Chicago in the late nineteenth century exemplified the Gilded Age. While the wealthy lived in excess, the working class struggled to survive on low wages and long working hours. To the distress of the upper classes, labor groups began to organize and threatened the established way of life.
Of all the labor groups, the anarachists, who advocated using dynamite, were feared the most. Chicago anarchists combined with local labor groups to support the eight-hour day movement in May 1886. A series of strikes, known as the Great Upheaval, began and were peaceful until an incident at McCormick's Reaper Works erupted in violence.
As newspaper editor and anarchist August Spies was addressing a rally, striking workers broke from the crowd to attack the strikebreakers, or scabs, hired by the company. When the police arrived, the crowd threw stones, causing gunfire to break out. Infuriated by what he had witnessed, Spies left the scene and wrote the "Revenge Circular" calling workingmen to retalliate.
Picture 1: Dave Roediger and Franklin Rosemont, Haymarket Scrapbook, (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr Publishing Company, 1986),13.
Picture 2: Chicago Historic Society, Haymarket Affair Digital Collection. The Dramas of Haymarket. http://www.chicagohistory.org/dramas/overview/over.htm