American Working-Class Literature: An Anthology

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American Working-Class Literature: An Anthology

American Working-Class Literature An Anthology EDITED BY Nicholas Coles University of Pittsburgh Janet Zandy Rochester

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American Working-Class Literature An Anthology EDITED BY

Nicholas Coles University of Pittsburgh

Janet Zandy Rochester Institute of Technology


Oxford University Press, Inc., publishes works that further Oxford University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education.

To first generation college students And to Tillie Olsen and her vision of creativity "as an enormous and universal human capacity"

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]. Z.

To John and Carmel Coles for their love and their sense of justice

With offices in Argentina Austria Brazil Chile Czech Republic France Greece Guatemala Hungary Italy Japan Poland Portugal Singapore South Korea Switzerland Thailand Turkey Ukraine Vietnam


Copyright © 2007 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Published by Oxford University Press, Inc. 19R Madison Avenue, New York, New York 10016 http:!/ Oxford is a registered trademark of Oxford University Press All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior permission of Oxford University Press.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data American working-class literature : an anthology I edited by Nicholas Coles, Janet Zandy. p. em. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN-1 0: 0-19-514456-2 (pbk. : acid-free paper) ISBN-13: 978-0-19-514456-7 1. Working class writings, American. 2. Working class-Literary collections. I. Coles, Nicholas. II. Zandy, Janet, 1945PS508.W73A835 2006 81 0.8'09220623-dc22


Frontispiece: Elizabeth Olds, Harlem Da11ccrs, 1939 (wood cut). The University of Michigan Museum of Art, gift of the U.S. Government, WP.A. Federal Art Project.

" ' ,., l

Printing number: 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper






I. Early American Labor: Hard, Bound, and Free 1600s-1810s "The Trappan'd Maiden: or, the Distressed Damsel" (mid-16UOs) 6 7 James Revel, "The Poor, Unhappy Transported Felon" (16!->0s) Gottlieb Mittelberger, "Gottlieb Mittelberger's Journey to Pennsylvania in tiK Year 1750 and Return to Germany in the Year 1754" (1754) 13 "Petition of a Grate Number of Blackes" to Thomas Gage, May 25, 1774 16 Olaudah Equiano, ["I Was in Another World: The Slave Ship"]* fi·om 7/ic Interesting Narrative of the Life o( Olaud of science. Why should JEschylu'i have sung two thousand years before Shakespeare was born' Why has civilization flouri'ihed in Europe, and flickered, flamed, and died in Africa? So long as the world 'itands meekly dumb before such questions, shall this nation proclaim its ignorance and unhallowed prejudices by denying freedom of opportunity to those who brought the Sorrmv Songs to the Seats of the

"Jctz Gch i' an\ brunele, trink' aber net."

Of death the Negro shmved little fear, but talked of it familiarly and even fondly as simply a crmsing of the waters, perhaps-v;ho kno\vs'-back to his ancient forests again. Later days transfigured his fatalism, and amid the dust and dirt the toiler sang: "'Dust, dust and ashes, Av over my grave, But the Lord shall bear my spirit home."

Mighty? Your country? Hmv came it yours? Before the Pilgrims landed we were here. Here we have brought our three gifts and mingled them with yours: a gift of story and song-soft. stirring melody in an ill-harmonized and unmelodious land; the gift of sweat and brawn to beat back the wilderness, conquer the soiL and lay the foundations of this vast economic empire two hundred years earlier than your \Wak hands could have done it; the third, a gift of the Spirit. Around us the history of the land has centered for thrice a hundred years; out of the nation's heart we have called all that was best to throttle and subdue all that was worst; f1re and blood, prayer and sacrifice, ha\'e billowed over this people, and they have found peace only in the altars of the God of Right. Nor has our gift of the Spirit been merely passive. Actively we have woven ourselves with the very warp and \Voof of this nation,-\ve fought their battles, shared their sorrmv, mingled our blood with theirs, and generation after generation have pleaded with a headstrong, careless people to despise not Justice, Mercy, and Truth, lest the nation be smitten with a curse. Our song, our toiL our cheer, and warning have been given to this nation in blood-brotherhood. Are not these gifts worth the giving? Is not this work and striving) Would America have been America without her Negro people? Even so is the hope that sang in the songs of my father well sung. If somewhere in this whirl and chaos of things there dwells Eternal Good, pitiful yet master±l.JL then anon in His good time America shall rend the Veil and the prisoned shall go fi.·ee. Free, tree as the sunshine trickling down the morning into these high windows of mine, free as yonder tresh vounb()" voices wellin()" un~ to me from the caverns ofbrick and mortar below-swellinu . b ~· with song, instinct vvith life, tremulous treble and darkening bass. My children, my little children, are singing to the sunshine, and thm they sing:

The things evidently borrowed trom the surrounding world undergo characteristic change \Vhen they enter the mouth of the slave. Especially is this true of Bible phrases. "Weep, 0 captive daughter of Zion," is quaintly turned into ''Zion, weep-a-low," and the wheels of Ezekiel are turned every way in the mystic dreaming of the slave, till he says: "'There\ a little \vhccl a-turn in' in-a-my heart."

As in olden time, the words of these hymns were improvised by some leading minstrel of the religious band. The circumstances of the gathering, however, the rhythm of the songs, and the limitations of allowable thought, confined the poetry for the most part to single or double lines, and they seldom were expanded to quatrains or longer tales, although there arc some few examples of sustained efforts, chiefly paraphrases of the Bible. Three short series of verses have always attracted me,-the one that heads this chapter, of one line of which Thomas Wentworth Higginson has fittingly said, "Never, it seems to me, since man t!rst li\·ed and suffered was his intinite longing for peace uttered more plaintively." The second and third are descriptions of the Last Judgment,-the one a late improvisation, with some traces of outside influence: ''Oh. the stars in the elements are falling. And the moon drips a\vay into blood, And the ransomed of the Lord are returning unto God, Blessed be the name of the Lord."

And the other earlier and homelier picture tiom the low coast lands: ''Michael. haul the boat ashore, Then \'OU 'II hear the horn they blm\·, Then you 'II hear the trumpet sound, Trumpet sound the \\·orld around, Trumpet sound for rich and poor. Trumpet sound the Jubilee. Trumpet sound for vou ,md me."

Through all the sorrow of the Sorrow Songs there breathes a hope-a f1ith in the ultimate justice of things. The minor cadences of despair change often to triumph and cahn cont!dence. Sometimes it is f1ith in life, sometimes a ±~lith in death, sometimes assurance of boundless ju.;;ticc in some t;1ir world beyond. But \Vhichever it is. the meaning is always clear: that sometime, some\Yhere. men \vill judgt' men lw their souls and not by their skins. h mch a hope JUStifit'd; Do the SorrO\\. Songs sing true' The silcntlv growing assumption of this age is that the probation of races is past, and thclt the lHcb\·ard L\Ct'S of tocby ,1rc of proven indEciency Jnd not \Yorth the saving. Such an ,\ssumption i> the arroganL·c of peoples irreverent roward Timn citizens? We know indeed-sad histon· recounts it-that a moral blight tainted at last this sacred Brotherhood. Though no S\\'~rded foe might outskill them in the fence, yet the worm of luxurv cra\'.:led beneath their guard. o·na\vin the core of knightlv troth. rubbling tl1C monastic · ·\'OW. t1·11 at ]ast t ]1e mon 'k.- s austenn· " · re"1axe d to \\·assat·1·mg. ' an . d t 11e swo k . . ' rn n:ghts-bachelors grew to be but hypocrites and rakes. b . But ±or all this. quite unprepared were \\'C to learn that Knights- Templars (if at ,11l in . emg) were so entirelv secularized as to be reduced ±]·om carving out immortal Lm1e 1!1 1 . . . . . ' . L kg onous battlmg for the Holy Land. to the carvmg of roast-mutton at a dmner-board. 1 e Anacreon. do these degenerate Templars now think it sweeter far to 611 in banquet than 111 war; Or, indeed. how can there be an\' survival of that famous order; Tempbrs ~ modern London' Templars in their red-cr~ss mantles smoking cigars ,\t the Dinn 1 1 ehmr: lars crowded in a railwa\' train. till. stacked \\'ith steel helmet. spe.1r. ,md shield. the \\ o 1e t ram · 1 k · · oo s hke one elongated locomotiYe 1 't No. The genuine Templar i~ long since dep.uted. Go ,·in\· the \\'ondrous tombs in the emple Church; see there the rigidly~luught\' t(mm stretched out. \\ith crossed anm upon u




American Working -Class Literature New Kinds of Work, Old Practices: 1820s-1850s

their stilly hearts, in everlasting and undreaming rest. Like the years before the flood, the bold Knights-Templars are no more. Nevertheless, the name remains, and the nominal society, and the ancient grounds. and some of the ancient edifices. But the iron heel is changed to a boot of patent-leather; the long two-handed sword to a one-handed quill; the monk-giver of gratuitous ghostly counsel now counsels for a fee; the defender of the sarcophagus (if in good practice with his weapon) now has more than one case to defend; the vowed opener and clearer of all highways leading to the Holy Sepulchre, now has it in particular charge to check, to clog, to hinder, and embarrass all the courts and avenues of Law: the knight-combatant of the Saracen, breasting spear-points at Acre, now fights law-points in Westminster Hall. The helmet is a wig. Struck by Time's enchanter's wand, the Ternplar is today a La\vyer. But, like many others tumbled from proud glory's height-like the apple, hard on the bough but mellow on the ground-the Templar's fall has but made him all the finer fellow. I dare say those old warrior-priests were but gruff and grouty at the best; cased in Birmingham hardYvare, how could their crimped arms give yours or mine a hearty shake? Their proud, ambitious, monkish souls clasped shut, like horn-book missals; their very ±~Kes clapped in bomb-shells; what sort of genial men were these? But best of comrades, most affable of hosts, capital diner is the modern Templar. His wit and wine are both of sparkling brands. The church and cloisters, courts and vaults, lanes and passages, banquet-halls, refectories, libraries, terraces, gardens, broad vvalks, dornicils, and dessert-rooms, covering a very large space of ground, and all grouped in central neighborhood, and quite sequestered from the old city's surrounding din: and every thing about the place being kept in most bachelor-like particularity, no part of London offers to a quiet wight so agreeable a refuge. The Temple is. indeed, a city by itself. A city with all the best appurtenances, as the above enumeration shows. A city with a park to it, and flower-beds, and a river-side-the Thames flowing by as openly. in one part, as by Eden's primal garden flowed the mild Euphrates. In what is now the Temple Garden the old Crusaders used to exercise their steeds and lances: the modern Templars now lounge on the benches beneath the trees, and, switching their patent-leather boots, in gay discourse exercise at repartee. Long lines of stately portraits in the banquet-halls, show what great men of markfamous nobles, judges, and Lord Chancellors-have in their time been Templars. But all Templars are not known to universal f1me: though, if the having warm hearts and warmer welcomes, full minds and fuller cellars. and giving good advice and glorious dinners, spiced \Vith rare divertisements of fun and fancv, merit in1n1ortal mention, set down. ye muses. the names of R.F.C. and his imperial brother. Though to be a Templar, in the one true sense, you must needs be a lawyer. or a student at the law. and be ceremoniously enrolled as rnember of the order, yet as many such, though Templars. do not reside \\·ithin the Temple's precincts, though they mav have their otlices there. just so. on the other hand. there are many residents of the hoary old domicils who are not admitted Templars. Ifbeing, sav. a lounging gentleman and bachelor, or a quiet. unmarried. literan· man. charmed with the soft seclusion of the spot, you much desire to pitch Your shady tent among the rest in this serene encampment, then you must lllclke some special tJ·iend among the order. and procure him to rent, in his name but at vour charge. \\·h~He\·er ncant chamber vou may find to suit. . Thus~ I suppose. did Dr. Johnson.· that n~minal Benedick and widower but virtual bachelor. when t only last autumn. That's the machine that makes the paper, too. This way, Sir." Following him. I crossed a large. bespattered place. with two great round vats in it, fi.1ll of a white, wet, woolly-looking stu±f. not unlike the albuminous part of an egg, soft-boiled. "There.'' said Cupid, tapping the vats carelessly. "these are the first beginnings of the paper: this white pulp vou see. Look how it swims bubbling round and round, moved by the paddle here. From hence it pours ±rom both vats into that one common channel yonder: and so goe-;, mixed up and leisurely, to the great n1achine. And now for that." He led me into a room, stifling \Vith a strange. blood-like, abdominal heat. as if here, true enough, were being finally developed the genninous particles lately seen. Before me. rolled out like some long Eastern rnanuscript. lay stretched one continuous length of iron t]·ame-work-multitudinous and nrystical. with all sorts of rollers, wheels. c~nd cvlinders. in slm\ ly-measured and unceasing n1otion. "Here first comes the pulp now." said Cupid, pointing to the nighest end of the machine. "Sec; tlrst it pours our and spreads itself upon this wide. sloping board: and then-look-slides. thin and quivenng, beneath the first roller there. Follm\· on nmY, and see it ,Js it slides t]·om under that to the next cvlinder. There; see how it bas become just a wrv little les'> pulpv nmv. One step more, and it grows '' "Oh. sometimes, but not often, we turn out finer work-cream-laid and ro\'al sheets, we call them. But foolscap being in chief demand, we turn out foolscap most." . dro It Was very. curious. Looking at that b~ank paper continually dropping, dropping, she~pn~g. my mmd ran on m wondenngs ?t those strange uses to wh1ch those thousand . ts nentualh· would be put. All sorts ot wnnngs would be wnt on those now vacant thmgs-s"ermons, " , l awyers , '·onets, . - p h ys1oans . . , prescnptwns, Iove- Ietters, 1narnage . L



.L _

~~rtlhcues, bills of divorce. registers of births, death-\\·arrants. and so on, \\ithout end.

