United States and American History: 1907 & the Haywood Case

About the history of the United States in 1907 and the Haywood case, the minors union fought out in court, U.S. Steel involved and given a pass.


Aug. The death of former Idaho governor Frank Steunenberg by an assassin's bomb began the Haywood case, one of the most renowned trials in American labor history. Steunenberg, a "friend of miners" when elected in 1896 and reelected in 1898, earned the wrath of the miners when he called in troops during the miners' strike in Coeur d'Alene in 1899. Local police arrested Harry Orchard and turned him over to James McParland, Pinkerton special investigator. No friend of unions, McParland earned a reputation as a strikebreaker during the Molly Maguires' conspiracy in Pennsylvania in the 188os. Under McParland's investigation, Orchard not only admitted his guilt but also confessed that he had been a tool of the Western Federation of Miners "inner circle."

On February 17, 1906, Big Bill Haywood, secretary of the WFM; Charles Moyer, president of the WFM; and George Pettibone, a blacklisted miner, were arrested without warrant and extradicted to Idaho. Taken from their homes in Denver, Colo., during the middle of the night, the 3 men were transported to Boise, Ida., and put in cells in the death house. It was 18 months before Haywood, the 1st to be tried, was vindicated. Under the brilliant defense of Clarence Darrow, who gave an 11-hour summation, Big Bill was acquitted in August, 1907. (In attendance at the opening of the trial on June 24 was actress Ethel Barrymore, who had come to town for a one-night stand in her hit Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines. She commented most favorably on the jury, "the most wonderful looking men I've ever seen...the bluest eyes used to looking great distances.")

In spite of President Roosevelt's unprecedented comment that the 3 union officials were "undesirable citizens," throughout the ordeal Haywood received unanimous support from the IWW, WFM, Socialist party, Socialist Labor party, and the AFL, in a rare show of solidarity. Oct. Overspeculating by "reckless operators"-plus a money shortage caused by the Russian-Japanese War, the rebuilding of San Francisco, railroad expansion and the general growth of the economy-created a panic situation in 1907. Rumors spread like wildfire and people began to withdraw their deposits from any bank or trust company that was suspected of being in danger. The Knickerbocker Trust Company, with $67 million in deposits and 18,000 depositors, was the largest trust company to fail. President Roosevelt, who by his own admission was bored by economics, was off shooting bear in Louisiana. That left financier J. Pierpont Morgan, whose enormous interests would suffer greatly from a depression or panic, to salvage the rapidly deteriorating New York financial world. Morgan locked the leading bank presidents in the East Room of his new marble library, forcing them to come up with a solution. By pumping millions into failing trust companies, they were able to stem the tide. Morgan rescued the stockmarket when his U.S. Steel Corporation purchased Tennessee Coal and Iron (TC&I) for $25 million. A grateful President Roosevelt rewarded him by granting U.S. Steel Corporation immunity from prosecution under the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

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