The 1906 Hamilton Streetcar Strike and Riot
Other than the Battle of Stoney Creek in 1813, no incident in the history of the city of Hamilton has been more violent than the riot that occurred on the nights of November 23rd and 24th of 1906. A streetcar and radial strike that had been going on since November 5th lead to one of the largest riots in Canadian history, which would see the reading of the riot act and the use of militia troops to bring it to a end.
The author would like to thank Amalgamated Transit Union Local 107 and the William Ready Division of Archives and Research Collections of Mills Library at McMaster University, without whose help this article could not have been written.
In the summer of 1906 the three-year contract between the Cataract Company's Hamilton Street Railway and the union representing its streetcar employees, Division 107 of the Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America (AASEREA 107), was coming to an end. This was the third contract between the HSR and AASEREA 107 since the founding of the union division in 1899.
AASEREA 107 members approved the draft of their requests on July 7. Discussions between the two sides over the new fourth contract began in late July with the first mentions of the contract discussions appearing in the August 15th Hamilton Spectator. However an impasse was reached almost immediately, before any of the contract details could be negotiated. The primary obstacle between the company and the union was over which workers the new contract would cover. The previous contract had applied only to employees of the HSR. Since the contract had been created, the employees of the Cataract Company's two radial lines, the Hamilton & Dundas Street Railway (H&D) and the Hamilton Radial Electric Railway (HRER) had joined the union. AASEREA 107 wanted this new contract to cover not only the employees of the HSR, but the employees of the H&D, and the HRER as well. Up to this point these three railways were covered by separate agreements.
The Cataract Company's Traction manager, Clyde. K. Green, refused to bring the employees of the H&D and the HRER under the same contract as the employees of the HSR, claiming that all three companies were completely independent of each other, and each should have its own contract. Green refused to recognize the negotiating committee as having any authority to negotiate on behalf of the two radial lines. The union disputed this on the grounds of frequent interchanging of men and equipment between the three railways, but on this point the company would not negotiate. On August 17 AASEREA president W. D. Mahon arrived in Hamilton from Detroit to assess the situation and to determine the level of support the members had towards a possible strike. With the membership giving their full support to the union leadership, Mahon departed two days later.
At the same time as the contract negotiations were going on, the city of Hamilton was involved in a dispute with the HSR. Complaints from riders over the condition of the tracks and cars, and the service frequency prompted the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board (ORMB) to announce on August 18 that they would investigate. On August 22 the Cataract Company asked the ORMB to act as an arbitrator in the negotiations. AASEREA 107 objected, claiming that based on their actions in a recent labour dispute involving the London Street Railway and its union AASEREA 97, the ORMB was anti-labour. The union countered with a proposal to add special representatives from each radial line to the negotiating committee, but that was turned down by the Cataract Company.
The old contract expired on August 24. That night a union meeting was held at the Trades and Labour Hall, in which a motion to strike was narrowly defeated. Instead, it was agreed to continue to negotiate with the Cataract company. The union agreed to separate the radial lines from the streetcar contract, and create a separate grievance committee for the radial lines, with AASEREA 107's president to act if a grievance could not be resolved. This too was rejected by the Cataract Company.
In a last ditch effort to avoid a strike, members of the union appealed directly to the company president Col. J. M. Gibson on August 27. Gibson and the union agreed to three separate contracts, the use of arbitrators if need be, and that members of the radial lines who had grievances could be accompanied by a member of the streetcar union as an advisor, but that member could not act in any official capacity. The three new preliminary contracts were drafted the next day, and negotiations over the details began at once. There were demands for wage increases, and a demand that pay be more closely tied to hours worked (many employees were required to be at their job for 18 hrs, but only be paid for the 10 or 12 hrs they actually worked).
