Spanish-speaking non-whites in distant New Mexico.

The Ring (or its various members if it never quite existed as a concrete matter) were involved in any number of sketchy actions, leading for instance to the huge ranches in central and southern New Mexico that led to the Lincoln County War and other periods of violence in territorial New Mexico. Catron’s biggest play in this was setting himself up as the lawyer for the land grant holders, getting them to sign documents that they did not understand and that stripped them of the vast majority of their holdings, and then acquiring that land for himself. As one of the few lawyers who really understood the land grand system, he became New Mexico’s largest landholder by far. He took over the vast majority of 34 land grants for himself and his friends, holding at least a partial interest in over 3 million acres of land. Much of this land eventually became the national forests and wilderness areas of northern New Mexico that you may enjoy today. For awhile, he was the largest landholder in the United States.

This happened when individuals involved in the grant, usually wealthier people, sought to confirm that the grant was privately-held, not communally. The courts were happy to confirm this. And then those people, looking to cash in and often in debt, sought to sell. Catron was there to buy. Here’s a good discussion of the Tierra Amarilla Grant.

Sale of interests and speculation on the grant began almost immediately after it was confirmed by Congress. By 1880, Thomas B. Catron had purchased sufficient interests in the grant from Martinez heirs so that in February 1881, when the United States Congress issued a patent for the grant to Francisco Martinez, Catron himself signed the receipt. By 1883, Catron filed suit to quiet title to the grant, exempting only a few “informal conveyances of some very small pieces of land.” These parcels, which have become known as the “Catron exclusions,” were the donaciones, or allotments, made by Francisco Martinez to more than one hundred settlers of the grant. These were the same individuals to whom Martinez gave hijuelas, or deeds, which stipulated their rights to free use of the grant’s common lands.

Even before Catron received quiet title to the grant, he had begun developing its vast natural resources. He leased right of way to the Denver and Rio Grande Railway, sold rights to the region’s coal mines and massive pine forests, and leased its lush pastures to large cattle companies. During this period, however, there is little evidence Catron aggressively curtailed Tierra Amarilla’s settlers from grazing their personal livestock on the traditional common lands of the grant. Introduction of the railroad and extensive lumbering operations in the region apparently brought prosperity to Tierra Amarilla during the 1880’s and 1890’s. As long as local residents had access to grazing for their small herds and flocks, the nuances of who retained legal ownership of common lands did not seem to be an important issue.

Interestingly, in northeast New Mexico at the time, the gorras blancas, or white caps, were waging a campaign of political activism and violence to protest the fencing of traditional grazing lands. The tranquility of Tierra Amarilla prompted pioneering archaeologist and historian, Adolph Bandelier, to comment about it. In 1891, Bandelier traveled through northern New Mexico and recorded the Tierra Amarilla grant’s resources for Thomas Catron, who was desperately seeking a buyer for the heavily mortgaged property. Bandelier was clearly impressed by “Catron’s grant” and in his journal he describes it as “a most valuable piece of property, a little kingdom of its own.” Then he added a statement clearly designed to assuage the concerns of potential buyers about whether the influence of the gorras blancas extended to Rio Arriba. “There is no trouble to be apprehended from the people [of Tierra Amarilla],” Bandelier noted, “unless there should be a leader.”

However, this began to change after 1909, when Catron finally succeeded in selling the grant. When the Arlington Land Company obtained ownership, it continued the practice of selling timber and mineral rights to various companies. The company also sold large tracts of land to corporations and individual buyers, many of whom further subdivided the land. When these new owners began to fence off large portions of the grant, they initiated a process which began to severely restrict the access to pasture on which the settlers of the grant depended for their livelihood.

The residents’ ability to access pasture for their livestock appears to be the principal reason why there is little documented evidence of resistance or protest to Catron’s purchase and ownership of the Tierra Amarilla grant. In 1889, several residents of the grant filed a suit against Catron but did not ask for return of the grant or make access to land an issue. Instead, the plaintiffs cited the stipulations of the original grant and the hijuelas, which were issued to individuals by Francisco Martinez in the early 1860’s, and sought a share of the proceeds Catron was receiving from leases and sale of timber and mineral rights. The few extant records of this case tell little beyond the fact of its dismissal in April 1892.

