Wednesday, May 04, 2011


May 4, 1886 – Today in bar history.
Today marks yet another anniversary of the Chicago Haymarket Square Riot, which polarized Americans for many years after. Many, like Emma Goldman, who were merely sympathetic with labor and anti-establishment philosophy, became anarchists, while others, who had no sympathy for unions and labor activists, became hard-liner anti-immigrant anti-saloonists.

The connection between Haymarket and the saloons may not be immediate apparent. But it is greater than you might even imagine, since German-born American Anarchists and labour leaders organized almost entirely in saloons. And the bomb which was thrown at the Chicago riot was traced (albeit, probably erroneously) to the “Monday Night Conspiracy,” which was said to have been hatched in a saloon.

Those convicted for having taken part in the conspiracy were victims of an unfair judicial process, to be sure. And this fact made many moderate labour activists far more militant. As I mentioned before, on the other side, those concerned about “foreign-born” terrorism made the most out of the link between the bomb and the saloon and worked to have it shut down. The Anti-Saloon League was formed within a decade of the Haymarket Affair. My soon-to-be-released book, America Walks into a Bar, detailing more of this story available for pre-order here.