105th Street Train Depot Gun Fight
Strike Breakers Greeted by Gunshots
On June 6, 1911, 4,000 workers of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union took to the streets to picket for improved working conditions in their factories. The workers’ demands included a 50-hour workweek with Saturday afternoons and Sundays off and no charges for using machines and materials. The four-month strike was marked by violence at the Printz-Biederman factory at 102nd Street and St. Clair Avenue.
On July 11, 1911, the garment manufacturers attempted to break the strike by importing strikebreakers. A gunfight broke out as a train bearing the first squad of imported workmen drew into the East 105th Street station with volley after volley of shots exchanged between the two sides.
Employees of the depot were not forewarned of trouble. Small groups of strikers had drifted onto the station platform, and when the train came to a stop, there was a crowd of fifteen or twenty gathered at the eastern end of the station platform. Strike sympathizers had hidden behind posts and corners of the depot, baggage trucks, and any obstruction that afforded vantage points for observing the strikebreakers and providing protection for themselves.
Sixteen imported strikebreakers were in the last coach of the train. Word of their arrival had been a carefully guarded secret, so police anticipated no trouble. Men disembarked from their coach, unaware of what awaited them.
Andrew Cranston, manager of the Citizens’ Detective & Police Co., was in charge of several detectives, hired to meet the train and act as guards to bring the strikebreakers to the Cleveland’s Union Depot safely.
Cranston stated that as he, accompanied by several of his men, started to enter the last coach. Several men followed him, ordering him to leave the train. They then struck him on the head with a club and, after warning him not to pull a gun, drew their revolvers and began firing. It was then, stated Cranston, that the strikebreakers poured out of the coach and started shooting.
Each side claimed that the other one began shooting. The wheels of the train had barely ceased turning when the first gunshot rang out. Several quick succession shots followed as other men on the platform fired and those on the train fired back. Some of the strikebreakers ran from the train, laid prone on the station platform, unslung their guns, and joined their comrades already in action. Most of the shots from each side went wild, and it was a marvel that more were not hurt.
Passengers cowered in terror as bullets whizzed by. Screams of frightened women and cries of the men broke out as the shots began flying around the heads of the scared passengers, some of whom sought cover under seats. Onlookers and the usual crowd about the depot fled in all directions at the first shot.
The firing ceased almost as suddenly as it had begun. Bratenahl police were notified by telephone. By the time the police arrived, two of the strike sympathizers were wounded, and two of the strikebreakers were hurt. The rest of the strikebreakers and strike sympathizers had disappeared. The battle ended with five men behind the bars of the Bratenahl jail.
All the men denied knowledge of the trouble at the depot. The police charged them with carrying concealed weapons and resisting arrest. The manufacturers still planned to open their plants. They continued to bring in workers and claimed they had enough to run several factories. Some manufacturers made provisions for housing people temporarily in their buildings. Others purchased several hundred cots and camp outfits. Guards were numerous at the factories, and Cleveland police were on hand to see that no trouble occurred when the shops reopened.