Tuesday, May 12, 2015


A PHOTOGRAPHIC TALE, by Dennis A. Wilson
We have been scanning and accessioning photographs for years now, and as the items pass by they often present a mystery.  What is this?  Why is it here?  About three years ago I came across photos of Anniston, Alabama taken in the 1890's.  I wondered what these photos had to do with Grant County history.  Later I scanned a collection of photos of Company E of the Wisconsin National Guard taken in 1889 at Camp Douglas.  A little research revealed that this was a unit formed in Milwaukee.  I found a collection of photos of the same company in the collection of the Milwaukee Public Library.  How was it that we had these?  The last item, found by Joe Sherwin in our Collection, was a souvenir album of Company E printed in about 1894. 
     This is still an incomplete investigation, but what I have discovered makes an interesting story.  Maybe someone will read this who can help piece together the entire story. 
The Wisconsin National Guard unit made up of local businessmen were under orders by Governor Rusk to "shoot to kill" if strikers tried to enter the mills.  As strikers stood about 200 yards from the gate the guard opened fire, killing seven.  Of those, one was a 13 year old boy who had come to watch and another a retiree who was drawing water.        On May 5, 1886 a massive demonstration occurred in Bay View, a suburb of Milwaukee, outside the Milwaukee Iron Company rolling mill.  About 14,000 strikers, many with their wives and children were demanding an eight hour day.  Most workers were then working 10 hours a day,
 six days a week for as little as 90 cents a day.
     Afterward Gov. Rusk was lionized for his “forceful action” by the businessmen and industrialists who provided him a private train for his personal use.