The 1877 General Strike: A Story Half-Told

by Lauren Naus on February 8, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Justin Rogers-Cooper.


Sometime last year I slipped a postcard of a “tramp” (as pictured in the right-hand image) into a UV-protected plastic sleeve. Then I put it into a neat pile of similarly sleeved postcards. I carefully placed them into a black museum storage box, and stacked that box atop a similar one. This other one was full of “Coxey’s Army” marginalia – stuff about the 1894 march on Washington by unemployed men.

I couldn’t help but remember being a kid in North Carolina slipping baseball cards of Mark McGwire, my favorite player, into hard plastic cases. I’m glad I’m not preserving butterflies in glass boxes, but when I stare up at the many clamshell storage boxes that tower above my cramped library in Brooklyn, it’s pointless to deny I suffer from obsessive instincts.

The boxes in fact supplement the subject that sparked the acquisitive fever: the 1877 General Strike. I blame that strike for the eBay push notifications that arrive like news headlines on my iPhone. It was one of those stories that completely blew my mind, and I quickly put down everything else once I realized it had only been half-told.

I actually only learned about the strike five years ago, while finishing my Ph.D in English. I was struck by how I could have missed something so large. In July 1877, hundreds of thousands of people joined a trainmen strike for higher wages, including other industrial workers, in a multicultural coalition of women, children, and families, many of them immigrants – in addition to thousands of unemployed, unskilled, unwaged, and migrant workers. It was an event with many centers (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis) and also full of contradictions (both interracial cooperation and racist violence).

It’s an event so complex it’s sometimes hard to see all at once. I first encountered the strike as an English person, but trying to understand it transformed me into something else: an “American studies” person.

On the plus side, the fever sent me scurrying online and traveling to libraries, archives, and historical societies, where I found and collected artifacts that propelled my research. One text in the Columbia rare books library, The Commune in 1880, was so deliciously weird, and had such tremendous explanatory power, that it became the focus of my article, “Downfall of the Republic! The 1877 General Strike and the Fictions of Red Scare,” recently published in the Canadian Review of American Studies (Volume 46 Issue 3).

Perhaps the only thing more bizarre than The Commune in 1880, in fact, might be the dozens of tramp postcards I’ve assembled. They testify to one of the General Strike’s other elements: the army of migrant men, then called “tramps,” who participated in the strike. Papers labeled them and the rioters “communists,” but over time they helped inspire any number of characters and caricatures in global pop culture for decades to come, from Charlie Chaplin’s tramp to the Sunday comic strip “Pete the Tramp,” not to mention Coxey’s Army.

Oh, if you’ve never heard of “Pete the Tramp,” feel free to drop by. I have a box to show you.

To read more on the 1877 General Strike, be sure to check out Justin Rogers-Cooper’s full article, “Downfall of the Republic! The 1877 General Strike and the Fictions of Red Scare”, published in the latest issue (Volume 46 Issue 3) of the Canadian Review of American Studies!
You can follow Rogers-Cooper on Twitter @nycjrc

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An interview with Margaret Jacob, author of “Commerce, Industry and Newtonian Science: Weber Revisited and Revised,” on the work that she did for her article, as well as the importance for historians to work in the archives. To read more about Jacob’s career journey and experiences, click here. Jacob’s article appeared in the Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes in 2000, and is available here to read for free for a limited time.

When asked to give some advice to young scholars, Jacob noted the importance of working with original documents and making new discoveries. With the article she did for the Canadian Journal of History in 2000, entitled, “Commerce, Industry and Newtonian Science: Weber Revisited and Revised,” Jacob said it “practically wrote itself” as she was looking through the diaries of early industrialists and philosophers, like Joseph Priestley.

“[That article] grew out of a long-standing interest I’ve had in the question of religion and capitalism,” she said. “When I went and read [Joseph] Priestley, I was stunned by how much attention he was paying to the issue of material success and how it was possible to negotiate it and still be godly. I thought, ‘…That’s all he’s talking about!’”

As a professor of history at the University of California in Los Angeles, Jacob is also the author of a number of publications and notable works. Her article for the Canadian Journal of History looks at the relationship between religion and science during the industrialist boom in modern Britain and argues that Unitarianism, a more rational religious ideology, allowed industrialists of the period to accumulate wealth and power, without religious backlash. Industrialists who found wealth by scientific discoveries and inventions justified their prosperity by believing they were working within the laws of nature.

Going into the archives was important for Jacob’s research process, and she offered a story about the significance of doing archival research.

In 2000, she was working in the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, and casually flipped through a card catalogue that was labelled “Unitarians.” She found a three by five index card that read, “J. Ryder 46 volumes,” and was intrigued. So she called it up, and it turned out to be the spiritual diary of an 18th century Leeds clothier named Joseph Ryder, who had recorded all of his anxieties about the salvation of his soul.

