Louis Lingg

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Louis Lingg
Born(1864-09-09)September 9, 1864
DiedNovember 10, 1887(1887-11-10) (aged 23)
Cause of deathSuicide by blasting caps in mouth
Known forHaymarket Square
Political partyAnarchist
ParentFriedrich Lingg

Louis Lingg (September 9, 1864 – November 10, 1887) was a German-born American anarchist who was wrongfully convicted as a member of the criminal conspiracy behind the 1886 Haymarket Square bombing.[1] Lingg was sentenced to die by hanging, but shortly before his execution, he committed suicide in his cell using an explosive. In 1893, Illinois Governor John Altgeld granted Lingg a posthumous pardon, stating that he and the other seven men who had been convicted were innocent of the charges.[2]


Early years[edit]

Louis Lingg was born on September 9, 1864, in Mannheim, in the Grand Duchy of Baden to Friedrich Lingg. His father was injured in the lumber mill where he worked. Louis wrote in his autobiography: "At this time I was thirteen and my sister seven years old, and at this age I received my first impressions of the prevailing unjust social institutions, i.e., the exploitation of men by men."[3]

Lingg became an apprentice carpenter from 1869 to 1882. He then took a job in Strasbourg, in Alsace, then moved on to Freiburg, Germany, where he joined the Working Men's Educational Society, a socialist organization.[3]

To avoid military service, Lingg moved to Switzerland, but in the spring of 1885, the police in Zürich ordered him to leave the country. He then received a letter from his mother telling him that her new husband was willing to provide him with enough money to move to the United States.[3]

Haymarket affair[edit]

In July 1885, Lingg arrived in New York City then departed for Chicago, Illinois, where he joined the International Carpenters and Joiners' Union. He arrived in Chicago seven months before the actions.[3][4]

On May 4, 1886, Lingg was not present at Haymarket Square for what would be known as the Haymarket Riot. A bomb was thrown into the crowd of policemen by an unidentified person, but prosecutors presented evidence he was involved in making the bomb. Seven men were arrested the next day in connection with the bombing which killed Officer Mathias Degan and other policemen. Lingg himself was discovered in his hiding place on May 14, 1886, when he pulled a revolver and fought with two police officers before being arrested. Lingg and eight other anarchists were charged on June 21, 1886, with criminal conspiracy. Lingg and six others were convicted and sentenced to death.[5][6]

In Lingg's apartment, police found two spherical bombs and four pipe bombs. Witnesses interviewed by police placed Lingg in the basement of Greif's Hall the night before the bombing, along with other accused members of the conspiracy including Rudolph Schnaubelt, the lead suspect as the bomb thrower who would have stood trial with the other accused had he not fled Chicago. Lingg was placed on trial with seven anarchist associates, who were tried as a group.[7]

Defense attorney Moses Salomon said in his opening statement to the jury: "It may seem strange why he (Lingg) was manufacturing bombs. The answer to that is, he had a right to have his house full of dynamite." Salomon argued that the accused plans did not target "the life of any single individual at any time or place," and did not conspire to murder Officer Mathias Degan or any number of policemen, "except in self-defense."[8]

Salomon also conceded a pivotal point in explaining that his clients did conspire together to use force, their intentions being "...that when a general revolution or a general strike was inaugurated, when they were attacked, that then, in fact, while carrying out the purposes of that strike or revolution, that then they should use dynamite, and not until then." Ineptly, defense attorneys did not plead for manslaughter, though as an anarchist who did not recognize the court's authority, the defense's approach was probably of little concern to Lingg.[9]

Gustave Lehman, a fellow anarchist carpenter, testified that Lingg was a member of a militant "armed wing" of his carpenters union. Lehman was stationed outside Greif's Hall as a lookout and recalled walking home with Lingg, William Seliger and two other men. When they asked what was going on, Lingg said, "You are all oxen — fools." Chemists testified that the bombs found in Lingg's apartment shared a unique chemical mixture to shrapnel from the Haymarket bomb.[10]

Seliger, a revolutionary carpenter who subletted a room to Lingg, provided the most damning testimony against him. Seliger had been charged with the murder of officer Degan and with conspiracy, riot, and unlawful assembly. The charges were dropped when Seliger turned states evidence.[11] He told the jury he rose early the morning of the bombing and asked Lingg to remove the bombs from the building. Lingg persuaded Seliger that helping him assemble bombs would allow him to remove them that day. Seliger said at least two other men, Ernst Hubner and Herman Mutzenberg, helped rush the bombs to readiness.[12] The two did not appear in court but made statements to police corroborating Seliger's story. None of them were sure how many bombs they made with Lingg that day, their estimates ranging from 26 to 50.[13]

Lingg allegedly told Seliger he was working too slowly, as they needed the bombs by the afternoon. Seliger quoted Lingg as saying they would be used that evening against "the police when they came to protect the capitalists." He said Lingg anticipated a "disturbance" on the West Side and that he had spotted the word "Ruhe" (quietude) in the anarchist newspaper Arbeiter-Zeitung, the signal for armed groups to assemble.[12]

Another portrait of Lingg

Seliger testified he helped transport bombs to Neff's Saloon, an anarchist hub, where men helped themselves to the bombs. He then returned to Neff's with Lingg after the bombing. There, a man who came from the Haymarket yelled at Lingg, "You are the fault of all of it," an incident corroborated by the testimony of Moritz Neff, the anarchist bartender.[14]