Although there is little evidence that Catron moved aggressively against grant settlers who grazed their livestock, he occasionally took action to counteract perceived threats to his ownership. In 1892, he filed suit against Miguel Chavez and Pablo Rivas for allegedly pasturing their sheep on his property and sought a restraining order to prevent their further use of the land. Chavez and Rivas responded that while Catron may have been given patent to the Tierra Amarilla Grant, they were grazing their sheep by right of the grant made to Manuel Martinez by the Mexican government and the deeds, which allowed them “free and common” use of water, pasture, and other resources of the grant. They claimed to be doing nothing illegal and asked the court to force Catron to produce proof of his ownership. The suit lingered in District Court for nearly ten years and was finally dropped from the docket in 1902. The record shows Catron paid the court costs, which amounted to less than ten dollars for various filing fees.

The land grant thefts continued to make many people seethe and eventually led to the rise of Reies Lopez Tijerina and his Alianza Federal de Mercedes in the 1960s, culminating in the attack on the courthouse in Tierra Amarilla.

When New Mexico became a state in 1912, Catron was one of the two first senators. Typically, whites worked together to make sure that the Spanish-speaking New Mexicans would hold no power. Specifically, Catron and Albert Fall, a man who would later be no stranger to scandal himself, coordinated the election of each to the Senate. He lost his re-election bid in 1916. He died in Santa Fe in 1921.

Thomas Catron is buried in Fairview Cemetery, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

This Day in Labor History: January 6, 1909

[ 8 ] January 6, 2017 |

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On January 6, 1909, oral arguments before the Supreme Court concluded in the case of Moyer v. Peabody. The decision by the Court on January 18 gave official approval for the state militia or National Guard imprisoning people without the benefit of habeas corpus during a time of insurrection, the definition of which was of course left vague. This was one of many anti-worker Supreme Court decisions of the Gilded Age that made it extremely difficult for unions to operate with any sort of effectiveness.

In 1902, the Western Federation of Miners was organizing mill workers in Colorado City, Colorado. One company placed a spy among the organizers. This led the employer to fire 42 union members. Tensions rose at the mill and in February 1903, the WFM called a strike. Colorado governor James Peabody was an anti-union extremist who would use any method to eliminate the WFM, which had outraged employers in 1894 with an overwhelming victory in the state’s mines. Throughout Colorado that year, several strikes took place. Peabody worked with employers and private detective agencies such as the Baldwin-Felts, Thiel Agency, and of course the Pinkertons. Peabody called out the Colorado militia in response to the Colorado City strike, leading miners in Telluride and Cripple Creek to walk off their jobs. Mass arrests of strikers began that fall. Among those arrested was Charles Moyer, president of the WFM. Moyer had done nothing more than travel to Telluride to support the strike and sign a poster denouncing the mass arrests. He was then arrested for desecrating the American flag. This ridiculous charge allowed him to be released the next day, but he was immediately rearrested without any charges.

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The strike was soon crushed by Colorado and Peabody’s forces, but Moyer fought the obviously unconstitutional arrest he faced. He petitioned for a write of habeas corpus to a Colorado court. He received it but the Colorado attorney general refused to honor it. He appealed to the state Supreme Court, which ruled that his constitutional rights had not been violated by his arrest for supporting a strike. He then appealed to the U.S. District Court based in Missouri. These judges overturned the state court and granted him the writ once again on July 5, 1904. This finally forced Peabody to let Moyer out of jail. Moyer wanted full exoneration so he took his case to the U.S. Supreme Court. It eventually accepted it, with oral arguments taking place on January 5 and 6, 1909. By this time, Moyer had survived the framing of he and Big Bill Haywood for the 1905 murder of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg, thanks to the extremely shoddy case and the defense skills of Clarence Darrow leading to the rare court victory for unions during these horrible years.

Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote the decision for the unanimous court. The decision completely ignored whether the strike was an insurrection. It gave the governor complete discretion in making this determination, effectively saying that if the governor called out the National Guard, there was in fact an insurrection. He wrote, “But it is familiar that what is due process of law depends on circumstances. It varies with the subject-matter and the necessities of the situation.” And while it makes some sense for law to have limited flexibility dependent upon the particulars of a given situation, in this situation Holmes was giving employers and their bought politicians carte blanche to do whatever they wanted to labor unions. So long as there was an insurrection, then the governor could call out the state militia or National Guard and have them act accordingly. He left open the possibility than an exceedingly lengthy time behind bars might be open to another challenge but that was not what Moyer was after. This decision also avoided any of the sticky constitutional questions–since the states cannot declare war, can the executive of a state declare a state of war to exist? But as was common for Holmes, he found ways to exclude ideological or racial minorities from full citizenship; unfortunately, he was frequently joined in the Gilded Age Supreme Court by his colleagues.