“I started reading this and I thought… ‘This is incredible stuff!’ I had a student at that very moment who was looking for a dissertation topic, and I told him to get on an airplane and come to Manchester. He took over Ryder and the book came out with Yale University Press about two years ago, and it’s called The Watchful Clothier [by Matthew Kadane]. It’s a terrific book, and it grows out of this diary,” she said. “You know, it was just there, and nobody knew. These are the things that can happen to you when you spend time in an archive.”

Working in the archives and with original documents is something that is crucial to the discipline of history. Jacob said that making unique discoveries is necessary to the study of history – something that historians should keep in mind when connecting the past with the present.

Jacob’s work, “Commerce, Industry and Newtonian Science: Weber Revisited and Revised” is free to read for a limited time. Click here to read the article on CJH Online –

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Written by guest blogger, Christian B. Long.

Airport (George Seaton, 1970)

I started thinking about my article “Arthur Hailey as Richard Nixon. Workplace Safety in Airport” in early 2004, at an event the Vanderbilt University English department put on for its graduate students, when Cecelia Tichi noted in passing that Moby Dick is a novel about workplace safety. It’s an idea that stuck with me. When I moved to New Zealand in 2008, I read In Defense of Lost Causes during the flight to Auckland, and Slavoj Zizek’s mention of Arthur Hailey novels echoing Stalinist novels like Fyodor Gladkov’s Cement similarly stuck with me. Then I moved to Australia in 2013 and, after deciding to stop running on the adjunct treadmill, I threw out most of my old research plans and returned to the research ideas that had been stuck in my head, including workplace safety and Arthur Hailey.

I bought Hailey’s entire oeuvre for $10 and read it in its entirety over the course of a week that I otherwise spent looking for a job. I knew that I didn’t want to treat Hailey readers, and readers of mass-market-fiction in general, as duped consumers. As I read, I looked for something in Hailey’s novels that scratched an itch in the mass readership, something in the books themselves that was good and interesting. In my account, what Hailey novels offer their readers is a set of stories that take the stresses and anxieties of white-collar work seriously.

Late in the article that appears in Volume 47 Issue 1 of the Canadian Review of American Studies, I try to split the difference between (to oversimplify things) the hermeneutics of suspicion and reparative readings of a writer like Arthur Hailey. I had to cut a long section about Hailey’s inability to imagine manual-labor worker stress and workplace safety as well as the stress of office workers. But that cut meant I could concentrate on how Hailey imagines how overcoming disaster depends on a managerialism that needs a workplace safety regime that takes stress and anxiety seriously. And, to recuperate that appeal for readers into slightly more hopeful terrain, if workplace safety matters for white- and pink-collar workers in the Hailey universe, then his readers might well have seen workplace safety for blue-collar workers as a logical and unobjectionable proposition, as the passage of the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1971 shows.

Christian B. Long’s article, “Arthur Hailey as Richard Nixon: Workplace Safety in Airport,” will appear in the next upcoming issue (Volume 47 Issue 1) of the Canadian Review of American Studies, available Spring 2017!

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An interview with Margaret Jacob, author of “Commerce, Industry and Newtonian Science: Weber Revisited and Revised,” on her career and experiences in academia. Jacob’s article appeared in the Canadian Journal of History/Annales canadiennes in 2000, and is available here to read for free for a limited time.


As someone who has been in academia for many years, Margaret Jacob has an interesting story to share about breaking into the discipline, at a time when there weren’t many female scholars.

    “You have to bear in mind that when I went to graduate school in 1964, at Cornell University, there was no woman tenured in any research university in the [United States]; not Cornell, not Yale, not Harvard, not Princeton, not Berkeley – nowhere,” Jacob said. “Needless to say, you were being taught entirely by men, and many of them were wonderful, but they would say openly, ‘This department will never hire a woman – over my dead body.’ And that was commonplace.

Jacob said she was lucky and had two supervising male professors who did not share those same attitudes. By 1972, there was a movement within the historical profession to make all departments advertise every available position. She became very involved in this movement, and led the floor fight at an annual meeting of the American Historical Association, where they demanded that any department that was part of the AHA had to advertise all of their job opportunities. They eventually succeeded in making this a rule, which led to more female scholars having access to, and being able to apply for university positions.

Describing herself as “pugnacious” and “fierce,” Jacob discussed what it was like working in academia at that time.

    You just knew that to get ahead and to do a career in this profession, you had to be as good, if not better, than the men around you,” she said. “You just had to work like you really meant it. And you also had to watch, that things were not being done with a bias. I mean, there were things that were done with a bias, and many of my friends sued, over this or that event. In some ways, I led a slightly charmed life and I didn’t have to take anybody up on charges. But there were plenty of people who did take others up on charges.

Jacob also mentioned that sexual harassment was a large problem, with a lack of awareness and consequences for it. Although this still happens today, Jacob said that sexual harassment was “everywhere,” and was something that many of her female colleagues faced on a daily basis.

    “I still remember… one of my very first jobs in this country when I came back to New York…the chair of the department…was a horrible harasser – he was just impossible. He made the critical mistake of sending a love letter to one of my female colleagues, and she took it and Xeroxed it and sent it to the whole department,” Jacob said, laughing. “It was wonderful! Just a wonderful moment, you know. But that’s the sort of thing that went on.”

