Today's History Highlights Archive

Beer, Bread and Roses and Trolley Trepidation in Today’s History Highlights – 8.19.2013

The 1912 Lawrence, Mass., textile strike gets revisited in a new book from Susan Grabsk, executive director of the Lawrence History Center. Known as the Bread and Roses strike (workers wanted roses for their labor as well as bread), the strike started when the American Woolen Company decided to cut workers hours from 56 to 54 hours and reduce the weekly pay of $9 by thirty cents. While a small drop in percentage, the reduction was huge in its impact on workers already struggling in horrible living conditions. The move was the last in a series of squeezes the company put on its workforce, and it proved to be one squeeze too many. The strike lasted nine weeks. The government and the corporation pulled all the stops in attempting to undermine worker solidarity – trumped up murder charges, planted evidence of plans for domestic terrorism, militia intimidation. The workers, from many different nationalities, responded by sticking together. Many sent their children out of town to stay with families of union workers in other cities. The move sheltered the children from any violence and helped the workers manage without pay. In the end, the company gave in and granted wage increases to bring the strike to a close. Lawrence, to this day, remembers the strike. Grabsk’s book about it will be released at this year’s Labor Day Bread and Roses Festival on Sept. 2.

If you were a mill worker in Manchester, N.H., in the mid-1800s, after a long, hot day of labor, a beer probably sounded like a pretty good idea. And if you were, in fact, in search of one, the chances are good you were acquainted with the handiwork of Michael Prout. A carpenter, Civil War soldier and brewer and seller of beer, the blog Cow Hampshire has brought to light some of Prout’s history. Prout was born in England, but settled in New Hampshire where his long career included a run-in with the temperance police of the day. But he held no grudge against the city, and when he passed away his will was generous to Manchester. It included both cash endowments and the establishment of a park that bears his name.

When we hop on a bus or train today, we have a reasonable expectation that we’ll get where we’re headed in one piece. That was hardly the case in 1889, when Bangor Maine’s first electric trolley car rolled down the street. Wayne E. Reilly writes in the Bangor Daily News that the test run was held at midnight. The organizers wanted the streets empty of horses. No one was quite sure what the electricity powering the car would do. Would it stop watches? Would it start fires? Would it even move the trolley down the street? Turns out it did, but not without some humorous fits and starts along the way. By the time of Today's Flashback Photo (1936), trolleys were old news.

When public opinion in a nation begins leaning toward war, it’s an unpopular person who tries to stop the momentum. The Massachusetts Society of Sons of the American Revolution offers this blog post about the 1775 run-up to the American Revolution. There were loyalists in the colonies at that point, and many of them were outspoken in their views that the nation would be better off under British rule. They also found themselves in an increasingly tight spot. Harassed for their views, and unwilling to pick up arms against neither England nor their neighbors, they faced difficult options. So what to do? Well, heading to Canada was, as always, a common choice.

Today's Flashback Photo...

Postcard of State State Street, Bangor, Me. (Boston Public Libdary)

Postcard of State State Street, Bangor, Me. (Boston Public Libdary)

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