United States and American History: Early 1892

About the history of the United States in 1892, Ellis Island opens, Miner's Strike, unions fight, Pinkertons are sent in.


--Ward McAllister coined the expression, "The 400," meaning the social elite. This was inspired by the fact that New York's Astor Hotel ballroom held only 400 persons at one time.

--One hundred and sixty blacks were reported lynched. Over 1,400 had been lynched since 1882.

--World bantamweight boxing champion George Dixon refused to fight in the New Orleans Olympic Club unless the proprietors set aside 700 seats for blacks. It was the 1st time that black spectators were allowed in the club.

Jan. 1 Ellis Island was opened to screen all immigrants. Twenty million immigrants went through it in 62 years before it was closed down in 1954.

June 11 A striking miner was fired on by guards at the Frisco Mill in Coeur d'Alene, Ida. The miners surrounded the mill, which was being run by strikebreakers, and a battle raged. The miners loaded a car with gunpowder and sent it down the hill with a short fuse, demolishing the old mill. There were no injuries, but the strikebreakers surrendered. The miners then peaceably occupied other mills and plants in the area. The sheriff and marshal, having been elected by the miners, refused to act against them. Martial law was declared, but the militia was unable to control the situation, so Federal troops were sent in and the striking miners were imprisoned in stockade enclosures surrounded by barbed wire. The Government indicted 480 men, but none were convicted.

July 2 Henry Clay Frick, the manager of Andrew Carnegie's steelworks in Homestead, Pa., laid off the entire work force of 3,800 workers because they insisted on negotiating a new contract as union members instead of as individuals. In preparation for the strike, Frick had stepped up production and constructed a 12'-high fence, topped with barbed wire, around the entire plant. The fence was 3 mi. long. He also sent for 300 Pinkerton guards. At this time, the Pinkerton Agency employed 2,000 active agents and had 30,000 reserves, which was more than the standing Army of the U.S.

At 3 A.M. on July 6, strike supporters in Pittsburgh spotted the Pinkertons on a barge headed for Homestead. At 4 A.M., a mounted sentry burst into Homestead shouting, "The Pinkertons are coming." Ten thousand workers, their families and supporters raced to the landing armed with sticks, stones, nail-studded clubs, and hundreds of rifles and guns. The Pinkertons, armed with Winchester repeaters, tried to land and shooting started. All day the Pinkertons were kept under heavy attack and prevented from landing. At the end of the day, the Pinkertons mutinied and surrendered to the workers, who forced them to run a bloody gauntlet in which all were injured. Forty strikers had been shot and 9 were killed. Twenty Pinkertons had been shot and 7 died.

On July 12, Governor Pattison sent in 8,000 state militiamen armed with Springfield 45s and Gatling guns. They were welcomed by the strikers and the soldiers fraternized with the people of Homestead until they were forbidden to do so by General Snowden. Said Snowden: "Pennsylvanians can hardly appreciate the actual communism of these people. They believe the works are theirs quite as much as Carnegie's."

Strikebreakers were brought in to run the works, but they often deserted. In Cincinnati, 56 men who were told that they were being hired to work at one mill were actually put on a train to Homestead. When they discovered their true destination, 35 battled their way out of the train. The rest were held prisoner inside the mill and forced to work. Over 160 strikers were arrested, including the leaders, who were charged with murder. All were acquitted, and then recharged, this time for treason. No Pittsburgh jury found a single striker guilty, but the strikers' money was eventually depleted from paying legal fees and posting bail and when it ran out, the leaders were still in jail. On November 18, the unskilled workers asked to be released from the strike pledge and the strike ended 2 days later with the men returning as individuals, not as a union.

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