The Coup d’État a Miscarriage—Effect of the Anarchist Failure at McCormick’s—“Revenge”—Text of the Famous Circular—The German Version—An Incitement to Murder—Bringing on a Conflict—Engel’s Diabolical Plan—The Rôle of the Lehr und Wehr Verein—The Gathering of the Armed Groups—Fischer’s Sanguinary Talk—The Signal for Murder—“Ruhe” and its Meaning—Keeping Clear of the Mouse-Trap—The Haymarket Selected—Its Advantages for Revolutionary War—The Call for the Murder Meeting—“Workingmen, Arm Yourselves”—Preparing the Dynamite—The Arbeiter-Zeitung Arsenal—The Assassins’ Roost at 58 Clybourn Avenue—The Projected Attack on the Police Stations—Bombs for All who Wished Them—Waiting for the Word of Command—Why it was not Given—The Leaders’ Courage Fails.

NEVER was that old saying, “Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad,” better illustrated than in the actions of the Anarchist leaders after their desperate exploits at McCormick’s Works. That riot was to have been the pivotal point in their social revolution. It turned out a humiliating fiasco. They had hoped to make a coup d’état for the scarlet banner and had counted upon such a victory as would terrorize Capital, appal the people and paralyze the arm of constituted authority. When they discovered that the police had escaped with only slight bruises, that some of their own comrades had been seriously wounded and that even the so-called “scabs” had passed through the onslaught with nothing worse than fright, their rage knew no bounds. They saw that “the battle had been lost,” and prompt, energetic action seemed necessary to retrieve the situation.

Spies, their recognized leader, while the perspiration still dripped from his face, and his blood still fired by his speech to the strikers and his “heroic efforts” to rally the routed and fleeing Socialists, seized a pen, and, dipping it into the gall of his indignation, wrote what subsequently became famous as the “Revenge Circular.” It was printed in German and English, and an exact fac-simile is presented herewith. The German version is somewhat different from the English, being addressed to the adherents of Anarchy and Socialism, the English version seeming to have been intended for Americans in general. Several thousand copies were scattered throughout the city.

The wording of the English portion of the circular may be seen in the illustration. The German portion, translated, reads as follows:

Engraved from the Original
by direct Photographic Process.

Revenge! Revenge! Workmen to arms!

Men of labor, this afternoon the bloodhounds of your oppressors murdered six of your brothers at McCormick’s. Why did they murder them? Because they dared to be dissatisfied with the lot which your oppressors have assigned to them. They demanded bread, and they gave them lead for an answer, mindful of the fact that thus people are most effectually silenced. You have for many years endured every humiliation without protest, have drudged[130] from early in the morning until late at night, have suffered all sorts of privation, have even sacrificed your children. You have done everything to fill the coffers of your masters—everything for them!And now, when you approach them and implore them to make your burden a little lighter, as a reward for your sacrifices, they send their bloodhounds, the police, at you, in order to cure you with bullets of your dissatisfaction. Slaves, we ask and conjure you, by all that is sacred and dear to you, avenge the atrocious murder that has been committed upon your brothers to-day and which will likely be committed upon you to-morrow. Laboring men, Hercules, you have arrived at the cross-way. Which way will you decide? For slavery and hunger or for freedom and bread? If you decide for the latter, then do not delay a moment; then, people, to arms! Annihilation to the beasts in human form who call themselves rulers! Uncompromising annihilation to them! This must be your motto. Think of the heroes whose blood has fertilized the road to progress, liberty and humanity, and strive to become worthy of them!

Your Brothers.

Not content with this, Spies also wrote and published, in the Arbeiter-Zeitung of May 4, the following:

BLOOD!—Lead and Powder as a Cure for Dissatisfied Workingmen.—About Six Laborers Mortally, and Four Times that Number Slightly, Wounded.—Thus are the Eight-hour Men Intimidated!—This is Law and Order.—Brave Girls Parading the City!—The Law and Order Beasts Frighten Hungry Children away with Clubs.