A week's negotiation over wages did not get anywhere, and so on September 3 the contract dispute went to arbitration. AASEREA 107 appointed Adam Studholme as arbitrator, and the Cataract Company appointed William Bell, who resigned on September 8 due to ill health and was replaced by F. J. Howell. Several other names were proposed for the third member of the arbitration board, but it took until September 14 for all parties to accept Joseph Jardine as the third member. The arbitrators met in the jury room of the Hamilton courthouse with Traction manager Green, General manager W. C. Hawkins, and Union president John Theaker for the first time on September 17.
As negotiations proceeded, the city was moving ahead with it's actions against the HSR. The city filed a formal complaint against the HSR with the ORMB on September 6. It alleged that the streetcars were dirty, very noisy, and in poor shape, while the tracks were worn out and improperly set in the roadway surface. The ORMB launched an investigation, and began receiving witness testimony in Toronto. The HSR rebutted the city's allegations on September 20. A lengthy list of defects were submitted into evidence by inspectors on September 27.
On September 29, a preliminary contract was agreed upon. The agreement would last for 2 years and 8 months, with a retroactive start date of August 1, 1906. A ten hour shift would have to be completed within 12 consecutive hours, and that anyone handling a late evening shift would not have to begin work the next day until 10 am. Overtime of an additional 2 cents per hour would be paid to all workers for any work done on Sunday, or for work exceeding 60 hours a week.
Both the HSR and H&D conductors and motormen would see increases in wages, but the HRER conductors and motormen would see no increase in wages at all. Feeling betrayed by the union, the employees of the HRER quit AASEREA 107 en masse on October 14. The agreement was formally signed on October 20.
It All Falls Apart
On October 22 the HSR announced the first new work schedule as a result of the new contract. As a result of the restriction on employees who were working late being on call the following morning, the HSR began hiring an additional 40 workers to operate early morning extras running on the Deering extension, from Barton north along the HRER to the industries along the waterfront. The HSR implemented the new schedules one at a time, starting on King West.
By October 31 the HSR had hired and began training about half of the required new operators. But that morning Manager Green announced that the HSR would not implement the new work schedule for the Belt Line route, as it had been unable to hire enough new employees. Strangely, the Cataract Company also announced that it would halt its efforts to hire additional operators. No real explanation why was given. This was a violation of the newly signed contract and arbitration, and talks between the union and the HSR went nowhere.
At 12:30 am on Sunday November 4, a mass meeting was held by AASEREA 107 on the issue of whether or not to strike, due to the Cataract Company's refusal to implement the new schedule. Manager Green was telephoned at 4:00 am and asked one last time if the new schedule would be put into place by Monday morning. He responded 'no'. Shortly after a vote was taken, and the results were nearly unanimous: 'Strike.'
The vote to strike meant an immediate halt to all HSR and H&D operations. As the HRER members had quit the union after the decision not to raise HRER wages, operations on the HRER mainline between Hamilton and Oakville and on the HRER's Bartonville line continued as normal.
H&D service was restarted by the Cataract Company on November 6 on a limited schedule, later expanded to full service, but in a sign of solidarity with the strikers very few Hamilton or Dundas residents used the service, instead riding more expensive Grand Trunk Railway or Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway trains between Dundas and Hamilton.
The Cataract company responded to the strike by demanding that all striking employees turn in their caps, badges and ticket punches, and collect their wages. In effect, all striking workers were fired. Members of AASEREA 107 refused to either collect wages or return items. As it no longer had any workers, Cataract Company stopped officially speaking to the union and began hiring replacement conductors and motormen. Strike-breakers were also brought in, and housed near the Sanford barn.
Hamiltonians were very much on the side of the strikers. The poor conditions of the HSR that had prompted the involvement of the ORMB, combined with a feeling that the Cataract Company was becoming or had become a monopoly in the transportation and electricity fields meant that there was little support for the company. Donations to the strikers were large enough that the union was able to pay full salaries to all the striking workers, and many Hamiltonians wore blue ribbons with the slogan 'We Walk' in support. Similar levels of support came from the residents of Dundas.
