History

Police open fire at the Ipswich Mills Strike, June 10, 1913

The Lawrence Textile Mills strike in 1912 known as the “Bread and Roses strike” involved immigrant workers in Lawrence MA striking against a two-hour pay cut. The strike grew to more than twenty thousand workers. Amos Lawrence also owned the Ipswich Mills Company, where a similar strike occurred a year later.

The Ipswich Mills Strike

Photo from Ipswich Chronicle, 350th Anniversary special edition

Photo from Ipswich Chronicle, 350th Anniversary special edition

Police patrolling Estes Street. Riverview Pizza is the last building on the left.

In early 1913, a strike by non English-speaking workers demanding a 20 percent wage increase at the Ipswich Hosiery Mills plant was organized by members of the local Industrial Workers of the World. Hundreds of immigrants from England, Ireland, Poland and Greece and French Canadians worked in the mill. Five hundred local people continued to work through the strike. A newspaper article reprinted in the Hellraisers Journal states that 500 Italians and 100 Greeks were involved in the strike, but such a high number of Italian immigrants is not substantiated.

Police at the entrance to the Ipswich Mills during the strike.

There was considerable agitation, and agitated residents at a large meeting at town hall declared “We have got to meet force with force.” On June 10, police fired into a crowd of protesting immigrant workers just after the non-striking English-speaking workers had left the plant. They claimed that the “foreign” strikers were “jostling” the English-speaking strikebreakers.

Seven of the wounded were taken to a hospital in Salem. A young Greek woman named Nicoletta Papadopoulou was shot in the head and killed by police as she left work in Brown’s Essex Mill, and seven persons were injured, including several policemen hit by flying bottles and debris tossed by the demonstrators. Fifteen persons, including the local leaders of the I.W.W. were taken into custody. Nicoletta Papadopoulou was buried at The Immigrant Cemetery, part of the Highland Cemetery Annex on Fowler’s Lane.

The New York Times
Thursday June 12, 1913

Mill Strike Police

Ipswich, Mass. – Police open fire on picket line, one woman killed.
On Tuesday, June 10th, police here opened fire on the strikers’ picket line at the Ipswich Hosiery Mill killing Nicoletta Papadopoulou, 27, and wounding seven others. The wounded were taken to a hospital in Salem. Miss Paudelopoulou was taken to a nearby doctors office where she died of a bullet wound to the head.

Police patrolling the mills

Fifteen strikers were arrested, including the local leaders of the I.W.W. Nathan Hermann, I.W.W. organizer, Mr. E.L. Pingree, Secretary of the Lowell I.W.W., and Mrs. Pingree have been charged with inciting to riot resulting in murder. Thomas J. Halliday, National Secretary of the textile branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, has arrived to take charge of the strike.

Mill workers on strike, 1913

THE BOSTON. GLOBE, THURSDAY, JUNE 12, 1013

 BAIL IS DENIED TO ACCUSED LEADERS

(Continued From the First Page)

In all 27 strikers and their sympathizers have been complained of four offenses alleged to have been committed either during or since the disturbance of last night. With a formidable array of policemen gathered from a number of cities in Essex County, on duty at the approaches to the gates of the Ipswich mills at 7 a m, during the noon hour and at 5:45 p.m., the 400 operatives who were at work today were not molested on their way to or from the factory. For the time being, evidently, the riotous spirits have been suppressed.

Evidence as to how or by whom Nicoletta Papadopoulou was shot is lacking. Chief Frank C. Hull of the Ipswich, forces, Deputy Chief Neal of the State Police and the policemen who had part in the battle in Saltonstall and Estes streets last night are convinced that the young woman was shot by one of the strikers, who was firing from the second-story window of a dwelling house on the elevation on the east side of Saltonstall St.

On the other hand George E. Roerer Jr., counsel for the three I. W. W. leaders accused of the homicide, asserts that the only shots fired in the direction of the spot where Miss Pandelopulos was standing were those of the police. Medical Examiner George G. Bailey has been unable to clear up this point. The autopsy made by Dr. Bailey today has shown that the bullet which killed the young woman entered the left side of the crown of the head, just forward of the ear, and, taking a downward and backward course, lodged in the muscles of the neck, after penetrating the brain.

Police Say Strikers Shot Woman

The medical examiner decided that the bullet was fired by some one who was standing in front of and above the young woman. Dr Bailey did not venture an opinion whether Miss Pandelopulos could have been killed by a bullet from a policeman’s revolver, having in mind the position where it is asserted the police were massed. He would not undertake to say from what point in Saltonstall St. the bullet came, except that the murderer was stationed in front of the young woman and probably on higher ground.

