|Boston Globe headline, May 3, 1892|
In May of 1892, 450 Cape Ann members of the Quarrymen's Union struck for wage increases of 2¢ to an average of 20¢ per hour. They were supported by 350 compatriots in the more established unions. They had common cause in resisting the owners' decision to move establishment of the bill of prices [the compensation chart] from May 1 to January 1, when seasonal unemployment gave owners an advantage in the rate-setting negotiations.
The quarry owners had similarly sensed a need for collective action and organized the National Granite Manufacturers' Association (1891) with mutual response pacts designed to sharpen pressure on labor. The strikes by unions were matched by lockouts against non-contestants in Barre, Vermont and other sites as owners closed ranks. 3
With reserves, resourcefulness, and a fighting spirit the Back of the Cape community held its position through the spring of 1892. "Lots have fitted out fishing with poles from the back side betgween Lane's Point and Folly Point, and it is a common sight to see persons passing along by the post office with a string of cunners, and other fish....Meetings of the workmen are held every morning at the rink, where the roll is called of the members of the Union, who are able to receive one dollar per day from the general fund of the Union." 4 Benefit concerts were organized at Rockport Town Hall and the Lanesville Rink.
Bit by bit, however, various groups accepted the conditions set by the quarry owners. On May 23 the Granite Cutters' Union settled; on July 7 the Quarrymen's Union surrendered; on July 26 the Paving Cutters' Union returned to work.
Over the next several years the position of labor strengthened nationally and locally. From 1860 to 1894 the United States had jumped from fourth to first place in production of industrial goods, one-third of world's output, more than twice Great Britain. Organized labor struggled to assert its claim to a fair share in the prosperity and decent working conditions. 5 Samuel Gompers of the Cigar Makers Union led the formation of the American Federation of Labor in 1886.
|Boston Globe headline, June 18, 1899|
When the Rockport Granite Company brought in a gang of Italian laborers at the beginning of April to fill in at the Bay View quarries, the predominantly Finn strikers confronted them vigorously. Padrone Marco Rossi pleaded ignorance of strike-breaking and put his 108 men back on the train to Boston with apologies.
The Company tried again several weeks later. This time the mob got ugly and assaulted the Italians who locked themselves in a shanty in the Bay View woods. Shots were fired. Dr. Brindisi, Italian Consul in Boston, conferred with all parties and arranged the departure of his countrymen. 7
|Boston Globe headline May 9, 1899|
|Strikers on the Rockport Granite Company wharf 8|
The Quarrymen struck in 1902 seeking a 2¢ raise on wages then ranging from 13 to 19 cents per hour. The walkout drew the support of 700 men from all ranks. "The tieup is most complete, and a Sabbath stillness, almost, reigns at the works." Many of the strikers found alternative jobs in the booming public works enterprises, constructing water mains and extending the street railway around the Cape. 9
|Excerpt of strike-breaking proposal 10|
|Signatories to settlement agreement of March 22, 1911 10|
Sources1. The Chicago Tribune, May 18, 1892. Courtesy of the website Stone Quarries and Beyond.
2. H. M. Beattie, Notes on the New England Granite Strike, n.d.,
3. The foregoing reportage from the Boston Globe, May 2, 1892. Relevant newspaper articles are listed in the Barbara Erkkila Collection of the Cape Ann Museum.
4. Gloucester Daily Times, May 5, 1892.
5. Philip S. Foner, History of the Labor Movement in the United States, vol 2: "From the Founding of the American Federation of Labor to the Emergence of American imperialism," 1955.
6. Boston Globe, May 9 and 13, 1899.
7. Boston Globe, April 2 and 29, 1899.
8. Louis Rogers photo from the Barbara Erkkila Collection, Cape Ann Museum.
9. Boston Globe, May 25, 1902.