Several merchants announced freezes on payments due that were being made by members of AASEREA 107. Others took advantage of the strike to quickly change their advertisements in local newspapers to remind shoppers of what they could buy with the fares they weren't spending.
Mayor S. D. Biggar attempted to get both sides talking again, and discussions between the two sides took place on November 5 & 6, but with no results.
The First Week
On the evening of Monday November 5, a crowd gathered at the HRER/H&D station at James & Gore (today's James & Wilson). At first the crowd was quiet, but as the sun set and the HRER cars continued to operate the crowd began to get more and more agitated. The crews on the radial cars departing at 8:30 and 9:30 PM were the target of insults, while rocks and bottles were thrown at the radial car departing at 11:15 PM, shattering the windows. A crowd at the Stuart St Car barn also threw stones and broke windows, before the police arrived and drove off the crowd. AASEREA 107 denied any involvement with the violence.
The first injury in the strike occurred that evening when Constable Billy Campaign struck Dennis Bennett with his baton for not moving fast enough and for talking back, as Campaign tried to clear a crowd from in front of city hall. Bennett filed a complaint for Campaign's actions, but it was rejected by the court.
The first arrest for strike related vandalism was also made that night, when fifteen year old Russell Hymers was arrested for setting a Cataract company flat car on fire on a siding at Gore St & Mary. The damage was minimal, but he was sentenced to the Mimico penitentiary on November 8 for a term to end when he turned 21.
As a result of the violence, the Cataract company cancelled all HRER and H&D passenger trips taking place after dark. On the night of November 6 a similar sized crowd formed at the HRER/H&D station, but as there were no cars running the crowd remained peaceful, but noisy. For several more days large crowds formed on James street in the evenings, but no further acts of vandalism happened.
The same could not be said for crowds near the International Harvester works on the HRER, near today's Burlington & Sherman. Crowds hurling insults formed on the evening of November 5, and the following evening sticks and stones were thrown at cars from the GTR bridge over the tracks north of Barton, including one rock large enough to almost break through the roof of one of the cars. Motorman Tom Fothergill and Supt. Miller both suffered minor injuries.
On November 7 a large interurban car being used to transport mail on the HRER was derailed near Stipe's crossing (near Gage Ave) in the east end. Shots were fired, and the police on on the mail car returned fire. No one was hit on either side. This exchange of shots may have scared the protesters, as no incidents were reported the following night, or on the nights after. A heavy police presence prevented further trouble near International Harvester on November 8.
As this was the first strike for AASEREA 107, Fred Fay of Ypsilanti, Michigan was sent to Hamilton by the AASEREA head office to act as the overall strike leader, arriving on November 7. On November 8 the maintenance crews downed tools and joined the picket line as well.
On the morning of November 9 a final group of 20 strike-breakers arrived, bringing the total number in Hamilton up to 100. This the HSR deemed enough to start a basic service.
On November 10, the Cataract Company issued a statement explaining their side of the story. It said that the company would have been able to issue the new schedule, if not for the quitting of 11 employees between October 27 and 29. It blamed the strike not on Division 107, but on AASEREA's senior managers, described as 'Detroit manipulators'. The statement again called for striking employees turn in their caps, badges and ticket punches, and collect their wages.
As part of its investigation into the HSR, members of the ORMB arrived in Hamilton on November 12. Mayor Biggar addressed the Board, asking that it arbitrate between the two sides in the strike. The Board agreed, provided that both sides ask it to do so. Since the testimony on September 27, the HSR had quickly relaid tracks at several locations, to remove the worst offenders from the inspector's list. However, city engineer J. R. Heddle and engineer John Hendrie both confirmed the previous descriptions of the HSR's trackwork and streetcars. The city's case was concluded on November 15.
Restarting service and the Second Week
At 3 pm on the afternoon of November 12, seventeen streetcars appeared on the streets of Hamilton, the first since the strike began. Because of the reduced number of cars, the streetcars operated on a Sunday service. To protect riders two crews operated on each car along with a policeman, and the service ended before dark.