Six months ago, when the eight-hour movement began, representatives of the I. A. A. called upon workmen to arm if they would enforce their demand. Would the occurrence of[131]yesterday have been possible had that advice been followed? Yesterday, at McCormick’s factory, so far as can now be ascertained, four workmen were killed and twenty-five more or less seriously wounded. If members who defended themselves with stones (a few of them had little snappers in the shape of revolvers) had been provided with good weapons and one single dynamite bomb, not one of the murderers would have escaped his well-merited fate. This massacre was to fill the workmen of this city with fear. Will it succeed?

A meeting of the lumber employés was held yesterday at the Black Road to appoint a committee to wait on the committee of the owners and present the demands agreed upon. It was an immense meeting. Several speeches were made in English, German and Polish. Finally Mr. Spies was introduced, when a Pole cried, “That is a Socialist,” and great disapprobation was expressed, but the speaker continued, telling them that they must realize their strength, and must not recede from their demands; that the issue lay in their hands, and needed only resolution on their part.

At this point some one cried, “On to McCormick’s! Let us drive off the scabs,” and about two hundred ran toward McCormick’s. The speaker, not knowing what occurred, continued his speech, and was appointed afterwards a member of the committee to notify the bosses of the action.

Then a Pole spoke, when a patrol wagon rushed up to McCormick’s, and the crowd began to break up. Shortly shots were heard near McCormick’s factory, and about seventy-five well-fed, large and strong murderers, under command of a fat police lieutenant, marched by followed by three more patrol wagons full of law and order beasts. Two hundred police were there in less than ten minutes, firing on fleeing workingmen and women. The writer hastened to the factory, while a comrade urged the assembly to rescue their brothers, unavailingly. A young Irishman said to the writer: “What miserable (—— ——) are those who will not turn a hand while their brothers are being shot down in cold blood! We have dragged away two. I think they are dead. If you have any influence with the people, for Heaven’s sake, run back and urge them to follow you.” The writer did so in vain. The revolvers were still cracking; fresh policemen arriving; and the battle was lost. It was about half-past three that the little crowd from the meeting reached McCormick’s factory. Policeman West tried to hold them back with his revolver, but was put to flight with a shower of stones and roughly handled. The crowd bombarded the factory windows with stones and demolished the guard-house. The scabs were in mortal terror, when the Hinman Street patrol wagon arrived. They were about to attack the crowd with their clubs, when a shower of stones was thrown, followed the next minute by the firing by the police upon the strikers. It was pretended subsequently that they fired over their heads. The strikers had a few revolvers and returned the fire. Meantime, more police arrived, and then the whole band opened fire on the people. The people fought with stones, and are said to have disabled four policemen. The gang, as always, fired upon the fleeing, while women and men carried away the severely wounded. How many were injured cannot be told. A dying boy, Joseph Doebick, was brought home on an express wagon by two policemen. The crowd threatened to lynch the officer, but were prevented by a patrol wagon. Various strikers were arrested. McCormick said that “August Spies made a speech to a few thousand Anarchists and then put himself at the head of a crowd and attacked our works. Our workmen fled, and meantime the police came and sent a lot of Anarchists away with bleeding heads.”

Mark well the language,—seeking to inflame the minds of the Socialists by maliciously stating that four men had been killed, when in fact not one was fatally injured,—its bitter invective, its cunning phraseology, its rude eloquence and its passionate appeal. All were well calculated to stir up revengeful feelings at a time when public sentiment ran high throughout the[132] city. The events following close upon the heels of the eight-hour strike were critical in the extreme, and none knew the exact situation better than the Anarchist leaders. Their course had been shaped with special reference to it.

Photographic Engraving, direct from the Original.

Their secret plottings were directed by the events of the hour. The time had come, they felt, when the Commune should be proclaimed. It would not do, they urged, to let the opportunity pass. The failure of the McCormick riot at once suggested retaliation in a manner best known to themselves, and the circular was fulminated with a clear knowledge that its import would be readily understood by all in the dark secret of their conspiracy.

But that there might be no misdirected effort, and that all might be properly instructed for the emergency, it was deemed best to hold a secret conference. The hour seemed to have arrived when their armed sections, the various groups of the order trained in the use of guns and explosives, should be brought into requisition, and the police in particular and the public in general be made to feel their power. How best to accomplish this purpose had been uppermost in their minds from the moment of their disaster at the reaper works. A conflict between the police and the strikers had been counted upon as a certainty under their inspiration, and plans looking to the best means of taking advantage of this strike as well as the eight-hour strike had been discussed even before the McCormick riot.

