this day in crime history: september 2, 1885

On this day in 1885, white miners working at the Union Pacific coal mine in Rock Springs, WY started a riot that resulted in the murder of over two dozen Chinese immigrants.

The trouble started at the beginning of the work day when ten white miners showed up on the work site and announced that Chinese miners were banned from a more productive part of the mine (workers were paid per ton of coal they mined, making certain work locations more desirable). The confrontation resulted in a fight in which two Chinese miners were beaten. One of the beaten men later died of his wounds.

The white miners walked off the job, resulting in a work stoppage. They went into town where they gathered at local bars, and at the Knights of Labor (a union that was trying to organize the white miners). After a few hours of drinking and fuming about the Chinese miners (who worked for less money than the white miners, and were blamed by the whites for low wages), a large group of white miners headed for Chinatown. Many of the miners were armed.

In the ensuing chaos, 28 Chinese miners were killed, 15 were wounded, and 79 homes were burned to the ground. Many of the homes were looted by white miners before they were burned. At the request of the territorial governor, the Army was called in to restore order.

Sixteen men were eventually arrested, but the grand jury refused to indict them. They returned to a hero’s welcome in Rock Springs. No one was ever successfully prosecuted for the crimes committed that day.

Further reading:

History Matters – “To This We Dissented”: The Rock Springs Riot

Wikipedia – Rock Springs Massacre

Wikipedia – List of victims of the Rock Springs massacre

Advertisements

this day in crime history: july 30, 1975

On this date in 1975, former (and wannabe future) teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa disappeared. Hoffa was scheduled to have a sit-down at the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield, MI with Detroit mobster Anthony “Tony Jack” Giacalone and New Jersey labor leader Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano. Tony Pro, by the way, was also a made member of the Genovese crime family.

Hoffa’s plan was to mount a court challenge to a federal ban on his participation in union activities that would have kept him out of the Teamsters until 1981. With that out of the way, he could challenge his successor Frank Fitzsimmons for control of the Teamsters. Sadly for Jimmy, it looks like the mob had other ideas. He was last seen leaving the restaurant parking lot in an unidentified car.

Further reading:

Crime Museum – Jimmy Hoffa

Wikipedia – Jimmy Hoffa

this day in crime history: may 30, 1937

mdm1937

On this date in 1937, ten unarmed demonstrators were shot and killed by Chicago Police outside the Republic Steel mill. The demonstrators were members of the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC) of the Congress of Industrial Organizations. They were on strike against Republic and other steel companies that had refused to sign a labor agreement similar to one reached with U.S. Steel, the largest of the American steel companies.

On Memorial Day, hundreds gathered at SWOC headquarters and prepared to march on Republic Steel. As they neared the mill, their path was blocked by members of the Chicago Police Department. The protestors were told to turn back. When they refused, the police answered with tear gas, billy clubs and bullets. Ten of the protestors were killed, dozens more were injured.

A coroner’s jury would later rule the deaths as “justifiable homicide.”

If you’d like to judge for yourself whether deadly force was justified, check out this video of the incident. The violence starts about five and a half minutes into the video. Not a great moment in Chicago Police history.

Further reading:

Wikipedia: Memorial Day Massacre of 1937

Chicagoist – Flashback: Memorial Day Massacre of 1937

this day in crime history: april 10, 1936

1936bomb

On this date in 1936 in Pennsylvania,  former union head Thomas Maloney unwittingly detonated a mail bomb that had been sent to him. The bomb was hidden inside a cigar box, and Maloney, a former union official, opened it on his kitchen table. His sixteen year old daughter and four year old son were with him when the bomb exploded. Maloney and his son eventually died from their wounds. The daughter was seriously injured and required lengthy hospitalization.

Maloney was not the only target of the bomber. Local school director Michael Gallagher was killed when he opened a similar package he had received in the mail. Former Sheriff Luther Kniffen, another intended victim of the bomber was spared when the bomb sent to him failed to detonate when he opened it. Three more bombs were intercepted before being opened. The press began referring to the incident as the Good Friday bombings.

By July 1st, the police had arrested coal miner Michael Fugmann for the bombings. His motive was believed to be revenge for the actions of his victims during recent labor conflicts.  Fugmann was tried the following September. He denied guilt, but was convicted after a two week trial and sentenced to death. He was executed in the electric chair at Rockview State prison on July 17, 1938.

