Chicago: By the Company, 1888. Circular, printed recto-only on laid paper; single10" x 16" sheet folded to create a 10" x 8" bifolium (as issued?). Text in two columns above author's signature. Old vertical and horizontal folds; some soiling to sheet recto and verso; still a complete, Good copy and an extraordinary survival.
A broadside missive by Charles Elliott Perkins, President of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, issued at the conclusion of the momentous 1888 Burlington Strike, one of the bloodiest labor actions up to the time and one which set a pattern for the strike-breaking industry for years to come, as the company efffectively quashed the unions through a combination of brute force (mostly at the hands of Pinkerton agents), government complicity, and scab workers, who the company shipped in from all over the country. After the hiring of replacement workers, all participants in the strike were summarily fired.
The letter thanks all loyal employees who "exerted yourselves so zealously during the late strike" and praises "...the loyal feeling and devotion to duty which prompted the course you have so well taken." Then, remarkably, Perkins goes on to write, "...for the men who have come into our family we ask especial consideration until they shall have become fully acquainted with their new surroundings, and it should be understood by all that these men are here to stay with us, and to become part of us, so far as they shall prove to be of good character and competent to perform their duties. Whatever sympathy and kind feeling may exist among us toward many of those who voluntarily broke off their relations with us on February 27th, we must not be led to forget our obligation to see that complete justice is done to every new man in the service" [italics ours].
We can only speculate as to the means by which the circular was distributed. We find a single reference in the historical literature; it is quoted in full in The Railroad Conductor's Monthly for May, 1888, with the laconic introduction "The following circular is in the hands of all C,B&Q employees and speaks for itself." Copies would have presumably been included in employee pay packets (perhaps explaining the multiple folds on our copy); others may have been posted publicly. There is no mention of the letter in the one standard contemporary account of the strike (John A. Hall, The Great Strike on the "Q", Chi: 1889), nor do we find any reference to it in the trade or in institutional collections. A significant, unrecorded primary document from the first heroic age of American labor.