Under cross-examination Seliger stated that he had been paid by the police on two occasions. He also stated that his wife had also been paid by the police but that he did not know how many times or how much money she received, but on further questioning said "I think twenty or twenty-five dollars."[15][16] After the trial Seliger and his family were sent to Germany at police expense.[17]

Speaking before the court at his sentencing, Lingg denounced Seliger as a "bought squealer," adding the prosecution had failed to prove that the bombs he made were taken to the Haymarket. He also challenged the link of his bombs to the Haymarket bomb. "A couple of chemists also, have been brought here as specialists, yet they could only state that the metal of which the Haymarket bomb was made bore a certain resemblance to those bombs of mine," saying the prosecution attorney admitted there was a difference of a half inch in the bomb diameters. "I die happy on the gallows, so confident am I that the hundreds and thousands to whom I have spoken will remember my words. When you shall have hanged us, then they will do the bombthrowing! In this hope do I say to you, I despise you, I despise your order, your laws, your force propped authority. Hang me for it."[18]

Death and legacy[edit]

Louis Lingg.

On November 6, 1887, four bombs were discovered in Lingg's cell.[1] Lingg died by suicide on November 10, 1887, the day before he was scheduled to hang.[5] He used a blasting cap smuggled to him by a fellow prisoner. He put it in his mouth and lit it at 9:00 am. It blew off his lower jaw and damaged a large portion of his face. He survived for another 6 hours—writing "Hoch die anarchie!" (Hurrah for anarchy!) on the cell stones in his own blood before guards came—until his death at around 3:00 pm.[3]

Lingg was buried, in a plot marked since 1893 by the Haymarket Martyrs Monument, in the Waldheim Cemetery (now Forest Home Cemetery)[19][20] in Forest Park, Illinois. On June 26, 1893, Illinois governor, John Altgeld, pardoned all eight men who had been convicted of the Haymarket Riot, stating that they were innocent of the crime they had died for.[21]

See also[edit]

  • Dyer Lum, individualist anarchist and sympathizer who assisted Lingg's suicide


  1. ^ a b "Bombs In Lingg's Cell; A Startling Discovery By The Chicago Sheriff. Four Dynamite Bomb Found Concealed With One Of The Condemned Anarchists". New York Times. November 7, 1887. Retrieved October 31, 2007. Four bombs were taken this morning from the cell of Louis Lingg, the condemned Anarchist, in Cook County Jail. They were found under his cot, hidden beneath a mass of papers and odd and ends of various kinds, and were inclosed in a harmless-looking ...
  2. ^ "Lingg Biography". dwardmac.pitzer.edu. Retrieved November 12, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d e William Dwight Porter Bliss, ed. (1897). "Louis Lingg". The Encyclopedia of Social Reform.
  4. ^ "Lingg's Brief Career Of Crime". New York Times. November 11, 1887. Retrieved November 20, 2011. Louis Lingg was the most daring and desperate of the Anarchists. From the time of his arrival in Chicago, about seven months before the riot, he devoted his leisure to spreading the doctrines of which Fielden, Spies, and Parsons were the recognized champions. ...
  5. ^ a b "Meet the Haymarket Defendants". Retrieved December 5, 2017.
  6. ^ Messer-Kruse, Timothy (2011). "The Investigation". The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 21–22. ISBN 978-0-230-12077-8.
  7. ^ Messer-Kruse, Timothy (2011). "The Investigation". The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 18–25.
  8. ^ Messer-Kruse, Timothy (2011). "The Defense". The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 77–80.
  9. ^ Messer-Kruse (2011). "The Defense". The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 77–80.
  10. ^ Messer-Kruse (2011). "The Prosecution". The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 72–74.
  11. ^ Avrich, Paul. The Haymarket Tragedy (1984), pp. 234–235.
  12. ^ a b Messer-Kruse (2011). "The Prosecution". The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 69–71.
  13. ^ Messer-Kruse (2011). "The Investigation". The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 30–31.
  14. ^ Messer-Kruse (2011). "The Prosecution". The Trial of the Haymarket Anarchists. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 71–72.
  15. ^ Chicago Historical Society, Haymarket Affair Digital Collection. Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial transcript no. 1. Testimony of William Seliger (first appearance), 1886 July 21, Volume I, p. 544. Retrieved from https://www.chicagohistoryresources.org/hadc/transcript/volumei/501-550/I506-546.htm on September 2, 2019.
  16. ^ Chicago Historical Society, Haymarket Affair Digital Collection. Illinois vs. August Spies et al. trial transcript no. 1. Testimony of William Seliger (first appearance resumed), 1886 July 21. Volume I, pp. 561–562. Retrieved from https://www.chicagohistoryresources.org/hadc/transcript/volumei/501-550/I548-579.htm on September 2, 2019.
  17. ^ Avrich, Paul. The Haymarket Tragedy (1984), pp. 273–274.
  18. ^ Twenty-fifth anniversary, eleventh of November, memorial meeting : souvenir edition of the famous speeches of our martyrs, delivered in court when asked if they had anything to say why sentence of death should not be passed on them ... 1912.
  19. ^ The American Resting Place
  20. ^ Haymarket Scrapbook
  21. ^ "Biography of Louis Lingg".

Further reading[edit]

  • The Proud Tower: A Portrait of the World, 1890–1914, Barbara Tuchman, Ballantine Books, New York, 1996 ISBN 0-345-40501-3

External links[edit]