Posted By admin on March 8, 2010
My previous post about Briggsville and George Briggs was based on the following article from the Missoulian, Feb. 15, 1893.
It seems like this is a pretty important piece of Missoula’s history, and there are still plenty of unsolved mysteries within. One is the reference to Prof. J. M. Hamilton, the president of “the university” who had to rent a rig to get back to the school when the street car motor men went on strike. This is a head scratcher because I came upon the article in the first place when I was looking for the newspaper coverage of the Legislature’s formal creation of the University of Montana THAT SAME WEEK. Classes would not start at UM for a couple more years. I have no idea what university Prof. Hamilton was from.
Warning: This is a looonng story.
Morning Missoulian, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 1893
A GREAT STRIKE
Motormen on All the Electric Street Cars Go Out.
TRAVEL EASILY PARLYZED
But All Cars Will Run Today and the Strike is Probably Over for the Present
The threatened strike of the motormen of the Missoula Electric Street Railway company was finally inaugurated yesterday afternoon at 5 o’clock, and from that hour until midnight the business of the city, so far as passenger travel is concerned, was paralyzed. The trouble seems to be only with twenty-three motormen of the South Higgins avenue line, but the matter was taken up by the Motormen’s union, and the strike is general on all lines of the city. At a late hour last night it looked as though the strike would be settled at once through the liberality and long-headedness of Jos. Solomon, the president, and other officers of the company. If the strike continues through the day the residents of this city will probably see repeated here the street car riots in the east with all the attendant lawlessness and loss of property, together with great inconvenience through stoppage of travel. Indeed, the inconvenience was exemplified yesterday afternoon and last night when none of the cars were running.
CAUSES OF THE STRIKE.
The differences between the company and the men are hard to get at but they seem to be more a question of hours than of wages. The day shift goes off at 8 o’clock in the evening and the night shift works only from 8 in the evening till 12:30 in the morning. These night shift men are paid different wages according to their experience and the routes they run, but none of them receive full wages. The company issued an order last Thursday that the day shift on all South Missoula lines would hereafter work till 8:45, receiving extra pay for the additional time, while the wages of the night shift men would be correspondingly reduced. According to Mr. Solomon the company’s reason for making this change is that the day motor men being the most experienced and most rapid in the manipulation of the cars, it is desired that they shall continue the shift until the business of transporting the factory operatives to their homes and the suburban residents to the theatres is over. The strikers say, however, that there is another reason behind the move. At any rate, twenty-three night motor men on the South Higgins avenue line objected to the changes and by yesterday succeeded in placing the matter before the Motor men’s union in such a light that a general strike was ordered, all motor men leaving their cars at the end of their runs at 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon.
SIGHTS AND INCIDENTS
As previously stated, the strike caused a general suspension of travel. Five o’clock is just about the hour when business men and late afternoon shoppers begin to take the cars for their suburban residences, and the city was full of such people who could not get home until a late hour. Many did not attempt to go home, and the restaurants and hotels, and the spacious waiting rooms of the M.M. Co. were crowded to overflowing all the evening.
At 8 o’clock there is generally another flurry of travel from the theatre-goers who live far enough from the theatres to patronize the street cars, and these last night either walked or did not go to the theatre.
A large number of the 200 operatives in the paper mills at Briggsville live a long distance from their work, and some of them, having to walk, did not get home till nearly midnight. Many of the 300 girls in the paper box factories at Briggsville were unable to get home at all and stayed at the factory or in the vicinity all night. They did not seem to mind it much either. Geo. Briggs got up a dance for them at his summer pavilion, and despite the low temperature they tripped the light fantastic there until after midnight with the dudes who go out from the city in the afternoon looking for mashes.
Another noticeable feature was the absence from the city of all the university students, who generally come in great crowds on the Grass Valley line, either to go to the theatre or meet the girls from the box factories at Briggsville. Prof. J. M. Hamilton, president of the university, who happened to be in the city when the strike occurred, had to hire a rig to go to the university, as he feared his charges would be up to some mischief over night if they knew he was away.
The operatives in the flouring mills, tanneries and candle factories at Bonner were nearly all, like the people of the South Missoula factories, detained at their place of work.
Nearly every seat in the Higgins opera house, where Katie Putnam is playing, had been sold in the early afternoon, but so few people were able to get to the theatre that the house was nearly empty except in the unreserved portion of the gallery where it was crowded.
Fred Warde is playing at the new Palace Auditorium on East Main street, and G. N. Hartley, the enterprising manager of that resort, is smiling today at his receipts. He had sold the entire house down to S.R.O. by 10 o’clock yesterday morning and when, at 8 o’clock, the time for the rising of the curtain, he cast his eye over the house and saw that not a single reserved seat was filled he wondered what was up for a while, but at once realized the situation when he remembered the strike. He immediately hung out signs “Performance delayed until 8:30 on account of the strike. Reserved seats now on sale.” He then opened the box sheet again and people who had been unable to get seats flocked to it. By 8:30 o’clock he had sold the entire house over again, all but 100 of the best seats, and these he gave to such people as had bought them before and were able, despite the strike, to get there. Today he is feeling like a millionaire, and of course people who bought seats and did not fill them have no kick except at the street car company.
George Nink had an unusual attraction at his Winter Casino on West Pine street yesterday in the original Lottie Collins in her “Boom-de-ay” song. When he saw that the strike would prevent people from going out, and that he would have to depend on his patronage on the employes of the canning factories at the fair grounds he quickly went to all the livery stables and contracted for all the available omnibuses. These he pressed into service and had a line running out to the Casino all the evening.
Robert Marsh, president of the Missoula Smelting company, says that if the strike continues he will have to blow out eighteen furnaces, as most of his employes live far away from the smelters and can not be accommodated in the vicinity. He is thinking, however, of putting up a number of dining and sleeping tents at the smelters to make temporary shift.
A PROBABLE SETTLEMENT
Mr. Solomon was visited at his residence, 3834 West Spruce street, by a committee of the board of trade at 11 o’clock last evening and said he would pay the night shift men full wages if it could be agreed between the company and the union that the old hours and old wages shall go into effect as soon as the street car tracks are laid across the new bridges at Stevens and at Woody streets. This will render it unnecessary for all the South Missoula lines to switch into Higgins avenue before coming across the bridge, and so take the stress of travel off of that street at the hours when now it requires the most skillful and rapid motormen the company has to prevent blockades. Mr. Solomon says that even this temporary increase of wages is a great concession on the part of the company, because at present their expenses are unusually large owing to the fact that on all the lines which run a few miles out of the heart of the city either north or south, licenses have to be paid to the three counties of Missoula, Ravalli and Flathead. (Note: Flathead County established Feb. 2, 1893; Ravalli County established March 3, 1893).
Mr. Solomon also said that while the company knew of the dissatisfaction among the men at the new order it did not anticipate any strike, or otherwise men would have been here to take the places of the strikers. The board of trade committee, however, expressed satisfaction that this had not been the case as it might have caused riot and bloodshed without greatly facilitating travel. The proposition of the company will be laid before the union at a meeting today and until that meeting is over, the motor men have consented, at the solicitation of the board of trade, to run the cars as usual. This will carry the MISSOULIAN to its thousands of city readers on time this morning and they will get the good news that the cars are to run as usual today and that the strike is probably over.