Holmes’ decision in Moyer v. Peabody helped to radicalize the labor movement, especially in areas that had already seen the iron fist of state violence. With Holmes giving governors the right to use violence at will, moderate unionists had a harder time telling workers that capitalism might work for them. The Industrial Workers of the World would build their case for radical syndicalism upon this point, up to the point where the IWW was itself crushed by massive state-sanctioned violence, including the government allowing employers to do what they wanted to unions and with government crushing workers defending themselves against that violence.

The case was so shoddy that the Court largely ignored it. In 1932, it revisited the ability of a governor to unilaterally decide to call a strike an insurrection, when in Sterling v. Constanin, it decided that the governor of Texas doing the same as Peabody was not constitutional. That is until 9/11. Then the Bush administration was all over it because of the possibility to justify indefinite detention whenever the government declares a state of insurrection. It was heavily discussed in the 2004 case of Hamdi v. Rumsfeld and remains an extremely threatening decision to workers today as Republicans seek to return the nation to the Lochner years. And the Moyer v. Peabody years as well.

Although Charles Moyer eventually broke from Haywood and the IWW, he remained deeply involved in union politics for many years. He was in Hancock, Michigan when the Italian Hall disaster took place in 1913 and rallied the WFM in nearby Calumet to take care of their own, although this had the effect of telling impoverished survivors to not take much needed charity. While in Calumet, he was beaten and deported from the town while bleeding from his wounds. The state did nothing to find who did this to him. He continued to lead the former WFM, now Mine, Mill, until 1926, dying in obscurity and largely forgotten in 1929.

This is the 206th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

This Day in Labor History: December 19, 1907

[ 12 ] December 19, 2016 |

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On December 19, 1907, the Darr Mine near Smithton, Pennsylvania, caught fire and exploded. 239 people died, many of them children. This was the largest workplace disaster in Pennsylvania history.

The Darr mine, located southeast of Pittsburgh, was typical of the Appalachian mining country during the early twentieth century. The workforce was a polyglot group of workers from around Europe. While native born Americans made up a percentage of the workforce, many were from Europe, particularly from what are today Greece, Poland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Italy. Smithton was a small town that developed around coal mining and related industries like coking. The workers there faced similar terrible conditions to miners around the region. Long days meant that workers only saw the light most of the year on Sundays. Pay was low and workers had little control over their lives

About 400 workers labored in the Darr mine under unsafe working conditions that put workers lives at risk every day. As this series has explored in detail, coal mining was an incredibly dangerous profession. A mere few days earlier, the nearby Naomi mine had exploded, killing 34 workers. Many of the unemployed workers from that mine quickly found jobs at the Darr, unfortunately as it turned out.

At about 11:30 a.m. on December 19, 1907, the Darr mine exploded. It absolutely destroyed everything and everyone in the mine. The report of the Pennsylvania Department of Mines in the aftermath noted, “Persons in the vicinity of the mine describe the explosion as an awful rumbling followed by a loud report and a concussion that shook the nearby buildings and was felt within a radius of several miles…. The explosion had been so terrific in its force that the inspectors were convinced upon a superficial investigation that it would be impossible for any of the entombed workers to be rescued alive.”

The official cause of the explosion was that miners had entered a location that the fire marshal had cordoned off the previous day while carrying open lamps. In fact, it’s hard to know just what happened. But in any case, 239 miners died, the worst mining disaster in Pennsylvania history. The only reason more workers did not die was that the Greek miners took the day off to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas. Otherwise, the death toll likely would have cleared 400. Over half the dead were native English speakers, an unusual occurrence during this period, more typical of 19th century mines, although again, this is in part because the sizable population of Greeks had all taken the day off. Town residents rushed to the mine, but there was not much they could do except dig out the bodies, a process that took days. One worker survived, a miner named Joseph Mapleton who was near the entrance. He had only minor injuries and took place in the failed rescue attempt that followed.

Of course, many challenged blaming the miners for the explosion. Some blamed the lack of inspections, others the general lack of safety and specifically the lack of ventilation. One theory was an accidental dynamite blast. But in any case, the fundamental reason was that early 20th century mine owners simply did not care about workplace safety. Nor did they have any reason to as they rarely if ever suffered any meaningful consequences if workers died on the job. This was the Gilded Age after all and employers could do almost anything they wanted to their employees. Wage slaves indeed. The coal company did ban the head lamps in the mine. But they were not held liable for the deaths. In fact, nothing meaningful happened because of these deaths. Critics of mine safety did issue a report that was deeply critical of the lack of ventilation in the mine, as well as most mines throughout the bituminous country, but again, nothing concrete came of it. Later experimentation showed high levels of damp in the mine, even after the explosion.

