This is not simply the story of a year from our past but a dramatic account of a social and political uprising that became a crisis in the course of American development. By 1877 the United States had ground through four years of depression with no end in sight. The mood of the nation was explosive. As labor sought to unite against the great corporations, violence and lawlessness spread through the cities, accented by race riots, lynchings, government corruption, scandal in high places, and the shocking growth of teenage gangs. The summer of 1877 produced a climax: a nationwide railroad strike accompanied by rioting coast to coast. Mr. Bruce’s moving account of these events portrays a nation trying to cope with an industrial depression before it had learned about the problems of industrialism. The upheaval was perhaps our closest brush with class revolution in America. “A taut narrative that is relieved by flashes of an appropriately sardonic humor. Mr. Bruce has resisted the temptation to let his spectacular story turn into a mere hour-by-hour re-creation of mayhem and emotion. All along the way he thoughtfully assesses just what this year meant in American history.”—Eric F. Goldman, New York Times. “The author goes to the sources in scholarly fashion but reports it in a popular style…An informative and readable book.”—C. Vann Woodward.
Robert V. Bruce is Professor of History at Boston University. He is also the author of Lincoln and the Tools of War and The Launching of Modern American Science, 1846–1876, for which he won the Pulitzer Price in 1988.