Meet the Haymarket Defendants
The sketches on this page were prepared by Jeremy M. Strathman (1L)








Samuel Fielden

 "It is not generally considered a crime among intellectual people to be a Revolutionist, but it may be made a crime
 if the Revolutionist happens to be poor."

– Samuel Fielden

Born:  February 25, 1847;  Todmorden, England
Died:  February 7, 1922
Occupation:  self-employed teamster

“His rugged appearance and fluent homespun delivery appealed to his working-class audiences- he was whole-souled, humorous, full of quaint touches of tenderness, simple uncultured poetry, and good-heartedness.” 
Lizzie May Holmes (on Fielden)

The only English immigrant among the accused defendants in the Haymarket trial, Samuel Fielden served as the treasurer of the American Group (a faction of the International Working Persons Association).  A supporter of the 8-hour movement, Fielden was speaking at the Haymarket when Captain Bonfield ordered Fielden and the assembled group to immediately disperse.  Fielden maintained that the group was peaceable, but decided to step down from the speaker’s position, anyway.  As he was stepping down from the speakers’ wagon, the bomb was thrown into the ranks of policemen.  Fielden was the only defendant who sustained a major injury at Haymarket--he was shot in the knee by a police officer as he fled the Haymarket area.

Fielden was arrested the following morning, at his home.  He stood trial and was convicted and sentenced to death with the other defendants.  Like Michael Schwab, Fielden chose to write to Governor Oglesby, pleading that his death sentence be commuted to a sentence of life in prison.  Governor Oglesby granted this favor, commuting Fielden’s sentence on November 10, 1887. 

Fielden served six years in prison, before being pardoned on June 26, 1893 by Governor John Peter Altgeld.  After being pardoned, Fielden led a quiet life, eventually acquiring land and moving to a ranch in Colorado.  He lived the rest of his life on the ranch, remaining generally inactive in the labor movement, until his death in 1922.

Louis Lingg

“The forces by which the workers are kept in subjugation must be retaliated by force.” 
Louis  Lingg

 Born:  September 9, 1864
Died:  November 10, 1887 (suicide)
Occupation: carpenter

“Devoted and fearless, never for an instant allowing
 false hope to swerve him from the path of principle,
 he died as he had lived--a child of nature.”
– Dyer Lum (on Lingg)

Louis Lingg, at age twenty-two the youngest of the Haymarket defendants, immigrated to the United States from Germany less than one year before the Haymarket incident.  In Germany, Lingg’s father was hurt in an accident, and his father’s employer reduced his wages and eventually discharged him; this gave Lingg a poor impression of employers and set off his militant hatred of capitalism.  He discovered socialism in 1881, before leaving for the United States.

Once in America, Lingg joined the North-Side Group, along with Neebe and Schwab.  Lingg was extremely militant, and together with William Seliger, made 30 to 50 bombs on the day of the Haymarket incident.  Although Lingg did not attend the Haymarket meeting, he was eventually arrested on May 14, 1886 when a police officer came to Lingg’s hiding spot.   Lingg fought the police officer before finally being subdued by his landlord, who witnessed the struggle.

In 1886, a jury convicted Lingg and sentenced him to death, along with the other Haymarket defendants.  On November 6, 1887, less than one week before his scheduled execution, four bombs were found in Lingg’s cell.  This prompted the city of Chicago to fear either an escape or an attack by the defendants and caused serious harm to the defendants’ public opinion and support.  On November 10, 1887, the day before his scheduled execution, Lingg smuggled dynamite caps into his cell and bit them, destroying his jaw, and killing himself.  Many believed that he did not want his fate to be in the hands of his oppressors, and that he would rather be a martyr for the cause, by his own volition.

George Engel

“No power on Earth can rob the working man of his knowledge of
 how to make bombs- and that knowledge he possesses.”

--George Engel

Born:  April 15, 1836
Died:  November 11, 1887
Occupation:  toy store owner

George Engel, 50 years old at the time of the Haymarket riot, was the oldest of the Haymarket defendants.  An orphan since the age of 12, Engel immigrated to America from Germany in 1873.  Engel became a socialist shortly after arriving in Chicago in 1874.  His adoption of socialism was influenced by what he saw as the sameness of the two major parties: "When, in the fourteenth ward, in which I lived and had the right to vote, the Social Democratic party had grown to such dimensions as to make it dangerous for the Republican and Democratic parties, the latter forthwith united and took stand against the Social Democrats.  This, of course, was natural; for are not their interests identical?"

A militant, “fervent devotee” of the International Working Persons Association, Engel, along with Fischer, was a radical leader of the autonomist faction of the socialist labor movement.  In the words of co-defendant Oscar Neebe,  “Engel was a brave soldier in the working-class struggle, an out and out rebel for the cause.” Although Engel attended the “Monday Night Conspiracy” at Greif’s Saloon on May 3, 1886, Engel stayed at home and played cards on the night of the Haymarket riot.

