Public Art Program > The Haymarket Memorial
175 N. Desplaines St.
Chicago, IL 60661
On the evening of May 4, 1886, a tragedy of international significance unfolded in Chicago's Haymarket produce district. An outdoor meeting had been hastily organized by anarchist activists to protest the violent death of workers during a labor lockout the previous day in another area of the city. Spectators gathered in the street as speakers addressed political, social and labor issues from atop a freight wagon from the adjacent factory. When approximately 175 policemen approached with an order to disperse the meeting, a dynamite bomb was thrown into their ranks. The identity and affiliation of the person who threw the bomb has never been determined; this anonymous act had many victims.
Due to the blast and panic that followed, seven policemen and at least four civilian bystanders lost their lives, but the victims of the incident were not limited to those who died as a direct result of the bombing. In the aftermath, those who organized and spoke at the meeting—and others who held unpopular political viewpoints—were arrested, unfairly tried and, in some cases, sentenced to death even though none could be tied to the bombing itself.
Over the years, the site of the Haymarket bombing has become a powerful symbol for a diverse cross-section of people, ideals and movements. Its significance touches on the issues of free speech, the right of public assembly, organized labor, the fight for the eight-hour workday, law enforcement, justice, anarchy and the right of every human being to pursue an equitable and prosperous life. For all, it is a poignant lesson in the rewards and consequences inherent in such human pursuits.
Drawing on the symbolism of the wagon used as the speakers’ platform during the meeting, this sculpture by Mary Brogger marks the precise location where the wagon stood, and where the historic events occurred.