MYER STOUSE SIGNED, "Myer Strouse, Pottsville, Pa.", 5.25 x 2.25, large ink signature of the Civil War Congressman from Pennsylvania and U.S. labor movement defense attorney for the Molly Maguires, a secret organization in the mining regions of Pennsylvania, at famous trial in 1876. In fine condition.
The Molly Maguires was an Irish 19th-century secret society active in Ireland, Liverpool and parts of the Eastern United States, best known for their activism among Irish-American and Irish immigrant coal miners in Pennsylvania. After a series of often violent conflicts, twenty suspected members of the Molly Maguires were convicted of murder and other crimes and were executed by hanging in 1877 and 1878.
In 1875, a writer of the time observed, there came from coal-mining district of Pennsylvania "an appalling series of tales of murder, of arson, and of every description of violent crime." The Irish potato famine unleashed a wave of immigrants in the 1840s to American shores, and many thousands found jobs in Pennsylvania's anthracite region. Among the Irish immigrants were members of a secret society, with a history of agrarian agitation and violence, called the Molly Maguires. In his undercover report on the Mollys, Pinkerton detective James McParlan described the aim of the Irish Mollys "to take from those who had in abundance and give it to the poor." By the early 1870s, a reign of terror existed in Shuylkill, Carbon, Luzerne, Columbia, and Northumberland Counties. Any personal slight, reduction in wages, adverse change in working conditions, or imagined grievance against a Molly could inspire a revengeful house burning or cold-blooded murder. The mining owners hired McParlan to infiltrate the Molly Mcguires. It would be more than a year after his initiation, however, before McParlan--under heavy pressure from the mines and the Pinkerton Agency during the Long Strike of 1874-75--would uncover any "murderous plots." Four prominent murders, and one near murder, in the summer of 1875 provoked widespread outrage and eventually would lead to a series of trials that effectively ended the Mollies' reign of terror. The year of 1876 saw a series of Molly trials and convictions. Arrested by private policeman and prosecuted by mining and railroad company attorneys, the trials, in the words of historian Harold Aurand, "marked one of the most astounding surrenders of sovereignty in American history." The Molly trials fueled discrimination against Irish Americans and suspicion of the trade union movement, both of which lingered for decades.