State Detective Artitqr Wells today began an investigation to endeavor to fix the responsibility for the homicide, but he was not able to ascertain enough facts to show the circumstances of the shooting. Officers present during the conflict say that it would have been impossible for a bullet from any policeman’s revolver to inflict the wound which the autopsy disclosed.

Miss Papadopoulou who was not on strike, but was employed in Brown’s hosiery mill, was standing when shot on the sidewalk of Saltonstall St, on a rise about 10 feet in the corner of Estes st, where the police were lined up. The spot where the young woman was standing is from 10 to 14 feet higher than the point in the street where the policemen stood while shooting. So Chief Hull and Chief Mack say a bullet from a policeman’s revolver could not have been so directed as to strike the young woman on the top of the head and course downward.

Pingrees and Herman Not Armed

Carroll L. Pingree and his wife and Nathan Herman, who are accused of the homicide, were not armed last night, it is conceded by the police. The charge against them rests upon the allegation that they were leading two parades of strikers, and that the purpose was to close in on the file of operatives coming from the mills and assault them in the crush. The police claim that Mr. and Mrs. Pingree, leading a delegation of Poles, and Mr. Herman, at the head of a company of Greeks, deliberately planned the clash out of which the killing grew. Mr. and Mrs. Pingree and Mr. Herman accuse the police of precipitating the trouble and they declare that the Greeks would have committed no violence if their passions had not been inflamed by police clubbing strikers and discharging their revolvers at the houses in Saltonstall etc. where the Greeks live.

No policeman was injured during the fight, although they assert that some of the women they arrested attacked them with clubs and bottles and some of the men threw missiles. Michael A. Moore, a Lawrence patrolman, entered a complaint against Peter Corpulos for assault with intent to murder. Patrolman Moore said that Corpulos had a revolver which he had just discharged when Moore arrested him.

 Mrs. Mary Plelpooles, one of the young women arrested during the riot. was not able to appear in the District Court with the others this morning. Early in the morning she appeared in great distress in the lockup under the Town Hall and was hurried to the Salem Hospital in the ambulance as a maternity case.

Leaders Held Without Bail.

Left without leaders, the strikers kept out of sight during the day. The entrance of the operatives into the mills at 7 AM was through clear streets, about 70 policemen being on duty in the approaches to the gates. Policemen had been secured during the night from Salem, Gloucester, Swampscott, Marblehead, Lawrence and Haverhill. The lockup in the basement of the Town Hall, with only four cells. was crowded with prisoners. The women had been kept during the night in the open guardroom. There was a long delay in making out the complaints, as Judge Charles A. Sayward had to question the police witnesses before signing the warrants.

During this process Thomas J. Halloway. National secretary of the textile branch of the Industrial Workers of the World, reached Ipswich. Soon after his arrival, City Marshal Tehan of Salem apprehended him attempting to organize a parade, the marshal said, and he placed him under arrest. Mr. Halloway was thus not permitted to counsel the strikers. About 11 a.m. the accused men and women were marshaled in the courtroom for a hearing. One settee held a row of women, all of them very young excepting Mrs. Mary Copolua. a venerable woman, who was accused of assault with a piece of cordwood. The women were Mrs. Mary Pingree, accused of murder; Pinki Ladopoulos, charged with resisting an officer; Annie Latherboa and Stella Ladopoulos, accused of assault on an officer; Mary Copolua, Anna Phillipopolus, Angele Gasle and Angela Gurolgibrown, whose offense was alleged to be rioting. The men arranged on other settees were Carroll Pingree, and Nathan Herman, both accused of murder; C. Peter Orpulom, charged with assault with intent to kill; Peter Guiles, Les Pingtos, Savoula Philipopulos, Stephen Ladopulous, Zakalo Gunopulos, George Pappas. John P. Kopulos, Christ Zexlos and John Chippei, accused of assault and rioting, and Thomas J. Halloway, charged with violating a town bylaw.

Most Prisoners Not Strikers

Harry M. Sayward, a son of the judge and the only lawyer in town who was in a position to appear for the defendants, represented all of the prisoners in court, asking for a continuance until tomorrow morning. Chief of Police Hull was not anxious to have an examination of the prisoners, as he wished to consult Dist. Atty. Henry C. Attwill. Judge Sayward therefore continued all the cases until tomorrow. Judge Sayward would not accept sureties for Pingree and his wife or Herman, and they were committed. He held Peter Corpulos in $2000 on the complaint for assault with intent to kill. In the case of the other defendants the court fixed the bail at $300 for each. Many of them had Greek relatives and friends who are in business in Salem and were in Ipswich in court as sureties.