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The temporary morgue for the dead miners

As was so typical of the many coal mining disasters of this period, a couple of hundred dead workers didn’t change many hearts, even as it slowly led to reforms. Rural Pennsylvania was far away from centers of power and wealthy people didn’t much care about people they couldn’t see. It would take Triangle to start getting Americans to take workplace safety seriously, but it would take a whole lot more than that to create even moderately effectively regulations for coal mine safety. Even in the very recent past, negligent employers such as Don Blankenship have murdered workers.

The Darr fire was simply one incident in the deadliest month in U.S. mining history. In December 1907, over 3000 miners died on the job. Darr was only the second largest single incident, as over 300 miners died in the Monongah mine in West Virginia on December 6. Many more died in ones and twos and by the dozens, thousands of workers in one industry perished in one terrible month.

Ultimately, this region of Pennsylvania would see many of the worst events in American labor history, from the Homestead strike outside of Pittsburgh to the Donora Smog of 1947, where U.S. Steel murdered people through pollution a mere 15 miles west of the Darr mine site.

This is the 202nd post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

This Day in Labor History: August 13, 1887

[ 8 ] August 13, 2016 |

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On August 13, 1887, leathermakers in Newark, New Jersey, locked out their employees as a strategy to crush the Knights of Labor. This lockout would demonstrate the lengths to which American employers would go in order to ensure their shops remained union-free, a significant departure from the accommodations made by European employers, a difference that still resonates in the American labor movement today.

Newark has become a major industrial center by the 1880s and unlike many cities, hosted a wide number of industries. One of the largest was the leather industry. This was exceedingly odious labor. As a noxious industry, leather production was banished to the outskirts of cities going back to colonial New England. Two centuries of technological advancement had not significantly decreased the odiousness of this work. By the late nineteenth century, as was happening with laborers around the country, skilled workers were increasingly replaced by unskilled, often immigrant labor, laboring in mass-scale industrial operations. Newark was also a strong union town and a Knights of Labor local began there in 1879, as the Panic of 1873 subsided. The leather workers do not seem to have been involved in its early days. The first specifically leather-based Knights hall opened in 1883. After 1884, the Knights grew rapidly in Newark, as they did throughout the country. Strikes abounded. More than twice as many strikes took place in Newark in 1886 than did between 1881 and 1885. Half of the strikes were over employers backsliding from agreements they had made to stop earlier strikes. Leather worker struck over other issues, including an end to piecework and for higher wages.

As 1886 turned into 1887, the leatherworkers, skilled and unskilled and often in different Knights’ lodges, began to coordinate their strikes more effectively. Solidarity and a more concrete sense of class identity was building. This was important. It took time for the ideology of free labor republicanism to wear off in the face of endless drudgery and exploitation. Workers didn’t see themselves as that different from employers in the first twenty years after the Civil War. Slowly that began to change. The growth of the Knights was far from what Terence Powderly had envisioned and the growing direct action tactics of many lodges demonstrated that this ideological commitment to free labor had started to fade by the mid-1880s. This hardly meant that these Knights were radicals. It took time to give up old conceits. Despite the famous connections between Knights’ actions and the Haymarket Riot in 1886, the Knights had very little tolerance for radicals, and not only at the top. Newark Knights repeatedly stated the conservative nature of their actions. They largely believed in the American Dream and respected the small employers who had risen out of the working class. They saw a big difference between that person and John D. Rockefeller or Jay Gould.

By 1887, the Knights had begun to decline. In part this was about the backlash to Haymarket and in part it was due to divisions both within the Knights and between the Knights and other labor unions. The Knights really weren’t constructed to be a mass movement. But masses of workers around the nation still held to their Knights membership. Sensing weakness, the leather manufacturers banded together and struck back. The initial issue was that in June, they had agreed that workers could only tan a limit of forty hides in a day. They resented giving up any control over the shopfloor, which the agreement had also allowed. The manufacturers began to coordinate with each other. They selected one to violate the agreement, knowing workers would strike. When this happened, the employer imported strikebreakers while the other employers took over his orders and worked them in employer solidarity. The Knights lost.

