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The Hamilton Parade

The cover of the Canadian Illustrated News from June 8 1872 depicts the parade of workers on May 15th 1872. There are dozens of spectators watching from the sidewalks as the parade of hundreds of workers carry large banners and flags through the centre of the street.

An illustration of the parade that appeared at the time

Despite firm opposition from employers, Hamilton’s Nine-Hour League held a huge parade through the centre of Hamilton on May 15, 1872. Roughly 1,500 workers marched past the factories and workshops that had brought the Industrial Revolution to the city.  Each craft marched as a unit, as the men held up the tools of their trade and the products of their toil. They carried banners with slogans like “Art is long, life is short.” Everywhere they marched that day, thousands of people cheered them on from crowded sidewalks.

An illustrated map of Hamilton with Burlington Bay to the south and Victoria Park to the east. The map includes a new illustration of the circular route of the Nine-Hour League Parade, beginning in the east and looping back to the east.

The parade route taken by marching workers on May 15, 1872

The procession followed a circuitous five-mile route that took marchers past the factories of the many employers who had granted the nine-hour day, and those who had not.

The marchers let out lusty cheers, for example, when they rounded the corner to find the building of the Johnson Marble Works festooned with a banner reading: “Nine Hours granted without a strike.” On the other hand, locked-out Wanzer machinists must have remained grim-faced as they hoisted a banner declaring “Nine Hours and No Surrender!”

The parade concluded at the Crystal Palace grounds (present-day Victoria Park), where the rest of the day was spent by marchers, families, and friends listening to speeches, and enjoying food and dancing into the evening hours.

A three-storey palace with a domed tower in the centre. The palace is dominated by dozens of glass windows that cover most of the walls all the way around. The building is surrounded by grass and park land.

The Crystal Palace in present-day Victoria Park