len, recurring back to them


thev here lav clll blank, I could not but bethink nll' of that


New Kinds of Work, Old Practices: 1820s-1850s

American Working-Class Literature

celebrated comparison of John Locke, who, in demonstration of his theory that man had no innate ideas, compared the human mind at birth to a sheet of blank paper; something destined to be scribbled on, but what sort of characters no soul might tell. Pacing slowing to and fro along the involved machine, still humming with its play, I was struck as well by the inevitability as the evolvement-povver in all its motions. "Does that thin cobweb there," said I, pointing to the sheet in its more imperfect stage, "does that never tear or break? It is marvelous fragile, and yet this machine it passes through is so mighty." "It never is known to tear a hair's point." "Does it never stop-get clogged?" "No. It must go. The machinery makes it go just so; just that very way, and at that very pace you there plainly see it go. The pulp can't help going." Something of awe now stole over me, as I gazed upon this inflexible iron animal. Always, more or less, machinery of this ponderous, elaborate sort strikes, in some moods, strange dread into the human heart, as some living, panting Behemoth might. But what made the thing I saw so specially terrible to me was the metallic necessity. the unbudging fatality which governed it. Though, here and there, I could not follow the thin, gauzy vail of pulp in the course of its more mysterious or entirely invisible advance, yet it was indubitable that, at those points where it eluded me, it still marched on in unvarying docility to the autocratic cunning of the machine. A fascination fastened on me. I stood spell-bound and wandering in my soul. Before my eyes-there, passing in slow procession along the wheeling cylinders, I seemed to see, glued to the pallid incipience of the pulp, the yet more pallid faces of all the pallid girls I had eyed that heavy day. Slowly, mournfully, beseechingly, yet unresistingly, they gleamed along, their agony dimly outlined on the imperfect paper, like the print of the tormented face on the handkerchief of Saint Veronica. "Halloa! the heat of the room is too rnuch for you," cried Cupid, staring at me. "No-I am rather chill. if any thing." "Come out. Sir-out-out," and, with the protecting air of a careful father. the precocious lad hurried me outside. In a few moments, feeling revived a little, I went into the folding-room-the first room I had entered. and where the desk for transacting business stood, surrounded by the blank counters and blank girls engaged at them. "'Cupid here has led me a strange tour," said I to the dark-complexioned man before mentioned. whom I had ere this discovered not onlv to be an old bachelor, but also the principal proprietor. "Yours is a most wonderful fac~ory. Your great machine is a miracle of inscrutable intricacv.'' "Yes, all our visit~rs think it so. But we don't have manv. We are in a very out-of-thewav corner here. Few inhabitants, too. Most of our girls ±rom far-o±I villages.'' . "The girls." echoed I. glancing round at their silent forms. "Why is it. Sir, that 1D most factories. female operatives, of whatever age, are indiscriminately called girls. newr women?" 1

"Oh as to that-\Yhy, I suppose, the fact of their being generally unmarried-that's the reason. I should think. But it never struck me betore. For our factory here. we will not have married women: they are apt to be otT-and-on too much. We want none but steady workers: twelve hours to the day. day after dav. through the three hundred and sixty-five days. excepting Sunda\·s, Thanksgiving. and F~st-dav-s. That's our rule. And so, ha,·ing no married women. what females we have are rightly ;nough called girls." . . "Then these are all maids." said I. "\vhile some pained homage to their pale virgmltY made me involuntarilv bow.


"All maids." Again the strange emotion filled me. "Your cheeks look whitish yet, Sir," said the man, gazing at me narrmvly. ''You must be careful going home. Do they pain you at all no\v? It's a bad sign, if they do.'' "No doubt. Sir,'' ans\v-ered I. "when once I have got out of the Devil's Dungeon, I shall feel them mending." ''Ah, ves; the \'V·inter air in v-alleys, or gorges, or any sunken place, is far colder and more bitter than elsewhere. You would hardly believe it now. but it is colder here than at the top of Woedolor Mountain.'' "I dare say it is, Sir. But time presses me; I must depart." With that. remuffling myself in dread-naught and tippet, thrusting my hands into my huge seal-skin mittens. I sallied out into the nipping air, and found poor Black, my horse, all cringing and doubled up with the cold. Soon. \\rapped in furs and meditations, I ascended from the Devil's Dungeon. At the Black Notch I paused, and once more bethought me of Temple-Bar. Then, shooting through the pass, all alone with inscrutable nature, I exclaimed-Oh! Paradise of Bachelors! and oh! Tartarus of Maids!

John GreenleafWhittier (1807-1892) orn into a Massachusetts farm family of modest circumstances, John Greenleaf Whittier described the familY house as "built bv mv first American ancestor, two hundred years ago." His parents 'were Quakers: the ,farn; was secluded, and the young Whittier liv-ed \Yhat he described as a "dual life"-"a world of fancv" and a '\vorld of plain matter-of-fact." Influenced by the poetry of Robert Burns a; well as antislavery newspapers. Whittier became a staunch abolitionist and prolific poet. His first poems \\'ere published in the Newburyport Free Press. edited by William Lloyd Garrison (1826). ''As a member of the Society of Friends [Quakersl. I had been educated to regard Sla\'ery as a great md dangerous e\·il," he wrote in an 1882 autobiographical letter. Whittier sen·ed as a delegate to the first National Anti-Siawry Com·ention in Philadelphia in IS33 and j~ubh~~1~d "Pennsylnnia Freeman." a p.1per associated \Yith the Anti-Sla\·ery Society. where 15 oth, e \Y,ls sacked and burned by a pro-slav-ery mob. He pubhshed at h1s own expense. a pamphlet Ju,·rlrc ,md Expcdlcnry (1833). but was unable to make a living as a journalist. and he later obsen·ed: "Indeed. mv- pronounced v-iews on SLl\-en· made my name too unpopular ±(w ,1 publisher's uses." Vv'hittier w,\S one of the founders of the LibertY PartY, \Yhich later became the Republican P.lrtY of Abr.1ham Lincoln. After the Ci,·il War. h~ devoted himself to poetrY. 1 ~ 1 11137. Ticknor and Fields published his fmt v-olume of poetry. Other volumes include S'' 11>Z·' ''I Ltl[,,,, (1S.'ill). ±rom \Yhich tht' poem presented here is t nuv be usefully JUXtaposed \\1th Freckrick Dougl.J"'s t'llSLl\·ed labor as .1 c.mlkt'r in a l3,1ltimore shipyard in the 1S30s.



American Working-Class Literature

New Kinds of Work, Old Practices: 1820s-1850s






r -"





Must float, the sailor's citadel, Or sink, the sailor's grave!

The sky is ruddy in the East, The earth is gray below, And, spectral in the river-mist, The ship's white timbers show. Then let the sounds of measured stroke And grating saw begin; The broad-axe to the gnarled oak, The mallet to the pin!



Hark'-roars the bellows, blast on blast, The sooty smithy jars, And fire-sparks, rising far and fast, Are fading with the stars. All day for us the smith shall stand Beside that flashing forge; All day for us his heavy hand The groaning anvil scourge.


From far-off hills, the panting team For us is toiling near; For us the raftsmen down the stream Their island barges steer. Rings out for us the axe-man's stroke In forests old and still,For us the century-circled oak Falls crashing down his hill.



Up'-up'-in nobler toil than ours No craftsmen bear a part: We make of Nature's giant powers The slaves of human Art. Lay rib to rib and beam to beam, And drive the treenails free; Nor faithless joint nor yawning seam Shall tempt the searching sea!



Where'er the keel of our good ship The sea's rough field shall ploughWhere' er her tossing spars shall drip With salt-spray caught belowThat ship must heed her master's beck, Her helm obey his hand, And seamen tread her reeling deck As if they trod the land . Her oaken ribs the vulture-beak Of Northern ice mav peel; The sunken rock and coral peak May grate along her keel; And know we well the painted shell We give to wind ,md wave,


Ho!-strike away the bars and blocks, And set the good ship free! Why lingers on these dusty rocks The young bride of the sea? Look! how she moves adown the grooves, In graceful beauty now! How lowly on the breast she loves Sinks down her virgin prow! God bless her! wheresoe' er the breeze Her snowy wing shall fan, Aside the frozen Hebrides, Or sultry Hindostan! Where'er, in mart or on the main, With peaceful flag unfurled, She helps to wind the silken chain Of commerce round the world! Speed on the ship!-But let her bear No merchandise of sin, No groaning cargo of despair Her roomy hold within. No Lethean drug for Eastern lands, Nor poison-draught for ours; But honest fruits of toiling hands And Nature's sun and showers. Be hers the Prairie's golden grain, The Desert's golden sand, The clustered fruits of sunny Spain, The spice of Morning-land! Her pathway on the open main May blessings follow free, And glad hearts welcome back again Her white sails from the sea!

Fanny Fern (Sara Payson Willis Parton) (1811-1872)


large part because of the expanding number of common schools. a generation of whne middle-class Americans became readers in the 1850s and 1860s and, consequently, ; Pnme audience for newspaper columnists and journalists. Sara Payson Willis, whose ather Nathaniel Willis established a religious newspaper. later credited her more broad~lded mother as the source of her talent. As a young widow, then divorcee escaping a ad second marriage, she turned to writing as a means of supporting herself and her


American Working-Class Literature

children. Choosing the pseudonym Fanny Fern, she began writing weekly columns to a receptive audience of mostlv women readers. She was enormouslv successful, as astute at the business of journalisn; as she \Vas lively as a writer, earning' $100 a week for her column in the 1'\'ew Y[JYk Ledger in 1855. Fern became a popular commentator on white middle-class women's domestic lives, but also turned her sympathetic eye to conditions of women's labor, imagining the life of a housemaid in "Soliloquy" (presented here) and reporting on the contrasting lives of women workers in "The Working Girls of New York" (an urban companion piece to Herman Melville's "Tartarus of Maids"). She republished her columns in six collections and \\Tote two novels, including the well-received Ruth Hall (1855), and several books for children. Fem Leauesji'Oin Fmlll)'~' Port-Folio (1853) sold nearly 100,000 copies in England and America. Fern used satire, wit, and vernacular language to comment on women's rights and suffrage, particularly economic independence for women. As her writing matured, she addressed issues of poverty, prostitution, prisons. and labor exploitation. She was one of the first writers to praise publicly Walt Whitman's Leaves (:{Grass.


Oh, dear, dear 1 Wonder if my mistress ever thinks I am made of flesh and blood) Five times, within half an hour. I have trotted up stairs. to hand her things, that were only four feet from her rocking-chair. Then, there's her son, Mr. George,-it does seem to me, that a great able-bodied man like him, need n't call a poor tired woman up four pair of stairs to ask "what's the time of day?" Heigho!-its "Sally do this," and "Sally do that,'' till I wish I never had been baptized at all; and I might as well go farther back, while I am about it, and wish I had never been born. Now, instead of ordering me round so like a dray horse, if they would only look up smiling-like, now and then; or ask me how my "rheumatiz" did: or say good morning, Sally; or show some sort of interest in a fellmv-cretur, I could pluck up a bit of heart to work for them. A kind word would ease the wheels of my treadmill amazingly, and wouldn't cost them anything, either. Look at n1y clothes, all at sixes and sevens. I can't get a minute to sew on a string or button, except at night; and then I'm so sleepy it is as much as ever I can find the way to bed; and what a bed it is, to be sure! Why, even the pigs are now and then allmved clean straw to sleep on; and as to bed-clothes, the less said about them the better: my old cloak serves for a blanket, and the sheets are as thin as a charity school soup. WelL well: one \Youldn't think it, to see all the fine glittering things down in the drawing-room. Master's span of horses, and Miss Clara's diamond ear-rings, and mistresses rich dresses. I try to think it is all right. but it is no use. To-morrow is Sunday-" day of rest,'' I believe thev rail it. H-u-m-p-h 1-more cooking to be done-rnore company-more cont\.rsion than on any other dav in the week. If I own a soul I have not heard how to take care of it for many a long day. Wonder if mv master and rnistress calculate to pay me for that, if I lose it? It is a question in my mind. Land of Goshen' I aint sure I'w got a mind-there's the bell ,1gain 1


Nowhere n1ore than in Ne\\' York does the contest bet\n~en squalor and splendor so sharply present itself This is the first reflection of the obsen·ing stranger \Vho walks its streets. Particularly is this noticeclble \Vith regard to its \\'omen. Jostling on the same

New Kinds of Work, Old Practices: 1820s-1850s


pavement with the dainty fashionist is the care-worn working-girl. Looking at both these women, the question arises, which lives the more miserable life-she whom the world styles "fortunate," whose husband belongs to three clubs, and whose only meal with his family is an occasional breakfast, from year's end to year's end; who is as much a stranger to his mvn children as to the reader; whose young son of seventeen has already a detective on his track employed by his father to ascertain where and how he spends his nights and his father's money; swift retribution for that father who finds food, raiment, shelter, equipages for his household; but love, sympathy, companionship-never? Or she-this other woman-with a heart quite as hungry and unappeased, who also faces day by day the same appalling question: Is this all life has for me? A great book is yet unwritten about women. Michelet has aired his wax-doll theories regarding them. The defender of "woman's rights" has given us her views. Authors and authoresses of little, and big repute, have expressed themselves on this subject, and none of them as yet have begun to grasp it: men-because they lack spirituality, rightly and justly to interpret women; women-because they dare not, or will not tell us that which most interests us to know. Who shall write this bold, frank, truthful book remains to be seen. Meanwhile woman's millennium is yet a great way off; and while it slowly progresses, conservatism and indifference gaze through their spectacles at the seething elements of to-day, and wonder "what ails all our women?" Let me tell you what ails the working-girls. While yet your breakfast is progressing, and your toilet unmade, comes forth through Chatham Street and the Bowery, a long procession of them by twos and threes to their daily labor. Their breakfast, so called, has been hastily swallowed in a tenement house, where two of them share, in a small room, the same miserable bed. Of its quality you may better judge, when you know that each of these girls pays but three dollars a week for board, to the working man and his wife where they lodge. The room they occupy is close and unventilated, with no accommodations for personal cleanliness, and so near to the little Flinegans that their Celtic night-cries are distinctly heard. They have risen unrefreshed, as a matter of course, and their ill-cooked breakfast does ~ot mend the matter. They emerge from the doorway where their passage is obstructed by nanny goats'' and ragged children rooting together in the dirt, and pass out into the street. They shiver as the sharp wind of early morning strikes their temples. There is no look of vouth on their faces; hard lines appear there. Their brows are knit; their eyes are sunken; then dress is flimsy, and foolish, and tawdry: always a hat, and feather or soiled artificial flower upon it; the hair dressed with an abortive attempt at style; a soiled petticoat; a greasy dress, a well-worn sacque or shawl, and a gilt breast-pin and earrings. Now follow them to the large, black-looking building, where several hundred of them are manufacturing hoop-skirts. If you are a woman you have worn plenty; but you little thought what passed in the heads of these girls as their busy fingers glazed the wire, or prepared the spools for covering them, or secured the tapes \vhich held them in their places. %u could not stav five minutes in that room, where the noise of the machinerv used is so deafening, that' only by the motion of the lips could you comprehend a perso;1 speakmg. . Five minutes! Whv, these voung creatures bear it, from seven in the morning till six lll th . ' ' month after month. with only half an hour at nudday . e evemng; week after week, to ~at their dinner of a slice of bread and butter or an apple, which they usuallv eat in the ~nldmg, some of them having come a long distance. As I said, the roar of machinery in ~tt room is like the roar of Niagara. Observe them as you enter. Not one lifts her head. k 1 ey might as well be machines, tor anv interest or curiosity they show, save always to now 11'hat o 'rlork it is. Pitiftll' pitit\.rL you almost sob to yourself. as you look at these young girls. l~ll111gl Alas' it is only in years that they are young.