This set the stage for the August lockout, where the leather owners sought to eliminate the Knights entirely. Given the cutthroat nature of American business competition (a scenario that would continue until the New Deal) it was almost as hard to get employers to cooperate as it was for workers to try and unionize. But the success in freeing one factory from the union convinced many skeptical owners to join the employers association. The bosses announced the lockout for August 1, but waited until August 13 as rhetoric rose between the two sides and the Knights debated on whether they should strike first. But the workers simply didn’t have the resources of the bosses, even pooled together as a union. Knights’ dues were very low and though the union said it could stay out for 3 months, it ran out of money almost immediately. The Knights tried to appeal to the small manufacturers in terms of the working-class and small employer solidarity at the heart of free labor ideology, but not a single one failed to honor the lockout. By the third week, the situation grew desperate. Internal tensions between the more radical German members and more conservative English and Irish members and rapidly dwindling funds destroyed the Knights. A few went back to their old jobs but most were not rehired. Shop stewards were blacklisted and many had to move from Newark to find work. The Knights were dead in the leather industry. Unions in Newark were pushed back significantly. At the start of 1887, there were 48 workers associations in the city. By the end of 1888, there were 12.

Ultimately, the Knights failed in Newark because employers would do anything to crush them. And this has been the primary problem of American unionism. It took remarkable government action during an unprecedented economic crisis to change this scenario in the New Deal and employers have resented it ever since. That is the fundamental problem organized labor has today. It’s not bad union leadership, a lack of union democracy, not enough organizing, or the other reasons union supporters and those who critique unions from the left usually provide. These are small factors, but the fundamental issue is that American employers will stop at nothing to eradicate unions. And that’s a very different circumstance that either Britain and France during the 1880s or, say, Germany today, where employers and unions routinely work together on management decisions, up to the point of encouraging unionization of the Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This post is based on Kim Voss, The Making of American Exceptionalism: The Knights of Labor and Class Formation in the Nineteenth Century. This is critical reading because it provides the direct comparison to employers in England and France that I didn’t have time to explore in this post.

This is the 186th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 40

[ 32 ] July 17, 2016 |

This is the grave of Mark Hanna.

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Mark Hanna was the premier Republican kingmaker of the Gilded Age. Most famous for his close association with William McKinley, Hanna became a major Cleveland businessmen in the years after the Civil War, getting involved in a wide variety of projects. A lifelong Republican and supporter of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, Hanna turned to politics by 1880. In an era of convoluted political machinations in presidential politics, Hanna hoped to use his influence and power to launch Ohio politicians onto the national stage. This began in the fall of 1880 when Hanna did much to manage James Garfield’s presidential campaign, in particula convincing Ulysses S. Grant to come visit Garfield at his home in a sign of unity after a deeply fractured convention led to the rise of the darkhorse Garfield. Hanna didn’t even like Garfield that much because Hanna opposed civil service reform and liked the spoils system, but supporting Ohio politicians would be his key to power. Hanna then sought to make Ohio senator John Sherman president, beginning in 1884, even though he never actually met Sherman until 1885. When that failed and James Blaine received the Republican nomination, Sherman got Hanna appointed to the Union Pacific Railroad’s board of directors. In the Gilded Age, no inside dealing went unrewarded. If Hanna believed in anything other than power and Ohio, it was the power of capitalists to do whatever they wanted.

Hanna then moved on to work for William McKinley, having been impressed by him in 1888, when he actually suggested that Sherman step aside for the rising Ohioan. Sherman refused and Hanna continued working for him, but Benjamin Harrison received the nomination that year. Realizing that the next chance for an Ohioan president was in 1896 and that Sherman would be too old by then, Hanna put all his eggs in the McKinley basket. McKinley became governor of Ohio in 1891. Hanna insured Sherman’s reelection to the Senate the next year and Ohio Republicans were largely unified. Hanna then worked for the next four years to ensure McKinley’s nomination, dealing with other party bosses, planning campaign strategy, buying a home in the South to build connections with southern Republicans who could still play a major role in the convention. This was only partially successful, as many state level bosses wanted nothing to do with McKinley because he refused to allow them to control local patronage. But McKinley easily beat back any native son candidacies and became the nominee, thanks to Hanna’s work. It was Hanna’s finest hour. The Democratic press attacked Hanna as McKinley’s corporate master, but this charge did not stick enough to throw the election to William Jennings Bryan. Nor did it defeat Hanna’s groundbreaking fundraising campaign.

Hanna did not want a Cabinet position in return for all his work, thinking it would be seen as a corrupt bargain. So McKinley asked John Sherman to be Secretary of State. He agreed and Hanna won his position in the Senate. Hanna continued to advise McKinley closely from the Senate, even though he opposed the Spanish-American War, he also made sure McKinley got his declaration of war from the Senate. Although Hanna was horrified when Theodore Roosevelt won the VP slot in 1900 and even more horrified when he became president upon McKinley’s assassination, Hanna and Roosevelt came to a working relationship. Hanna strongly considered running for the Republican nomination in 1904 against Roosevelt. J.P. Morgan said he would fund Hanna’s campaign. But Hanna’s health was rapidly declining and he died on February 15, 1904.