He was arrested at his home two days later.  Engel was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.  Unlike Fielden and Schwab, Engel chose not to plead to Governor Oglesby for his sentence to be commuted.  Accordingly, Engel was hanged on November 11, 1887 with the remaining Haymarket defendants.

Adolf Fischer

“He expected and desired to lose his life in the cause of human emancipation, and he had little patience with measures looking to the mere amelioration of the working people’s condition.”
– William Holmes

Born:   1858
Died:  November 11, 1887
Occupation: printer

Adolph Fischer was a militant revolutionary zealot and German-born socialist who immigrated to the U.S. when he was 15 years old.  After arriving in America, Fischer became the foreman of the composing room at the Arbeiter-Zeitung.  Fischer also joined the International Working Persons Association and the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein.  Along with Engel, Fischer was a leader of the autonomist faction of the socialist labor movement.

 Fischer attended the “Monday Night Conspiracy” at Greif’s Saloon on the night before the Haymarket incident.  He also attended the Haymarket meeting, but was reportedly at Zepf’s Hall when the bomb was thrown.  He was apprehended the following morning at the offices of the Arbeiter-Zeitung.

 Fischer was convicted and sentenced to death by hanging.  At his sentencing, Fischer blamed the verdict on the jury's hatred of his ideas: “I was tried here in this room for murder, and I was convicted of Anarchy.”  He predicted the verdict would not end anarchy, but only lead to more of it: “The more the believers in just causes are persecuted, the more quickly will their ideas be realized.  For instance, in rendering such an unjust and barbarous verdict, the twelve ‘honorable men’ in the jury-box have done more for the furtherance of Anarchism than the convicted have accomplished in a generation.  This verdict is a death-blow to free speech, free press and free thought in this country, and the people ill be conscious of it, too.  This is all I care to say.” Fischer did not plead for his sentence to be commuted, and if he had, his appeal would have likely failed.  Accordingly, Fischer was hanged on November 11, 1887 with Parsons, Spies, and Engel.

Oscar Neebe

 “Neebe was an organizer, pure and simple.  An adept at collecting men together and lining them up into workable bodies, he was an able ally for the educators, as innocent of wrong as the others.”
– Lizzie Holmes.

Born:  July 12, 1850
Died:  April 22, 1916
Occupation:  part-owner of a yeast company

Neebe, along with Parsons, is one of only two American-born defendants in the Haymarket trial.  Shortly after birth in New York City, Neebe and his family moved back to Germany where they stayed, before returning to America shortly before the Haymarket incident.

Neebe was never considered a leader of the Socialist movement, but he remained to play an important role in organizing the movement.  He offered this criticism of capitalism: "You use your power to perpetuate a system by which you make your money for yourselves and keep the wage workers poor... You rich men don't want the poor educated.  You don't want anybody to be educated.  You want to keep them down in the mud so you can squeeze the last drop out of their bones."

Neebe was not present at the Haymarket, but attempted to revive the Arbeiter-Zeitung after the riot had caused many involved with the Arbeiter-Zeitung to be arrested.

After being arrested himself and tried with the other defendants, Neebe was the only defendant who escaped a death sentence.  He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Neebe was pardoned on June 26, 1893 by Governor Altgeld.


Michael Schwab

“His revolutionary tendencies were of a mild character;  his
 was not of a nature to get violently aggressive.” 
- Lucien S. Oliver, chair of the Haymarket Amnesty Association.

Born:  August 9, 1853
Died:  June 29, 1898
Occupation:  bookbinder

 Michael Schwab was a 32-year old German immigrant and brother-in-law of Rudolph Schnaubelt (the man suspected of throwing the bomb that caused the Haymarket riot).  After immigrating to America in 1879, Schwab became an active fighter for labor rights.  Once a member of the Socialists Labor Party, Schwab left the group to help found another labor rights group, the North-Side Group.  Schwab began writing for the Arbeiter-Zeitung in 1881 and eventually became its associate editor.  Schwab was considered to be a milder type of revolutionary who was not quite as inflammatory in his speeches and writings as some of his colleagues.

 As the associate editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung and supporter of the 8-hour labor movement, Schwab wrote an article on May 4, 1886, calling for the need of resistance against the capitalists.  That night, Schwab attended the beginning of the Haymarket meeting, but had left and was speaking at the Deering Reaper Works at the time of the explosion.

