Arthur G. Burgoyne_
Eighteen and Ninety Three_
Homestead: A Complete History_
The feeling of ownership had a place in the reasoning of these simple people. Many of them had bought and paid for their homes and were pillars of the borough government. Some were still paying for their dwellings—paying off the mortgages held by the Carnegie Company, which had been in the habit of helping those who cared to build, and which even did a regular banking business for the advantage of its employees.
The Fourteenth of Chapters_
A Suppressed Congressional Report—Sympathy Strikes Prove a Failure—Gompers as a Boycott Wielder—The Slavs Weaken—Plans of the Republican National Committee—Smooth Mr. Milholland Enlists Hugh O'Donnell—Honest John McLuckie Refuses to be Muzzled—The Milholland Scheme Falls Through—Outbreaks at Homestead—The Search for Pinkerton Guns—Mr. Frick Revisits the Mill.
For reasons which were never fully disclosed, the House committee on Homestead, which entrusted to Representative Oates the preparation of a report to the general judiciary committee, rejected the report when completed and decided to let the whole matter drift over to the next session of Congress. Mr. Oates found that the differences between the Carnegie Company and its men might have been adjusted, had Mr. Frick stated to the conference committee the "bottom facts" prompting the demand for a reduction of wages, but the officers of the company invited trouble by failing to exercise "patience, indulgence and solicitude," and that Mr. Frick, in particular, was "too stern, brusque and somewhat autocratic." He condemned the employment of Pinkertons and argued that the company might have prevented bloodshed by relying solely on the constituted authorities for protection, although he conceded the inefficiency of Sheriff McCleary. He condemned also as unlawful the action of the workmen in turning away the sheriff and in hanging in effigy Messrs. Frick and Potter, denied the right of the Amalgamated Association to bar non-union men out of employment, and held that the men of Homestead had no legal right to resist the Pinkerton invasion and were answerable accordingly to the Pennsylvania courts. In conclusion, Mr. Oates found that congress had no power to dispose of the questions involved. A satisfactory arbitration law could not be enacted and it was a debatable question whether or not congress could do anything to regulate or suppress Pinkertonism.
On August 3, Vice-President Morton appointed a committee of senators, composed of Messrs. Gallinger, Pfeffer, Hansbrough, Felton, Sanders, White and Hill to investigate the Pinkerton corporation. Action by this body was deferred until after the Presidential election, the chairman being a stalwart Republican and averse to the opening of proceedings which might furnish campaign material to the Democrats.
It was not long until the backbone of the sympathy strikes declared at the Carnegie mills at Lawrenceville, Duquesne and Beaver Falls showed signs of weakening. At Lawrenceville, the company took precautions similar to those taken at Homestead. An eight-foot board fence was built round the mill yard and no person was admitted without a pass from the superintendent. The strikers placed pickets on guard, but, despite their vigilance, several hundred non-union men were spirited in and on August 1, the plate mill was started. One hundred and fifty uniformed policemen and the entire force of city detectives were detailed, at the request of the firm, to protect the mill property at this time. After one day's service the majority of the officers were withdrawn, but enough were left on duty to guard all entrances and approaches to the mill. For the accommodation of the non-unionists, who dared not venture out, cots were set up in the carpenter shop, a rough-and-ready cuisine was improvised, and beer was brought in from the neighboring breweries. The force of "scab" employees increased rapidly, and in a short time, the watchers without began to lose heart and relax their vigilance. Nevertheless the Lawrenceville strike was prolonged for a year, or twice as long as the strike at Homestead, although the Lawrenceville men had signed a contract with the Carnegie Company and had no grievance of their own. When the strike was ultimately declared off, few of the men who went out were employed again by the firm and many of them found themselves reduced to poverty.
The Duquesne strike was of short duration. The men had been hastily organized and the new-born spirit of unionism among them was not strong enough to inspire and maintain mutual confidence. A report that non-union men had been secured and that the mill would be started on August 4 caused a stampede, several hundred of the strikers discarding their allegiance to the Amalgamated Association and rushing pell-mell to the mill when it opened up, fearing that their jobs were slipping away from them, perhaps forever.
Enraged at this defection, the strikers who held their ground, aided by a large body of men from Homestead, who had camped at Duquesne on the previous night, took possession of the mill gates and beat back those who were returning to work. Deputy sheriffs who were on the ground sent to General Wiley for assistance, which was promptly rendered, six companies of the Sixteenth Regiment being sent to the scene of disturbance on a work train. Eleven of the rioters were captured and taken to Pittsburgh, where they were held for a court trial. On the morning of August 8, the mill was again opened for work and the strikers, thoroughly disheartened, resumed their jobs in a body, every man, with the exception of those arrested for riot, getting his old place.
