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Opinion >  Column

100 years ago in Spokane: The great railway strike was becoming a crisis that dominated local headlines

 (Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)
(Spokane Daily Chronicle archives)

It’s hard to describe how serious the railroad strike crisis was for Spokane in 1922.

Here’s a clue: The top four stories on the front page of the Spokane Daily Chronicle on Aug. 18, 1922, were all about the strike.

The lead story said there was a glimmer of hope that railroad executives would finally accept a settlement offer. This would remain a mere glimmer. The second main story was about President Warren G. Harding’s vow to crack down on strikers and their “shocking” state of lawlessness.

The third story was about how police in Topeka, Kan., had to use tear gas to disperse a crowd of strikers. The fourth was about how the Milwaukee Road railroad shops at Spirit Lake were forced to close indefinitely because of a lack of manpower.

A rail strike was especially disruptive in Spokane, which was not only a rail transportation hub, but also a railroad shop center. About 1,800 Spokane workers had been on strike for weeks.

The strike would go down in U.S. history as the “Great Railroad Strike of 1922” and one of the largest of the era.

From the contest file: The Spokane Daily Chronicle attempted to lighten the mood on the front page with a photo spread headlined, “Here Are 10 of 50 Most Beautiful Mermaids Who Will Compete Tomorrow.”

The paper was touting its own “Inland Empire Mermaid Queen” contest. The photos were of 10 young women wearing bathing suits.

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