As word of the return of service spread, a crowd formed at King & James. As the crowd grew into the thousands, shouts and insults turned to the throwing of eggs at the cars and the police (the chief of police took one in the face), followed by the throwing of stones. The police were overwhelmed in their efforts to stop the mayhem. Attempts were made to make arrests, but the crowd intervened each time. Bricks were thrown from the tops of nearby buildings onto passing cars, and police horses were sprayed with a skin irritant or acid causing them to buck, in one case hard enough to throw rider Constable Harry Tuck to the ground.
By 5 pm the streetcars were being returned to the Sanford yard with shattered windows and had been egged to the point that they were 'more yellow than they were painted'. At the request of Mayor Biggar, the Cataract company held off on running streetcars again. Mayor Biggar stated that the police force was exhausted from the actions of the previous week, and could not guaranteed the safety of the streetcars from another mob. At the same time, Mayor Biggar refused to call in the militia for added support.
Again, AASEREA 107 denied any involvement with the violence, and called for calm. The next morning the Cataract Company announced that they refused to negotiate with AASEREA 107 any longer, and that they would 'fight that union to a finish, even if it takes two or twenty years'. Still, separate meetings were held the same day by the ORMB and city officials, first with AASEREA 107 and then with the Cataract Company. The two meetings lead to a meeting between the two sides on the evening of November 16, but the meeting ended when Manager Green showed the union representatives the door.
The Cataract Company faced a second rebellion from a group of streetcar drivers, but this one was self inflicted: The strike breakers that the Cataract Company had hired demanded that either they drive the streetcars and take on the crowds, or they would quit en masse. Not wanting to weaken their position by losing so many operators, the Cataract Company started running streetcars at 1 PM on November 16. A strong police presence at James and King kept the crowd in check, and when the Cataract Company discovered that the crowd wasn't reacting, they quickly put on enough cars for a Sunday service. This was followed by normal daytime service starting the next morning.
Another meeting on November 17 between the two sides made no progress, and so the ORMB felt that it was no longer being useful in arranging talks, and returned to Toronto. Both sides blamed the other for the breakdown in negotiations.
Over the next several days several acts of vandalism occurred, such as blocking streetcar tracks with debris. Several arrests were made of people throwing stones at streetcars. The worst incident happened on November 19 when a stone was thrown through a streetcar window at Barton & Sanford that resulted in a schoolteacher being badly cut by flying glass.
Mayor Biggar continued to meet with both sides separately, but to no avail. Members of the ORMB returned to Hamilton, and efforts to end the strike now revolved around some form of binding arbitration. AASEREA 107 proposed that the arbitrators be a group of Hamilton clergymen, while the Cataract Company proposed the ORMB. The union accepted this proposal, provided that they be allowed to return to work pending the outcome of the arbitration. The Cataract Company refused, and negotiations broke down again.
On November 23 the Cataract Company announced that they would run streetcars after dark. As the police did not have sufficient manpower to deal with the crowds if things turned ugly, the Cataract Company again asked the Mayor to call out the Militia. Also on November 23 the Cataract Company was forced to relocate their strike-breakers from their residence on Sanford to Hunter St, due to an outbreak of a skin disease.
The Great Riot of 1906 – First Night
The first night of the riot centred mostly in three locations: James Street, The East Barn, and on Hunter Street next to the TH&B station.
As night fell, the HSR returned all its cars to the barns, and then made preparations to run four cars that night. People began to line James Street around 7:00 PM, and around 7:30 the first streetcar arrived to scattered insults.
Shortly after, an automobile broke down next to the Arcade at James and Market. A dense crowd formed around the automobile, and remained there after repairs were complete and it drove off. The crowd continued to grow, and shortly after a southbound streetcar on James was met by a fierce volley of stones, shattering its windows.
