Sometime after the great fire, the population of Chicago increased at a tremendous rate in a very short period of time. The center of a surging industrial movement, many of the the City's new residents were immigrants, moving to blue collar jobs. A troubled economy in the early 1880s lead to widespread unemployment. In 1886, a nationwide railroad strike triggered a reaction in Chicago. One of the most infamous legal proceedings in America's history happened in Chicago in response. Labor protestors and police clashed in a violent confrontation after a home made grenade exploded, killing a number of police officers:
The unknown bomber's act resounded nationwide. Public opinion was instantly galvanized against the radical left, resulting in the first "Red Scare" in America. In a climate of political paranoia fueled by the popular press, the police arrested eight prominent Chicago anarchists and charged them with conspiracy to murder. The eight were tried before Judge Joseph E. Gary in the Circuit Court of Cook County. Although no evidence emerged to tie any of the men to the bombing, the jury returned a verdict of guilty after deliberating for less than three hours. The court sentenced Oscar Neebe to fifteen years in the penitentiary and the others to death by hanging.The Library of Congress, the Chicago History Society, and Northwestern University have all played a part in putting online a great amount of information about the events leading to the case, the proceedings themselves, and their aftermath. Chicago Anarchists on Trial: Evidence from the Haymarket Affair displays a very large volume of photographs and documents, including many pages from the legal proceedings resulting from the death of the police officers from the grenade. The identity of the person who threw the grenade was never uncovered.
A fantastic presentation by the Chicago History Society and Northwestern University called The Dramas of Haymarket, provides an intriguing history of the events. Memories of Haymarket exist within Chicago, and labor protestors to this day. (image from the Dramas of Haymarket, Act Three -- Toils of the Law, The Court of Public Opinion)