Mark Hanna is buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

This Day in Labor History: June 22, 1896

[ 11 ] June 22, 2016 |

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On June 22, 1896, mine owners in Leadville, Colorado agreed to lock out their unionized miners, presenting a united front against unionism. This action would spur one of the largest battles between unions and employers in the 1890s, one that typically would be ended by the Colorado militia’s use as a private army of the employers.

Silver was discovered in Leadville in the 1870s, eventually making it one of the nation’s leading mining towns. In its first years, Leadville mines were generally unconsolidated, owned by the people who staked the claim. This did not change until the early 1890s, when capitalists began investing in the silver mines. Taking control of the city, the culture of mining in Leadville changed almost overnight. The Panic of 1893, the worst economic depression in the nation’s history to that time, shook the silver industry. Prices plummeted. Mine owners slashed wages from $3 a day to $2.50. By 1896, about one-third of the miners were still only earning that reduced rate. Those were poverty wages for a very dangerous job.

Miners organized with the Western Federation of Miners. The WFM, formed out of the bitter 1892 Coeur d’Alene strike, sought the industrial organization of hard rock miners. Local 33, also known as Cloud City Miners Union, formed in Leadville. From its formation in 1893, the WFM had demanded the 8-hour day. Yet in Leadville, many miners were working 12-hour days. The CCMU, as its first demand, wanted the restoration of the $3 day for all miners at a time when the mine owners were building luxury homes for themselves, even if the economy had not fully recovered by 1896. They presented this demand to the mine owners on May 26, 1896. All the owners rejected the demand. On June 19, the WFM tried again. Again, the owners rejected it. That night, the union decided that all workers making $2.50 should strike. Several mines shut down the next day when their workforce walked off the job.

The mine owners responded by seeking to crush the WFM in Leadville entirely. On June 22, it responded to the strike by locking out all miners. The owners quickly imported strikebreakers to run their mines. They also hired Pinkertons and Thiel agents to infiltrate the union and spy on the strikers. Both sides refused to compromise with the other. The union was unaware of how closely the mine owners were working together and believed if they could just get one to cave, the others would follow. One minority owner of a mine did cave and reopened with a higher wage. When his partners took him to court, the court ruled it had to pay the $3 wage. So when the state deputy labor commissioner offered to arbitrate the case, the union refused, thinking victory was right around the corner. The WFM’s aggressive action disturbed the American Federation of Labor. The AFL did not call other unions out in support, which often happened in strikes of this time, even if the supportive unions might settle themselves for small raises. The Leadville WFM local was largely on its own, although other WFM locals did contribute financial help.

On August 13, the owners tried to cut a deal, saying they would raise the wage to $3 when the price of silver rose to 75 cents an ounce. It was not at that time 75 cents. But given that the majority of the striking miners were making the $3 wage already, there was some effort to end the strike. However, the WFM leadership wanted to hold out for victory. Before you think such demands were unrealistic or that the union should have compromised, understand that in 1894, the WFM had won probably the single greatest union victory of the decade in the Cripple Creek strike. Believing the union’s credibility was at stake and hoping to organize throughout the West, another victory at Leadville would have really solidified the union’s position and power.

Some of the mines began to build fortifications around them, preparing to reopen and crush the strike with force if necessary. This led the WFM to take the offensive. On September 21, fifty armed miners attacked the Coronado and Emmett mines. They set the Coronado mine on fire by dropping dynamite into it, causing $50,000 worth of damage. A gun battle ensued with the twenty armed strikebreakers at the mines. Four union members were killed. In response, Colorado governor Albert McIntire, who had previously refused mine owners’ requests to use the state militia as a private police force, promptly changed his mind. The mines reopened under military guard. Eugene Debs came to Leadville to try and negotiate a solution, but could not. Low-level violence continued through the winter. Strikebreakers surrounded one striker outside his house and murdered him while a policeman shot another. Given that the Leadville police chief hated the strikers, it’s surprising there were not more deaths. The WFM caved on March 9, 1897 after half the workers had already given up and returned to work. Those workers not on the blacklist went back under the old wage system.

