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Qwiz5 Quizbowl Essentials: Haymarket Square Riot

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

On May 4, 1886, a bomb went off at a labor demonstration outside of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Plant in Haymarket Square in Chicago, sparking a riot that killed eleven and wounded more than a hundred people. Eight men were convicted for their role in the incident, four of whom were eventually hanged.

A depiction of the 1886 Haymarket Square Riot. Part of the Qwiz5 series by Qwiz Quizbowl Camp, written to help quiz bowl teams power more tossups!

By analyzing questions, you can see patterns emerge, patterns that will help you answer questions. Qwiz5 is all about those patterns. In each installment of Qwiz5, we take an answer line and look at its five most common clues. Here we explore five clues that will help you answer a tossup on "The Haymarket Square Riot"

August Spies August Spies was the editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, a labor newspaper. Along with Albert Parsons, Spies organized the demonstration at the McCormick Plant. At the rally, he gave a speech atop an open wagon where he famously advised the striking workers to ”hold together”.

Samuel Fielden

Samuel Fielden was the final speaker at the rally. Shortly after he spoke, a bomb (most likely set by Rudolph Schnaubelt) exploded, killing police officer Mathias Degan. In the ensuing riot, seven police officers and four strikers were killed.

Louis Lingg

Louis Lingg was convicted of murder and sentenced to death for his role in manufacturing the bomb that killed police officer Mathias Degan. The day before his scheduled execution, however, Lingg comitted suicide in his jail cell by lighting a piece of dynamite he had hidden in a cigar.

John Peter Altgeld

In 1893, seven years after the incident, Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld pardoned Oscar Neebe, Samuel Fielden and Michael Schwab. Six years earlier, Illinois governor Richard Oglesby had commuted the sentences of Fielden and Schwab from death to life in prison.

Knights of Labor

The Knights of Labor were a powerful labor union that was founded in 1869 by Uriah Stephens. Its association with the violence of the Haymarket incident led to a significant decrease in membership - from 800,000 at the time of the Haymarket incident to less than 100,000 just four years later.


Quizbowl is about learning, not rote memorization, so we encourage you to use this as a springboard for further reading rather than as an endpoint. Here are a few things to check out:

* The Illinois Labor History Society maintains a website dedicated to the incident with great information and documents about the event. You can even contribute to the Haymarket Memorial through a link on the website.

* Northwestern University has a great collection of resources about the Haymarket incident with first-hand accounts, photographs and more.

* Listen to an NPR interview with author James Green who talks about his book “Death in the Haymarket”.

* Watch a short PBS documentary about the Haymarket Square Riot here:


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