Cover image for Streets, railroads, and the Great Strike of 1877
Title:
Streets, railroads, and the Great Strike of 1877
Author:
Stowell, David O. (David Omar)
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 181 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Based on the author's Ph. D. thesis.
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780226776682

9780226776699
Format :
Book

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HD5325.R2 1877 S76 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Grosvenor Room-Buffalo Collection Non-Circ
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Summary

Summary

For one week in late July of 1877, America shook with anger and fear as a variety of urban residents, mostly working class, attacked railroad property in dozens of towns and cities. The Great Strike of 1877 was one of the largest and most violent urban uprisings in American history.

Whereas most historians treat the event solely as a massive labor strike that targeted the railroads, David O. Stowell examines America's predicament more broadly to uncover the roots of this rebellion. He studies the urban origins of the Strike in three upstate New York cities--Buffalo, Albany, and Syracuse. He finds that locomotives rumbled through crowded urban spaces, sending panicked horses and their wagons careening through streets. Hundreds of people were killed and injured with appalling regularity. The trains also disrupted street traffic and obstructed certain forms of commerce. For these reasons, Stowell argues, The Great Strike was not simply an uprising fueled by disgruntled workers. Rather, it was a grave reflection of one of the most direct and damaging ways many people experienced the Industrial Revolution.

"Through meticulously crafted case studies . . . the author advances the thesis that the strike had urban roots, that in substantial part it represented a community uprising. . . .A particular strength of the book is Stowell's description of the horrendous accidents, the toll in human life, and the continual disruption of craft, business, and ordinary movement engendered by building railroads into the heart of cities."--Charles N. Glaab, American Historical Review


Summary

For one week in late July of 1877, America shook with anger and fear as a variety of urban residents, mostly working class, attacked railroad property in dozens of towns and cities. The Great Strike of 1877 was one of the largest and most violent urban uprisings in American history.

Whereas most historians treat the event solely as a massive labor strike that targeted the railroads, David O. Stowell examines America's predicament more broadly to uncover the roots of this rebellion. He studies the urban origins of the Strike in three upstate New York cities--Buffalo, Albany, and Syracuse. He finds that locomotives rumbled through crowded urban spaces, sending panicked horses and their wagons careening through streets. Hundreds of people were killed and injured with appalling regularity. The trains also disrupted street traffic and obstructed certain forms of commerce. For these reasons, Stowell argues, The Great Strike was not simply an uprising fueled by disgruntled workers. Rather, it was a grave reflection of one of the most direct and damaging ways many people experienced the Industrial Revolution.

"Through meticulously crafted case studies . . . the author advances the thesis that the strike had urban roots, that in substantial part it represented a community uprising. . . .A particular strength of the book is Stowell's description of the horrendous accidents, the toll in human life, and the continual disruption of craft, business, and ordinary movement engendered by building railroads into the heart of cities."--Charles N. Glaab, American Historical Review


Reviews 2

Choice Review

Labor history is often written in the context of class wars or nascent union politics. This brief work questions traditional approaches and urges readers to think differently of the railway strikes of 1877. Stowell (Keene State College) invites discussion of larger concerns over the urban environment, the intrusion of the railroad into the neighborhoods, and the loss of control over urban surroundings. The argument is provocative although at times strident. Using a comparison of three New York communities--Albany, Buffalo, and Syracuse--during the strikes of 1877, the author argues that the incidents were much more than workers striking for higher wages or workplace control. The incidents were those of urban crowds seeking control over urban space. Strike results were less than satisfying and, in many ways, underscored the degree to which the state would enlist military assistance to bring about the imposition of an industrial order on urban space. The argument is sustained by detailed accounts of the cities, a close look at several specific incidents, and a solid grounding in the secondary literature. This specialized study is most appropriate for graduate and faculty collections supporting research in US history and labor studies. T. F. Armstrong Texas Wesleyan University


Choice Review

Labor history is often written in the context of class wars or nascent union politics. This brief work questions traditional approaches and urges readers to think differently of the railway strikes of 1877. Stowell (Keene State College) invites discussion of larger concerns over the urban environment, the intrusion of the railroad into the neighborhoods, and the loss of control over urban surroundings. The argument is provocative although at times strident. Using a comparison of three New York communities--Albany, Buffalo, and Syracuse--during the strikes of 1877, the author argues that the incidents were much more than workers striking for higher wages or workplace control. The incidents were those of urban crowds seeking control over urban space. Strike results were less than satisfying and, in many ways, underscored the degree to which the state would enlist military assistance to bring about the imposition of an industrial order on urban space. The argument is sustained by detailed accounts of the cities, a close look at several specific incidents, and a solid grounding in the secondary literature. This specialized study is most appropriate for graduate and faculty collections supporting research in US history and labor studies. T. F. Armstrong Texas Wesleyan University


Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The "Industrial Revolution Incarnate"
2 The Contested Terrain of the Streets
3 Striking against the Railroads
4 Who Was in the Crowd?
5 The Aftermath Conclusion: The Great Strike as Urban History Notes Selected
Bibliography
Index
List of Illustrations
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 The "Industrial Revolution Incarnate"
2 The Contested Terrain of the Streets
3 Striking against the Railroads
4 Who Was in the Crowd?
5 The Aftermath Conclusion: The Great Strike as Urban History Notes Selected
Bibliography
Index