Further reading:

Citensvoice.com – Mail bomb spree by disgruntled coal miner marks 75th anniversary

timesleader.com – 80 years ago, Luzerne county hit by Good Friday Bombings

this day in crime history: december 30, 1905

Frank Steunenberg

On this date in 1905, former Idaho Governor Frank Steunenberg was killed by a bomb that was rigged to a gate at his home. While in office, Steunenberg took a tough stand against the Western Federation of Miners during a period of labor unrest. Former WFM member Albert Horsley (a/k/a Harry Orchard) was arrested for the crime. Legendary Pinkerton detective James McParland headed up the investigation. McParland pressured Horsley into implicating three high-ranking WFM officials as co-conspirators. Horsley was ultimately convicted of Steunenberg’s murder, but his testimony against the other men was discredited. Two of them were acquitted at trial, and charges were dropped against the third. Albert Horsley was sentenced to death by the court, but the sentence was later commuted to life in prison. He died in prison in 1954 at the age of 87.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Frank Steunenberg

Wikipedia – Albert Horsley

Find a Grave – Frank Steunenberg

Idaho Meanderings: Steunenberg, Trial of the Century, Labor, Legal, Political History

this day in crime history: november 11, 1919

AmLeg

On this date 1919, four members of the American Legion were shot and killed during an Armistice Day parade in Centralia, WA. The men were shot by members of the Industrial Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies.

The incident started when members of a local Legion post passed in front of the Wobblies’ union hall in Centralia. Legion post commander Warren Grimm was shot in the chest by a Wobbly sniper. Legionnaire Arthur McElfresh was next, shot in head by a rifle from long distance. At that point, Legionnaires stormed the Wobbly building. Legionnaires Ben Cassagranda and Dale Hubbard were killed by armed Wobblies after they moved on the union hall. Five more Legionnaires were injured. A number of Wobblies inside the building were captured and turned over to law enforcement.

That night, a crowd stormed the local jail and took IWW member Wesley Everest from his cell. They brought him to the Chehalis River Bridge and lynched him. This, and other actions by vigilantes, led to the governor sending the National Guard to Centralia to quell the unrest.

There are two versions of how the shooting started. The Legionnaires claimed that they stormed the Wobbly hall after Grimm and McElfresh were shot in the street. The Wobblies claimed they did not open fire until after the Legionnaires stormed the hall. They had only armed themselves in self defense after multiple attacks on IWW members in the months leading up to the incident. But the first two men killed were shot at long range with rifles. The blood trails from both men indicated they were shot while standing in the street, over 100 feet from the Wobbly hall.

A trial was eventually held in Montesano, WA. Seven Wobblies were convicted of second degree murder. They received prison sentences of 25-40 years. Six of the men were paroled in 1931 and 1932. The seventh was paroled in 1939. No one was ever charged with the murder of Wesley Everest.

Further reading:

Wikipedia – Centralia Massacre (Washington)

University of Washington – Essay: The Centralia Massacre

this day in crime history: september 2, 1885

On this day in 1885, white miners working at the Union Pacific coal mine in Rock Springs, WY started a riot that resulted in the murder of over two dozen Chinese immigrants.

The trouble started at the beginning of the work day when ten white miners showed up on the work site and announced that Chinese miners were banned from a more productive part of the mine (workers were paid per ton of coal they mined, making certain work locations more desirable). The confrontation resulted in a fight in which two Chinese miners were beaten. One of the beaten men later died of his wounds.

The white miners walked off the job, resulting in a work stoppage. They went into town where they gathered at local bars, and at the Knights of Labor (a union that was trying to organize the white miners). After a few hours of drinking and fuming about the Chinese miners (who worked for less money than the white miners, and were blamed by the whites for low wages), a large group of white miners headed for Chinatown. Many of the miners were armed.

In the ensuing chaos, 28 Chinese miners were killed, 15 were wounded, and 79 homes were burned to the ground. Many of the homes were looted by white miners before they were burned. At the request of the territorial governor, the Army was called in to restore order.

Sixteen men were eventually arrested, but the grand jury refused to indict them. They returned to a hero’s welcome in Rock Springs. No one was ever successfully prosecuted for the crimes committed that day.

Further reading:

History Matters – “To This We Dissented”: The Rock Springs Riot

Wikipedia – Rock Springs Massacre

Wikipedia – List of victims of the Rock Springs massacre