 Schwab was arrested the following morning at the offices of the Arbeiter-Zeitung.   In the trial, Schwab sought to distinguish anarchy from the violence with which it was so often associated:  “It is entirely wrong to use the word Anarchy as synonymous with violence.  Violence is one thing and Anarchy another.  In the present state of society violence is used on all sides, and therefore we advocated the use of violence against violence, but against violence only, as a necessary means of defense.” He also used the forum to predict the eventual triumph of socialism:  “I know that our ideal will not be accomplished this or next year, but I know that it will be accomplished as near as possible, some day, in the future.” Schwab was convicted and sentenced to death, but he wrote a letter to Governor Oglesby, pleading for his sentence to be commuted to a life sentence.  The letter was successful and his sentence was commuted on November 10, 1887.

Schwab served only six years in prison before Governor Altgeld pardoned Schwab, Neebe, and Fielden on June 26, 1893.

Albert Parsons

“Toward any individual in danger or distress,
 he had an instinctive sympathy.”
– Charles Edward Russell

Born:  June 20, 1848
Died:  November 11, 1887
Occupation:  printer

Albert Parsons, 37 at the time of the Haymarket riot, had the deepest American roots of all of the accused Haymarket conspirators.  His ancestry can be traced back to 1632, when his ancestors arrived in America on the second voyage of the Mayflower.  His family was involved in many social revolutionary causes, and Albert continued this tradition by fighting for labor reform in America, beginning in the early 1870’s.

Husband of a former slave, Parsons had previously fought for the rights of Black American citizens and former slaves.  Parsons equated the plight of the working class to the plight of slaves before slavery was abolished in America.  He believed that once traditional slavery was abolished, capitalism created a new kind of slavery, where the working masses were slaves to their capitalist masters.  Parsons wrote, “The working people thirst for the truths of Socialism and welcome their utterance with shouts of delight.”

 Parsons and his wife, Lucy, arrived in Chicago in 1873 and became a leader of the Socialist Labor Party.  Parsons eventually founded the American Group of Chicago, which was the American branch of the International Working Persons Association.  Parsons was also the editor of The Alarm, the English version of the Arbeiter-Zeitung.

 Parsons was invited to speak at the Haymarket on May 4, 1886 and arrived at the Haymarket around 9 PM.  He spoke for almost an hour, before leaving for Zepf’s Hall, during Samuel Fielden’s speech.  He was at Zepf’s when the bomb exploded in the Haymarket.  Knowing that the police would immediately search for him, Parsons left Chicago by train at midnight, heading for Geneva, Illinois to stay with compatriot William Holmes.  Parsons further evaded the police, shortly after his arrival in Geneva, by traveling to Waukesha, Wisconsin, where he stayed with the Hoan family, whose father sympathized with Parsons’s beliefs.

Parsons stayed in Wisconsin until the first day of the Haymarket trial, June 21, 1886.  He surrendered by dramatically and unexpectedly entering the court.  He, along with six others, were convicted at trial and sentenced to death.  Despite pleas to do so, Parsons did not write to Governor Oglesby to have his sentence commuted.  Many believed that, had he asked, Parsons would not have been executed.  Parsons felt that the only way to save the others was to align himself with them.  Because of this insistence to have the same fate as the others, he was hanged with them on November 11, 1887.

August Spies

He was “handsome and intelligent, with a wide range of reading
 and of studious nature, with a warm heart controlled by a cold,
 philosopher’s brain.” 
- Dyer Lum

Born:  December 10, 1855
Died:  November 11, 1887
Occupation:  Upholsterer

August Spies (pronounced Speeze in English), 30 at the time of the Haymarket incident, was a German immigrant who came to America in 1872.  Considered to be an excellent writer, Spies was fluent in English, German, and French.

 In Chicago, Spies was a member of the Lehr-und-Wehr Verein and Socialists Labor Party.  He was also the business manager of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, the German-language newsletter for the working class.  Many considered Spies to be nearly an equal to Parsons in the anarchist movement in Chicago.

 Spies witnessed the incident at the McCormick factory on May 3, 1886, where a skirmish broke out between the police and workers.  Two people were killed, prompting Spies to write and publish the “Revenge Circular.”  The Arbeiter-Zeitung printed approximately 2,500 copies of the circular, and half were distributed to the public.  The circular called for the working class to take up arms and exact revenge on their oppressors, the capitalists.

Spies was the first speaker at the Haymarket on May 4, 1886.  He spoke while the crowd waited for Parsons to arrive. By all accounts, Spies’s speech was mild and was not likely to incite violence. He remained for the conclusion of the meeting and was stepping down from the speakers’ wagon when the bomb was thrown into the crowd.

 Spies was arrested the next morning (May 5, 1886) at the offices of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, along with Fischer and Schwab.  While in prison, Spies began a romance with Nina Van Zandt, eventually marrying while in prison.  Spies also did not write a plea to Governor Oglesby.  Even if he had, Governor Oglesby would likely not have commuted the sentence.  Spies was hanged on November 11, 1887.  On the scaffold, Spies offered a prediction: “The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today.”

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