All of the women were freed on bail except Mrs. Pingree, and on being released they went back to work in Brown’s hosiery mill, for most of those arrested by the police are employees of a factory not involved in the industrial trouble. Mrs. Mary Copolus could not secure bail, and the old woman spent a tearful afternoon and evening in the lockup. Holloway found a friend who became surety for $100 in his behalf, and he was released.

Funeral of Miss Papadopoulou

After disposing of the cases in court Judge Sayward issued warrants for the arrest of the four women and the man who were taken to the Salem Hospital last night. They are Stattas Jorolotopolus, Arthas Parasleabas, Georg Kalibas, Floss Cornelius and Tariogerta Pogents. Chief Hull sent several officers to Salem to serve the warrants, which charged assault and battery and rioting but the police were told that none of the patients could safely leave the hospital for two or three weeks. Judge Sayward did not consider the accommodations of the basement lockup adequate for the housing of the defendants who had not been able to obtain bail. At the suggestion of the court, four of the prisoners were driven to the County Jail at Salem this afternoon for the night. Mr. and Mrs. Pingree and Nathan Herman were among those who were kept in the lock-up here.

The funeral of Miss Papadopoulos, the only victim of the engagement of last night, was held this afternoon. A large company of men and women of her race gathered in the tenement at 14 Market St, where she lived with her mother, six sisters and a brother, at 3.30 p.m. for prayer. Subsequently, they followed the body to the Greek Orthodox Church on Agawam Heights. where the services were conducted by Rev. Paulikop Alarinlita.

The ritual was punctuated by the pitiful lamentations of the members of the family of the young woman. Later at the grave in the Highland Cemetery, the burial service was supplemented by demonstrations of grief by the sisters of the deceased, the rending of the fabric of their waists and the mutilation of their braided hair. The dead woman had been the soul support of her mother, five sisters and brother. All but the youngest sisters worked in the mills. and all along with the girl now dead were on strike. The father is in Greece and the husband of one of the sisters is serving in the Grecian Army. Pandelopulos when shot, was an innocent witness of the encounter between the police and her striking countrymen.

Strikers Have Outdoor Meeting

 In anticipation of possible disorder when the Ipswich Mills closed tonight, Deputy Chief George C. Neal of the State Police arrived in town with four more members of his force, Detectives Wells and McDonald being already on the ground. After making an inquiry and looking over the scene, Deputy Chief Neal was satisfied that Nictitate Pandelopulos must have been killed by a bullet fired from the upper window of one of the houses in Saltonstall occupied by strikers. “From the position in which all the police were I do not see how a bullet discharged by any one of them could have entered the young woman’s head as this one did.” said the deputy chief.

George E. Hooter Jr., who has been retained as counsel for all the prisoners. will represent them in the District Court tomorrow morning. Mr. Hooter said that witnesses would be produced who would show exactly how the young woman was killed.

The strikers had a meeting this evening in the lot in the rear of the Greek Orthodox Church which was attended by about 500. It was addressed by L. J. Grikstas, a Polish Journalist, who urged the strikers to turn out and swarm the streets leading to the mill gates tomorrow morning and to try by peaceful means to induce the workers to stay out of the mill-

“Let them arrest you,” Griltstas cried. “Let them put you in jail: you will be better off in Jail than working in the mills: Use peaceful means of approaching the workers. Depend upon argument and not arms for victory. I haven’t told you to use violence, but I urge you not to be afraid of the police. Let them arrest you; let them fill up the jail, and then they will have to stop arresting law abiding working people.”

It is expected that there will be a large number of pickets out tomorrow morning when the mill opens, and every precaution will be taken under the direction of the Chief. Grikstas arrived in town this afternoon with George Itiferer Jr. who will defend the imprisoned strikers. At about 8 o’clock the strikers quietly walked to the Greek church. led by Grikstas. There was no disorder. Several officers were standing in the crowd. Arriving at the church, the strikers led in a half-circle in the yard. Grilstas climbed to the balcony railing, he spoke next in English and then in Polish. Not once during his address did he refer to the imprisoned leaders, Mr. and Mrs. Pingree and Nathan Herman.

Wounded will recover

Riot Patients at Salem Hospital, all Suffering From Bullet Wounds, Not Considered Dangerous.

