In 1894, over 150,000 railroad employees throughout the United States
went on strike. Two of Ludlow's biggest employer's were the Pullman Car
Shops and the Southern Railroad. Hundreds of Ludlow residence lost their
jobs during the strike, and many would not be re-hired following the close
of the strike.
The economic depression of 1893 placed many businesses in financial jeopardy.
Large corporations began to cut their work forces and reduce wages. The
Pullman Car Company of Chicago was one of these businesses. The average
Pullman employee had his wages reduced by 25%. These employees went on
strike on May 10, 1894. On the following day, George M. Pullman was forced
to close his Chicago plant. This was the first nationwide strike in United
The Pullman Company maintained a repair shop in Ludlow. Initially, the
Ludlow employees continued to work. Pullman workers, however, were members
of the American Railway Union. The ARU represented over 150,000 railroad
workers across the country. The ARU was under the leadership of Eugene
V. Debs. Debs tried to bring about arbitration between the Pullman Company
and the striking workers without success.
In late June, ARU official encouraged the employees of the Ludlow Pullman
Shops to strike. The Ludlow shops employed 136 workers. By June 25, 1894,
67 of the 136 shop workers were on strike. In the following days, many
more Ludlow employees walked off their jobs.
George M. Pullman refused to back down. Eventually, the ARU declared a
general strike. The strike crippled the national railroad system. Many
employees of the Southern Railroad in Ludlow also went on strike. Hundreds
of Ludlow families were without an income. Officials of the Southern Railroad
hired replacement workers to keep the railroad in operation. Railroad
officials also acquired a corps of federal marshals to patrol the Ludlow
In July 1894, President Cleveland sent federal troops to stop destruction
of property and violence in Chicago. On July 7, the federal troops were
attacked. They responded with gunfire. At least 7 strikers were killed
and more than twenty were injured.
Violence in Chicago greatly concerned strikers in Ludlow. On the day the
strikers were killed (July 7) large crowds of Ludlow residents congregated
on Elm Street in front of the Odd Fellow's Hall. The Kentucky Post sent
messengers to Ludlow with news of the Chicago events. These reports were
posted on a board set up in front of the hall. Officials from the Ludlow
ARU No. 352 promised city officials that the strikers would remain peaceful.
Ludlow's ARU Committee included: Patrick J. Lean, Louis A. Poliquin and
Enthusiasm for the strike began to decline in mid July. A number of Ludlow
workers began returning to their jobs. A large ARU meeting was conducted
in Ludlow's Odd Fellow's Hall on July 12, 1894. A national ARU representative
forcefully denounced Ludlow strikers who had returned to work. The rally
did little to bolster the hopes of the strikers. The strikers' enthusiasm
was further reduced by the ability of the Southern Railroad to continue
operation. Trains were running on time despite the strike.
By early August 1894, Ludlow Mayor R.H. Fleming began encouraging all
the strikers to return to work. Many chose to do so. Returning to work,
however, would not be an easy task. The Southern, and all national railroads,
refused to hire back many of their former employees. This was done as
a punishment and as a deterrent to any future strikers. Former Southern
employees hired Covington lawyer William Goebel to file suit against the
company. The former strikers claimed that had been blacklisted.
A number of the Ludlow strikers lost their homes. Many were forced to
find work in other occupations.
Kentucky Post, June 4, 1894, p. 4, June 6, 1894, p. 3, June 25, 1894,
p. 4, June 26, 1894, p. 4, June 27, 1894, p. 4, June 30, 1894, p. 1, July
7, 1894, p. 1 and 4, July 10, 1894, p. 4, July 12, 1894, p. 4, July 13,
1894, p. 4, August 6, 1894, p. 1, August 7, 1894, p. 4, August 9, 1894,
p. 4, and October 10, 1894, p. 3.