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Michael Schwab (August 9, 1853 – June 29, 1898) was a German-American labor organizer and one of the defendants in the Haymarket Square incident.
Schwab was born in Bad Kissingen, Franconia in Germany and was, by trade, a bookbinder. He emigrated to the United States in 1879 and lived variously in Chicago, Milwaukee and the Western U.S. before settling permanently in Chicago in 1881.
Schwab became an activist even before emigrating to the United States, having written articles for several radical German newspapers. He joined the German Social Democratic Party in 1872. In the U.S., he became involved in the workers' rights movement, first joining the Socialist Labor Party and later joining the International Working Persons Association and helping to form North-Side Group faction of that organization. He began writing and eventually became co-editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung, an anarchist newspaper for German immigrant workers. He was very active in the 8-hour day movement.
On the night of May 4, 1886, Schwab left the office of Arbeiter-Zeitung, and stopped at the Haymarket meeting to look for fellow editor, August Spies. Not finding him, Schwab spoke briefly with his brother-in-law, Rudolph Schnaubelt, who was later accused of being the bombthrower. Schwab contended that he was at the Haymarket for no more than five minutes. He left there to speak at a meeting of workers at the Deering Reaper Works at the corner of Fullerton and Clybourn streets. This is where he remained throughout the bombing and left there to go straight home.
Arrest, trial, amnesty and later years
Schwab was arrested with the other six Haymarket rioters, while Albert Parsons turned himself in. In court, he was convicted along with his co-defendants and sentenced to death, while Oscar Neebe was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Schwab wrote to Illinois governor Richard James Oglesby for lenience and on November 10, 1887, Oglesby commuted his sentence, along with that of Samuel Fielden, to life imprisonment. He served six years at Joliet Penitentiary before being pardoned with the other two by Illinois Governor John Peter Altgeld on June 26, 1893. After his release, he continued to write for the Arbeiter-Zeitung and opened a shoe store from which he also sold books on labor rights, but his health was poor since leaving prison and the store failed.
Schwab died from respiratory disease contracted while at Joliet on June 29, 1898. He is buried at Waldheim Cemetery along with six of the seven other Haymarket martyrs (Samuel Fielden is the only Haymarket martyr/defendant not buried at Waldheim).
- The Accused the Accusers: The Famous Speeches of the Chicago Anarchists in Court: On October 7th, 8th, and 9th, 1886, Chicago, Illinois. Chicago: Socialistic Publishing Society, n.d. .
- Testimony of Michael Schwab, Illinois v. August Spies, Trial Transcript, Vol. N, p. 1-17, August 9, 1886.
- Meet the Haymarket Defendants.
- Chicago History: Michael Schwab
- John P. Altgeld, "Reasons for Pardoning Fielden, Neebe and Schwab," Chicago Historical Society, www.chicagohs.org/