Bygone muncie the muncie streetcar riot of 1908, part 3 electricity questions for class 10


Throughout the first three days of 1908, civic order in Muncie descended into riots, resulting in Governor Hanly’s declaration of martial law on Jan. 4: “The city of Muncie, and its environments, extending a distance of four miles from the courthouse in said city, is now in the possession of the military forces of the state of Indiana, who have come to restore peace and order, and to enforce the laws of the state”

Hanly’s move wasn’t exactly a surprise. The Muncie Morning Star front-page headline on Jan. 2 read “State Troops Ready to Come to Muncie” and on Jan. 3 “City On the Verge of Martial Law.” Some industrialists in Muncie wanted early state intervention. The Star printed an interview with Sheriff Perdieu, in which he stated that “Some businessmen and manufacturers thought we should have troops here, and so they telephoned Gov. Hanly that the situation looked serious.” On the first day of rioting, Perdieu had assured the governor’s office that city and county law enforcement could handle the situation. In attempt to quell violence, he also banned strikebreakers from carrying weapons on streetcars.

Both city and county law enforcement did what they could to suppress the rioters. At one point, the police attempted to protect the strikebreakers by riding in cars, or actually operating them. In one instance on Jan. 2, five officers boarded a scab-operated trolley at the Delaware Hotel. The patrolmen devised to navigate the car through a crowd that had blocked the track with a moving van. One of the patrolmen attempted to take the trolley’s controls from a strikebreaker, when a “foreigner, garbed in a heavy yellow sweater, sought to retain his grasp on the controller.” The officer was quick to respond and the strikebreaker “fell beneath the club of the stalwart patrolman.”

By the third day, the MPD and Delaware County sheriff’s department could no longer control the situation, nor curb the rioters. Turmoil spread beyond downtown into Congerville and Industry. The Muncie Morning Star reported on the police officers’ exhaustion, stating that: “The continued lawlessness, which has characterized the first three days of the street car strike, the exhausted condition of the police force, the resignation of many of the special police and the inability of the city and country officials to deputize additional men, made the call for troops necessary.”

By that evening, Hanly resolved to enact martial law, which would go into effect the following day at noon. This was the first time martial law had been declared in the state of Indiana since the Civil War. Hanly had already ordered the guard to Muncie, so they conveniently arrived just a few hours before the governor’s order went into effect. Three companies arrive on Jan. 4 and another came the next day. In all, 600 Indiana National Guardsmen deployed across the city.

The arrival of guardsmen had the immediate effect of ending the riots. The anger held by union-sympathizing Munsonians toward strikebreakers did not extend to the guardsmen. Wisely assessing the situation, ING commanders ordered Union Traction to send the strikebreakers away, most of whom left by Jan. 5. On the same day, Amalgamated extended another negotiation offer to IUT, to which George McCulloch replied, “There’s nothing to negotiate.”

By Jan. 6, order was restored. The ING patrolled without incident, while factories and schools reopened. Governor Hanly arrived on Jan. 7 to personally assess the situation and confirmed the restoration of peace. The guardsmen slowly left Muncie over the next week. Trolleys begin operating again (by whom exactly, the record is unclear) and martial law was officially lifted on Jan. 16.

Amalgamated held firm and the strike continued until March 3, when union leaders finally gave up the effort. President Arthur Brady promised to rehire some of the strikers on a case-by-case basis. The strike cost the company approximately $8,000 in 1908 dollars and an unknown amount in lost wages, property damage and city-wide economic impact.

While the 1908 Muncie Streetcar Riots were not the only instance when labor and business interests met in violent confrontation, the event represents the first major labor dispute in the city after the onset of the gas boom. The discovery of gas and oil brought the Second Industrial Revolution to Delaware County, changing it and those that lived here, permanently ever after.