1929 Streetcar Strike: Part 1

Stop 4 of 9 in the Streetcars and their Historian Michael Mizell-Nelson tour

Following increasingly heated contract negotiations, New Orleans streetcar motormen and conductors struck beginning July 1, 1929. The survival of the carmen's union and 1,100 jobs was in question. Transit strikes throughout the nation provoked emotional displays of public support, and the 1929 strike ranks among the nation's most violent.

The strike was the culmination of years spent fighting over control of the workplace. Transit managers with New Orleans Public Service, Inc. (NOPSI) had worked to develop a company union whose leaders had once been officers of the AFL union. The former president of theĀ  Amalgamated Association of Street and Electric Railway Employees of America Division No. 194 now headed a rival, company union known as the Progressive Benevolent Association.

For the first few days, no streetcars operated. When the company attempted to run the cars on July 5 using "strike breakers" (career criminals brought in from New York), brickbats and jeering crowds stopped all but one. More than 10,000 New Orleanians gathered downtown and watched strike supporters disable and then burn the first car operated by a strike breaker. These excerpts from the video documentary Streetcar Stories feature eyewitness accounts about the most violent day of the strike.

To learn more about how this strike created one of New Orleans' most iconic foods see Po-Boy Sandwich, Martin Brothers.

Images

Strike supporters at Canal Streetcar Barn

Strike supporters at Canal Streetcar Barn

The crowd surrounding the Canal Streetcar Barn on July 5, 1929 waits for the first strikebreaker car to emerge. Logs, rails, cement, dirt, and other materials were used to slow down the car and make it easier to brickbat. Mizell-Nelson Collection View File Details Page

Crowd estimated to be several thousand in number

Crowd estimated to be several thousand in number

This image was recorded just after the crowd had derailed and damaged the strikebreaker car, but before fire had engulfed the car. Mizell-Nelson Collection View File Details Page

Strikebreaker car ablaze

Strikebreaker car ablaze

After the transit company abandoned attempts to rescue the car and removed its employees from the scene, the crowd took over. Mizell-Nelson Collection View File Details Page

Aftermath

Aftermath

Wreckage of the Strikebreaker Car. Mizell-Nelson Collection View File Details Page

Audio

Audio File 1

View File Details Page

Video

Strike origins

Excerpt from video documentary Streetcar Stories View File Details Page

Professional Strikebreakers Arrive

Excerpt from video documentary Streetcar Stories View File Details Page

Strikers Attack the Canal Car Barn & Burn Cars

Excerpt from video documentary Streetcar Stories View File Details Page

Burning the First Streetcar Run by a Strikebreaker: July 5

Excerpt from video documentary Streetcar Stories View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Michael Mizell-Nelson, “1929 Streetcar Strike: Part 1,” New Orleans Historical, accessed March 30, 2017, http://neworleanshistorical.org/items/show/514.
comments powered by Disqus

Share this Story