The strike at Beaver Falls, where 900 men are employed, with a weekly pay-roll of $12,000, lasted four months. It was free from disorder, the mill being shut down from the time the strike was declared. The financial loss to the town was so heavy and affected the business people so severely that it was deemed useless to stay out, and, when the firm re-opened the mill, the three Amalgamated lodges formally abandoned the strike and marched back to work in a body.
Sentiment at Homestead was kept warm by the unflagging efforts of the Amalgamated officials and of President Gompers, of the Federation of Labor. Mr. Gompers clung tenaciously to his idea of imposing a universal boycott upon Carnegie products, and the Homestead men accepted the suggestion with enthusiasm, believing that by this means the firm could be brought to its knees. Hugh O'Donnell was one of the most earnest advocates of the plan and stated through the press that it was bound to furnish a solution for the Homestead problem. As a preliminary step, the strikers issued a printed appeal to workingmen not to "work up the material shipped from the works of the Carnegie Steel Company during the present strike."
At a conference of the general officers of the Federation with Mr. Weihe on August 12, the boycott plan was considered and finally negatived, probably because of the well-known attitude of the Allegheny County courts towards persons concerned in this form of conspiracy. As Mr. Gompers and his colleagues had been holding up the boycott as a panacea, their backdown was regarded with much disfavor by the strikers, but a few red-hot speeches at a mass meeting on the following day, including the famous address by Mr. Gompers, an extract from which appears in the preceding chapter, put the rank and file in good humor again. There are times when oratory covers a multitude of sins.
Once out of range of the orator's power, however, the strikers had to meet and tacitly admit the force of some discouraging circumstances. Grumblings were heard even at the expense of Hugh O'Donnell and Burgess McLuckie. O'Donnell left Homestead mysteriously late in July and it was rumored that he had been detailed to confer with Republican leaders in the east with a view to bringing political pressure to bear on Messrs. Frick and Carnegie. The actual history of O'Donnell's mission is given here for the first time in print.
It has already been explained that C. L. Magee, of Pittsburgh, in addition to being interested as a Republican leader in the settlement of the Homestead troubles, was still more profoundly concerned in the affair by reason of his being Sheriff McCleary's bondsman. Mr. Magee was well aware that attempts to influence either Mr. Carnegie or Mr. Frick were a waste of energy. The next best step, in his opinion, was to influence the men of Homestead themselves, and, above all, to put a stop to the speech-making of Burgess McLuckie and others in opposition to the McKinley bill, to "free trade in labor" and other sins charged to the account of the Republican party just when the Republican party was least able to stand assaults. In pursuance of this purpose he communicated with John L. Milholland, of New York, chairman of the Republican committee on industrial affairs, advising him to arrive at an understanding with O'Donnell and McLuckie. Milholland, recognizing the critical nature of the situation, at once proceeded to Homestead, and induced O'Donnell to accompany him to New York. The young Homesteader left without confiding his plans to anybody. A reporter of the New York World, however, recognized Milholland, discovered what was on foot and informed the World by telegraph, whereupon the management of that journal detailed a special man to meet and shadow the travelers when they reached Philadelphia and also succeeded in placing a confidential agent in Milholland's office as stenographer, with instructions to watch developments in the Homestead affair.
The upshot of the conference in New York, to which O'Donnell was a party, was that the young labor leader pledged himself to use his influence to silence the anti-tariff orators of Homestead, and particularly McLuckie, and the Republican National Committee, in return, guaranteed an early settlement of the wage trouble, to the satisfaction of the workingmen.
On his return, O'Donnell told Hugh Dempsey, Master Workman of D. A. 3, K. of L., of his agreement and enlisted Dempsey's aid in bringing McLuckie to terms. Dempsey sought out the sturdy burgess, took him into the parlor of a hotel and laid the Milholland scheme before him.
"It rests with you, John, to settle this whole trouble," said the Master Workman.
"How so?" asked McLuckie.
"Well," said the other, "All you need do is to write a few lines over your signature, stating that you have been misquoted and to quit making Democratic speeches, and the Republicans will give you anything you want and settle the wage question, besides."
McLuckie's eyes blazed and his big fist came down on the table with a bang. "So," he said, "you want me not only to sacrifice my independence, but to write myself down a Public Liar! If any other man made such a proposal to me, Hugh, I would knock him down."
"Don't be unreasonable, John," the Master Workman argued. "Remember what is at stake. Remember that it is in your hands to stop misery and bloodshed and restore happiness to Homestead."
