Boston’s Faneuil Hall. Headquarters of the National Guard during the September 1919 police strike. Governor Calvin Coolidge called out the guard in response to lotting and violence.

Summer technically has another week and a half to go, and these waning days mark the anniversary of one of the worst events of that terrible Red Summer of 1919: the Boston Police Strike raged for nearly a week that September. It was anarchy when more than 1000 police officers walked off the job. Hobbes was right. The same thing happened in Montreal half a century later in 1969. The Boston strike was just one of the many violent outbreaks that year, many of which were essentially pogroms against African-Americans. In a broader context in can also be seen as another in one of the thousands of strikes that had taken place across the country dating back decades to the Gilded Age.

Guardsmen rounding up gamblers in Boston Common during the municipal police strike of 1919

The big winner in the 1919 Boston Police Strike was Governor Calvin Coolidge, whose calling out of the National Guard helped staunch the violence and looting. The following year Coolidge was on the national ticket when he and Warren G. Harding defeated Franklin D. Roosevelt and James M. Cox in the 1920 presidential election. I wish my grandparents on both sides were still alive for me to ask if they remembered the incident; all four grew up in Boston and would have been between 5-10 at the time, old enough perhaps to remember something or to have heard older relatives discussing it in later years. Alas I will ever know because the opportunity is just no longer there.

(images/Boston Public Library)