It was at this point that the police, waiting inside city hall, were marched out in a double line and began marching up and down James Street, between Gore and York. Streetcars passing through were given an escort, but stones continued to fly.
By 8:30 PM the crowd had nearly filled James Street, between York and Gore. In front of the Arcade Detective Campbell arrested a boy who was throwing stones, and the mob turned on him. Detective Coulter tried to come to Campbell's aid, but was knocked down. Coulter responded by drawing his nightstick and swinging wildly. Several people were hit, and the crowd turned on Coulter, who then drew his gun. With his gun raised Coulter and Campbell made their way to city hall, their prisoner having escaped. The mob turned their attention to another streetcar as the policemen made their way through, pelting it with stones.
At this point, seeing the level of chaos on James Street, Mayor Biggar called for militia troops. At the time it was government policy not to use local militia units, to prevent the possibility of the rank and file from having to fight friends, neighbours or even family. Units from Toronto and London would have to be called in.
The HSR decided to pull in all their streetcars at 9 PM. The last car heading north on James could not pass north of Barton, as the crowd had begun attacking the tracks themselves, and was forced to turn east onto Barton. Only one strikebreaker suffered serious injury, although almost all of them were bruised from flying stones.
With no more streetcars, the mob turned their fury onto the HRER/H&D station at James & Gore. Police responded by forming a line, and marching northwards of James, forcing the mob north. At Vine St, the police stopped, and the crowd began to disperse. At around this time a mob of young boys came up Hughson street to King and began smashing windows while the police were busy, before fleeing back down Hughson street.
Postcard of the HRER's Gore St office & station in Hamilton after the 1906 Riot. The postcard photo caption reads "Radial Office showing damage done by mob during the Strike". The postcard is postmarked December 2 1906, so the photo was taken the morning after. In the background left is the St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church at Hughson & Wilson.
The East Barn
As the crowd on James Street dispersed, a second crowd began forming outside of the East barn at Sanford & King. At around midnight the strike breakers inside the East barn came out, and attacked the crowd of 1500 in the darkness with axe-handles. One member of the crowd, Frank Fitzgerald, had his skull bashed in by a strike-breaker and was taken to hospital. The crowd fled, but around 2 AM a lit stick of dynamite was thrown onto the roof of the car barn, which blew a hole in the roof and shattered the windows of the streetcar below it.
22 Hunter Street East was being used to house strike breakers, and on the night of November 23 as the police were called away to James Street, a crowd gathered in front of the house. Around 9:30 PM a volley of stones was let loose, smashing all the windows in the house. The front door was smashed in, but police arrived in enough force to prevent entry. Constable Yaxley arrested a small boy for throwing stones, but the mob turned on him and grabbed the boy and Yaxley's gun. Yaxley and Constable Gibb were driven away by a hail of bricks and stones and forced to flee.Yaxley took shelter in the nearby YMCA, Gibbs at a nearby hotel. The mob dispersed on its own around 11 PM
This aerial photo dated September 7, 1922 shows the TH&B's Hamilton station right next to the plane's wing. Across the railway tracks and to the right is a row of five houses. 22 Hunter St East is the house second from left. (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
22 Hunter St East, likely taken the morning after. The caption reads 'House on Hunter St riddled(?) by mob during strike'
Because of the mob, only a few people were successfully arrested that night
The First Morning After
Milita began arriving from Toronto around 1:30 AM, and were quartered in the Armoury. Under the command of Lt. Colonel Septimus Denison, the troops consisted of members of the Royal Canadian Dragoons, the Royal Canadian Infantry, and the Royal Canadian Artillery. This last group was added to provide additional mounted forces, as only 20 members of the Dragoons were available, and so several artillery drivers on horseback were added to create a mounted troop of about 50 men. Additional members of the Royal Canadian Regiment from London arrived at 11 AM.
