J.W. Walters Letter, 1886


Albert Parsons (1848-1887)

On May 4, 1886 a bomb exploded among a group of policemen during a worker's rally for the eight hour day at Chicago's Haymarket Square. One policeman was killed, and four people in the crowd were killed when the police fired on the crowd. Four labor organizers were hanged for their supposed role in the Chicago violence, and the labor movement in general, and the Knights specifically, suffered as a result of the conflicts.


Albert Parsons, a printer and member of the Knights of Labor, was one of several men sentenced to death on thin evidence for playing a role in the 1886 Haymarket Affair. When Parsons learned that Terence Powderly had distanced the Knights of Labor from the tragedy, he denounced Powderly as both "cowardly and despicable." Parsons was hanged on November 11, 1887.


This letter, which J.W. Walters wrote to Terence Powderly a few months after the Haymarket Affair, takes a different attitude toward Powderly and the Knights than the one sent to Powderly by Coggeshall.


Letter to Terence V. Powderly, Aug. 5, 1886



As you read the document, reflect on the following questions:

  • Why did Walters send the letter?
  • What does he think of Terence Powderly?
  • Does Walters explain why he disapproves of the Knights of Labor?