On this day in 1957, Paul McCartney met John Lennon.
Lennon and his skiffle band, the Quarrymen, were playing at the Woolton Parish Church
Garden Fete, Liverpool. Paul was impressed by Lennon's command of "Be Bop A Lula", and
Lennon was secretly amazed that Paul knew all the words to "20 Flight Rock". Within a week
or so Paul was in the band.
On this date in 1892, 3,800 striking steelworkers engaged in a day-long
battle with Pinkerton agents during the Homestead Strike, leaving 10
dead and dozens wounded. The dispute occurred at the Homestead Steel
Works in the town of Homestead, Pennsylvania, between the Amalgamated
Association of Iron and Steel Workers (the AA) and the Carnegie Steel Company.
The actual fighting was between armed strikers (who had a 20-pounder cannon
in their arsenal) and 300 hired Pinkerton detectives armed with Winchester
repeating rifles. The Pinkertons attempted an amphibious landing at the
beseiged steel mill, arriving in two armored barges. They were trapped in
the vessals and after taking losses all day surrendered. Hugh O'Donnell, head
of the union's strike committee, guaranteed them safe passage out of town.
As the Pinkertons crossed the grounds of the mill, the crowd formed a gauntlet
through which the agents passed. Men and women threw sand and stones at the
Pinkerton agents, spat on them and beat them. Several Pinkertons were clubbed
into unconsciousness. Members of the crowd ransacked the barges, then burned
them to the waterline.
As the Pinkertons were marched through town to the Opera House (which served as a temporary jail), the townspeople continued to assault the agents. Two agents were beaten as horrified town officials looked on. The press expressed shock at the treatment of the Pinkerton agents, and the torrent of abuse helped turn media sympathies away from the strikers.
Soon afterward, Governor Pattison, who had been put in office largely due to Carnegie, called
out the militia and declared martial law. The strike was broken. The final result was a major
defeat for the union, and a setback for efforts to unionize steelworkers.
Hugh O'Donnell, a descendent of one of the
most notable families in Ireland, was admired
by his neighbors and co-workers in Homestead
for several reasons. He was a quick thinker and
an excellent speaker, owned a fine house, and was
"envied for having the prettiest wife in town".
Because of the admiration they had for him, the
steelworkers had chosen O'Donnell as leader of the
strike committee, a position which resulted in his
being blacklisted for life once the strike was over.
His career in the mills finished, O'Donnell traveled
as a manager of the "Edwards Family," a small
orchestra comprised of another blacklisted Homestead
steelworker, John Edwards, and his five children,
through 1893. He then worked as an editor for a
weekly Chicago journal.
Despite ending in defeat, Homestead was an important moment in the history of class
struggle in America. What happened at Homestead was not a riot. It was organized
class violence, consciously controlled by the workers, as part of the struggle. Homestead
demonstrated clearly the capacity of workers to organise their struggles, to resist the
attacks of the capitalist class, to achieve an active solidarity in struggle, to organize
their own power to rival that of the local state apparatus during the struggle, to
organize class violence and exercise it judiciously.
Born This Day:
1907: Frida Kahlo, who said:
I drank to drown my pain, but the damned pain learned how to swim.
1921: Nancy Reagan, who said:
I don't intend for this to take on a political tone. I'm just here for the drugs.
1925: Bill Haley
1927: Janet Leigh
1946: George W. Bush
1975: 50 Cent
Died This Day:
1962: William Faulkner
1971: Louis Armstrong