Squads of troops were deployed on the afternoon of November 24: One at King & James, one in front of City Hall, one further down James at the radial office, and others at each of the car barns, at several track switches, and even at Manager Green's house on Jackson St West. Large crowds of Hamiltonians came out to see the troops, and as night fell many people remained in the downtown area.
The Great Riot of 1906 – Second Night
The second night of the riot centred mostly at two spots: on James Street and at King & Walnut.
As the streetcars kept running into the evening, crowds once again formed on James street. By 6:30 PM stones and bricks were flying at streetcars at James & Market. At 7:10 a line of policemen stretched in front of city hall. Seeing the crowds as they were the night before, Sheriff Middleton stood on the steps of city hall and read the Riot Act.
“Our Sovereign Lord the King commands all persons being assembled immediately to disperse and peaceably to depart to their habitations or to their lawful business, upon the pain of being guilty of an offence, on conviction of which they may be sentenced to imprisonment for life. God save the King.“
With that, the police swung in a line facing north on James street, drew their batons, and charged the crowd. Batons swinging, they drove half of the crowd northwards past Gore street. At the same time, the militia squads, bayonets fixed, drove the other half southwards past King.
Shortly after, the main body of troops emerged from the Armoury. Lead by the RCD and RCA on horseback with Colonel Denison at the front, the troops marched south through the crowd near Gore & James to King & James. There the troops split into sections. The mounted forces returned northwards on James, using the presence of the horses and the flat sides of their cavalry swords to clear the sidewalks. One section went west along York St, while the rest continued northwards. Members of the RCI spread out along King East, King West, James South, and King William St, and began patrols.
As the troops and police were deployed in squads, crowds would reassemble after the troops passed. One crowd in front of The Arcade next to City Hall threw stones at the passing streetcars, which had been 'armoured' with wire netting over the windows. Alderman Allen made a speech on the steps of city hall to the crowd calling for peace, but the police then charged the crowd. Colonel Denison ordered the police to arrest Allen, but they were reluctant to arrest an alderman and Allen was able to get away.
Numerous arrests were being made by this point, as the Riot Act only allowed arrests to be made after 30 minutes had passed after the act had been read. City Hall was used as a temporary jail that night. Many of those arrested had been struck by the police batons, and arrived wounded. As the night progressed Dr. John Langrill was brought in to patch up the wounded.
King & Walnut
Around 9 PM the most severe incident happened when the mob blocked a westbound streetcar at King & Walnut with a large pile of debris. The motorman strikebreaker Arthur Butruit thought that he could ram through the obstacle, but failed. The crowd surged around the streetcar, pulled down the trolley pole, tore the window screens free and smashed all the windows with stones. The crew fought their way out, reattached the trolley pole and attempted to reverse the streetcar, only to hit another debris pile and derail.
As the crowd began to run out of stones, a squad of mounted troops arrived and the crowd scattered. Arthur Butruit was rushed to hospital with internal injuries from being hit multiple times. The streetcar was rerailed and sent back to the barn, and the rest of the streetcars were returned to the barns around 10 PM. Shortly after the crowds dispersed for good. The troops returned to the armoury around 10:30 PM, while cavalry patrols continued until around 11 PM.
Postcard of HSR #111 after the Great Riot of 1906. The caption reads 'Car 111, which was wrecked by mob on King St. E, Saturday Night, Nov 23rd 1906. Every panel of glass in this car was broken, holes were smashed through woodwork, interior of car filled with stones and bricks up to the level of the seats'. The postcard is postmarked December 28 1906, so this photo must have been taken within days of the riot, possibly as soon as the morning after.
Postcard of HSR #111 after the Great Riot of 1906. The caption reads 'Interior of Car 111, which was wrecked by mob Sat Night, Nov 23rd 1906. Not a pane of glass remained, & the woodwork was badly damaged. The strike breakers used the cushions as barricades against showers of bricks & stones'.
