A country-wide strike of shop men was declared by union leaders that was practically 100 percent perfect. The nation's great transportation machine continued its work without interruption. Railroad executives were unanimous in their belief that the strike would have little effect on the operation of their roads and asserted that any move toward a settlement would have to come from the United States Labor Board or the employees.
COUNTRY-WIDE STRIKE CALLED FOR SHOPMEN
A country-wide strike of shop men was declared by union leaders that was practically 100 percent perfect. The nation’s great transportation machine continued its work without interruption. Railroad executives were unanimous in their belief that the strike would have little effect on the operation of their roads and asserted that any move toward a settlement would have to come from the United States Labor Board or the employees.
The year before, the railway companies convinced the Labor Board to reduce wages for the workers several times. By 1922, tensions were high between labor and management. When a seven-cent per hour decrease was announced, the fate was sealed.
The walkout began in all sections of the country promptly at 10 A.M. on July 2, 1922, and many places took on the aspect of a holiday, with the men cheering and singing as they threw down their tools. The only display of force reported during the day was in Illinois, where several hundred shop men, after failing to persuade four companions to join them in the walkout, picked them up bodily and carried them out.
RESIDENTS OF SHAWNEE OFFENDED
The people of Shawnee were astounded when they read the dispatch of the Associated Press in the July 20 paper. It suggested that United States Marshals were sent to Shawnee to assist in keeping down violence. They also suggested that they were in the city to prevent the striking railway men from interfering with the operation of trains and the dispatch of the United States mail.
Most of the citizens said the men involved in the strike in Shawnee during the present strike conducted themselves in a law-abiding and peaceful manner. They were placing their entire confidence in the court of public opinion. They believed the justness of their cause would finally be weighed by the great tribunal, and the decision rendered would be founded upon the merits involved in the gigantic struggle.
Mayor George B. Caruth commented that he did not know where the slander on the good people of Shawnee came from. He said the talk of violence in the city over the strike was false.
NO TROOPS ORDERED TO SHAWNEE UNTIL CONDITIONS GET WORSE
Shawnee slept snugly on the night of August 19, 1922, little disturbed by outside reports that martial law was likely to be declared in the city. There was confidence that federal, county, and city officers could work in harmony to guard against any possible outbreak among the radicals, who were said to be coming to the city.
At 9 P.M., on the 19th, Chief of Police Ira Sims announced officially that no troops would be brought to the city unless conditions became much more serious than they were at the time. This was his answer to the wire reports that troops had been mobilized in Oklahoma City, Seminole, and Konawa to come to Shawnee to do guard duty.
About 30 deputy United States Marshals were in the city, working under the direction of Chief Sims in patrolling the streets near the Rock Island shops. The men reported at midnight that no trouble had been experienced.
“We do not expect any trouble from the Shawnee shop men,” said Alva McDonald, U.S. Marshal for the district. “It is the I.W.W. element which has drifted into the city since the strike started that is causing us the trouble.”
Mayor George B. Caruth issued a statement:
“The strike situation in Shawnee has assumed rather serious proportions in the last few days, and it seems there are some misguided persons who persist in violating the law, not realizing that no good purpose can be worked by violence, and that violence would only bring trouble, annoyance and disaster, not only upon every man, but the women and children of the city of Shawnee.
“There also seems to be an impression that the U.S. Marshal’s office is the avowed enemy of the striker and the strike sympathizers in and around Shawnee.
“As the Mayor of the City of Shawnee, I want to say to the public that I have found Marshal McDonald to be a considerable and courteous gentleman, in Shawnee in obedience to the order of the Federal Court, to protect the property of the citizens and the railroads during the strike. Ever since he has been in town, he has attempted to work in good faith with the Police Department of the City of Shawnee, and with the Sheriff’s Department of the County of Pottawatomie, and is not here as the enemy of any class, but simply to keep the peace and protect the property of all citizens alike; and that is also the desire of city and county officials.
“Unless the good people of the City of Shawnee cooperate with the Marshal’s office and the Police Department, the government will take the situation over here, and put the city under martial law. This would be a very drastic and inconvenient situation for the citizens and would give us a name and a reputation that we could not live down for the next 25 years.
“Therefore, as Mayor of the City of Shawnee, I want to call upon every man, woman, and child within this city to go quietly about their daily duties during this strike and without agitation, and to render assistance to the duly constituted and authorized officials for keeping the peace and for the protection of lives and property, and in order that a system of military government may be avoided in the city.”
Long conferences were held between the striking shop men and the federal, county and city officers. No official statement was issued after the meeting, but it was freely admitted that all sides were more than pleased with the results of the parleys. The shop men pledged to the officers their every support in keeping down any disorder in the city. TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK.
(These stories and hundreds more appear in the first volume of Shawnee history, entitled: “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE EARLY YEARS, 1830-1929.” It can be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by visiting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society at the old Santa Fe Depot. It can be purchased for $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. They may be obtained as a package for $60. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, “On The Edge of Modern Times,” 1950-1969,” is coming sometime before Christmas. All three volumes are slightly over 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. They are fully indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volume four 1970-1989; volume five 1990-2009; and volume six 2010-to the present, are scheduled in the next two to three years, bringing the history up to the current time of publication.)
Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.