Only so short a time as the day before that event, the members of the second company of the Lehr und Wehr Verein and of the Northwest Side groups had met in joint session at Bohemian Hall, on Emma Street, and[133] considered the probabilities in view of the eight-hour movement. They clearly foresaw a conflict, and, among other things, discussed a plan to meet that contingency. This plan, proposed by Engel and indorsed by Fischer, and subsequently confessed by one of the conspirators present at that meeting, was that whenever it came to a conflict between the police and the Northwest groups, bombs should be thrown into the police stations. The riflemen of the Lehr und Wehr Verein should post themselves in line at a certain distance, and whoever came out of the stations should be shot down. They would then come into the heart of the city, where the fight would commence in earnest. The members of the Northwest Side groups were counseled to mutually assist each other in making the attack upon the police, and “if any one had anything with him, he should use it.” “As the police would endeavor to subdue the workingmen by sending all their available force to the place of attack, the Anarchists could easily blow up the stations, and such officers as might effect an escape from the buildings could be killed by their riflemen. Then they would cut the telegraph wires so as to prevent communication with other stations, after which they would proceed to the nearest station and destroy that. On their way they would throw fire bombs at some of the buildings, and this would call out the Fire Department and prevent the firemen from being called upon to quell the riot. While proceeding thus they would secure reinforcements, and, in the intense excitement following, the police as well as militia would become confused and divided in counsel as to the points where they could do the most effective service. The attacks should be almost simultaneous in different parts of the city at a given signal. When they all finally reached the center of the city, they would set fire to the most prominent buildings and attack the jail, open the doors and set free the inmates to join them in future movements.”

This plan, it is almost needless to remark, was unanimously adopted. But concerted action was necessary among all the groups, and in view of the “skull-cracking,” to use their own phrase, on the afternoon of May 3, a secret conference of all groups was determined upon as a supplement to Spies’ pronunciamento and as an incitement to future revolutionary movements. A notice understood by all in the armed sections—“Y, come Monday evening”—was inserted in the Arbeiter-Zeitung. The commander of the Lehr und Wehr Verein rented a beer basement at No. 54 West Lake Street, known to the followers of Socialism as Greif’s Hall, and along towards eight o’clock representatives of all the armed sections of the Internationale gathered there. In order that the utmost privacy might be maintained, guards were posted both at the front and rear entrances with instructions to permit no one to stand on the outside and to admit only trusted adherents.


When the session opened there were between seventy and eighty members of the various sections present. Their deliberations were presided over by Gottfried Waller, who subsequently became an important witness for the State.

Spies’ “Revenge circular,” written late that afternoon, was distributed in the meeting, and its sentiments were heartily seconded by all present. Engel finally submitted the plan already given, and some discussion followed, participated in by various members. Fischer considered the plan admirable, and, lest there might be evidence of weakness, he stated that if any man acted the part of a coward, his own dagger or a bullet from his rifle should pierce that man’s heart. Inquiries being made with reference to a supply of bombs, he suggested that the members manufacture them on their own account. The best thing, he said, was to procure a tin coffee-bottle, fill it with benzine, attach a cap and fuse, and they would have a most effective bomb.

Engel’s plan went through with a rush. Having now agreed upon a definite course, it was necessary to adopt a signal to warn the sections of danger and summon them to action. Fischer was equal to the occasion. He proposed the German word “Ruhe,”—signifying “rest” or “peace,”—and added that whenever it should appear in the “Letter-box” column of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, all would know that the moment for decisive action had been reached, and that all were expected to repair promptly to their appointed meeting-places, fully armed and ready for duty. The suggestion was adopted.

