On Saturday afternoon, friends and family of Bill Adelman, the man who made the Haymarket Martyrs monument a national landmark, gathered around it to remember him and kick off a fundraising campaign to restore 117-year-old sculpture.
The group caravanned to Forest Home Cemetery from Dominican University in River Forest, where the Illinois Labor History Society, an organization Adelman had founded, held its first annual meeting without him.
Adelman, an Oak Parker who died late last year at 77, was a professor of industrial and labor relations at the University of Illinois Chicago. Beyond that, according to Larry Spivack, president of the labor history society, Adelman was a master storyteller who devoted his life to making people aware of Chicago’s significance in the American eight-hour work day. Spivack says Adelman wanted Chicagoans to be proud that Chicago was the birthplace of May Day’s significance to the international labor movement.
“During the Cold War, we were nervous on May 1, watching the Russians and communists marching on TV,” says Spivack, noting that few Americans may know the local connection.
“It turns out that it was the workers’ holiday all around the world, and had started in Chicago. I had to get to college to find out that it has to do with Haymarket in Chicago. An entire world of workers mobilizes to march on May 1 to remember the martyrs of Haymarket. Bill Adelman became determined that we remembered Haymarket in America.”
The goal in restoring the monument is to raise $30,000.
“It’s got lots of graffiti and the bronze plaques have been stolen,” said Spivack, who led the memorial service. State Sen. Don Harmon was present to read a proclamation honoring Adelman.
“When this man dies, it will be like a library burning down in the city,” a Colorado history teacher had blogged about Adelman last summer.
Haymarket? Don’t call it a riot
“Haymarket Event” or “Haymarket Tragedy” is the preferred term for the events of May 4, 1886, says Larry Spivack, president of the Illinois Labor History Society.
A confrontation between workers and police at DesPlaines and Randolph, the spot that was Chicago’s marketplace for hay, turned violent; a bomb was thrown and seven policemen died, as did at least four workers.
The event was a spillover of national strikes for the eight-hour workday on May 1, in which 80,000 Chicago workers participated. Typical workdays in 1886 lasted 14 to 15 hours, says Spivack. The day before, strikers at McCormick Reapers Plant in Pilsen had been shot by police. Four German-immigrant labor leaders were railroaded and hanged for the Haymarket Event, and one died in prison that night. In 1893, Illinois Gov. John Peter Altgeld posthumously pardoned the four and released the remaining three “instigators” from prison.