The Second Morning After
Several Hamiltonians reported that the soldiers had shown great restraint in facing the mobs. This was confirmed by Colonel Denison, when he revealed to a Hamilton Spectator reporter that there had been at least one instance where the troops had refused orders to charge the crowd with fixed bayonets. By comparison it was reported that several members of the police force had apparently attacked people without restraint, in some instances apparently competing with each other to see how many people they could hit. Among those who witnessed this were some of the city Aldermen.
In addition to Arthur Butruit, half a dozen strikebreakers suffered injuries. One of whom, a man named Sutherland, was struck in the back of the head and suffered serious spinal injuries. Among the police only Constable Hallisey required hospitalization when he was hit in the chest by a large brick. The injury proved to be less serious than feared, and he was released the next day.
Twenty-six people were arrested that night on various charges. None of them were members of AASEREA 107, the HSR or any of the radial railways. As shown in the table below, the majority of people who were arrested either had the charges dismissed at the first opportunity, or were found not guilty in court over the next week.
John Seamanes' case was not like the others. He was arrested after troops entered his candy store after rioters, and he tried to evict them all from his property.
In a special edition published on Sunday, the Hamilton Spectator described James Street on Sunday morning as looking as if 'the citizens in that neighbourhood have been cleaning up their backyards, and placing any stones not working on the road' Large numbers of store windows had been smashed along both sides of James Street between King and Gore, and on the north side of King from James to Walnut. The cost to store owners was high as insurance companies did not pay for plate glass windows broken in riots, nor was the city liable for damages.
At 1 PM, strike leader Fred Fay was approached by the Hamilton police at the Waldorf Hotel and ordered to return to the United States or face arrest and deportation. Union lawyer George Lynch-Staunton said there was no legal justification for this action, and Fay remained.
The HSR did not start service until 3 PM on the afternoon of Sunday, November 25. Crowds again gathered downtown, but as the evening passed, little activity happened. Some rock throwing occurred near City Hall and near Barton & James at around 8 PM as evening church services ended. Streetcar service ended at 8:30 PM.
On the morning of November 26th a stick of dynamite was found concealed in a pile of stones on the HSR tracks at James & Guise. Based on the size it was concluded that had a streetcar run over it, it would have blown the flange off the wheel, but not derailed the car.
Also that morning, all members of AASEREA 107 visited the HSR head office to turn in their caps, badges and ticket punches, and collect their wages. After AASEREA members had initially refused to return to their equipment, the HSR had ignored the issue. But as the strike entered its third week it was decided to try again to get the equipment back for the new employees the HSR was training. Letters had been sent out before the riots threatening legal action if the workers did not comply with the HSR's earlier demand, and it had been decided that such legal expenses would be beyond the capabilities of both the union and its members, and so the decision was made to comply.
That night another large crowd gathered downtown. Rumours were circulating that large numbers of handguns had been purchased all over the city, and that this time the mob would be well armed. Several residents reported that the strike-breakers were smashing streetcar windows themselves, and that some were operating streetcars while drunk. The HSR decided to remove the streetcars from service at dusk, and no problems were reported.
Thomas Garrett of 446 Mary St was arrested for throwing a stone at a streetcar in front of the James Street armoury. The next day he was arraigned, plead guilty, and was sentenced to two years.
As before, AASEREA 107 was reluctant to trust the ORMB, and so on November 27 AASEREA president Mahon returned to Hamilton to conduct negotiations. Mahon convinced AASEREA 107's members to submit to the ORMB's arbitration, and to waive their demand that all strikers were to be rehired. In exchange, the Cataract Company pulled all streetcars from service while negotiations were underway.
On November 29th the agreement for binding arbitration of the strike by the ORMB was signed. The arbitration proceedings began on the morning of November 30. Proceedings began with the immediate announcement by the board that 'in order to serve the comfort, convenience, and best interests of the community, hereby orders the strike off.' All AASEREA 107 members were to report for work, and the Cataract Company was to accept them and put them to work.
