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Bay View Historical Society Announces 24th Annual Bay View Tragedy Commemoration, SUNDAY May 2

April 27, 2010

Join the celebration! At 3:00 pm on Sunday, May 2, the Bay View Historical Society, labor union leaders, members and activists, residents of Bay View and beyond, as well as historians and others will gather at the Bay View Historical Marker near E. Russell Ave. and S. Superior St. in Bay View to both honor those who sacrificed their lives for decent wages and conditions and to celebrate the eight hour workday.


This year marks the 124th anniversary of the Bay View Tragedy and the 24th year of the commemoration. David Newby, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO will address the group. Also on the program is Frank Mulvey of the Bay View Historical Society and folksinger Larry Penn.


The eight hour workday that we enjoy today was a hard-fought battle that waged some two years across the country in the 1880s. At that time in history, the highest paid mill workers in Bay View earned the equivalent of $8 an hour and worked 12 hours a day, six days a week, without benefits. Those at the bottom of the pay scale earned the equivalent of $2 an hour.


In May of 1886, the North Chicago Railroad Rolling Mills Steel Foundry in Bay View was the last major manufacturer not under strike. As some 1,500 workers marched toward the mill, 250 National Guardsmen had been ordered by Governor Rusk to “shoot to kill” any trying to disrupt foundry operations. Striking workers were ordered to stop 200 yards from the mill. When they didn’t, the crowd was fired upon, wounding several and killing seven, including a 13 year old boy and a man getting water for his chickens. “There are no bystanders in history,” Professor Stephen Hauser has said of this incident.


These workers gave their lives for “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest and eight hours for what we will.” It was sacrifices such as these that paved the way for changes in labor and politics and transformed the city, according to historian John Gurda, “from being a boss-ridden, staggeringly corrupt city to one of the best governed cities in America… We still have high expectations of our public servants and in most cases, they still deliver.”


The victims of the Bay View Tragedy died to not only help their families, but also to help those of generations to come. In the words of Professor Hauser, history is not just about prime ministers and kings and presidents and generals, but it is also about “average people who build communities, who sacrificed and did the work placed before them and turned around at the end of their lives and had seen that they had created something that was worth preserving. History is created by all.”


The Bay View Historical Society (BVHS) is proud to sponsor this annual event. Established in 1979, the BVHS consists of volunteers dedicated to preserving and promoting the rich heritage of the Bay View neighborhood. The BVHS is headquartered in the historic Beulah Brinton House on the corner of S. Superior Street and E. Pryor Avenue in Bay View, and currently has 400 members. Learn more at


The BVHS is an affiliate of the Wisconsin State Historical Society and a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. In addition to sponsoring a wide variety of volunteer opportunities, programs and projects, the Society hosts neighborhood historical walks, publishes a newsletter, presents bimonthly programs at the Beulah Brinton Community Center, and maintains community archives and research collections.


Please join us at the Bay View Tragedy Commemoration to honor those that gave their lives and to celebrate the eight hour workday. The event is free and open to the public.


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