Haymarket Martyr’s Monument

Quick Facts
Forest Park, IL
National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmark
The Forest Home Cemetery
Tucked away in Forest Home Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois a monument dedicated to the one of the most important events American labor history, the Haymarket Affair, and the four men who were hanged in connection with its events.

The Haymarket Martyrs' Monument was dedicated on June 23, 1893 by the Pioneer Aid and Support Association, a group organized to support the families of the accused. This solemn monument consists of a sixteen-foot-high granite shaft atop a two-stepped base, on which stand two bronze figures. The predominant figure is a woman who is standing over the other figure, a bearded male worker. The sculpture represents Justice placing a wreath on the head of a fallen worker.

About the Haymarket Affair:

In the summer of 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (the predecessor of the American Federation of Labor) called for May 1, 1886 to be the beginning of a nationwide movement for the eight-hour day. When the day came, after two years of planning time, 80,000 workers packed Michigan Avenue in support of the eight-hour movement.

One of the organizers was Albert Parsons, a printer, member of the Knights of Labor, and editor of the labor paper The Alarm. His wife Lucy, who had been born a slave in Texas, organized sewing workers.

On Sunday, May 2, Albert went to Ohio to organize rallies, while Lucy and others staged a march of 35,000 workers. On Monday, May 3, a group of workers surged the gates to confront strikebreakers, and Chicago police fired into the crowd, killing two McCormick employees.

This event led to a follow-up meeting, planned for Haymarket Square on the evening of Tuesday, May 4. The meeting was smaller than expected; instead of 20,000 people, fewer than 2,500 attended. Albert Parsons was a last-minute substitute speaker at the event, as was Samuel Fielden, a Methodist preacher.

The event was winding down, Albert Parsons had left, and only around 200 people remained when 176 police, carrying repeater rifles, confronted the attendees. Someone—it is unknown to this day whom—threw a bomb. The bomb exploded, killing once policeman. There was general panic, and many shot at their own men by mistake. Eventually, seven policemen and four workers were killed.

Following this event, martial law was declared throughout the nation. labor leaders were arrested, houses were entered in warrantless searches, and union newspapers were shut down. Eventually eight men were arrested in connection with the bombing. Among them were Parsons and Fielden, as well as a carpenter named Louis Lingg, who stood accused of throwing the bomb, despite having a witness to prove he had been over a mile away at the time of the bombing.

The two-month trial is still notorious today, with all seven men found guilty and sentenced to hang, and one sentenced to 15 years of hard labor, on little to no evidence. Parsons and three others (Adolph Fischer, George Engel, and August Spies) were hanged on November 11, 1887, and Lingg was found dead in his cell. Fielden and Michael Schwab’s sentences were changed to life in prison. In June of 1893, new Illinois governor John P. Altgeld pardoned the remaining three men, condemning the trial as a miscarriage of justice.

Due to the Haymarket Affair, the American Federation of Labor recommended that May 1 be set aside as International Labor Day.

Those who died after the trial are known by labor historians as the Haymarket Martyrs.

Last updated: October 25, 2020