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Burlington Railroad Strike Collection (Aurora)

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Burlington Railroad Strike Collection (Aurora), 1916-1982 | Northern Illinois University

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Collection Overview

Title: Burlington Railroad Strike Collection (Aurora), 1916-1982

ID: RHC/RC/217

Extent: 3.75 Linear Feet

Date Acquired: 11/08/1993

Subjects: Aurora (Ill.), Burlington Railroad, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, Labor, Labor unions, Railroads, Strikes and lockouts

Forms of Material: Oral history

Languages: English

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The Burlington Railroad Strike records were collected by the donor in the course of his Ph.D. dissertation research.  The records from the Burlington Railroad were donated to Mr. Flynn by a company official.  These records include special agent reports, legal documents, and correspondence.  The Burlington Railroad Strike records also consist of oral history interview transcriptions that the donor conducted during his research.

James R. Flynn completed his dissertation entitled, "The Railroad Shopmen's Strike of 1922 on the Industry, Company, and Community Levels" in July 1993.  Copies of the dissertation may be found in Founders Memorial Library, the History Department, and the Regional History Center.

Collection Historical Note

During World War I the railroads were placed under federal rule.  On March 1, 1920 they were returned to private operation but had changed greatly.  Unionization was now widespread.  Unions demanded increased wages, changes in rules and working conditions, and a continuation of existing national agreements and various innovations introduced during federal operations. 

Unwilling to meet the demands, the railroad shopmen strike began at 10:00a.m. July 1, 1922 which threatened to bring the nation's railroads to a halt.  Over 400,000 members of six shopcraft unions walked off their jobs, shutting down facilities for the construction, maintenance, and repair of rolling stock on virtually every major railroad in the country.  In Aurora, Illinois 1700 shopmen struck the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. 

In Aurora, to accommodate the strikebreakers or "new men", the large paint shop was converted into a dormitory with complete kitchen facilities and a dining room where meals were prepared and served three times a day.  The company also provided a convenience store which sold tobacco and sundries so the "new men" did not have to leave the area unless they wanted to. 

The strike did turn violent.  By the end of July, 2,200 deputy United States marshals had been appointed and National Guard troops were on duty in seven states amid reports of violence from Fresno, California, to Worcester, Massachusetts.  Almost daily throughout July and August, newspapers reported the bombing of railroad property and workers' homes, the burning of bridges, and the attempted wrecking of trains, as well as, riots, assaults, and similar disturbances designed to intimidate strikebreakers. 

The strike was ended by the Railway Employes' Department on February 1, 1925 but for most strikers in Aurora it just dwindled away.

Subject/Index Terms

Aurora (Ill.)
Burlington Railroad
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company
Labor
Labor unions
Railroads
Strikes and lockouts

Administrative Information

Repository: Northern Illinois University

Access Restrictions: There are no restrictions on access to the collection.

Use Restrictions: Property rights in the collection belong to the Regional History Center; literary rights are dedicated to the public.

Acquisition Source: James R. Flynn

Acquisition Method: James R. Flynn donated the Burlington Railroad Strike Collection to the Northern Illinois Regional History Center on November 8, 1993.

Related Materials: For further information regarding railroads the researcher should consult the W.W. Embree Collection (RC 2); the Chicago and North Western Railway Historical Society Records (RC 51); and the Finch-Marshall Railway Collection (RC 54).

Related Publications: James R. Flynn completed his dissertation entitled, "The Railroad Shopmen's Strike of 1922 on the Industry, Company, and Community Levels" in July 1993.  Copies of the dissertation may be found in Founders Memorial Library, the History Department, and the Regional History Center.


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Box 7
Folder 1: X. Support from Other Unions
Folder 2: XI. Violence
Folder 3: XII. Mechanical Department Association
Folder 4: XIII. Fox Valley Industrial Association
Folder 5: XIV. After the Strike
Folder 6: XV. Elevation  of Chicago Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) in Aurora
Folder 7: XVI. Reports of Special Agent O.H. Abbott
Folder 8: XVII. Statistics on Aurora in 1920
Folder 9: XVIII. Aurora Chicago Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) Shops - Maps
Folder 10: XVIII. Aurora Chicago Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) Shops - Photographs (22)
Folder 11: XVIII. Aurora Chicago Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) Shops - Negatives (14)
Folder 12: XIX. Publications: Aurora in the Beginning
Folder 13: XIX. Publications: Centennial Historical & Biographical Record of Aurora,Illinois for 100 Years and of the Chicago Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) Railroad for 86 Years
Folder 14: XIX. Publications: Aurora Roundhouse Complex Transportation Center Rehabilitation Feasibility Study, August 1980

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