"Yes, at the price of my own character," rejoined the big Burgess, hotly. "Say no more, Hugh. Come what may, I shall never denounce myself to the American people as a liar and a hypocrite."
Here the conversation ended and the two men left the hotel. Just then Hugh O'Donnell came out of a hotel across the street, and seeing McLuckie and Dempsey hastened to join them.
"What do you think he has been asking me to do?" said McLuckie, with a contemptuous glance at Dempsey, and then he recounted the interview at the hotel.
O'Donnell laughed. "Why, John," he said, "it was I that asked Dempsey to talk to you. If you are as sensible a man as I take you to be, and are anxious to render real service to your friends here, you will do as the National Committee wants you to, and you'll never regret it."
McLuckie answered with bitterness that O'Donnell was mistaken in him, that his manhood was not for sale to the politicians, and that he would treat as an enemy any man who met him with proposals the acceptance of which would place him in a dubious light before the American people.
The endeavor to silence McLuckie and make him recant did not end here. The Burgess was warned by members of the Advisory Board that his anti-tariff talks were damaging the cause of the strikers; nevertheless he declined to put a bridle on his tongue and let slip no opportunity of speaking on the text, "Protection for the manufacturer and free trade in labor," with incidental references to the connection between high tariff, high fences and Pinkerton thugs.
Shortly after the meeting with O'Donnell and Dempsey, President Weihe assigned O'Donnell and McLuckie to speak at a labor meeting in Boston. Funds for the trip were supplied by the Boston people and O'Donnell was the purse bearer. When the men arrived in New York, O'Donnell urged McLuckie to go with him to Milholland's office, but without success. After the Boston meeting a reporter of the Boston Herald was detailed to accompany the men back to Homestead. Arriving in New York, O'Donnell again broached the subject of visiting Milholland, but McLuckie was obdurate. At this point, according to the Burgess' own story, O'Donnell left his two companions, promising to meet them at the depot in time to catch a morning train. McLuckie and the Herald man were on hand, but O'Donnell failed to keep his appointment. The day wore on without any sign of O'Donnell's coming. Finally McLuckie informed the Heraldman that, as O'Donnell carried the purse, he was unable to pay his fare to Pittsburgh. The reporter advanced the necessary cash and they left New York without an inkling of the whereabouts of their missing companion.
It was afterwards ascertained that O'Donnell had hunted up Milholland to notify him of the impossibility of dealing with McLuckie and had probably forgotten his fellow-travelers in the excitement attending his "con-fab" with the great manipulator of industrial affairs for political purposes.
O'Donnell's course in these negotiations may be excused on the dual ground of inexperience in politics and a desire to benefit his townsmen by securing somehow a termination of the strike favorable to the wage-workers. He was dealing with sharp and not over-scrupulous practitioners, who dealt largely in promises and cared little about performance and less about any damage that might be sustained by O'Donnell himself, provided that their immediate aims were accomplished. The sole reward obtained by the young leader was seven months' confinement in the Allegheny County jail and abuse at the hands of rival leaders at Homestead. William Roberts was especially severe in his condemnation of both O'Donnell and McLuckie, crediting them with being partners in an unauthorized political move, which was sure to be barren of results. Mr. Roberts himself entered the employ of the Democratic National Committee as a stump speaker before the campaign was over, and remained an ardent low-tariff Democrat until the rejection of his application for a position in the Internal Revenue Collector's office at Pittsburgh convinced him of the error of his ways and led him to take the stump for protection.
Smarting under the criticisms to which he was subjected, Hugh O'Donnell went before the advisory board demanding that he be supported by a vote of confidence or else be permitted to resign. McLuckie seconded the request for a vote of confidence, and O'Donnell received his vindication.
The conduct of the Hungarian laborers caused the advisory board no little uneasiness. These unfortunates, always poorly paid, had, for the most part, no savings to fall back on and were quickly reduced to destitution. It was hard to expect them to starve for the sake of vindicating union principles, but at the same time it was looked upon as important to hold them in line with the other strikers, because a break, even among the lower class of workmen, would be very damaging to the union cause. The fear of a break among the Huns was a continual source of anxiety.
Mr. Frick, having recovered in a remarkably short time from the effects of his wounds, returned to his duties on August 5. A few days later, Messrs. Potter and Childs appeared on the streets of Homestead for the first time since July 6. They were on their way to attend a magistrate's hearing and had to pass through a crowd of several hundred men at the headquarters of the mechanics and laborers. Both officials were cool and seemingly unconcerned. They were not molested in any way, the men merely gazing at them in silence as they passed.