New Kinds of Work, Old Practices: 1820s-1850s

American Working-Class Literature


Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)


n her long, extraordinary, and heroic life, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper embodied the role of a public and creative intellectual. As an author, lecturer, activist, feminist, and educator, she addressed the most pressing issues of her day and linked them to a vision of a future America where African Americans were essential to the building of a democratic nation. Born to free black parents in Baltimore, Maryland, Frances Watkins was orphaned at age three and raised by her uncle William Watkins, an educator and preacher. She started her young working life as a domestic and then became a teacher. She became the first \Voman to teach at Union Seminary in Wilberforce, Ohio, where John M. Brown (later leader of the Harper's Ferry revolt) was principal at the time. Her poetry appeared in abolitionist newspapers, and her first poetry collection, Forest Leaves, was published in 1845. Watkins witnessed the crux of fear and relief in the lives of escaped slaves when, as a teacher in Pennsylvania. she lived in a home that served as a station on the Underground Railroad. In 1854, she experienced exile firsthand when new slave laws made it unsafe to return to Maryland. These events sharpened her political consciousness as she began giving antislavery speeches in the Northeast and Canada while continuing to write poetry, essays, and sketches, and more than fifteen books over a long lifetime, including lola Leroy (1892), one of the first novels published by a black woman. Slipping poems into her speeches, infusing her writing with the urgency of struggle, Watkins never separated her literary imagination from her political consciousness. As a feminist, she lectured on equal rights and, ahead of her time, perceived the tangled relationships of class, race, and gender. She recognized the importance of suffrage, but also insisted on the necessity of ensuring the survival and safety of blacks first. She married Fenton Harper in 1860, gave birth to their daughter Mary in 1862, and temporarily retired from public life until Harper's death in 1863. In the 1870s, she lived in Philadelphia while traveling and lecturing widely and continuing to write and publish. She envisioned a future for women as not only sustainers of the home, but also as catalysts for transforming society. "The Slave Mother" speaks to that impulse as she coaxes her reader to hear the anguish of a mother who has been separated from her child.







Saw you those hands so sadly claspedThe bowed and feeble headThe shuddering of that fragile formThat look of grief and dread? Sa\\' you the sad, imploring eye? Its every glance was pain. As if a storm of agony Were sweeping through the brain.

He is not hers, although she bore For him a mother's pains; He is not hers, although her blood Is coursing through his veins!

His love has been a joyous light That o'er her pathway smiled, A fountain gushing ever new, Amid life's desert wild. His lightest word has been a tone Of music round her heart, Their lives a streamlet blent in oneOh, Father! must they part? They tear him from her circling arms, Her last and fond embrace. Oh! never more may her sad eyes Gaze on his mournful face. No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks Disturb the listening air: She is a mother, and her heart Is breaking in despair.

Harriet E. Wilson (1828?-1900?)

Heard you that shriek? It rose So wildly on the air, It seemed as if a burden'd heart Was breaking in despair.


She is a mother, pale with fear. Her boy clings to her side, And in her kirtle vainly tries His trembling form to hide.

He is not hers, for cruel hands May rudely tear apart The only wreath of household love That binds her breaking heart.





arriet E. Wilson's Our .'\'ig (1859) depicts the cruel mistreatment of Frado, a young mulatto \Voman living in New England shortlv before the Ci,·il War. Despite being a Northern "free black," Frado is treated as badly as many a Southern slave. Having been deserted as a child of six bv her white mother. she is taken in bv a f~unilv of \Yhite fanners. the Bellrnonts, and put to ~vork as an indentured servant. Mrs. Bellmon~ and her daughter. Mary, treat Frado with such crueltv that her health breaks dmn1 never fi.1llv to recover.


Chorus Fill-i-me-oo-ree-i-ree-ay (three times) To work upon the railway. In eighteen hundred and tc)rt\·-two I left the Old World for the Nc\\. Bad cess to the luck that brought me through To work upon the railway. When Pat left Ireland to come here And spend his latter days in cheer. His bosses they did drink strong beer While Pat \vorked on the railway.


In eighteen hundred and forty-three 'Twas then that I met sweet Biddy McGee. An elegant wite she's been to me While working on the raihYav.


In the days of eighteen and one, Peg an' a\vl, In the days of eighteen and one, Peg an' awl, In the days of eighteen and one, Peggin' shoes is all I done, Hand me dO\vn my pegs, my pegs, my pegs, my awl.



In the days of eighteen and two, (x3) Peggin' shoes was all I'd do, Hand me down my pegs, my pegs, my pegs, my awl. In the days of eighteen and three. (x3) Peggin · shoes is all you'd see. Hand me down my pegs, my pegs. my pegs, my awl.



In the davs of eighteen and tour. (x3) I said I'd peg them shoes no more. Throw awav my pegs. mv pegs. my pegs. my awl.

Make a hundred pair to mv one. (x3) Peggin' shoes. it ain't no fll!l. Throw a\vay my pegs. my pegs. my pegs. my awl.

In eighteen hundred and fortv-ftw I found mvself more than .11iw. I found 111\'Self more dead than c1li\·e From working on the raihv,1y. It's ''Pat do this" and "Pat do that." \Vithout a stocking or cr~n·at. Nothing but ,111 old stL1\V hat While I \Vorked on the raihva\·. In eighteen hundred and tort\·-seven Sweet Biddy J'v1cCee she \\·ent to heaven: If she lett one kid she left elewn. To work upon th

Then fight on undaunted, you brave working men, Down the vampires who oppress the poor, You use noble weapons, the tongue and the pen, Successful you'll be I'm sure. With hope for your watchword and truth for your shield, Prosperity for your pathway lights, Then let labor make proud capital yield, God speed each Assembly of Knights.




I3y the rich she was tempted to eat the bread of shame. But her mother dear had taught her to value her good name; Mid want and starvation she wa\·ed temptation by, As she would not sell her honor she in poverty must die. No more the work-bell. etc.

Time- "Hold the Fort" Toiling millions now are waking, See them marching on; All the tyrants now are shaking. Ere their power is gone.


From earliest childhood she'd toiled to win her bread; In hunger and rags. oft she ,.,-ished that she were dead; She knew naught of life's joys or the pleasures wealth can bring. Or the glorv of the woodland in the merry days of spring. No more the work-bell. etc.

Then conquer we must, &c.


No more the work-bell calls the weary one. Rest, tired \Nage-slave. in your grave unknown; Your feet will no more tread life's thorny. rugged way. They have murdered you by inches upon thirty cents a day 1


She cried in her fever: ''I pray you let me go. For my \York is yet to finish, I cannot leave it so: The foreman will curse n1e and dock my scanty pa\', I am stan·ing amid plenty upon thirty cents a day'" No more the \Vork-bell. etc.

Storm the fort, ye Knights of Labor, Battle for your cause: Equal rights for every neighbor, Down with tyrant laws'


Lazy drones steal all the honey From hard labor's hiws; Banks control the nation's money And destroy your lives.

Too late, Christian ladies! You cannot save her now. She breathes out her life-see the death-damp on her brmv: Full soon she'll be sleeping beneath the churchyard clay. While you smile on those who killed her with thirty cents a day. No more the \York-bell. etc.




Do not load the workman's shoulder With an unjust debt: Do not let the rich bondholder Live by blood and sweat.

.'\:e!t' TiTsil'll b)' Ralp/1 E. HOur social sYstem bringo; Full num· a sting. ( )ur boodlers sometimes flee. E1r otr to Cana-da.


r 146 IIJ







American Working-Class Literature

Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860s-1890s

To save their bacon. But thousands more, we fear, Will still continue here, Each other's hearts to cheerWith hopes unshaken.

Who never knnv the earning Of one poor pot of beans'


Land of the great defaulter, Of knaves who need the halter, Where gold is king. Land where fond hopes have died. Where demagogues reside, Monopolies preside, And misery bring. We love thy rocks and rills, But not thy bitter illsAnd griefs that follow. Thy boasts of "equal rights," Made through thy leading lights, In rhetoric proud flightsAre somewhat hollow. Sweet Land. sweet Liberty, Let Truth and Justice be Allowed full sway. When none shall toil in vain, Monopoly cease to reign, No heart be pierced with pain I3y cruel wrong. Lmd of true liberty, We'll sound loud praise to thee, In cheerful song. Then will the oppressed arise, The dawn salute all eyes. Souls swell with glad surpriseGod speed the day'

"Yonder man is toiling From dawn till de\\)' eve, Two-thirds of his earnings Go to fatten thieves'"


Air- "011c !viore River to Cross" The car of progress rolls along, One more battle to fight: The voice of the people is growing strong, One more battle to fight. 5


One more battle, One more battle for freedom; One more battle, One more battle to fight. Too long have the poor been bought and sold, One more battle to fight; And men bowed dmvn to the shrine of gold, One more battle to ftght. One more battle, etc.


Too long haYe the many like me and you, One more battle to ftght; Enriched with our labor the wealthy few, One more battle to ftght. One more battle, etc.



The signal sounds from shore to shore, One more battle to fight; To manhood rise 1 Be slaves no more! One more battle to fight. One more battle, etc.

"Sing a song o' swindle Safe full of stocks: The m,m who tends the spindle Going without socks 1 ~


"The loater in his parlor Counting up his gold: The \Yorker in his garret Perishing from cold! "See him in his nunsionl lVLm of might ,mel meam.


We '11 teach the world a \Yiser plan, One more battle to fight: When the little rag-baby becomes a man, One more battle to fight. One more battle, etc.

~1( I

No more shalllo,1ters mvn the soil, One more battle to fight: Nor bond-thieves fltten on poor men's toil, One more battle to fight. One more battle. etc.



American Working-Class Literature


Oppression shall perish and freedom reign, One more battle to fight; The people shall come to their own again, One more battle to fight. One more battle, etc.

Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860s-1890s


ILL U ~,~~~\\~T ED ·~~~EKLY


Labor Troubles at Homestead. Pennsylvania. Attack of the strikers and their sympathizers on the surrendered Pinkerton men, drawn by Miss G.A. Davis, from a sketch by C. Upham, Frank Leslie's Illustrated t'lrekly, July 14, 1892. Cmrtesy of Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-7 5205.

The Battle of Homestead, 1892


he Homestead strike of 1892 was one of the pivotal confrontations between labor and capital in the Gilded Age. In this western Pennsylvania steel town. one of the country's most powerful industrial corporations faced off against one of its strongest craft unions in a struggle whose centerpiece became a bloody riverfront battle that left ten dead. These dramatic events immediately generated a flourishing literature of songs and poems that gave voice to the experience of steelvvorkers and their families, communicating their ~ide of the story. In Homestead, Andrew Carnegie had built the world's largest and most technologically advanced steel-making plant, employing more than one third of the town's population. Of these workers, only the most skilled belonged to the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers (AAISW); however, the union had negotiated a wage scale in 1889 whose benefits extended to the company's huge unskilled workforce. Homestead was a union town as much as a company town-its mayor and most civic leaders were AAISW members-and when Carnegie Steel announced in May 1892 that it would reduce \vages and no longer recognize the union if it did not agree to the cuts, the townspeople united across ethnic lines in opposition to this attack on their livelihoods. Carnegie's new partner Henry Clay Frick, fresh from breaking the unions in the coke regions of southwestern Pennsylvania, had been deputized to lead the attack, while the steel baron himself was on vacation at his castle in Scotland. When the deadline for compliance passed on June 30. Frick shut down the plant and locked out the \Vorkers. He built a tall security fence around the mill and hired the Pinkerton Detective Agency to import and protect "scab" workers. The Homestead workers. meanwhile. had organized patrols and lookouts to deter strikebreaking and keep order in the town. On July 6, 1892. they spotted barges carrying three hundred Pinkertons up the Monogahela River to the plant under cover of darkness. When this "invading force" tried to come ashore. a fierce battle ensued. in which the barges \\'ere set on fire. By day's end, se\·en workers and three Pinkertons were killed. The merce1uries surrendered and were marched through Homestead to the roundhouse hom \\'here the\· were later shipped out of town by rail. However. the victory that was celebrated in the songs that follow was short-lived. Pennsylvania's governor ordered the state militia to \\Test control of Homestead away from the workers' committees. Soldiers rounded up union leaders and imported strikebreakers to operate the mill. Bv November. the strike had collapsed, and the union was etTectiwly broken. The songs that are presented here dramatize and interpret the battle of Homestead. both t(w those who were directly affected and for J larger public that \\,lS hungn· for images and information. In telling the story of the b,lttle and n·ems surrounding it. the songs slure common themes and persu,1siye strategies: they Yi!it\· the \H',11thy "t\Tants" Carnegie ,md Frick. \\'ho dominate m the manner of feudal lords: they c·elebLlte the heroim1 of thme \\'ho defended their JObs and homes .1gainst this domination: c~nd theY argue. through

references to slavery and the Ci\·il War. that the workers· campaign was a defense of the basic American "liberties" that \\'ere fought for and won in the First and Second American Revolutions. Homestead songs \\'ere composed by both professional songwriters and worker-poets around tht: country. and thev were published with the rapidity of ne\VS stories. "A Man Named Carnegie" first appeared anonymouslY in Stockton, California, on Julv 7. the day after the battle. "A Fight ±(1r Home and Honor" by John W. Kelly. a former Chicago steelworker ,,ho had uken to the minstrel stage as the Rolling Mill Man. was copvrighted ,,·ith the Library of Congress lw Jul\' 16. ·'Tyrant Frick" was published in the National Labor Tribune on August 27. while the date of the bitter elegY "Father Was


Killed by the Pinkerton Meu" is ' , The defc·at at Homestead was cl disaster for labor both locally and nationally. Although Carnegie presentt'l1 the tmvn \Yith one of his sign,lture ti"ee public libraries. his workers had little time to use it. since the\' \Yere \\'Orking twelve-hour ,;hifi:s, sewn days a week, and at \\'ages that \\'ere reduced by one third trom those negotiated in the I i:i89 contract. Their union \\'

The traitorous Pinkerton low tribe, In murdering attack, Tried hard to take our lives and homes, But heroes drove them back. 0! sons of toil, o'er all the land, Now hasten, and be quick To aid us, in our efforts grand, To down this Tyrant Frick. Of all slave-drivers, for spite and kick, No one so cruel as Tyrant Frick. The battle of "Fort Frick" is stamped On page of history, And marked with blood of freemen true, Against this tyranny! The sons of toil, for ages to come, His curse will always bring; The name of Frick will be well knownThe Nigger driver King! Of all slave-drivers, for spite and kick, No one so cruel as Tyrant Frick.