But what are plans without being fortified by enthusiasm on the part of the mob expected to carry them out? The Socialistic heart must be fired to a proper pitch of frenzy. Every soul must be made to feel that the cause of Socialism is his own. A mass-meeting was just the thing, and a mass-meeting it was decided by this august band of conspirators to call. The time was the only point in controversy. The chairman insisted on holding it the following morning on Market Square, which is a widening of Market Street between Madison and Randolph Streets, but Fischer protested, because, as he said, it was a “mouse trap,” and insisted that the meeting be held in the evening, when they could bring out a crowd of no less than 25,000 people, and that the Haymarket be the place. There, he said, they would have greater security in case of disturbance, and more and better means of escape. His counsel finally prevailed, and after a call had been suitably drafted, Fischer was intrusted with its printing.

Remembering that “what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business,” the meeting decided to appoint a committee, consisting of one or two members from each group. This committee was to keep a close watch on all movements that might be made at Haymarket Square and in different parts of the city, and, in the event of a conflict, to promptly report it to the[135] members of the various armed sections by the insertion in the Arbeiter-Zeitung of the word “Ruhe” if there was trouble during the day, or illuminating the sky with a red light at night. If either signal could not be conveniently used, then they were to notify the members individually.

Photographic Engraving, direct from the Original.

Before the conclusion of this secret conclave, every one present was directed to notify absent members of what had been done, and Rudolph Schnaubelt, who has since been proven the thrower of the bomb which scattered death and devastation on the following evening, wished to go even further and have Socialists in other cities notified so that the proposed revolution might become general. The instigators of the meeting just described were Spies, Parsons, Fielden and Neebe, but for some reason they failed to put in an appearance.

In accordance with arrangements, the call for the mass-meeting was printed the next morning. There were two versions of this call. Fac-similes of both are given.

In the afternoon of May 4 the signal word “Ruhe” appeared in the Arbeiter-Zeitung, and all the armed men proceeded to place themselves in readiness for the conflict. They also devoted themselves energetically to cultivating revengeful sentiments. While making their preparations for the projected riot, they communicated the plan decided upon to every member of the order, and all were urged to come fully armed with such weapons as they might possess.


But their greatest reliance was placed in the use of dynamite. This highly explosive material was regarded as the chief arm of their cause. For many weeks, the leaders had experimented with it. Some six weeks[136] before the disastrous Haymarket riot, Louis Lingg had brought a bomb to the house of William Seliger, No. 442 Sedgwick Street, where he boarded, and announced his intention of making other bombs like it. Before this he had provided himself with dynamite, the money for its purchase having been realized at a ball given some time previously and turned over to him to use in experiments. Being out of employment at the time, he devoted himself energetically to experiments with that material, and produced large gas-pipe bombs. One of these he took out to a grove north of the city, and, placing it in the crotch of a tree, exploded it, splitting the tree to pieces. The result of the test appears to have been satisfactory, and he next gave his attention to the manufacture of globular shells. In the casting of these he used the kitchen stove to melt his metal, and often received the assistance of Seliger, Thielen and Hermann. All day Tuesday, May 4, he worked most persistently and seemed in a great hurry to make as many bombs as possible. He was helped on that day by the parties named and two others, Hueber and Munzenberger. Before the close of the day they had finished over a hundred bombs. While they were at work Lehman visited them and carried home a satchel of dynamite, which he subsequently, after the Haymarket riot, buried out on the prairie, and which was afterwards disinterred by the police. Not alone did he and his friends experiment with dynamite, but it appears that Spies, Parsons, Fischer, Fielden and Schwab also tried their hands at it and handled the deadly stuff at the office of the Arbeiter-Zeitung. They had several bombs there and made no secret of the purpose for which they intended them. The office was afterwards discovered to be an arsenal of revolvers and dynamite.


After the bombs had been completed by Lingg and his assistants, Lingg and Seliger put them in a trunk or satchel and carried them over towards Neff’s Hall, at No. 58 Clybourn Avenue. On the way they were met by Munzenberger, who took the trunk, and, placing it on his shoulder, carried it the rest of the distance. At this time—it being evening—there was a meeting of painters in a hall at the rear of Neff’s saloon, and the package was placed at the entrance for a moment’s exhibition. Lingg asked the proprietor if any one had called and inquired for him, and, on being answered in the negative, proceeded with Seliger and Munzenberger into the hallway connecting the saloon and the assembly-room. Placing the trunk on the floor, he opened it for inspection. Several parties examined the bombs and took some of them away. Seliger helped himself to two and kept them until after the Haymarket explosion, when he hid them under a sidewalk on Sigel Street. Lingg, Seliger and Munzenberger then left the premises. The direction the last-named took is a matter in doubt. Neff had never seen him before, Lehman did not know him, and Seliger had not even learned his name.