The Leadville experience left the WFM deeply bitter. The union disaffiliated with the AFL after the federation refused to support it. The Leadville strike’s failure contributed significantly to that union’s radical phase that included its central role in forming the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905, with WFM leader Big Bill Haywood eventually leading the new union. And while the WFM largely withdrew from the IWW after 1908 as more moderate leadership took over in the miners’ union, it retained it’s radical edge. The WFM eventually turned into the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers in 1916. More popularly known as Mine, Mill, it retained its radical edge and was one of the unions evicted from the CIO for its communist leadership in the late 1940s. It also led the famous Salt of the Earth strike in southern New Mexico.

Today, Leadville is one of the most fascinating and kind of scary places in the nation, with the mining legacy all over the landscape and the culture.

This is the 181st post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

This Day in Labor History: May 31, 1889

[ 18 ] May 31, 2016 |

Johnstown_Main_Street_1889_flood

On May 31, 1889, the South Fork dam, on the land of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club above the city of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, collapsed during a heavy rainstorm. Over 2200 people died in the one of the worst disaster in American history. The Johnstown Flood is not only a horrible disaster but deeply reflective of class divisions during the Gilded Age and the complete lack of legal or moral responsibility the wealthy had toward the working class.

In 1840, the South Fork Dam was built on the Little Conemaugh River, 14 miles upstream from the town of Johnstown, in order to stop the floods that frequently hit the mountainous area. Over time, the canal system that had spurred the original construction fell into disuse. The land where the dam was located was purchased by the steel capitalist Henry Clay Frick and a group of speculators, many of whom were connected to Carnegie Steel, for the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club. For convenience sake, Frick had the dam lowered in order to build a road across it and built a screen that built up debris behind it. The club opened in 1881. The dam frequently sprung leaks and was only patched with mud. People in Johnstown were concerned about the long-term stability of the dam but Frick and his friends did nothing. By 1889, the club had 61 members. They included Frick, Andrew Carnegie, and Andrew Mellon. This was the peak of the Gilded Age elite. Mellon of course would have a very long career, serving as the staunchly conservative Secretary of the Treasury under Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. His policies contributed significantly to the development of the Great Depression.

By 1889, Johnstown was a big steel town of about 30,000 people. Like many Pennsylvania cities, it’s existence was largely based around the industry. The Cambria Iron Company began in Johnstown in 1852. The company was one of the nation’s most important early blast furnace steel works. By 1858, the company was the nation’s largest producer of rails for railroads and Johnstown grew rapidly. Like the rest of the region’s steel mill towns, after 1880, immigrants from southern and eastern Europe poured into Johnstown to take these incredibly difficult, hot, and deadly jobs in an industry with terrible working conditions. By 1889, the national importance of Johnstown was diminishing, as bigger cities such as Pittsburgh, Chicago, and Cleveland established much larger steel works and had access to significantly larger labor forces, but Cambria Iron Works was still a major industry player. The company controlled nearly everything in the town, from churches to libraries. It also did not allow for labor unions. Like other steel towns, the labor force frequently organized over these terrible conditions. After the Panic of 1873 began, the company began laying off workers, lowering wages, and paying workers in company store credit rather than cash. Workers responded by organizing a union called the Miners National Association. 400 workers joined. The company refused to recognize it. The company then simply shut down operations rather than deal with organized workers. The union quickly collapsed and the company hired everyone back on the condition that they sign a contract pledging never to join a union. The company received glorious praise from The New York Times, among other national publications, for taking such a strong stance against unions. By 1889, the Cambria Iron Works remained union free.

In late May 1889, a powerful storm began to develop over Nebraska and Kansas. It moved east and dumped rain on the mountains of Pennsylvania on the evening of May 30. The next morning, the lake behind the dam had risen precipitously. Johnstown began to flood. In some parts of town, the water rose to as high as 10 feet, trapping some people in their houses. But things got tremendously worse in the fourteen miles the water rushed downstream. Towns on the way were blown away, with 314 dead in the iron town of Woodvale.

When the dam collapsed, there was no way to let the people of Johnstown know in time to escape. The water behind the dam rushed forward at 40 miles an hour, wiping away everything in its path. It just completely wiped out the city. A total of 2209 died, one of the two largest single losses of life in American disasters to that date. 99 entire families were wiped out. The event received immediate national media coverage and relief poured into the city, starting with Clara Barton and quickly becoming a national effort. The Cambria Iron Works was relatively untouched by the flood and its steel production continued almost unabated.