TYRANT FRICK In days gone by before the war All freemen did agree The best of plans to handle slaves Was to let them all go free: But the slave-drivers then, like now, Contrived to make a kick And keep the slaves in bondage tight, Just like our Tyrant Frick.

Of all slave-drivers, for spite and kick, No one so cruel as Tyrant Frick.



Sing ho, for a man named Carnegie, Who owns us, controls us, his cattle, at will. Doff hats to himself and his lady: Let the sigh of the weary be stiller and still. Drink, boys, to the health of Carnegie, Who gives his slaves freedom to live-if they can. Bend knees, and cheer, chattels, cheer. He May still be a chattel who can't be a man. But, oh, there was weeping last night at the Homestead The river ran red on its way to the sea, And curses were muttered and bullets whistling, And Riot was King of the land of the free.




American Working-Class Literature



Sing ho, for we know you, Carnegie; God help us and save us, we know you too well; You're crushing our wives and you're starving our babies; In our homes you have driven the shadow of hell. Then bow, bow down to Carnegie, Ye men who are slaves to his veriest whim; If he lowers your wages cheer, vassals, then cheer. Ye Are nothing but chattels and slaves under him. But, oh, did you hear it, that mad cry for vengeance, Which drowned with its pulses the cannon's loud roar? For women were weeping last night at the Homestead, And the river ran red from shore unto shore.






Then woe to the man named Carnegie! His vassals are rising, his bondsmen awake, And there's woe for the lord and there's grief for his lady If his slaves their manacles finally break. Let him call his assassins; we've murder for murder. Let him arm them with rifles; we've cannon to greet. We are guarding our wives and protecting our babies, And vengeance for bloodshed we sternly will mete.

Chorus: God help them tonight in their hour of affliction Praying for him whom they'll ne'er see again Hear the poor orphans tell their sad story "Father was killed by the Pinkerton men."


Ye prating politicians, who boast protection creed, Go to Homestead and stop the orphans' cry, Protection for the rich man ye pander to his greed, His workmen they are cattle and may die. The freedom of the city in Scotland far away 'Tis presented to the millionaire suave, But here in Free America with protection in full sway His workmen get the freedom of the grave.


God help them tonight in their hour of affliction Praying for him whom they'll ne'er see again Hear the poor orphans tell their sad story "Father was killed by the Pinkerton men."



And, oh, did you hear it, that wild cry for mercy The Pinkertons raised as they fell 'neath our fire? They came armed with guns for shooting and killing, But they cowered like curs 'neath our death-dealing ire. Sing ho, if the man named Carnegie Were under our guns, where the Pinkertons stood, He would shrink like a dog and would cry like a baby; But his country he's left for his country's best good. He rides in a carriage; his workmen "protected" Pray God for a chance that their dear ones may live; For he's crushing our wives and he's starving our babies, And we would be hounds to forget or forgive. But, oh, it was awful, that day at Homestead, When the river ran red on its way to the sea. When brave men \Vere falling and women \Vere weeping. And Riot was King of the land of the free'



Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860s-1890s

'Twas in a Pennsylvania town not \'ery long ago Men struck against reduction of their pav Their millionaire employer with philanthropic show Had closed the work till starved they would obey They fought tor home and right to live where they had toiled so long But ere the sun had set some were laid low There 're hearts now sadly grieving by that sad and bitter wrong, God help them for it was a cruel blow.




We are asking one another as we pass the time of day, Why men must have recourse to arms to get their proper pay; And \vhy the labor unions now must not be recognized. While the actions of a syndicate must not be criticised. The trouble down at Homestead was brought about this way, When a grasping corporation had the audacity to say; You must all renounce your unions and forswear your liberty, And we'll promise you a chance to live and die in slavery.

Chorus: lll

For the man that fights for honor, none can blame him: May luck attend wherever he may roam; And no song of his will ever live to shame him While liberty and honor rule his home.

When a crowd of well armed ruffians came \Yithout authority, Like thieves at night, \vhile decent men were sleeping peacefully. Can you \vonder \vhy all honest men v·:ith indignation burn, 15 Whv the slimy worm that cra\ds the earth when trod upon \vill turn' When the locked out men at Homestead saw they were face to face With a lot of paid detectives then they knew it was their place To protect their homes and families and that was nobly done. And the angels will applaud them for the victory they \\'On. 211 See that sturdy band of \vorking men start at the break of dav, Determination in their eyes that surely meant to sav: No men can drive us trom our homes for which we've toiled so long. No men shall take our places nm\· for here's where we belong.


154 2:=>


American Working-Class Literature

Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities. 1860s-1890s

A woman with a rifle saw her husband in a crowd; She handed him the weapon and they cheered her long and loud. He kissed her and said, "Mary. you go home 'til we are through." She ans\vered, "No, if you must fight, my place is here with you."

rails. The drivers. muffled to the eyes, stood erect. t~1cing the wind, models of grim philosophy. Overhead, trains rumbled and roared, and the dark stru~ture of the elevated railroad, stretching over the avenue, dnpped httle streams and drops ot water upon the mud

Stephen Crane (1871-1900)


tephen Crane was born in Newark, New Jersey, the fourteenth child of a Methodist minister and elder. Both his parents wrote temperance articles and decried social excesses of gambling, smoking, and drinking, which their youngest child later embraced. A precocious writer, Crane began publishing articles in the ;'\~nu l~nk Ti·ilnme at the age of 16. He attended Pennington Seminary and Hudson River Institute (a military academy) and completed a term each at Lafayette College and Syracuse University, although he was at best an indifferent student. Freelance writer, journalist, war correspondent, novelist, poet. and short story writer, Crane is be'it known to contemporary readers as the author of the Civil War novel. The Red Ba~r;c 4 Coura;;e (1895)-a remarkable achievement for a twenty-four year old who had never, to that point, seen a battlefield-and of memorable short stories, such as "The Open Boat." In 189CJ he moved to New York and into an apartment in the Bowery slums. There he led a bohemian life and gathered research tor his tlrst novella . .\Iagr;ic: A Girl o( the Streets (1893), which was originally self-published on borrowed money under the pseudonym Johnston Smith. Although its account of an Irish working girl's descent into prostitution initially had few readers, .\Iagr;ie received critical praise from Hamlin Garland and William Dean Howells and is nmv considered a milestone in literary naturalism. particularlv in depicting hmv environmental conditions at1't:ct character. A collection of impressionistic poems, The Black Rider (1895). led to better reporting assignments, and Crane traveled to Greece, Cuba. Texas, and Mexico as a war correspondent. His health \Vas aflected bv his shipwreck experience (the factual base of "The Open Boat") and malarial fever contracted in Cuba. He mm·ed to Sussex. England. in 1898. \Vhere he became friends with Joseph Conrad. H. G. Wells. and Henry James. Crane returned to Cuba in 1899 to cowr the Spanish-American \var. but illness forced his rt'turn to England. He died trom tuberculosis on June .S. 1900. at Badenweiler. Germanv. and is buried in Hillside, New Jersey. "The Men in the Storm." a sketch trom Crane's time on tht' BmYerY during the ninett'enth century's \Yorst economic depression. was originallY published in The .-lrcn. until the ±~lees of pedestri,ms tingled and burned ,11 tJ·om a thousand needle-prickings. Those on the walks huddled tht>ir necks closely in the colbrs of tht>ir coats. c~nd \Wilt along stooping like c~ race of aged people. Tht> dri\·ns of \·chicles hurried their horses ti.1riousk on their \Yay. The\· were made more cruel lw the expmurc of their position. aloft on high sec~ts. The street cars. bound up-tm\·n. went slm\ h-. the horses slipping and straining in the spongy brm\·n mass that bv bct\\·ecn the

and snO\Y beneath. All the clatter of the street was softened by the masses that lay upon the cobbles. until, even to one vvho looked trom a window. it became important music, a melody of life made necessary to the ear by the dreariness of the pitiless beat and sweep of the storm. Occasionally one could see black figures of men busily shovelling the white drifts ±1-om the walks. The sounds ±rom their labour created ne\v recollections of rural experiences which every man manages to have in a measure. Later, the immense windows of the shops became aglm,· with light, throwing great beams of orange and yellow upon the pavement. They were infinitely cheerful. vet in a way they accentuated the force and discomfort of the storm. and gave a meaning to the pace of the people and the vehicles, scores of pedestrians and drivers, wretched with cold faces, necks. and feet, speeding for scores of unknown doors and entrances, scattering to an intlnite variety of shelters, to places \vhich the imagination made warm ·with the familiar colours of home. There was an absolute expression of hot dinners in the pace of the people. If one dared to speculate upon the destination of those who came trooping. he lost himself in a maze of social calculation; he might fling a handful of sand and attempt to follow the flight of each particular grain. But as to the suggestion of hot dinners, be was in firm lines of thought, for it was upon every hurrying face. It is a matter of tradition: it is from the tales of childhood. It comes forth with everv storm. However. in a certain part of a dark west-side street, there \vas a collection of men to whom these things were as if they \vere not. In this street was located a charitable house where tc1r five cents the homeless of the city could get a bed at night, and in the morning coffee and bread. During the afternoon of the storm, the whirling snows acted as drivers. as men ,,~ith whips. and at half-past three the walk before the clost>d doors of the house was covered \Yith wanderers of the street, waiting. For some distance on either side of the place they could be seen lurking in the doorways and behind projecting parts of buildings. gathering in close bunches in an effort to get warm. A covered wagon dra\vn up near the curb sheltered a dozen of them. Under the stairs that led to the eln~ated railway station. tht>re \\·ere six or eight. their hands stuffed deep in their pockets, their shoulders stooped. jiggling their teet. Others always could be seen coming. a strange procession, some slouching along \Yith the characteristic hopeless gait of professional strays. some coming \vith hesitating steps. wearing the air of men to whom this sort of thing was ne\Y. It \vas an afternoon of incredible length. The snmY. blowing in twisting clouds. sought out the men in their meagre hiding-places. and skilti.Jlly beat in among tht'm. drenching their persons with shmwrs of fine stinging flakes. They crmnled togt>ther. muttering. and fi.nnbling in their pockets to get their red inflamed \nists co\~ered lw the cloth. New-comers ustL1llv halted at one end of the groups and acldrt>ssed a question. perh~1ps much as a matter of tonn. "Is it opt'n yt>t;" Thost' \vho had been ,,~airing inclined to take the questioner seriously and became contemptuous. "No: do yeh think we'd be stanclin' here;" The gathering ''Yelled in numbers steadilY ,mel persistentlY. One could always see them coming. trudging slcl\\·lv through the storm. Fin,Jlh·. the littlt' snmv pbins in tht' street beg,m to ,1ssume a leadt'n hut' from the sludows nf l.'\Tning. The buildings upreared gloomik q\·t' \\ hne various \vmdcms bcc11ne brilliant figures of light. that made shimmers ,md splashes of vellcm on the sncm. A strt'ct Limp on the curb struggkd tu illuminate. but it \\',1S reduced to impotent blindneso; lw the switt gusts of o;Jcet crnsting its pam's.


American Working-Class Literature

Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860s-1890s

In this half-darkness, the men began to come from their shelter-places and mass in front of the doors of charity. They were of all types, but the nationalities were mostly American, German, and Irish. Many were strong, healthy, clear-skinned fellows, with that stamp of countenance which is not frequently seen upon seekers after charity. There were men of undoubted patience, industry, and temperance, who, in time of ill-fortune, do not habitually turn to rail at the state of society, snarling at the arrogance of the rich, and bemoaning the CO\vardice of the poor, but who at these times are apt to wear a sudden and singular meekness, as if they saw the world's progress marching from them, and were trying to perceive where they had failed, what they had lacked, to be thus vanquished in the race. Then there were others, of the shifting Bowery element, who were used to paying ten cents for a place to sleep, but who now came here because it was cheaper. But they \Vere all mixed in one mass so thoroughly that one could not have discerned the different elements, but tor the fact that the labouring men, for the most part, remained silent and impassive in the blizzard, their eyes fixed on the windows of the house, statues of patience.

"Cit off me feet, yeh clumsy tarrier!" "Say, don't stand on me feet! Walk on th' ground!" A man near the doors suddenly shouted: "0-o-oh! Le' me out-le' me out!" And another, a man of infinite valour, once twisted his head so as to half face those who were pushing behind him. "Quit yer shovin', yeh"-and he delivered a volley of the most powerful and singular invective, straight into the faces of the men behind him. It was as ifhe was hammering the noses of them with curses of triple brass. His face, red with rage, could be seen, upon it an expression of sublime disregard of consequences. But nobody cared to reply to his imprecations; it was too cold. Many of them snickered, and all continued to push. In occasional pauses of the crowd's movement the men had opportunities to make jokes; usually grim things, and no doubt very uncouth. Nevertheless, they were notableone does aot expect to fmd the quality of humour in a heap of old clothes under a snowdrift. The winds seemed to grow fiercer as time wore on. Some of the gusts of snow that came down on the close collection of heads cut like knives and needles, and the men huddled, and swore, not like dark assassins, but in a sort of American fashion, grimly and desperately, it is true, but yet with a wondrous under-effect, indefmable and mystic, as if there was some kind of humour in this catastrophe, in this situation in a night of snowladen winds. Once the window of the huge dry-goods shop across the street furnished material for a few moments of forgetfulness. In the brilliantly lighted space appeared the figure of a man. He was rather stout and very well clothed. His beard was fashioned charmingly after that of the Prince of Wales. He stood in an attitude of magnificent reflection. He slowly stroked his moustache with a certain grandeur of manner, and looked down at the snowencrusted mob. From below, there was denoted a supreme complacence in him. It seemed that the sight operated inversely, and enabled him to more clearly regard his own delightful environment. One of the mob chanced to turn his head, and perceived the figure in the window. "Hello, look-it 'is whiskers," he said genially. Many of the men turned then, and a shout went up. They called to him in all strange keys. They addressed him in every manner, from familiar and cordial greetings to carefully worded advice concerning changes in his personal appearance. The man presently fled, and the mob chuckled ferociously, like ogres who had just devoured something. They turned then to serious business. Often they addressed the stolid front of the house. ''Oh, let us in fer Gawd's sake!" "Let us in. or we'll all drop dead!" "Say, what's th' use o' keepin' us poor Indians out in th' cold?" And always some one \vas saying, ''Keep otT my feet." The crushing of the crowd gre\Y terrific toward the last. The men, in keen pain from the blasts, began almost to fight. With the pitiless whirl of snow upon them, the battle for shelter was going to the strong. It became known that the basement door of the foot of a little steep flight of stairs was the one to be opened, and they jostled and heaved in this direction like labouring fiends. One could hear them panting and groaning in their fterce exertion. Usually some one in the front ranks was protesting to those in the rear-"0-o-ow! Oh. say nO\Y, fellers. let up. will yeh? Do yeh \\·anta kill somebody?" A policeman arrived and went into the midst of them, scolding and berating, occasionally threatening. but using no force but that of his hands and shoulders against these men \Yho were only struggling to get in out of the storm. His decisive tones rang out sharply-"Stop that pushin' back there' Come. boys, don't push' Stop that' Here you. quit ver shovin'l Cheese that!"

