February 7th: Day 2
“Nothing moved but the tide.”
Earl George, strike observer, longshore union member and officer, 1977, oral history conducted by Rob Rosenthal, After the Deluge: The Seattle General Strike of 1919 and its Aftermath (MA thesis), UC Santa Barbara.
By the second day, it became increasingly apparent that the strike was to remain peaceful and orderly. This directly contradicted Mayor Ole Hanson and the mainstream press who prepared Seattle citizens for pandemonium—a number of upper-class Seattleites left town and residents flooded grocery stores for provisions in the days preceding the strike. To help keep the peace, the General Strike Committee created a labor War Veteran’s Guard. Three hundred men volunteered, wearing a white arm band and carrying no weapons, unlike the 2,400 armed citizen deputies appointed by the mayor.
It was also on day two that labor leaders met with Mayor Hanson and the Citizens’ Committee—a group of delegates from assorted local organizations formed to resist the strike. At the meeting, the Citizens’ Committee refused to negotiate terms with the General Strike Committee and demanded an immediate end to the strike. Following their lead, Mayor Hanson threatened martial law if the strike was not called off by the following day. The strike would continue for several more days, however, and the strike organizers urged strikers to “sit tight” and “keep order.” And keep order they did—no violence ensued and the number of average daily arrests in Seattle actually dropped from around 100 to around 30 during those six days. Of those arrests, none were directly related to the strike.
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Crowd gathered at 7th Avenue and Union Street during Seattle General Strike, February 7, 1919.
The backdrop image of this exhibit case features a crowd standing at the corner of 7th and Union Street in downtown Seattle. The image is often credited as featuring striking workers. Although strikers may be present in the photograph, it is more likely that these are citizens waiting for release of that morning’s issue of the Seattle Star newspaper outside of the Star’s office.
Printed on the second day of the general strike by the Publicity Committee of the General Strike and Metal Trades Strike Committees, the Official Central Labor Council Strike Bulletin details the reasons for striking and updates readers on the orderly operations of the first day of the strike, dispelling rumors of chaos and violence. Articles provide information to strikers on the location of strike kitchens, where parents can locate milk stations set up by the Milk Wagon Drivers’ Union, and how workers in Everett and Tacoma are showing solidarity. The “You are Doing Fine” editorial gives encouragement to strikers, urging workers to continue keeping the peace.
“They Can’t Understand” poem by Anise (Anna Louise Strong), 1919
This poem by Anna Louise Strong, originally published in the Seattle Union Record under the pseudonym Anise, was reprinted in the booklet, The Seattle General Strike: An Account of what happened in Seattle, written by members of the General Strike History Committee in 1919. In “They Can’t Understand,” Strong recounts the peaceful and efficient coordination of the strike, representing “a new power and a new world” by the working-class community that threatened the social order that benefited the rich.