As an important topic, Jacob feels that the story of equal rights in academia is one worth sharing, and one that young female scholars today need to hear.

    “Many young scholars, who are 30 today, let’s say, have no idea what it was like in the 1960s. They don’t know. Nobody ever told them, and that’s just the way it was. But they really do need to know that because we’re still within living memory, and so we have to be vigilant.

Although there are still issues with equality and harassment today, Jacob’s story is a strong reminder of how much academia has changed over the years, and how far it’s come – sometimes it just takes a little pugnacity.

Jacob’s work, “Commerce, Industry and Newtonian Science: Weber Revisited and Revised” is free to read for a limited time. Click here to read the article on CJH Online –

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Mirabel: In the Name of Development

by Lauren Naus on January 26, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Éric Gagnon Poulin.


On September 9th, 2003, Montreal International Airport, named Dorval Airport, was officially renamed Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport. Yet the former Prime Minister of Canada had planned to shut it down to build the largest airport in the world on 97,000 acres of land: Mirabel. The goal was to reach 60 million passengers and 650,000 aircraft by the year 2000, which was far from its destiny. In fact, its occupancy started declining in 1977, all passenger flights were transferred to Dorval in 2004 and its terminal was demolished in 2014. This article (“Mirabel : Au nom du développement,”) published in the latest issue of Anthropologica (Volume 58, Issue 2), is a summary of my research results on “La mobilisation politique des expropriés de Mirabel” (Gagnon Poulin: 2010), based on three key concepts: development, private property and resistance.

By roughly summarizing, an expropriation is the action of removing the property of an individual or a community for purposes of ‘public utilities’ or for what they call the ‘common good’. It was therefore inevitable to reflect on the relationship between humans and their private properties in order to understand the possible impact of such dispossession (Castel 2005, Laurin 2012, Radin 1993). How did the population respond to this loss? Initially, the expropriation was presented to them, not as a loss, but as a gain. In order to justify this project, the Canadian government adopted a post-war developmental rhetoric in the name of ‘modernity’ and ‘reason’ (Escobar 1995, Rist 1999, Elbaz, Fortin, Laforest 1996); A speech that the population had to question to be able to understand in order to oppose and resist the expropriation itself (Bourdieu 1984, Breagh 2007, Moore 1978). The concepts of individual (or unorganized) and collective (organized) resistance, as well as the notions of ‘hidden transcript’ and ‘public transcript’ by James C. Scott (1985, 1992) have been particularly helpful in analyzing my ethnographic data and understanding the slow but finally powerful social mobilization.

At the same time, I produced and directed a documentary film on the same subject: “Le fantôme de Mirabel” (Gagnon Poulin and Fortin: 2010), that was presented as a European premiere at the 2nd European Forum against Large Unnecessary and Imposed Mega Projects in France in July 2012.

Éric Gagnon Poulin’s article, “Mirabel : Au nom du développement,” is featured in the latest issue of Anthropologica (Volume 58, Issue 2), and is available to read exclusively on Project MUSE.
You can follow Éric on Twitter @fantomemirabel

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It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day 2017!

January 25, 2017

1 in 5 Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lifetime, and the stigma that’s so often associated with mental illness can be a significant hurdle for anyone seeking the help they need. In fact, it is the number one reason why two-thirds of those living with a mental illness do not […]

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William Faulkner and the 2015 CUPE 3902 Strike: Thinking Outside the Ledger

January 23, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Philip Sayers.   Philip Sayers The Call for Papers for CRAS’s forthcoming special issue—titled “‘Total Money Makeover’: Culture and the Economization of Everything”—asked contributors to think through the following question: to what extent can culture be understood as a privileged domain outside of the economic? To put that another way: is it […]

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The Biggest Tax Reform Ever—or a Recipe for Disaster?

January 16, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Wei Cui.   Wei Cui, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia In June 2016, Paul Ryan and Kevin Brady, Republican Party leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives, advanced a proposal for sweeping business and individual tax reform in the United States. In recent months, as Donald […]

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Another Item to Fix: Looking Deeply at Calls for Body Acceptance

January 5, 2017

Written by guest blogger, Cheryl Madliger. Her review of Body of Truth: How Science, History, and Culture Drive Our Obsession with Weight—and What We Can Do About It by Harriet Brown is featured in the See How She Runs: Feminists Rethink Fitness issue of IJFAB. Read the full review here or on Project MUSE! Cheryl […]

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The Inspiration and Process Behind Our Investigation into Chinese Humanities and Social Sciences Scholars’ Language Choices

December 23, 2016

Written by guest bloggers, Andy Xuesong Gao & Yongyan Zheng, authors of “Chinese Humanities and Social Sciences Scholars’ Language Choices in International Scholarly Publishing: A Ten-Year Survey,” from the latest issue of the Journal of Scholarly Publishing! Andy Xuesong Gao, University of Hong Kong Yongyan Zheng, Fudan University What drove us to write this article […]

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