The sidewalk soon became completely blocked by the bodies of the men. They pressed close to one another like sheep in a winter's gale, keeping one another warm by the heat of their bodies. The snow came upon this compressed group of men untiL directly from above, it might have appeared like a heap of snow-covered merchandise, if it were not for the fact that the crowd swayed gently with a unanimous rhythmical motion. It was wondertul to see how the snow lay upon the heads and shoulders of these men, in little ridges an inch thick perhaps in places, the flakes steadily adding drop and drop, precisely as they fall upon the unresisting grass of the fields. The feet of the men were all wet and cold, and the wish to warm them accounted for the slovv, gentle rhythmical motion. Occasionally some man whose ear or nose tingled acutely from the cold winds would wriggle down until his head was protected by the shoulders of his companions. There \Vas a continuous murmuring discussion as to the probability of the doors being speedily opened. They persistently lifted their eyes toward the windows. One could hear little combats of opinion. "There's a light in th' winder'" "Naw; it's a reflection f'm across th' way." "Well, didn't I see 'em light it?'' "You did?" "I did!" "Well, then, that settles it 1" As the time approached when they expected to be allowed to enter, the men crowded to the doors in an unspeakable crush, jamming and wedging in a way that, it seemed. would crack bones. They surged heavily against the building in a powerful wave of pushing shoulders. Once a rumour flitted among all the tossing heads. "They can't open th' door! Th' fellers er smack up agin 'em." Then a dull roar of rage came from the men on the outskirts; but all the time they strained and pushed until it appeared to be impossible for those that they cried out against to do anything but be crushed into pulp. "Ah. git away f'm th' door!" ''Cit outa that!" "Throw 'em out!" "Kill 'enJ"' "Say. ''Yeh Men tLm1pling


tellers. now. what th' 'ell? G\·e 'em a chance t' open th' door''' damn pigs. give 'em a chancer' open th' door 1" in the outskirts of the crowd occasionallv yelled when a boot-heel of one of feet crushed on their freezing extremities.




American Working-Class Literature

Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860s-1890s

When the door below was opened, a thick stream of men forced a way down the stairs, which were of an extraordinary narrowness, and seemed only wide enough for one at a time. Yet they somehow went down almost three abreast. It was a difficult and painful operation. The crowd was like a turbulent water forcing itself through one tiny outlet. The men in the rear, excited by the success of the others, made frantic exertions, for it seemed that this large band would more than fill the quarters, and that many would be left upon the pavements. It would be disastrous to be of the last, and accordingly men with the snow biting their faces writhed and twisted with their might. One expected that, from the tremendous pressure, the narrow passage to the basement door would be so choked and clogged with human limbs and bodies that movement would be impossible. Once indeed the crowd was forced to stop, and a cry went along that a man had been injured at the foot of the stairs. But presently the slow movement began again, and the policeman fought at the top of the flight to ease the pressure of those that were going down. A reddish light from a window fell upon the faces of the men when they, in turn, arrived at the last three steps and were about to enter. One could then note a change of expression that had come over their features. As they stood thus upon the threshold of their hopes, they looked suddenly contented and complacent. The fire had passed from their eyes and the snarl had vanished from their lips. The very force of the crowd in the rear, which had previously vexed them, was regarded from another point of view, for it now made it inevitable that they should go through the little doors into the place that was cheery and warm with light.

of his parents, "whose half-century pilgrimage on the main traveled road of life has brought them only toil and deprivation." Garland's socialism dates from this period, when he lectured and campaigned for the People's Party of Iowa. Through the books that followed-short story collections Prairie Folks (1892) and Other A1ain- Ti·aveled Roads (1910), a series of political novels, and the later memoirs, such as A Son of the Middle Border (1917), which brought him his greatest success-Garland developed a literary aesthetic he called "veritism," which anticipated the social realism of the 1930s. Stephen Crane described it this way: "The realist or veritist is really an optimist, a dreamer. He sees life in terms of what it might be, as well as in terms of what it is; but he writes of what is, and, at his best, suggests what is to be."

UNDER THE LION'S PAW "Along this main-travelled road trailed an endless line of prairie schooners, coming into sight at the east, and passing out of sight over the swell to the west We children used to wonder where they were going and why they went"

The tossing crowd on the sidewalk grew smaller and smaller. The snow beat with merciless persistence upon the bowed heads of those who waited. The wind drove it up from the pavements in frantic forms of winding white, and it seethed in circles about the huddled forms passing in one by one, three by three, out of the storm.

Hamlin Garland (1860-1940)


lthough less well known today than his contemporaries Jack London or Upton Sinclair, Hamlin Garland was, at the turn of the century, the leading writer of America's farming frontier. In his short stories and memoirs, he celebrated the hard work, plain language, and mutual caring of his midwestern people, as well as the beauty and harshness of the land they worked. He also exposed the cruel realities underneath the pioneer dream, which, with the help of railroad advertising and unscrupulous banks, fueled the westward migration of working people who were seeking economic independence. Born on a farm in the La Crosse valley ofWisconsin, Garland moved with his family to several homesteads in Iowa and South Dakota, doing his full share of the farm work and attending school during the winters. He left home at age twenty-one to take up teaching and found his way to Boston, where, in 1894, unable to afford university admission, he devoted himself to a thorough literary education in the public library. He became a teacher at Moses True Brown's Boston School of Oratory and began contributing articles and stories to journals like Harper~,· Tieekly. A trip back to South Dakota in 1887, where he found his family living in deep poverty, led to the writing of the stories collected in .\Jain-Iim,ellcd Roads (1891), from which "Under the Lion's Paw" is taken. The book was dedicated to the "silent heroism"



It was the last of autumn and first day of winter corning together. All day long the plowmen on their prairie farms had moved to and fro on their wide level field through the falling snow, which melted as it fell, wetting them to the skin-all day, notwithstanding the frequent squalls of snow, the dripping, desolate clouds, and the muck of the furrows, black and tenacious as tar. Under their dripping harness the horses swung to and fro silently, with that marvelous uncomplaining patience which marks the horse. All day the wild geese, honking wildly as they sprawled sidewise down the wind, seemed to be fleeing from an enemy behind, and with neck out-thrust and wings extended, sailed down the wind, soon lost to sight. Yet the plowman behind his plow, though the snow lay on his ragged greatcoat and the cold clinging mud rose on his heavy boots, fettering him like gyves, whistled in the very beard of the gale. As day passed, the snow, ceasing to melt, lay along the plowed land and lodged in the depth of the stubble, till on each slovv round the last furrow stood out black and shining as jet between the plowed land and the gray stubble. When night began to fall, and the geese, flying low, began to alight invisibly in the near cornfteld, Stephen Council was still at work "finishing a land." He rode on his sulkyplow when going with the wind, but walked when facing it. Sitting bent and cold but cheery under his slouch hat, he talked encouragingly to his four-in-hand. "Come round there, boys!-round agin! We got t' finish this land. Come in there, Dan 1 Stiddy, Kate!-stiddy' None o · y'r tantrums, Kittie. It's purty tuff, but gotta be did. Tcizk! tchk 1 Step along, Pete! Don't let Kate git y'r single tree on the wheeL Once more!" They seemed to know what he meant, and that this was the last round, for they worked with greater vigor than before. "Once more, boys, an' sez I oats, an' a nice warm stall, an' sleep f'r alL" By the time the last furrow was turned on the land it was too dark to see the house, and the snow changing to rain again. The tired and hungry man could see the light from the kitchen shining through the leafless hedge, and lifting a great shout, he yelled, "Supper f'r a half a dozen!" It was nearly eight o'clock by the time he had finished his chores and started for supper. He was picking his way carefully through the mud when the tall form of a man loomed up before him with a premonitory cough.



Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860s-1890s

American Working-Class Literature


"Two months 'n' five days." said the mother. with a mother's exactness. "Ye don't say! I want t' know 1 The dear little pudzy-wudzy!" she went on, stirring it up in the neighborhood of the ribs with her tat forefinger. "Pooty tough on 'oo to go gallivant'n' 'cross lots this way." "Yes. that's so: a man can't lifi: a mountain," said Council. entering the door. "Sarah, this is Mr. Haskins from Kansas. He's been eat up 'n' drove out by grasshoppers." "Glad r' see yeh! Pa, empty that \vashbasin 'n' give him a chance t' wash." Haskins was a tall man \Vith a thin, gloomy face. His hair v.:as a reddish brown, like his coat, and seemed equally faded by the wind and sun. And his s,1llow tace, though hard and set, was pathetic somehow. You would have felt that he had suffered much by the line of his mouth showing under his thin, yellow mustache. "Hain't ike got home yet, Sairy?" "Hain't seen 'itn.'' "W-a-a-1. set right up, Mr. Haskins: wade right into what we've got; 'tain't much, but we manage to live on it-she gits fat on it,'' laughed Council, pointing his thumb at

"Waddy ye want?" was the rather 5tartled question of the farmer. "Well, ye see," began the stranger in a deprecating tone, "we'd like t' git in f'r the night. We've tried every house f'r the last two miles. but they hadn't any room f'r us. My wife's jest about sick, 'n' the children are cold and hungry-" "Oh, y' want a stay all night, eh)" "Yes, sir; it 'ud be a great accom-'' "Waal, I don't make it a practice t' turn anybuddy away hungry. not on sech nights as this. Drive right in. We ain't got much. but sech as it is--" But the stranger had disappeared. And soon his steaming. weary team, with drooping heads and swinging single trees. moved past the well to the block beside the path. Council stood at the side of the "schooner" and helped the children out-two little half-sleeping children-and then a small woman \Vith a babe in her arms. "There ye gol" he shouted jovially to the children. "Xo111 \ve're all right. Run right along to the house there, an' tell M'am Council you wants sumpthin' t' eat. Right this way, Mis'-keep right off t' the right there. I'll go an' git a lantern. Come:' he said to the dazed and silent group at his side.

his wife. After supper, v.-hile the women put the children to bed, Haskins and Council talked on, seated near the huge cooking stove, the steam rising from their wet clothing. In the Western fashion, Council told as much of his own life as he dre\V from his guest. He asked but fe\v questions; but by and by the story of Haskins's struggles and defeat came out. The story was a terrible one, but he told it quietly, seated with his elbows on his knees, gazing most of the time at the hearth. "I didn't like the looks of the country, anyhow," Haskins said, partly rising and glancing at his wife. "I was ust t' northern Ingyannie. where we have lots a timber 'n' lots o' rain. 'n' I didn't like the looks o' that dry prairie. What galled me the worst \vas goin' s' far awav acrosst so much fine land layin' all through here vacant." "And the 'hoppers eat ye four years hand running, did they?" "Eat 1 They wiped us out. They chawed everything that was green. They jest set around waitin' f'r us to die t' eat us. too. Mv God 1 I ust t' dream of 'em sitt'n' 'round on th~ bedpmt. six feet long, workin' their jaw~. They eet the fork handles. Thev got worse 'n· worse till they jest rolled on one another. piled up like snow in winter. \Vell, it ain't no use: if l was t' talk all winter I couldn't tell na\vthin'. But all the \vhile I couldn't help thinkin' of all that land back here that no buddy was us in'. that I ought a had 'stead o' bein' out there in that cussed country.'' "WaaL why didn't ye stop an' settle here)" asked Ike, who had come in and was eating his supper. "Fer the simple reason that vou fellers wantid ten 'r fifteen dollars an acre fer the bare Lmd. and I hadn't no money ter that kind o' thing." "Yes. I do my own work," Mrs. Council was heard to sav in the pause which followed. 'Tm a-gettin' puny heavy t' be on m' bigs all day. but we can't afl:ord t' hire. so I rackin' around somehow. like ,1 toundered horse. s· lame-I tell Council he can't tell hmv lame I am fr I'm jest as lame in one laig as t ·other." And the good soul laughed at the joke on herself as she took a handt\Jl of flour and dusted the biscuit board to keep the dough trom sticking. "Well, I hain't ncua been wrv strong,'' said Mrs. Haskins. ''Our folks was Cmadians ,m· snull-boned. and then since my last child 1 luin't got up again fairly. I don't like t' compbin-Tim has about all he can bear now-but they Wvaiting. Haskins was in the midst of the terrible toil of the last year. He was walking again in the rain and the mud behind his plmY. he felt the dust and dirt of the threshing. The ferocious husking time. with its cutting wind and biting. clinging snows, lay hard upon him. Then he thought of his wife. how she had cheerfully cooked and baked, without holiday and without rest. "Well. what do you think of it'" inquired the cool. mocking, insinuating voice of Butler. "I think vou're a thief and a liar 1" shouted Haskins. leaping up. "A black-hearted hmm'!" Butler's smile maddened him: with a sudden leap he caught a fork in his hands and

a look of pitiless ferocity in his accusing eyes. Butler shrank and quivered, expecting the blow; stood, held hypnotized by the eyes of the man he had a moment before despised-a man transformed into an avenging demon. But in the deadly hush between the lift of the weapon and its fall there came a gush of faint, childish laughter, and then across the range of his vision, far away and dim, he saw the sun-bright head of his baby girl as, with the pretty tottering run of a two-year-old, she moved across the grass of the dooryard. His hands relaxed; the fork fell to the ground; his head lowered. "Make out y'r deed an' morgige, an' git off'n my land, an' don't ye never cross my line agin; if y' do, I'll kill ye." Butler backed away from the man in wild haste and, climbing into his buggy with trembling limbs, drove off down the road, leaving Haskins seated dumbly on the sunny pile of sheaves, h~s head sunk into his hands.