It is clear that all this work was part of the conspiracy concocted at Greif’s Hall the previous evening. It is also well settled that Munzenberger was the chosen agent to secure the bombs and see that they were placed in the hands of trusted Anarchists for use at the proper moment. The secrecy surrounding the latter’s identity was in complete accord with the method of procedure outlined in the instructions given to Socialists:

In the commission of a deed, a comrade who does not live at the place of action, that is, a comrade of some other place, ought, if possibility admits, to participate in the action, or, formulated difficulty, a revolutionary deed ought to be enacted where one is not known.

Still further steps were taken to precipitate the revolution. In conformity with the Monday night plan, armed men were to be stationed, on the evening of Tuesday, in the vicinity of the police stations. We find that Lingg, Seliger, Lehman, Smidke, Thielen and two large unknown men were in the vicinity of the North Avenue Station. They skulked about the corners of the streets leading to that station, between eight and ten o’clock, fully armed with bombs and ready for desperate deeds. Others, who had secured bombs at Neff’s Hall, went further northward and hovered around the police station near the corner of Webster and Lincoln Avenues. Seliger and Lingg also paid that vicinity a visit. There were also armed men at Deering, where a meeting of striking workingmen was held, and which was addressed by Schwab after he had left the Haymarket. Anarchists also posted themselves in the vicinity of the Chicago Avenue Station. Men were also near the North Avenue Station, and some twenty-five posted themselves at the corner of Halsted and Randolph Streets, two blocks from the Desplaines Street Station. Spies and Schwab entered this group[138]and held some secret consultation with the leaders. Fischer and Waller were also close to that station.

It furthermore appears that several men called on Tuesday evening at Waller’s residence while he was eating his supper and desired him to accompany them to Wicker Park, saying that they “wanted to be at their post.” Two of these men were Krueger and Kraemer, belonging to the “armed sections.” Some men also called at Engel’s store, and one of them exhibited a revolver. Another, a stranger, explained to a comrade that he was waiting for some “pills.” He waited only five minutes, when a young girl about ten or twelve years of age came in, carrying a mysterious package. This she handed to the stranger, who stepped behind a screen and then hastened out.

It is thus manifest that the various parties were bent on a carnival of riot and destruction and only awaited the proper signal from the committee. The men intrusted with the secrets of pillage, murder and general destruction belonged to what was known in the order as the “Revolutionary Group.” The plan was not communicated to any one else. The utmost secrecy had to be maintained for its successful accomplishment, and the conspiracy was only communicated to such as had proved themselves in the past, by word and deed, in full accord with revolutionary methods. The “revolutionary party” consisted of the Lehr und Wehr Verein, commanded by Breitenfeld; the Northwest Side group, under command of Engel, Fischer and Grumm; the North Side group, commanded by Neebe, Lingg and Hermann; the American group, commanded by Spies, Parsons and Fielden; the Karl Marx group, directed by Schilling; the Freiheit group and the armed sections of the International Carpenters’ Union and Metal-workers’ Union. These various sections, or groups, were under the management of a general committee which included among its leading spirits Spies, Schwab, Parsons, Neebe, Rau, Hirschberger, Deusch and Bélz. This committee met at stated periods at the office of the Arbeiter-Zeitung and formulated orders for the guidance of the groups. Its expenses were met by monthly contributions from all the Socialistic societies. It was under the inspiration of this committee that the Monday night meeting was held. Why the signal for a concerted raid on the police stations, the burning of buildings and the slaughter of capitalists was not given on the fateful night of the Haymarket riot,—or, if given, as seems to be believed in many quarters, in Fielden’s declaration, “We are peaceable,” why it was not carried out completely,—is not explicable upon any other hypothesis than that the courage of the trusted leaders failed them at the critical moment.