Digital Commonwealth

Flag Parade Lawrence, Mass.

Lawrence Public Library

The Lawrence textile workers strike of 1912 began January 12th and ended March 14 of that year. 27,000 workers were affected and the cost would be figured at around $3,000,000 in lost wages, revenue, extra expense in policing, and harm to the general business community. 500 people were arrested and 2 died of injuries incurred during altercations. The result was an increase in wages from 5 to 25 percent, a modification of the "premium system," and a 25 percent increase in overtime work. In a broader perspective, textile workers throughout New England were given a wage increase of 5 to 7 percent.

The International Workers of the World (IWW) or Wobblies conducted the strike. The local police department was unable to control the mass of demonstrators. The Metropolitan Park Police Department was sworn in to increase the force from 84 to 200 officers. The state militia was also called in.

The strike ended March 14 with a 3 to 25 percent increase in wages. The aftermath of the strike rippled throughout the industrial northeast. On September 29, Carlo Tresca, an IWW leader, led a parade through the streets of Lawrence. The streets of the city saw images of red flags and banners proclaiming "No God; No Master!" On Oct. 2, Mayor Scanlon appealed "to the patriotic and law respecting people pf Lawrence." He urged citizens to wear US flags on their lapels until Thanksgiving as a rebuke against the creed no God no master. His theme would be For God and country. Within a day the city was decorated in and out with red, white, and blue and plans were being made for a patriotic Columbus Day parade.

The parade started smartly at 9:00 AM and proceeded 90 minutes down Essex Street. It included school children, lodges, ladies clubs, military organizations, church and scout groups, bands, and politicians. 32,000 participated and another 25,000 cheered them on. The only group not invited (and, in fact, banned) was the IWW. The most significant event of the day was the flag raising n the Common by members of the local GAR chapter. Some say 60,000 people were in attendance waving flags over their heads making the crowd appear to be an undulating wave of red, white, and blue.

The Lawrence textile Strike is of great significance in the march of the history of the United States. There were other strikes before and after, but the strike of 1912 was a milestone for the city. It was also a milestone for labor history, the textile industry, American immigration, and the development of cities and towns in the northeast. The Lawrence Textile Strike of 1912 is remembered during recent years with the Bread & Roses Heritage Festival on the Campagnone Common in Lawrence held, appropriately, on Labor Day.

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