Edwin Markham (1852-1940) harles Edwin Anson Markham was born in the Oregon Territory but soon moved with his divorced mother and ftve older siblings to her family ranch near Suisun, California, where as a child he learned fmthand the rigors of manual labor and farm life. Against his mother's practical wishes, he studied literature at three different colleges, eventually earning his teacher's certification at California College at Vacaville. Markham was a popular teacher in several California school districts. He was elected El Dorado County superintendent of schools in 1879 and in 1890 became principal of a school in Oakland, all the while sending poems out for magazine publication and developing an acquaintance with influential writers, such as Ambrose Bierce, Hamlin Garland, and Jack London. In 1898, Markham wrote the poem for which he is best known. "The Man with the Hoe" was fmt published in the San Francisco Examiner on January 15, 1899. Inspired by Franyois Millet's 1862 painting of the same name (now available for viewing on the Getty Museum's web site), the poem describes the oppression of the agricultural day laborer as a crime against divine purpose. It issues a direct moral challenge to "masters, lords and rulers in all lands," who should fear the "whirlwinds of rebellion" that their crimes against the poor will stir up. A contemporary reviewer commented on the immediate and widespread appeal of the poem, >vhich "appears ever;'\vhere to have stimulated thought upon social problems .... Clergy made the poem their text; platform orators dilated upon it: college professors lectured upon it; debating societies discussed it; schools took it up for study in their literary courses: and it was the subject of conversation in social circles and on the street" (Edward B. Payne. 1R99). Ultimately reprinted in 10.000 newspapers in more than -1-0 languages, "The Man with the Hoe" made Markham's reputation and became the title poem of his ftrst book. Markham moved with his family to New York City, where he made his living as a poet, editor, and lecturer on labor and radical topics. His other books of poetry include Lincoln and Other Poen1s (1901), SIMs l~( Happiness (1915), and Eight)' Songs at Eighty (1932). His 191-1- nontlction work Children in Bond,I_!(C \\'as a key text in the campaign to abolish child labor in the United States.




Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860s-1890s

American Working-Class Literature THE MAN WITH THE (~Frittcn










How will it be with kingdoms and with kingsWith those who shaped him to the thing he isWhen this dumb terror shall rise to judge the world, After the silence of the centuries?


after seeing .\fillets ll'ot-ldJalllotts paintin;;)

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground, The emptiness of ages in his face, And on his back the burden of the world. Who made him dead to rapture and despair, A thing that grieves not and that never hopes, Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox? Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw? Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow? Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

Lifelets: "Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans" from the Independent etween 1902 and 1912, the Independent, a progressive, national journal, published a series of short life stories, or "lifelets," by "ordinary" Americans. These were stories of individual "types" -a bootblack, a miner, a sweatshop girl, a priest, a college professor, a summer hotel waitress, a street car conductor, a chorus girl, and the four personal narratives that are included in this collection-the anonymous, "Georgia Negro Peon" and "A Negro Nurse" and the identified stories of two labor leaders, the African Amencan seamen, James Williams, and the Jewish garment worker, Rose Schneiderman (See "A Cap Maker's Story" and the Triangle ftre in Part IV). Hamilton Holt, an editor of the Iudependmt, collected and published sixteen of these seventy-five autobiographies as The L!fe Stories ~f Undistinguished Americans (1906). Published at a time of nativist anxiety over foreign immigration in relation to American identity, these "lifelets" offered ordinary people, mostly workers, an opportunity to present themselves directly to readers through their own written words or through interviews that were later vvritten down and then read to and approved by the storyteller. Akin to a direct style of photographic portraiture, the stories arc reminiscent of early occupational tintypes and similar to Lewis Hine's photos of Ellis Island immigrants and child laborers. Indeed, photographs occasionally accompanied the 'itories that were published in the Indepmdent. While it is impossible to measure the degree of mediation and editing involved in the original texts (they have a uniformity of middle-class grammar), the stories included here are valuable historical accounts of the deliberate failure of Reconstruction in the South and the instances of interracial labor resistance among coastal seamen, as well as interclass affiliations of garment workers in the North. They also move beyond the representation of types and into the detailed daily lives of women and men whose stories of endurance illuminate the inseparability of race and gender to class struggle. These selections are from Plain Folk (1982), a second edition of stories culled from the Independem, edited by David M. Katzman and William M. Tuttle.


Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave To have dominion over sea and land: To trace the stars and search the heavens for power; To feel the passion of Eternity? Is this the dream He dreamed who shaped the suns And marked their ways upon the ancient deep? Down all the caverns of Hell to their last gulf There is no shape more terrible than thisMore tongued with censure of the world's blind greedMore filled with signs and portents for the soulMore packt with danger to the universe. What gulfs between him and the seraphim! Slave of the wheel oflabor, what to him Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades? What the long reaches of the peaks of song, The rift of davm, the reddening of the rose> Through this dread shape the suffering ages look: Time's tragedv is in that aching stoop; Through this dread shape humanity betrayed, Plundered, proLmed. and disinherited. Cries protest to the Judges of the World. A protest that is also prophecy. 0 masters. lords and rulers in all lands, Is this the handiwork you gi\·e to God. This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenchelF Hmv will you ever straighten up this shape: Touch it again with immortality: Give back the upward looking and the light: Rebuild in it the music and the dream: Make right the immemorial infamies . Pertidious wrong-;, immedicable \Hles; 0 masters. lords and rulers in all lands. Hm\· \\·ill the Future reckon with this m~m; Hmv ~lllS\\er his brute question in t!ut hour When \vhirl\\·inds of rcbtcllion shake all shores;




I am a negro and was born some time during the war in Elbert Countrv. Georgia. ,md I reckon by this time I must be a little over fortv years old. My mother was not nurried when I was born and I never knew \vho my father \vas or anvthing about him. Shortlv after the war my mother died, and I was left to the care of my uncle. All this happened before I v.;as eight years old, and so I can't remember verv much about it. When I \Vas about ten years old my uncle hired me out to Captain-. I had alreadv learned how to plow, and was also a good hand at picking cotton. I was told that the Captain wanted me I




American Working-Class Literature

f(w his house-boy. and that later on he \\·as going to train me to be his coachman. To be a coachman in those days was considered a post of honor, and. young as I was. I was glad of the chance. But I had not been at the Captain's a month before I was put to work on the farm. with some twenty or thirtv other negroes-men. women and children. From the beginning the boys had the same tasks as the men and women. There was no ditlerence. We all worked hard during the week, and would frolic on Saturday nights and often on Sundays. And everybody was happy. The men got $3 a week and the women $2. I don't know what the children got. E Yery week my uncle collected my money for me, but it was very little of it that I ever saw. My uncle ted and clothed me, gave me a place to sleep, and allowed me ten or fifteen cents a \Yeek tor "spending change," as he called it. I must have been seventeen or eighteen years old before I got tired of that arrangement; and felt that I was man enough to be \Yorking for myself and handling my own things. The other boys about my age and size were "drawing" their own pay, and they used to laugh at me and call me ''Balw" because my old uncle was always on hand to "draw" my pay. Worked up by these things. I made a break for liberty. Unknown to my uncle or the Captain I \vent otf to a neighboring plantation and hired myself out to another man. The new landlord agreed to give me forty cents a day and furnish me one meaL I thought that \Vas doing fine. Bright and early one Monday morning I started to work. still not letting the others know anything about it. But they tound out before sundown. The Captain came over to the new place and brought some kind of ottlcer of the law. The ofl:!cer pulled out a long piece of paper from his pocket and read it to my new employer. When this was done I heard my new boss say:

"I beg your pardon, Captain. I didn't know this nigger was bound out to you, or f \\"Ouldn 't have hired him."

"He certainly is bound out to me," said the Captain. "He belongs to me until he is nventy-one, and I'm going to make him kno\v his place." So I was carried back to the Captain's. That night he made me strip off my clothing down to my waist, had me tied to a tree in his backvard, ordered his t(Jreman to gi\'e me thirty lashes with a buggy whip across my bare back, and stood by until it was done. Afi:er that experience the Captain made me stav on his place night and day, -but my uncle still continued to ''draw" mv money. I was a man nearly grmn1 before I kne\\ how to count from one to one hundred. I was a man nearly grown before I ever s~nv a colored school teacher. I never \\Tnt to school a day in my lite. 1o-day I can't write my mYn name. tho I can read a little. I was a man nearly grmvn betore I ever rode on a railroad train. and then I went on an excursion ti·om Elberton to Athens. Wlut w.1s true of me \\'aS true of hundreds of other negroes around me-'wav otT there in the country. t!fteen or twentv miles t!·om the nearest town. When I reached t\\·enn·-one the Captain told me I was a tl-ee man, but he urged me to stav with him. He said he ,,·ould treat me right. and paY me as much as anybody els.: ,,·ould. The Captain's son and I \Vere about the same age. and the Cc~ptain said that, as he had owned mv mother and uncle during sla,·erv, and as his son didn't \\"cll1t me to le.1ve them (since I lud been ,,-ith them so long). he wanted me to SLlv \\'ith the old bmily. And I suved. I signed a contran-tlut is. I made mv mark-tor one vear. The Captain \vas to gi,·e me SJ.SU J \\·eek. and ti.unish me a little house on the plantation-a one-room log cabin similar to those used lw his other laborers. During that yeJr I married 1V1anck For se\·erJl \·ears lVLmdy had been the housesernnt t()!" the C.lJ.ltain. his \vit(>, his son .mel his three daughters. and thcv all seemed to think J good d giving the workers a tou;-dollar raise. not the fourteen dollars they had asked tor. And that the shifts in the tunnels would remain eight hours long. "We were planning to give vou the tour-dollar raise all along," the demom said to diminish the victory. So they got thirtv-five dollars a month and the eight-hour shift. Thev \Yould have \YOn fortv-five dollars it: the thousand demon \Yorkers h,1~1 joined the strike. l)emons would have lis,tened to demons. The China Men went back to work quietly. No use singing and shouting over ,1 compromise ,mel losing nine days· \H!rk.


American Working-Class Literature

Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860s-1890s

There were two days that Ah Goong did cheer and throw his hat in the air, jumping up and down and screaming Yippee like a cowboy. One: the day his team broke through the tunnel at last. Toward the end they did not dynamite but again used picks and sledgehammers. Through the granite, they heard answering poundings, and answers to their shouts. It was not a mountain before them any more but only a wall with people breaking through from the other side. They worked faster. Forward. Into day. They stuck their arms through the holes and shook hands with men on the other side. Ah Goong saw dirty faces as wondrous as if he were seeing Nu Wo, the creator goddess who repairs cracks in the sky with stone slabs; sometimes she peeks through and human beings see her face. The wall broke. Each team gave the other a gift of half a tunnel, dug. They stepped back and forth where the wall had been. Ah Goong ran and ran, his boots thndding to the very end of the tunnel. looked at the other side of the mountain, and ran back, clear through the entire tunnel. All the way through. He spent the rest of his time on the railroad laying and bending and hammering the ties and rails. The second day the China Men cheered was when the engine from the West and the one from the East rolled toward one another and touched. The transcontinental railroad was finished. They Yippee'd like madmen. The white demon officials gave speeches. "'The Greatest Feat of the Nineteenth Century," they said. "The Greatest Feat in the History of Mankind," they said. "Only Americans could have done it," they said, vvhich is true. Even if Ah Goong had not spent half his gold on Citizenship Papers, he was an American for having built the railroad. A white demon in top hat tap-tapped on the gold spike, and pulled it back out. Then one China Man held the real spike, the steel one, and another hammered it in. While the demons posed for photographs, the China Men dispersed. It was dangerous to stay. The Driving Out had begun. Ah Goong does not appear in railroad photographs. Scattering, some China Men followed the north star in the constellation Tortoise the Black Warrior to Canada, or they kept the constellation Phoenix ahead of them to South America or the White Tiger west or the Wolf east. Seventy lucky men rode the Union Pacific to Massachusetts for jobs at a shoe factory. Fifteen hundred went to Fou Loy Company in New Orleans and San Francisco, several hundred to plantations in Mississippi, Georgia, and Arkansas, and sugarcane plantations in Louisiana and Cuba. (From the South, they sent word that it was a custom to step otT the sidevvalk along with the black demons when a white demon walked by.) Seventy went to New Orleans to grade a route for a railroad, then to Pennsylvania to work in a knife factory. The Colorado State Legislature passed a resolution welcoming the railroad China Men to come build the new state. They built railroads in every part of the country-the Alabama and Chattanooga Railroad. the Houston and Texas Railroad, the Southern Pacific. the railroads in Louisiana and Boston. the Pacific Northwest. and Alaska. After the Ci,·il War, China Men banded the 1ution North and South, East and \Vest. with crisscrossing steel. They were the binding and building ancestors of this place. Ah Goong \Yould have liked a leisurely walk along the tracks to reYie\\' his tlnished handiwork, or to walk cast to see the rest of his ne\\' country. l3ut instead. Dri\·en Out. he slid down mountains, leapt across nlleys and streams. crossed plains. hid sometimes \Yith companions and often alone, and eluded bandits who would hold him up for his railroad pay and shoot him tor practice as they shot lnjuns and jackrabbits. Detouring md backtracking. his path wound back and torth to his railro,1d. a funiliar siker road in the wilderness. When ,1 train came. he hid ag,1inst the -;luking ground in c1se a demon \Yith a shotgun was hunting trom it. He picked over camps where he had once liYed. He ,,-a, ureful to t!nd hidden places to sleep. In China bandits did not normalh· kill people. the booty the nuin thing. but here the demons killed tor t!m ,md hate. They tied pigtails to


horses and dragged chinamen. He decided that he had better head for San Francisco, where he would catch a ship to China. Perched on hillsides, he watched many sunsets, the place it vvas setting, the direction he was going. There were ftelds of grass that he tunneled through, hid in, rolled in, dived and swam in, suddenly jumped up laughing, suddenly stopped. He needed to find a town and human company. The spooky tumbleweeds caught in barbed wire were peering at him, waiting for him; he had to fmd a town. Towns grew along the tracks as they did along rivers. He sat looking at a town all day, then ducked into it by night. At the familiar sight of a garden hid out in a Chinese scheme-vegetables in beds, white cabbages, red plants, chives, and coriander for immortality, herbs boxed with boards-he knocked on the back door. The China Man who answered gave him food, the appropriate food for the nearest holiday, talked story, exclaimed at how close their ancestral villages were to each other. They exchanged in±onnation on how many others lived how near, which towns had Chinatowns, vvhat size. two or three stores or a block, which towns to avoid. "Do you have a wife?" they asked one another. "Yes. She lives in China. I have been sending money for twenty years now." They exchanged vegetable seeds, slips, and cuttings, and Ah Goong carried letters to another town or China. Some demons who had never seen the likes of him gave him things and touched him. He also came across lone China Men who were alarmed to have him appear, and, unwelcome, he left quickly; they must have \Van ted to be the only China Man of that area, the special China Man. He met miraculous China Men who had produced families out of nowhere-a wife and children, both boys and girls. "Uncle," the children called him, and he wanted to stay to be the uncle of the family. The wife washed his clothes, and he went on his way when they were dry. On a farm road, he came across an imp child playing in the dirt. It looked at him, and he looked at it. He held out a piece of sugar; he cupped a grass blade between his thumbs and whistled. He sat on the ground with his legs crossed, and the child climbed into the hollow of his arms and legs. "I wish you were my baby," he told it. "My baby." He was very satisfied sitting there under the humming sun with the baby. who was satisfied too, no squirming. "My daughter,'' he said. "My son." He couldn't tell whether it was a boy or a girl. He touched the baby's fat ann and cheeks, its gold hair, and looked into its blue eves. He made a wish that it not have to carry a sledgehammer and crawl into the dark. But he would not feel sorry for it; other people must not suffer any more than he did. and he could endure anything. Its mother came walking out into the road. She had her hands above her like a salute. She walked tentatively toward them, held out her hand. smiled. spoke. He did not understand what she said except "Bye-bye." The child waved and said. "Bye-bye," crawled over his legs, and toddled to her. Ah Goong continued on his way in a direction she could not point out to a posse looking tor a kidnapper chinaman. Explosions followed him. He heard screams and went on. saw flames outlining black windows and doors, and went on. He ran in the opposite direction ±rom gunshots and the yell-eclza all'lw-the cmvboys made \vhen they herded cattle and sang their sa\·age songs. Good at hiding, disappearing-decades unaccounted tor-he was not working in a mine when fortv thousand chinamen were Driven Out of mining. He was not killed or kidnapped in th~ Los Angeles Massacre. though he gave money ;O\Yard ransoming those whose toes and fmgers, a digit per week. and ears grotesquely rotting or pickled. and scalped queues, were displayed in Chinatm\·ns. Demons belieYed tlut the poorer a chinaman looked, the more gold he lud buried some\Yhen:. that chin~1men stuck together and would always ransom one another. If he got kidnapped. Ah Coong planned, he would I



