ALTGELD'S AMERICA by Ray Ginger

ALTGELD'S AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The ""America"" of this excellent book by the author of Six Days or Forever? (the story of the Scopes trial) is actually Chicago, for with John Peter Altgeld, social reformer and Governor of Illinois, as his protagonist and the Haymarket bomb of 1886 as his catalytic agent he tells the story of Chicago's political and social history in the late 19th century, its fabulous wealth and incredible poverty, its strikes, its luxury, and its crusading reformers,- Altgeld, Clarence Darrow, the women of Hull House and many others. By the 1880's the ""Lincoln morality"" of earlier years had given way to the morality of success; compassion was forgotten in desire for wealth. In Chicago, blatant, vigorous, booming, restless, this was particularly true: labor conditions were appalling, sweatshops were almost universal, child labor was a sickening sore and men injured at their jobs were thrown into the street. Against this background the Haymarket bomb, hurled during a strike at the McCormick plant, exploded with a violence that shook all America and brought to the fore such men as Altgeld, Darrow and Judge Gary who tried the alleged rioters, denying them constitutional rights, hanging some of them and sentencing others to life imprisonment, verdicts questioned by many. Altgeld, a fighter noted for his reforms who had already set his mark on Chicago's social history, was in 1892 elected Governor of Illinois and pardoned the rioters, an act which brought him defeat at the hands of Gary; he died, still fighting for reform, in 1902. Excellently documented, tautly written and highly readable, this book is an invaluable contribution to the literature of America's social and political development and philosophy; it is a must for college and public libraries and for students of social history.

Pub Date: Oct. 28th, 1958
Publisher: Funk & Wagnalls