Although the Gompers boycott turned out to be only a flash in the pan, the boycotting spirit found a foothold even among the children in Homestead. An amusing illustration of precocity in this regard was furnished in the little chapel at Munhall station on the Sunday after Mr. Gompers' arrival. Mrs. Agnew, the wife of a foreman at work in the Carnegie mill, and her daughter had charge of a Sunday school in this modest place of worship. With the echoes of Mr. Gompers' speech still ringing in their ears, a number of sober-faced boys assembled as usual for instructions, but, before the exercises had fairly commenced, every lad present arose and solemnly marched out. One of the urchins, when questioned, said that he didn't propose to be "teached by der wife an' daughter of no blacksheep." Happily, as soon as the F. of L. issued a no-boycott manifesto, Sunday school took up again at Munhall and went on without further mishap.
The life of the men at work in the mill was by no means a pleasant one. They were closely confined, not daring to go out, for some time after the mill was first manned, unless on Saturdays, when those who cared to go to Pittsburgh were taken down on the Tide and allowed to remain away over Sunday. By the middle of August about 200 non-unionists were lodged in the company houses near the mill under protection of the military. The first of these that undertook to bring in his household goods, found that even military aid was insufficient. A crowd of strikers met the teamster who was hauling the goods at the ferry-boat and threatened him with severe handling if he again ventured to haul the property of a blacksheep through the streets of Homestead.
The first and only real outcropping of trouble between the workmen and the militia arose from conflicts between the crews of freight trains passing over the Pemickey bridge and a detail of soldiers stationed on the obnoxious Little Bill. The soldiers reported that trainmen or strikers concealed on the trains had fired upon them and they were instructed, if again assailed, to return the fire. On the evening of August 18, wild excitement was caused by the noise of a fusillade on the river front of the mill yard. If the statement of the militiamen on board the Little Bill is true, five revolver shots were fired at the boat from a freight train, the first shot coming from the engine and the others from the cars. The fire was returned from the boat and when the train reached the other side of the river, the batallion stationed on the hill above the B. & O. railroad, under the command of Captain Fred Windsor, also opened fire, the rattle of musket balls against the freight cars sounding like the patter of a hail storm. The men in the mill were panic-stricken, believing that the events of July 6 were about to be duplicated, and there was also a hub-bub among the strikers, but the arrival of the provost marshal's guard quickly restored order. The conductor of the freight train stoutly affirmed that the shots which alarmed the soldiers on the Little Bill were merely torpedo explosions, and this was very probably the case, since it is in the last degree unlikely that a few men on a slowly moving freight would undertake to cope with a large number of soldiers on the boat and on shore. The soldiers were at all times consumed with anxiety to do some genuine fighting, and on this occasion the fire-eaters in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth regiments made no secret of their disappointment when they found that the incipient skirmish on the river was not to be followed by a "go" with the strikers.
Two days previous to this affair, the provost guard, under Major Crawford, had a brush with the townspeople which came within an ace of developing into a pitched battle. Frank Tracey, a non-union laborer, was arrested for larceny, and four of his brother blacksheep were taken with him to Alderman Oeffner's office by the arresting officer. Tracy was committed to jail amid the cheers of a crowd which had gathered in and around the magistrate's office. When the four non-unionists came out, the mob surged around them and some of the more violent suggested lynching or a ducking in the river as fit treatment for the "scabs." Clubs and stones were picked up, and the situation began to look serious when Major Crawford appeared at the head of a squad of men, with fixed bayonets and guns at half cock, and forced the crowd to disperse. Some of the citizens derided the soldiers as "pale-faced boys," and a stout young woman shook her fist under the line of military noses and threatened to extinguish the entire National Guard. Nevertheless, the non-unionists were enabled to return to the mill in safety and the last murmurings of the tumult were silenced by policemen and deputy sheriffs after Major Crawford left the scene.
Other outbreaks of similar character spurred to renewed vigilance the militia and the Sheriff's deputies, who had fallen into the habit of lounging and dozing in shady places, and within a few days after Major Crawford's collision with the mob, large numbers of non-union men succeeded in moving their goods from the ferry into the company houses without suffering molestation.
Pinkerton detectives began a systematic search for guns on August 28, but without result. The Winchesters taken from the guards on the barges had been smuggled into a safe place of concealment where even the Pinkertonian eye that "never sleeps" was unable to discover them.
On August 31, Mr. Frick visited the mill for the first time since the beginning of the wage trouble. He was accompanied by a detective, but needed no protection, as the strikers showed no disposition to grow wrathy over his presence. Mr. Frick made a complete inspection of the mill, pronounced the various departments to be in excellent working order and informed the reporters that the strike was a thing of the past.