The Cataract Company objected, claiming that they men hired since the beginning of the strike could not simply be let go. The company then threatened to fire all of the shop workers who had struck, as they were not officially part of any of the three railways, but were employees of the Cataract Company itself. After an adjournment of several hours, the Cataract Company returned and said they would accept the union workers.
HSR operations by members of AASEREA 107 began again on December 1st, 1906. Of the twenty streetcars that set out that morning, eighteen were manned by members of the union, and the other two (HSR #39 and #109) were run by new hires. Several of the cars were still battered after the riots, but Hamiltonians climbed on.
However, things were not proceeding as smoothly with the the two radial lines. The H&D was operated completely by non-union crews, while the HRER crews had reported but were not accepted by the company. The Cataract Company countered by saying the HRER crews were not union members, having left the union several weeks before after not receiving wage increases.
There was one reported incident between the union and non-union crews. Conductor Anderson reported that a non-union member made 'insulting gestures' at him as their streetcars had passed each other. The non-union member apparently quit that day, while Anderson was fired for 'conducting himself in an unseemly way.'
Since the previous contract agreed to two months earlier had been rendered void, a new one was drawn up. Negotiations went smoothly, and the militia troops returned to Toronto and London on December 1. By December 3 the union and the company had agreed to wages, and were negotiating an adjusted schedule, and the H&D was now being operated by members of AASEREA 107. On the same day the last of the strike breakers left Hamilton.
The final agreement was signed on December 6. The HSR would operate 4 different classes of streetcar runs, with operators getting choice of runs every three months based on their seniority. Three separate contracts were signed, one each for the HSR, the H&D and the HRER. The Cataract Company agreed to recognize AASEREA 107 as representing all of its streetcar and radial line employees.
The month long strike cost the HSR an estimated $18000 (about $400,000 in 2016 dollars) in lost revenues. The cost to the city of Hamilton to supply the soldiers while they were on duty in Hamilton totalled $1300 dollars, approximately $28000 in 2016 dollars. The Cataract company spent over $2000 dollars on board for the strike-breakers.
The ORMB resumed taking testimony in the city's case against the HSR on January 3rd, 1907, this time hearing from the Cataract Company. A final report was issued on February 14, ordering the HSR to make numerous track and streetcar repairs. But the board stated that they could not force the HSR to upgrade the system. The HSR bought some additional second-hand streetcars in 1908, but would not buy new streetcars until 1910.
Of the people sentenced for their part in the riot, none served more than a few months. Seamanes was pardoned and released on January 18. Ryerson, Morin & Thompson were all pardoned and released on March 22nd. Less willing to wait had been Russell Hymers, who had broken out of jail a week after he'd been sentenced. He was recaptured, but was released sometime in the summer of 1897.
The agreement between AASEREA 107 and the Cataract Company left a lot of the newer union members feeling angry, due to the seniority benefits for selecting streetcar runs. President John Theaker was re-elected by a large majority in early January, but in early February word began circulating that several members were looking to form a second union. On February 17 the new streetcar union was formed as part of the National Trades and Labour Congress of Canada. A. B Murphy was elected president. The fate of this new union and the possibly related formation of AASEREA Division 971 which would come to represent the employees of the Cataract Company's radial lines is unknown, for now.
HSR 45 after the Riot. Exactly where and when this streetcar was damaged is unrecorded. The caption reads 'Street Car en route to Car Sheds after encounter with mob during Strike' (Photo courtesy of the Hamilton Public Library, Local History & Archives)
Hamilton resident Will Sheridan wrote this postcard to his brother Jack in Belleville a week after the riot. It's the other side of the HRER station photo postcard above. It reads: "Dear Brother. You aught to be here. It was something awful. This is a ___ place that they destroyed & was prety near caught" and I can't make out the rest. Any guesses?
"Comes Up To-Night - New Agreement Between Men and Company Is Ready" July 7, 1906, pg 16
“Threatened Strike Is On The Street Car System” November 5, 1906, pg 1