The six persons wounded during the riot last evening. and now under treatment in the Salem hospital will probably recover. Mrs. Merry Pleipoolos, aged 20, who passed out last night in the Ipswich Police Station. was removed to the hospital today, suffering from a scalp wound caused by a bullet. She is also a maternity case. She is unable to speak English and it has not been learned yet whether she was an operative In the hosiery mill, a striker or an outsider attracted to Esty by the noise. Mrs. Floss and Cornelius and Georg Kalibas are recovering from bullet wounds in their legs. Miss Jorlotopopis, who had bones in her left foot shattered by a bullet, was operated on this Afternoon.

Comments

Gavin Keenan adds, “The Ipswich Mills strike followed eighteen months after the huge Bread & Roses strike at the Lawrence Mills. The small Ipswich Police force at the time of the strike was supplemented by other police from the mill cities – Haverhill, etc. I do not believe that the National Guard was deployed as in Lawrence. Unlike the Lawrence strike, these immigrant strikers were likely undermined by the large number of english-speaking, native workers employed at the Ipswich Mills who did not walk off the job. Fear of immigrants, mostly from southern europe, fed a xenophobia that resulted in the infamous Palmer Raids, repressions, arrests and prosecutions of many on the scantiest evidence of being associated with anarchists and other ‘enemies of the state.’ It was a good lesson for the times in which we live.”

Charlotte Lindgren adds, ” I enjoyed reading about the strike which had a family connection to me. It was not just immigrant workers against their employers. The town people were very torn. Many were close friends of the workers. My grandmother had been one of the Scottish Canadian earlier workers before marrying my grandfather, a policeman. My uncle worked in a higher position in the mill, but sided with the strikers and suffered a serious blow on the head from a police baton. My grandfather had to try to restore order, but was actually sympathetic to the workers. It was not simply an us against them event.”

strike

strikers_evicted

Steve Georgako­poulos, witness to the 1913 Ipswich Mill Strike

The following story was written by Carole Perkins of Ipswich, published Tuesday July 3, 1984 as a supplement to Essex County Newspapers.

Former mill foreman Steve Georgakopoulos, 95 and his dog Mouyatsta, outside of their High Street home, July 1984

Former mill foreman Steve Georgakopoulos, 95 and his dog Mouyatsta, outside of their High Street home, July 1984

Steve Georgakopoulos was barely out of his teens when he made the long trip from Greece to Ipswich in 1911 to work in the Ipswich Mills. A mecca for immigrants, the mills employed over 1,500 workers, of which 75 percent were women. Known as the largest hosiery mill in the world, the mill attracted scores of immigrants, despite the long hours and meager pay, It took Georgakopoulos four years of sheep herding before he was able to earn the $60 fare to America. His brothers had arrived earlier, in 1907, and had urged him to join them.

Like other immigrants to the area, the Georgako­poulos family worked long days. Four brothers set up a bakery, a grocery and a milk store within the house. Steve, who spoke English, went to work in the mills. In 1913, Georgakopoulos, a foreman at the mills, earned $4.16 a week for a 72-hour week. The highest paid worker made $7 weekly “tops,” he said. The mill operated six days a week with two shifts a day with a day shift from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a night shift from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. Starting wage for a worker in training was as low as $2.50 for a 72-hour week, and a worker was not paid for her first two weeks’ work. The mill kept the money in escrow until she left, then paid it only if she had given proper notice.

The mills claimed business conditions made pay raises an impossibility.There was little chance for escape as there was no lunch hour or vacation time. The machines never stopped, and workers ate right at their posts. Some received injuries from the machines, but never received workmen’s compensation.

mill_strike_photo.jpg

Mill workers stand outside the former Bancroft house on Saltonstall Street, outside the gates of the Ipswich Mills during the strike of 1913

The Strike

At 95, Georgakopoulos can vividly recall that “BloodyTuesday,” June 10, 1913, when he and his fellow workers were wounded while on strike: Anger stills lingers when he describes the discrimination the Greek and Polish people faced.

“We wanted a five percent increase. They say no, so we strike, the Greek and the Polish. They never give us our Greek holidays. We had to work Christmas and Easter.”

For seven to eight weeks, workers had picketed for higher wages. A dispute sparked a fracas. Ipswich police and officers from surrounding towns were “given the order to shoot any strikers.” Georgakopoulos said the strikers didn’t push anyone, and no one rushed the police. He and his family lived on Saltonstall Street in the old Bancroft house, now the site of the K & G bowling lanes. A young Greek girl, Nicoletta Pandelopoulou, appeared at his house, he recalled, his voice rising as if it were yesterday:

“They shot the Greek girl and killed her. She wasn’t even a mill worker. She wasn’t even a striker. I come out and tried to help, and they shoot me in the leg. My sister comes out with a baby in her hands, and they shoot her. My second sister called for help, and they club her. My mother comes out, and they started to shoot her. All they wanted is to shoot the God damn foreigners,”

Translating for his father, Georgakopoulos’ son Pete said the wounded totaled two women and three men, with one woman killed. But despite the immigrants’ hardships in fighting discrimination, Pete praised those who sympathized with their plight.