Newspapers attacked Frick and the club members after the flood. The Chicago Herald ran an editorial titled, “Manslaughter or Murder.” It soon became obvious that the dam collapse was the direct responsibility of the club members, both for not maintaining it and for modifying it for their own pleasure, indifferent to the thousands of people below the dam. The club members offered a bit of relief to put themselves in a positive light. Andrew Carnegie donated $10,000. Henry Clay Frick had the club give some blankets.

After the flood, the survivors wanted compensation. But the laws of the Gilded Age allowed the rich to essentially do whatever they want. They could kill their own workers through terrible workplace safety conditions and the courts would find in favor of the companies. They could destroy farmland through the erosion or flooding they caused and the farmers would lose their suits in the name of progress. Given that Frick and the club leaders had adjusted the dam for their own convenience and didn’t maintain the dam effectively. The hunting club hired the preeminent law firm of Knox and Reed to defend them. Both men were club members and Pennsylvania elites; Philander Knox would go on to be Secretary of State in the administration of William Howard Taft. The lawsuits from the survivors were easily fended off by Knox and Reed. The survivors received nothing; Frick and his friends continued as if nothing happened. For them, nothing really had happened. The people of Johnstown didn’t matter.

Henry Clay Frick went on a few years later to manage the busting of the union at Homestead in 1892, becoming the most hated man in America.

This is the 178th post in this series. Previous posts are archived here.

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 33

[ 76 ] May 29, 2016 |

This is the tomb of James Garfield:

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Garfield grew up in Ohio, raised by his widowed mother. He attended Williams College in Massachusetts, moved back to Ohio and entered politics as a Republican. He served in the Ohio state senate from 1859-61 and then volunteered for the Union Army during the Civil War. He rapidly rose to the rank of major general, fighting at Shiloh, among other battles. However, his war service ended in late 1863 when he was elected to Congress in 1862; nearly a year between the election and the start of the next legislative session was the norm at that time. In that year, he also fought effectively at the Battle of Chickamauga. After he left for Washington, he became a protege of Salmon Chase and aligned himself with abolitionists who felt that Lincoln was moving too slow on slavery, particularly in following Thaddeus Stevens’ advice to confiscate the lands of treasonous plantation owners and redistribute them to their former slaves. In the early years of Reconstruction, Garfield continued his alliance with the radical Republicans, hoping to impeach Andrew Johnson and being shocked and angry when that failed.

But by 1870, Garfield was rapidly moving toward a more conservative position. While he supported the 15th Amendment, he did not support the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, critical to Grant’s suppression of the KKK, because he worried about the effect upon habeas corpus. He became a classically Gilded Age hard money supporter, deriding greenbacks.

Like other politicians of the period, Garfield also had shady financial morals. He was caught up in the Crédit Mobilier scandal. Although it did not seem that he directly accepted Union Pacific money, he certainly was aware of the scandal and was personally offered money. At the very least, he knew about the entire scandal as a powerful congressmen and did nothing at all about it. This did not hurt him in the future. He got himself elected to the Senate with the support of the state’s powerful senator John Sherman and quickly became a dark horse for the Republican nomination in 1880. Ulysses S. Grant, who was actively seeking a third term after taking four years off, James Blaine, and John Sherman were the early favorites. When none of the three could win a majority of delegates, support began to move toward Garfield. He won election that fall over Winfield Scott Hancock. Horatio Alger wrote his campaign biography; you already know what Alger emphasized in it.

The major issue Garfield faced as president was the division between the two factions of the party, a division made clear to him as Grant’s supporters refused to support him until the very end. This of course would help lead to his assassination by the disgruntled office seeker Charles Guiteau in 1881. Some have claimed Garfield would have made a good civil rights president, but I am skeptical. He would have been good for African-Americans on patronage and he did propose some educational programs, but the general feeling within the Republican Party for aggressive action to protect black rights in the South was very low in 1881. Even if he had survived the full four years, it’s unlikely any bill would have passed for him to sign and probably not likely that he would have spent much political capital on it, although I guess we will never know.

Garfield’s tomb is big enough but it’s the inside that is really amazing. 1881 was Peak Gilded Age. Money was flowing and Garfield was part of that monied elite by this time. His policies had helped make a lot of wealthy people wealthier. So they went all out for Garfield. I visited the grave before and have been inside, but when I visited this March, the inside was closed. But these pictures other took will do.

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Here is the statue of Garfield inside the tomb, with the sun reflecting on the glorious man, reminding us all of his awesomeness. In the background, you can see the ornnateness of the entire thing, which includes up to the high rotunda. That’s even better seen here:

Final Destination II

Here is the actual grave:

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James Garfield is buried in Lake View Cemetery, Cleveland, Ohio.

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