The Chicago Police and the Nineteenth Century Terrorist Attacks, 1875-1895

Frank Morn, Illinois State University

Twenty years after its creation the Chicago police was confronted with terrorism. A group of anarchists, largely of German origin, made Chicago send only to New York City as the center of radicalism desiring to disrupt and destroy the capitalist system and the government structure. Specific to their attacks were the police.

The staffing of the police in the previous twenty years tried to cater to two large demographic groups: the Irish to the south and southwest, and the Germans to the north. Theoretically Irish officers policed the Irish. Germans, and to some extent other ethnic groups, lived and policed among their ethnic groups northward. However, there was a transition zone in central working class Chicago. This zone was one of rapidly changing populations. While some of these changes were ethnic most had to do with class. Officers living in these precints were seeing the populations and ideologies changing right from under them. Considerable hostility resulted and culminated in the Haymarket incident of 1886.

This paper will document the general demographic nature of the police but more specifically the makeup of the precints in the transition zones of the city as one explanation for the bomb throwing in 1886.

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Updated 05/20/2006