Images of the Massacre
November 30, 2012 1 Comment
Much has been written describing the terrifying moments of the massacre itself. All of this writing is rich in description, with evocative expressions of the sounds and smells of the event in addition to sensual evocations of the movements of the people involved. These descriptions, written and oral, began in the days just after the event, as witnesses from both sides of the massacre told their accounts of what they saw and heard. Two books have been written about the events (Pinkowski 1950; Novak 1976) which both feature rich descriptive text of the events from many perspectives. Fragments of the trial transcripts have also survived in newspapers and excepted in books. These trial transcripts include first-person accounts from different witnesses, often with varying details.
Today we live in a world saturated with images: photography in magazines, newspapers and social media, videos on television, film, and on the internet, live footage from surveillance cameras, etc. Just image if the marchers and posse had cell phone cameras… we would have hundreds of individual perspectives of the event!
A recent strike and massacre of coal miners in South Africa was heavily photographed. When I viewed these photos, particularly the ones of police officers firing upon and then standing over the bodies of prone miners, I immediately thought of the following images. Be careful, these are very difficult photos to look at here.
Of course none of this was present during the moments of the massacre. We are lucky to have the one amazing photo of the marching miners from the day of the event, and a few after action images of the massacre site. Here are five representations of the massacre that I have found. Some have been blogged here before, but there is something powerful about collecting them all together here.
The first (pictured above) is from the New York Evening Journal from the day after the Massacre. It is really one of the most powerful images I have seen, showing the posse firing upon the strikers with a calculated precision. One individual, however, seems to be contemplating his rifle. Is he clearing a jam, or having second thoughts?
The second image (below) is from the New York Evening Journal from 1898. It was drawn during the trial. It is a powerful image that emphasizes the accounts that suggest that the encounter between the posse and strikers was at very close range, close enough that the posse fired at wounded strikers while they were lying on the ground.
The third print image, also from newsprint, is probably the best known image of the massacre. It was printed in the Philadelphia Enquirer two days after the event. It shows the strikers backed up against the trolley tracks, a long line of posse members firing upon them from a distance, opening up with pistols and rifles. The vantage point is from behind the line of the posse. Strikers can be seen running over the trolley tracks, silhouetted against the sky.
The first painting I only recently discovered (thanks to Ralph Brauer, who I made acquaintance of through his blogpost on the massacre). It is from an article in the journal Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine from November, 1897. As far as I know it is only available in printed format so the colors, which were probably quite striking, are lost to time. In the foreground, it shows the struggle between Sheriff Martin and the bearer of the flag. Behind them, the posse is already firing into strikers who have begun to turn and run.
The second painting is from the Hazleton Historical Society. The painters name, Louis Lamont, is written in the bottom right corner of the painting. The image shows the moment of the initial confrontation between Sheriff Martin and the posse. Sheriff Martin has been forced to the ground and a thin stream of blood runs down his chest. A striker has also been shot and an even larger stream of blood is running down his front. The posse looks on threateningly from the left side of the scene. This image was reproduced for a commemorative postcard printed in 1986 (pictured next). I don’t know anything about the painter. (please contact me if you have any info on this firstname.lastname@example.org)
Do you know of any other images of the massacre you could share with us?