American Working-Class Literature

Beneath the Gilded Surface: Working-Class Fictions and Realities, 1860s-1890s

whip out his Citizenship Paper and shmv that he was an American. He was lucky not to be in Colorado when the Denver demons burned all chinamen homes and businesses, nor in Rock Springs, Wyoming, when the miner demons killed t\venty-eight or fifty chinamen. The Rock Springs Massacre began in a large coal mine owned by the Union Pacific; the outnumbered chinamen were shot in the back as they ran to Chinatown, which the demons burned. They forced chinamen out into the open and shot them; demon women and children threw the wounded back in the flames. (There was a rumor of a good white lady in Green Springs who hid China Men in the Pacific Hotel and shamed the demons away.) The hunt went on for a month before federal troops came. The count of the dead was inexact because bodies were mutilated and pieces scattered all over the Wyoming Territory. No vvhite miners were indicted, but the government paid $150,000 in reparations to victims' families. There were many family men, then. There were settlersabiding China Men. And China Women. Ah Goong was running elsewhere during the Drivings Out of Tacoma, Seattle, Oregon City, Albania, and Marysville. The demons of Tacoma packed all its chinamen into boxcars and sent them to Portland, where they were run out of town. China Men returned to Seattle, though, and refused to sell their land and stores but fought until the army came; the demon rioters were tried and acquitted. And when the Boston police imprisoned and beat 234 chinamen, it was 1902, and Ah Goong had already reached San Francisco or China, and perhaps San Francisco again. In Second City (Sacramento), he spent some of his railroad money at the theater. The main actor's face was painted red with thick black eyebrows and long black beard, and when he strode onto the stage, Ah Goong recognized the hero, Guan Goong; his puppet horse had red nostrils and rolling eyes. Ah Goong's heart leapt to recognize hero and horse in the wilds of America. Guan Goong murdered his enemy-crash' bang! of cymbals and drum-and left his home village-sad, sad flute music. But to the glad clamor of cymbals entered his friends-Liu Pei (pronounced the same as Running Nose) and Chang Fei. In a joyful burst of pink flowers, the three men swore the Peach Garden Oath. Each friend sang an aria to friendship; together they would fight side by side and live and die one for all and all for one. Ah Goong felt as warm as if he were with friends at a party. Then Guan Goong's archenemy, the sly Ts'ao Ts'ao, captured him and two ofLiu Pei's wives, the Lady Kan and the Lady Mi. Though Ah Goong knew they were boy actors, he basked in the presence of Chinese ladies. The prisoners traveled to the capital, the soldiers waving horsehair whisks, signif\·ing horses, the ladies walking between horizontal banners, signif~:ing palanquins. All the prisoners were put in one bedroom, but Guan Goong stood all night outside the door with a lighted candle in his band, singing an aria about faithfulness. When the capital was attacked by a common enemy. Guan Goong fought the biggest man in one-to-one combat, a twirling, jumping sword dance that strengthened the China Men who watched it. From afar Guan Goong·s two partners heard about the feats of the man with the red face and intelligent horse. The three friends were reunited and fought until they secured their rightful kingdom. Ah Goong felt refreshed and inspired. He called out Bravo like the demons in the audience, who had not seen theater before, Guan Goong. the God ofWar. also God of War and Literature, had come to America-Guan Goong, Grandfather Guan. our own ancestor of writers and fighters. of actors and gamblers, and avenging executioners who mete out JUStice. Our own kin. Not a distant ancestor but Grandfather. In the Big Citv (San Francisco), a goldsmith convinced Ah Goong to have his gold made into jewelrv, \vhich would organize it into one piece and also delight his wife. So he handed over a second bag of gold. He got it back as a small ring in a design he thought up himself. t\\·o lunds clasping in a handshake. ''So smalJP he said. but the goldsmith said that only some of the ore had been true gold.


He got a ship out of San Francisco without being captured near the docks, where there was a stockade full of jailed chinamen; the demonesses came down from Nob Hill and rook them home to be servants, cooks, and baby-sitters. Grandmother liked the gold ring very much. The gold was so pure, it squished to fit her finger. She never washed dishes, so the gold did not wear away. She quickly spent the railroad money, and Ah Goong said he would go to America again. He had a Certificate of Return and his Citizenship Paper. But this time, there was no railroad to sell his strength to. He liwd in a basement that was rumored to connect with tunnels beneath Chinatown. In an underground arsenal, he held a pistol and said, "I feel the death in it." "The holes for the bullets were like chambers in a beehive or wasp nest," he said. He was inside the earth \vhen the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire began. Thunder rumbled from the ground. Some say he died tailing into the cracking earth. It was a miraculous earthquake and fire. The Hall of Records burned completely. Citizenship Papers burned, Certificates of Return, Birth Certificates. Residency Certificates, passenger lists, Marriage Certificates-every paper a China Man wanted for citizenship and legality burned in that ftre. An authentic citizen, then, had no more papers than an alien. Any paper a China Man could not produce had been ''burned up in the Fire of 1906." Every China Man was reborn out of that fire a citizen. Some say the family went into debt to send for Ah Goong, who was not making money; he was a homeless wanderer, a shiftless, dirty, jobless man with matted hair, ragged clothes, and fleas all over his body. He ate out of garbage cans. He was a louse eaten by lice. A Beaman. It cost two thousand dollars to bring him back to China. his oldest sons signing promissory notes for one thousand, his youngest to repay tour hundred to one neighbor and six hundred to another. Maybe he hadn't died in San Francisco, it was just his papers that burned; it was just that his existence was outlawed by Chinese Exclusion Acts. The family called him Fleaman. They did not understand his accomplishments as an American ancestor, a holding, homing ancestor of this place. He'd gotten the legal or illegal papers burned in the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire: he appeared in America in time to be a citizen and to ±ather citizens. He had also been seen carrying a child out of the fire. a child of his O\Vll in spite of the laws against marrying. He had built a railroad out of sweat, \vhy not have an American child out of longing'

Angel Island Poems hinese sojourners and settlers came to "Gun I S

The miners \\·on't forget them if thev live till Judgment Dc~y: For when they heard the story of these miners' braw rescue Th,lt Stn·ens was all right once more, thev kne\\' JUSt \\'hJt to do. They commenced to cooking chickem. cakes and pies. ,md brought the b,md And \Yith their wives and daughters came to sluke them by tht· hand. The way those hard-\\'orked miners the whole bakery did take. They say it was no "cake-walk," but \\·alking into cake.

Up home in Central City, when Jimmy stepped down off the train With a band his friends had gathered there to welcome him again. The meeting with his loving wife who found him safe from harm, His joy to see his little ones, and clasp them in his arms, This picture is too sacred, pard; I'll draw the curtain here, For scenes like this are apt to start from me a pensive tear. And there I fain would leave him now, alive and doing well. But alas! poor Jimmy's story, the sad truth I must tell: Far up in Colorado's hills he sleeps beneath the sod. Caught in a cave in a mine there, he went to meet his God. So, stranger, when each glorious Fourth of July rolls around, I think of Jimmy Stevens, and stay from under ground.


You cannot be a Union Man, No matter how you try, Unless you think in terms of "We,'' Instead of terms of "I."

"We've reached him, boys, he is all right, we have just now broke tl1ro'l" Then down the shaft a doctor went, to tell them what to do. And when the doctor looked at Jim, he says: ''Why he's all right, But we vvill keep him here a while, the sunlight is too bright." In Colorado, all this time, their loving hearts did yearn, His wife and little children, praying for his safe return.


The good people from that valley, to them it was a treat To see those chickens disappear and watch those miners eat. They showed a Christian spirit, true, and when they bade adieu, Invited every miner there to come and see them, too. And when with hearts and baskets light they journeyed home again They left kind memories of them which always will remain.


The "graveyard" shift had just come up. they knew the end was near, They knew that Stevens was alive, but would his mind be clear? The morning shift had been on thirty minutes, or about, When up the shaft came ringing a glad and joyful shout:

For Jimmy, he had told me: "On the 15th I'll go home, To see my wife and family, for I'm too old to roam.'' There. with aching heart. she waited: she knew about the cave, How hard at work his comrades were, her husband's life to save. How proud those happy miners were when they sent the news that night To his \Yife in Central City: "Your Jimmy's safe. all right!"



And how they stowed those "gumys" away, it surely was a fright. They danced and ate, and ate and danced, till early morning light While Jimmy Stevens, so they say, gained seven pounds that night "'Twas time for one to pick up some, who's forty-eight pounds light."


I built your ships and your railroads, And worked in your factories and mines: l built the good roads that you ride on. And crushed your ripe grapes into wine. l built the fine house that you live in,

And gathered the grain for your bread: l ·worked late at nights on your garments, And printed the fine books that your read.



I linked two great oceans together. And spanned your rivers with steel. l built your towering skyscrapers. And also your automobile.



American Working-Class Literature

Wherever there is progress you will find me, For the \Vodd without me could not live, And yet you seek to destroy me With the meagre pittance you give.

Revolt, Repression, and Cultural Formations: 1900-1929


I am master of field and of factories. I am mighty and you are but few, So, no longer will I bow into submission, I am Labor and I ask for my due. 10



Boss FoR

Tiuzc: ~i1zat Do 't~llt Himt to ~\fake Those Eyes at Jfc For/


Toiling along in lite from morn' til night, Wearin' away your all for the Parasite; Workin' like a mule with a number two, Puffin' like a bellows when the day is through; Stearing a load of gravel through the muck and slop. Packing a hod of mustard til you damn near flop; Trying to bust a gut for two twenty-five, Pluggin' like a sucker til five.


I have sweated through years for your pleasure, I have vmrked like a slave for your \Veal; And what is the wage you have paid me? You masters and drivers of menEnough so I come in my hunger To beg for more labor again! I have given my manhood to serve you, I have given my gladness and youth, You have used me, and spent me, and crushed me And thrown me aside without ruth; You have shut my eyes off from the sunlightMy lungs from the untainted air, You have housed me in horrible places Surrounded by squalor and care. I have built you the world in its beauty, I have brought you the glory and spoil; You have blighted my sons and my daughters, You have scourged me again to my toil, Yet I suffer it all in my patience, For, somehow, I dimly have known That someday the worker will conquer In a world that was meant for his own.


Chorus 10




So whadda ya want to break your back for the boss tor. When it don't mean life to you; Do you think it right to struggle day and night. And plow like Hell for the Parasite: So whadda ya want to break your back for the boss tor. When there's more in lite for you. Slow up Bill! that's the way to beat the Svstem; Join the Wobblv gang, they've got the bosses guessing; So whadda ya want to break your back tor the boss for. When it don't mean lite to you.


Hail! the American eagle, Emblem of men once free; Languishing now in prison, In its own loved country. Though its heart is broken, Its spirit is defiant still; Though prisons break its body, They cannot break its will.

Do it all today and you 'II soon tlnd out. Tomorrow there 'II be nothing but to hang about, Looking at the 'job sign,'' wondering whv you ra\·e. With a wrinkle on your bellY like an ocean waw; Doughnuts then begin to hang a !itcle high. You're pinched by the Bull f()[ a "German spy": You're nothing but a bum. savs the Judge \\·ith ,1 'mile. Thirtv days on the Rock Pile.


Choru.i :>




I han· broken my hanch on your granite, I han· broken mv strength n he arose in his stature tall And pressed a button upon the wall, And said to the imp who anHWered the bell: "l:>,;cort thit f-ellow around to Hell."


' Te-il Satan to g1ve him a seat .al-ol'\e On a red~hot griddle up near the throne; Bu• stay, e'en the Devil can't stand the smell Of a cooking •eab on a {l'rlddle in Hell. It would eauae a revt>lt, a strike, I know, lf r s.nt you down to the lmps below. Go back to your master• on earth aml tell Tha r they don't even want a aeab in Hell.~~ 1

··----------------L~ Jt-ams ,.ga ,.._.:ooa N, Cal\tt»'11ia Av-e.


nr ------uiaoiilsts-1

RAILioio£is---- ...

