The strike of Pullman carshop employees and the subsequent boycott that disrupted rail traffic throughout the territory west of Chicago in June-July 1894 marked the culmination of nearly two decades of the most severe and sustained labor conflict in American history. Yet until very recently little new scholarship has focused on the meaning of the Pullman strike and its historical context. By offering a close reading of contemporary perceptions of the strike and by examining the organizational and political continuities and discontinuities the Pullman conflict reveals, these essays resituate the strike in its historical context. They demonstrate that Pullman played an important role in defining the crisis of the 1890s, shaping a changing legal environment, spurring the development of a regulatory state, and fostering a new politics of progressive reform.
On September 23-24, 1994, more than two hundred scholars, students, educators, labor activists, and interested members of the public gathered at Indiana State University in Terre Haute to reconsider the Pullman strike in the light of new historical scholarship in labor history. The conference featured public addresses by the historians David Montgomery and Nick Salvatore and Jack Scheinckman, the president of the Amalgamated Textile Workers' Union (now UNITE—the Union of Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees). Scholars delivered thirty-six papers at thirteen sessions that focused on various dimensions of the strike and its meaning. This edited collection contains revised versions of key conference papers addressing the significance of the Pullman strike in its wider historical context.