The great Pullman Strike
occurred when three-thousand Pullman Palace Car Company workers went on a "wildcat" (without Union
starting on May 11
of that year. The men were protesting job, wage and working hour cuts initiated by George Pullman
(who was responding to a fall-off of business in 1894) on the one hand while he did not lower rents, utility charges and the cost of products to his workers on the other. The strike
, which effectively shut down passenger (and much of freight) rail
and cut off supplies to Chicago after the unions of many railroads decided to block Pullman (and, subsequently, Wagner Palace) cars from traveling, was eventually broken-up by federal troops sent in by President Grover Cleveland
. Cleveland claimed the strike interfered with delivery of U.S. mail. In the end, 13 strikers were killed and 57 wounded.
The height of the violence came around July 6
and July 7
, when strikers set fire to yards full of non-Pullman railcars. Before this peak, on July 5
, somebody put the buildings of the Columbian Exposition around the exposition's Court of Honour to the torch, burning down the administrations hall, the manufacturer's hall, the electricity hall, the machinery hall, the mining hall, the agricultural hall, and the fair's train station. Some contemporaries, such as W.T. Stead, the author of Chicago To-day, or the Labour War in America
(printed in London, 1894, by William Clowes and Sons, and reprinted in New York, 1969, by Arno Press and the New York Times), have blamed the strikers for the destruction of the Columbian Exposition's buildings, and that destruction may have influenced people to burn the railcars.