Source: Library of Congress

Haymarket Riot
Chicago, Illinois
May 4, 1886


...When the first dynamite bomb was thrown

A more complete collection can be found through the American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress

On the evening of May 4, 1886, the first dynamite bomb exploded during a Union Labor Rally in the Haymarket Square, in Chicago.

For several days prior, meetings of dissatisfied workingmen had been addressed by orators who sought to inflame the worst passions of their hearers. The excitement (previously more or less under restraint) culminated on the date mentioned. Haymarket Square in Chicago is a broad open space formed by the widening of West Randolph Street for an open air produce market. An immense concourse assembled there on the evening named inflammatory speeches were made from a cart, which was used as a sort of improvised platform.

During the earlier part of the meeting the Mayor (Carter H. Harrison) was present, but upon his withdrawal the oratory became more impassioned and incendiary. Towards midnight someone, whose identity has never been thoroughly proved, threw a dynamite bomb into the ranks of the police who, under command of Inspector John Bonfield, had ordered the dispersal of the crowd and were endeavoring to enforce the command. Simultaneously a score of men lay dead or bleeding in the street. The majority of the crowd fled, pursued by the officers.

As a result, 7 police officers died: The officers who were killed included Patrolmen Mathias Degan, Patrolman John Barrett, Patrolman George Miller, Patrolman Timothy Flavin, Patrolman Thomas Redden, Patrolman Nels Hansen and Patrolman Michael Sheehan.


Patrolman Michael Sheehan
Chicago Police Department, Illinois
End of Watch: Sunday, May 9, 1886
Incident Details
Cause of Death: Bomb
Date of Incident: Tuesday, May 4, 1886
Weapon Used: Explosives; Bomb
Suspect Info: Not available

Patrolman Sheehan succumbed to wounds received in a bomb blast five days earlier.

Related Line of Duty Deaths
Patrolman Mathias J. Degan
Chicago Police Department, IL
EOW: Tuesday, May 4, 1886
Cause of Death: Bomb

Patrolman John J. Barrett
Chicago Police Department, IL
EOW: Thursday, May 6, 1886
Cause of Death: Bomb

Patrolman George Miller
Chicago Police Department, IL
EOW: Thursday, May 6, 1886
Cause of Death: Bomb

Patrolman Timothy Flavin
Chicago Police Department, IL
EOW: Saturday, May 8, 1886
Cause of Death: Gunfire

Patrolman Thomas Redden
Chicago Police Department, IL
EOW: Monday, May 17, 1886
Cause of Death: Bomb

Patrolman Nels Hansen
Chicago Police Department, IL
EOW: Monday, June 14, 1886
Cause of Death: Bomb

Numerous arrests followed during the night and the succeeding morning, and search was made in the office of the principal Anarchistic organ, which resulted in the discovery of considerable evidence of an incriminating character. A Grand Jury of Cook County found indictments for murder against eight of the suspected leaders, all of whom were convicted after a trial extending over several months, both the State and the defense being represented by some of the ablest counsel at the Chicago bar.

Seven of the accused were condemned to death and one (Oscar Neebe) was given twenty years' imprisonment. The death sentence of two, Samuel Fielden and Justus Schwab, was subsequently commuted by Governor Oglesby to life imprisonment, but executive clemency was extended in 1893 by Governor Altgeld to all three of those serving terms in the penitentiary. Of those condemned to execution, one (Louis Linng) committed suicide in the county jail by exploding between his teeth a small dynamite bomb which he had surreptitiously obtained.

The remaining four (August Spies, Albert D. Parsons, Louis Engel and Adolph Fischer) were hanged in the county jail at Chicago on November 14, 1887. The affair attracted wide attention, not only throughout the United States but in other countries also.


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