Amalgamation Mass Meeting



G. H. KENNgJl\'. Chairman, Natwnal Committee for Amalgamation, of St. Paul, .Minn. WILLIAM Z. !>'OSTEn; Editor The l.alior Herald and other prominent ljpeakera Luh;;st ne\-vs, developments and plans. Come and hear why ltaHrmulurs muat Anlalgu,nate P. H:NSEN, Chairman AI>MISSJON FREE Au~pice.s t:hica.go C\lfJlHJittf'f' fr;r Amalgamation Ruilroatl Unions


You are what is known on earth as a scab." Thereupon he arose in his stature tall And pressed a button upon the wall, And said to the imp who answered the bell: .. Escort this tell ow around to Hell." ''Tell Satan to give him a seat alone On a red-hot griddle up near the throne;

orn in Baltimore into a family vvith connections to southern aristocracy, Sinclair's childhood was marked by wide fluctuations between poverty and affluence, especially after the family's move to New York City when Upton was ten years old. "One night I would be sleeping on a vermin-ridden sofa in a lodging-house, and the next night under silken coverlets in a fashionable home. It all depended on whether my father had the money for that week's board." His father's alcoholism and early death required Sinclair to fend for himself and, by age 15, he began writing jokes for magazines, short stories for boys' weeklies, and dime novels to pay his way through City College and later graduate school at Columbia University. Always a writer, as well as an organizer and political candidate, Sinclair produced almost one hundred books in his long career, including Springti111c and Harvest (1901), The]ungle (1906), King Coal (1917), Oi/ 1 (1927), Boston (1928, on the Sacco and Vanzetti case), Dragon's Ieeth (1942), and his Autobiograp/1y (1962). Written on assignment for The Appeal to Reason-the socialist journal paid Sinclair a $500 advance and underwrote a seven-week visit to Chicago's "packingtmvn"- Tlzc Jungle is Sinclair's best-known novel, a leading example of the "muckraking" tradition in American writing. It was one of the few such works of fiction before the 1930s to mobilize a working-class protagonist, the Lithuanian immigrant Jurgis Rudkis whose struggles in Chicago's brutal workplaces, bars, unions, and political parties lead him by the nm·el's end to (an albeit inarticulate) socialism. In the excerpt that follows, Jurgis and t\VO familv members are taken on a tour of a meatpacking plant, much as Sinclair was during his visit. The tone of an official tour guide's statistics-laced account of the wonders of industrial food production is undercut by ironic reflections on the fate of the "innocent'' hogs and cattle that provide the ra\v material-a fate that, as Jurgis \vill later learn. mirrors that of the workers. TI1c jungle, dedicated to "the workingmen of America,'' quickly became a best-seller on the strength of its lurid exposure of the undenvorld of urban industrial work life. But despite Jack London's prediction that "What L'nclc Ti1111 ~' Ca/Ji11 did for the black slaves TI1e Jungle has a large chance to do for the white slaves of todav,'' the novel's greatest impact came in the form of legislation for food hygiene. not, as Sincbir had hoped. 111 better pay and \vorking conditions for the industry's apparently expendable \Yorkers.



In his capacity as delicatessen vender, Jokubas Szedvilas bad num· acquainunces. Among these was one of the special policemen employed by Durham. whose duty it frequentlY \Yas to pick out men for employment. Jokubas had never tried it. but he expressed a certaintv


American Working-Class Literature

that he could get some of his friends a job through this man. It was agreed, after consultation, that he should make the effort with old Antanas and with Jonas. Jurgis was confident of his ability to get work for himself, unassisted by any one. As we have said before, he was not mistaken in this. He had gone to Brown's and stood there not more than half an hour before one of the bosses noticed his form towering above the rest, and signalled to him. The colloquy which followed was brief and to the point: "Speak English?" "No; Lit-uanian." (Jurgis had studied this word carefully.) "Job?'' "Je." (A nod.) "Worked here before?" "No 'stand." (Signals and gesticulations on the part of the boss. Vigorous shakes of the head by Jurgis.) "Shovel guts?" "No 'stand." (More shakes of the head.) "Zarnos. Pagaiksztis. Szluota!" (Imitative motions.) '']e." "See door. Durys?" (Pointing.) "]e." "To-morrow, seven o'clock. Understand! Rytoj! Priesz-pietys! Septyni!" "Dekui, tamistail" (Thank you, sir.) And that was all. Jurgis turned away, and then in a sudden rush the full realization of his triumph swept over him, and he gave a yell and a jump, and started ofT on a run. He had a job! He had a job! And he went all the way home as if upon wings, and burst into the house like a cyclone, to the rage of the numerous lodgers who had just turned in for their daily sleep. Meantime Jokubas had been to see his friend the policeman, and received encouragement, so it was a happy party. There being no more to be done that day, the shop was left under the care of Lucija, and her husband sallied forth to show his friends the sights of Packingtown. Jokubas did this with the air of a country gentleman escorting a party of visitors over his estate; he was an old-time resident, and all these \Vonders had grmvn up under his eyes, and he had a personal pride in them. The packers might own the land, but he claimed the landscape, and there \Vas no one to say nay to this. They passed down the busy street that led to the yards. It was still early morning, and everything was at its high tide of activity. A steady stream of employees was pouring through the gate-employees of the higher sort, at this hour, clerks and stenographers and such. For the women there were waiting big two-horse wagons, which set off at a gallop as fast as they were filled. In the distance there was heard again the lowing of the cattle, a sound as of a far-off ocean calling. They followed it this time, as eager as children in sight of a circus menagerie-\vhich, indeed, the scene a good deal resembled. They crossed the railroad tracks, and then on each side of the street were the pens full of cattle; they \Vould ha\·e stopped to look, but Jokubas hurried them on, to where there \Vas a stainvay and a raised gallery, from \vhich everything could be seen. Here they stood, staring, breathless with \Vonder. There is over a square mile of space in the yards, and more than half of it is occupied by cattle pens; north and south as far as the eye can reach there stretches a sea of pens. And they were all filled-so many cattle no one had ever dreamed existed in the world. Red Clttle, black. white, cmd yellow cattle; old cattle and young cattle; great bellowing bulls and little calves not an hour born; meek-eyed milch cows and fierce, long-horned Texas steers. The sound of them here was as of all the barnyards of the universe; and as for counting them-it would have taken all day simply to count the pens. Here and there ran long allevs.

Revolt, Repression, and Cultural Formations; 1900-1929


blocked at intervals by gates; and Jokubas told them that the number of these gates \vas twenty-five thousand. Jokubas had recently been reading a newspaper article which was full of statistics such as that. and he was very proud as he repeated them and made his guests crv out with wonder. Jurgis too had a little of this sense of pride. Had he not just gotten a Job. and become a sharer in all this activity, a cog in this marvelous machine? Here and there about the alleys galloped men upon horseback, booted, and carrying long whips; they \\·ere very busy, calling to each other, and to those who vvere driving the cattle. They were drovers and stock-raisers, vvho had come ±rom far states, and brokers and commission-merchants, and buyers for all the big packing houses. Here and there they would stop to inspect a bunch of cattle, and there \vould be a parley, brief and businesslike. The buyer would nod or drop his whip. and that would mean a bargain; and he would note it in his little book, along with hundreds of others he :'ad made that morning. Then Jokubas pointed out the plac~ \vhere the cattle were drive;; to be weighed upon a great scale that would weigh a hundred thousand pounds at once and record it automatically. It was near to the east entrance that they stood, and all along this east side of the yards ran the railroad tracks. into which the cars were run, loaded with cattle. All night long this had been going on, and now the pens were fulL by tonight they would all be empty, and the same thing would be done again. ''And what will become of all these creatures;" cried Teta Elzbieta. "Bv tonight," Jokubas answered, "'they \viii all be killed and cut up; and over there on the other side of the packing houses are more railroad tracks. where the cars come to take then1 away." There were two hundred and fifty miles of track within the yards, their guide went on to tell them. They brought about ten thousand head of cattle every day, and as many hogs. and half as many sheep-\vhich meant some eight or ten million live creatures turned into food every year. One stood and watched. and little by little caught the drift of the tide. as it set in the direction of the packing houses. There were groups of cattle being driven to the chutes. which were roadways about fifteen feet wide. raised high above the pens. In these chutes the stream of animals was continuous; it was quite uncanny to watch them, pressing on to their fate, all unsuspicious-a very river of death. Our friends were not poeticaL and the sight suggested to them no metaphors of human destiny; they thought onh- of the \vonderful e±I1ciency of it all. The chutes into which the hogs went climbed high up-to the very top of the distant buildings. and Jokubas explained that the hogs \Wnt up bv the power of their mvn legs. and then their weight carried them back through all the processes necessarv to make them into pork. "They don't waste anvthing here." said the guide, and then he laughed and added a witticism. which he \vas pleased that his unsophisticated triends should take to be his own: "Thev use even'thing about the hog except the squeal." In tront ofBrmvn's General Office building there grows a tinv plot of grass. and this. \·ou may learn. is the only bit of green thing in Packingtmvn; like\\·ise this jest about the hog and his squeaL the stock in trade of .111 the guides. is the one gleclm of humor vou \Yill tind there. After thev had seen enough of the pens. the party \Yent up the street. to the mass of buildings \Yhich occupv the centre of the yards. These buildings. made of brick and stained \Vith innumerable lavers of Packingtmv-n smoke. were paimed all over with advertising signs. fi·om \vhich the \·isitor realized suddenlY that he had come to the home of many of the torments of his lite. It \Yas here that the\· nude those products \\·ith the \vonders of \\·hich thev pestered him c;o- bv- pbcards that deflCed the Lmdsope when he traveled. and lw staring cldwrtisements in the nL'\\·spapers and nugazines-by silly little jingles that he could not get out of h1s mind. and gauch· pictures that lurked t under the coarse blanket>. and the whisperings of the one who prays v\·ith his forehead on the hard, cold stone of the floor; I haw heard him who laughs the shrill sinister laugh of folly at the horror rampant on the vellow wall and at the red eyes of the nightmare glaring through the iron bars; I have heard in the sudden icy silence him \vho coughs a dry ringing cough and wished madly that his throat would not rattle so and that he would not spit on the floor, for no sound \Vas more atrocious than that of his sputum upon the floor; 611 I have heard him who swears fearsome oaths \vhich I listen to in rewrence and awe, tor thev are holier than the virgin's prayer; And I have heard. most terrible of alL the silence of two hundred brains all possessed bv one single. relentless. unforgiving r,:; desperate thought. All this haw I heard in the warchfi.1l night, And the murmur of the \\·ind beyond the \\·alls. And the tolls of a distant bell. And the woeti.d dirge of the Llin /11 And the remotest echoes of the sorrmvti.1l cit\' And the terrible bc,Jtings. \\ ild beatings. mad beatings of the One Heart which is ne,Jrest to mv he,ut.

found. They descend and they climb, the fearfi.1l footsteps of men, and 'orne limp, some drag. some speed, some trot, some runthey are quiet, slmv, noisy, brisk, quick. feverish. mad, and most awful is their cadence to the ears of the one who stands


still. But of all the footsteps of men that either descend or climb, no footsteps are so fearsome and terrible as those that go straight on the dead level of a prison floor, fi·om a yellow stone \vall \IIU




11 1)




to a red iron gate. All through the night he walks and he thinks. ls it more frightful because he walks and his footsteps hollmv over my head, or because he thinks and speaks not his thoughts? But does he think? Why should he think' Do I think? I onl;,· hear the footsteps and count them. Four steps and the wall. Four steps and the gate. l3ut bevond? l3evond? Where goes he beyond the gate and the walE He goes not beyond. His thought breaks there on the iron gate Perhaps it breaks like a waw of rage. perlups like ,1 sudden flood of hope. but it ahnys returns to beat the wall like a billmv of helplessness and despair. He \valks to and fro within the narrm\· \Vhirlpit of thi' e\·er storming and furious thought. Only one thought-constant, fixed inmJovable. sinister \Vithout po\n'r and \Vithout \'oicc·. A thought of madness. frenzy. agony and despair. a hellbre\Wd thought. f(Jr it is a natural thought. All things Jutural are things impossible \vhile there are jails in the world-bread. work. happiness. peace. !ewe. l3ut he thinks not of this. As he walks he thinb of the most superhunun. the most unattainable. the most imJXlssible thing in tht" \vorld: He thinks of ,J sm,1ll br,1ss kt·\· th~lt turns just lulf ,Jround ,mel throws open the red iron gc~te.

All this haw l heard in the still night: But nothing is louder. harder. drearier. mightier or more awti.1l than the t,teps. Suddenly he turned round. and shot at the mn1er: ''Do all them tellmvs li\·e in that house'" The man indicated the three other strikers and himself. and shook his head ,lt me. ''Then vou get to hell off of there'" said the cop. pointing his club ,Jt me. "I haw the permission of this gentleman to stand here." I s,1id. "He m\·ns this home." "Ne\·er mind' Do \Ylut I tell you! Come otT of there. ,md come otf d,uun quick'" 'Til do nothing of the sort." With that he leaped up the steps. seized mv arm. ,md violently jerked me to the sidC\v,Jlk. Another cop took my ,Jnn and thev g.1w me ,1 show. "Nmv vou L!et to hell otT this street!" said Othccr McC:ornuck. "I \Yon :t ge( otT this street or ,my other street. If I'm breaking any Ll\\', you ,urest me'·· Ofl-iccr i'v1cCormack. \\ ho is doubtless ,\ good. stupid Irishman in time of peKe. is almost helpless in a sittution tlut rcqmre-; thinking. He \\ ,\s dreadtidlv troubled b\ m\· request. He didn't w,mt to arrest me, ,md s,Jid so \\ ith a gre,Jt deal of prut~mitv.


''I\·e g,,r your number:· said I s\veetly. "No\\' \vi\1 you tell me your name''' "Yes," he bellowed. "an' I got )'tltlr number' I'll arrest you.'' He took me by the arm and marched me up the street. He \Vas sorry he lzad arrested me. There was no charge he could lodge against me. 1 hadn't been doing anything. He felt he must make me say something that could be construed as a violation of the Lav•;. To \Yhich end he God damned me harshly. loading me with abuse and obscenity, and threatened me with his night-stick, saying. "You big-lug. I'd like to beat the hell out of you with this club." I returned airy persiflage to his threats. Other otT1cers came to the rescue, nvo of them, and supplied fresh epithets. I soon found them repeating themse!Yes, however. and told them so. "I had to come all the way to Paterson to put one over on a cop!" I said. Eureka' They had at last found a crime! When I was arraigned in the Recorder's Court that remark of mine was the charge against me! Ushered into the patrol-wagon, I was driven with much cbnging of gongs along the picket-line. Our passage was greeted \Vith "Boos" and ironical cheers, and enthusiastic wa\·ing. At Headquarters I was interrogated and lodged in the lockup. My cell \vas about four feet wide bv seven feet long. at least a foot higher than a standing man's head. and it contained an iron bunk hung from the side-wall with chains, and an open toilet of disguscing dirtiness in the corner. A crmvd of pickets had been jammed into the same lockup onlv three days before, eig/It or nine in a cell, and kept there without food or water for tu•cnty-tll'). S