The Great Railroad Strike of 1877


In the history of Pittsburgh, it is fact that strikes among workers in mines, mills and factories were common. In 1877, a strike among the railroad occurred that will be remembered as one of the most tragic events to happen in this city. On July19th, flames of riot burst out in the city of Pittsburgh because of a ten cent salary decrease that had been announced previously on the first of June. At first workers were fine with this change because the president of the company, Thomas A. Scott, had promised that there would be a restoration of the cut. As time passed the workers were left with a feeling of discontent which soon transformed into riots. This dramatic change in emotion resulted from another attempt to reduce expenses. The company ordered that all freights on the Pennsylvania-Altoona division run as "double headers." By doing this the company would save the expenses of an extra freight crew by one of fourty cars instead of twenty.
On July 19th, when this order was supposed to take effect, the crew refused to work forcing a replacement crew to come. When this crew arrived they were assaulted by the strikers. These strikers took possession of the switches and shutting down the railroad company and starting the great strike. The Pittsburgh Militia was called in but some of these men sympathized with the strikers forcing the governor to call in the Philadelpha Militia. By the time they had arrived, workers from mines and factories had come to join the strike. The mob threw stones at the troops forcing shots to be fired. A full night of gun shots and rioting endured. A couple days later, the rioters took over the city; burning down buildings and taking over 1,000 freight cars. Another 4,000 troops reached Pittsburgh along with 600 Regulars by General Hancock.
Ten days after the riots had started, the first freight train was sent out Monday morning on July 30th. Troops left the city on the 31st of July leaving back some Regulars who stayed until the end of August. "The Pittsburgh riots were an unpleasant revelation of the fact that all great cities, even American cities, are built over a volcano of popular passion, which at any time is likely to burst forth with its destructive flames of riot and violence" (Macartney 115). The effect of this event effected the city in many ways for years after; banks failed, public credit suffered, and a depression lingered among commerical and industrial enterprises.


Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. Historic Pittsburgh Text Collection. Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Spirit: Addresses at the Chamber of Commerce of Pittsburgh, 1927-1928. Historic Pittsburgh Text Collection. Web. 06 June 2012. <http://digital.library.pitt.edu/cgi-bin/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=pitttext;cc=pitttext;xc=1;idno=00awn8188m;g=pitttextall;q1=great railroad strike;frm=frameset;view=pdf;seq=393;page=root;size=s>.

Macartney, Clarence. Historic Pittsburgh Text Collection. Right Here in Pittsburgh. 107-117. Historic Pittsburgh Text Collection. Web. 06 June 2012. <http://digital.library.pitt.edu/cgi-bin/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=pitttext;cc=pitttext;g=pitttextall;xc=1;q1=great railroad strike;idno=00z209631m;rgn=full text;didno=00z209631m;view=image;seq=119;node=00z209631m:1.18;page=root;size=s;frm=frameset;>.