“There were some good people, some really good people, but there were some really mean, evil ones…They even bothered the priests who received potshots of eggs and snowballs.

The injured reached an agreement in Salem court — no one would be sent to jail, and no one would be paid for injuries. Georgakopoulos paid his own hospital bills. Because business was poor, the Ipswich Mills were forced to close before the Depression started. Ipswich mill workers never did get their raises or holidays, said Georgakopoulos.

In 1940, Georgakopoulos moved out of the Bancroft house and cleared some wooded acres at 190 High St. where he lives today. Beside the house is a shack where he once sold vegetables and where, when red tide isn’t around, he still sells quarts of clams. “We’ve been digging clams since 1931, said Pete. “I was about 10 years old then and lucky to make 50 cents a day. That was good money then for a kid.” He would dig alongside his dad. Even when in his 90s, the elder Georgakopoulos dug clams until he suffered a stroke last summer. Now, walking well with the aid of a cane, the elder Georgakopoulos nods yes when asked if he plans to go back to the flats.

His relatives scattered or passed away, Georgako­poulos lives with Pete, a former merchant marine and Ipswich harbormaster. “This is a nice place, good people. I’m very happy to be alive,” he said, his dog Mouyatsta at his side.

*(editor’s note: I was not able to find a date of death for Steve Georgakopoulos.)

The Ipswich Chronicle stirs up opposition

The Ipswich Chronicle printed the following news item :

“Tuesday June 19: At 5:50, employees were leaving when two lines of strikers–chiefly Greeks, Marched from the direction of Union and Saltonstall Streets, Penning the workers on both sides. One woman was pushed into the street by a Greek woman and two officers arrested her. It is alleged that a shot was fired at the officers from a building in the vicinity and that this was followed by clubs, bricks, bottles and other missiles. The officers advanced and drew their revolvers opening fire on the crowd and driving them back. Shots then rained from all directions upon the police and the officers returned them. When order was restored 20 minutes later, Nicoletta Pandelopolou was found to be mortally wounded. Five other strikers had been shot. There were no police injuries, except for one man reportedly bitten by a Greek woman.”

george_schofield.jpg

Ipswich Chronicle editor and State Representative George Schofield was one of the primary opponents of the strikers. Photo by Edward L. Darling, courtesy of Bill Barton.

In an editorial by George Schofield, the Ipswich Chronicle called for the restoration of law and order and reported that strike funds were being provided by Socialists and the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World). On Sunday June 15, 1200 strikers and sympathizers gathered on the grounds of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Chronicle reported that the crowd applauded the Socialist slogan of “No God, No Country, No Flag but the Red Flag.”

At a crowded Town Meeting, Charles Hull, chairman of the Selectmen, warned that “a dark cloud overhangs Ipswich and something must be done.” Almost all of the attendees wore American flag pins. The Postmaster Luther Wait called for a massive July 4th parade. George Schofield pointed to an American flag and said, :We believe in one God, one country and one flag, not the red flag of revolution.”

strike_saltonstall_st

Town residents viewing the striking workers at the corner of Market and Saltonstall Streets. The Whipple House is in its origination location on the right side in this photo taken by Edward L. Darling, courtesy of Bill Barton.

The next day it was reported that a vigilante group was organizing to “run the IWW out of town.” Schofield advised against this in the Chronicle, but added, ” Only an absolute failure of those whose duty is to dispense justice would warrant even the thought of any other course.”

The Fourth of July celebration that year was the largest that the town had ever seen. Banners and flags hung from almost every store and building. George Schofield said the labor problems were caused not by immigration laws but by outside agitators. If they did not like the rules, he said, they should leave the country voluntarily. If they did not go of their own free will, they should be forced to leave. In mid-July, the Mill management began evicting striking families from their homes in company owned buildings on Estes Street. At least 14 families were kicked out on the street. By the end of the month the strike was broken, and laborers went back to work, without an increase in pay.

strike_eviction

14 striker families were evicted from their homes by the Mill owners.

News articles from 1913

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2 replies »

  1. Grew up in Ipswich from 1943 and was graduated from I.H.S. in 1961. In all that time, I heard of the Simple Cobbler of Agawam, early ministers, our role in the Revolution, and of lace making and Hayward Hosiery but there was nary a word about the 1913 mill strike, its causes and its aftermath. The above information is fascinating. I’d love to join your group.

    Like

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