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The President of the B&O Railroad Announces Wage Cuts

After the Panic of 1873 plunged the U.S. economy into a severe and lasting depression, corporations such as the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company found themselves cutting costs, usually by reducing employees' wages, as this letter from the company's president dictates. In an era when most workers had yet to be organized into trade unions, they had little recourse when faced with such a prospect. Three days after this letter was circulated, Baltimore & Ohio workers in Martinsburg, West Virginia began what became known as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, culminating in violent clashes between workers, militias, and federal troops that left scores dead nationwide.

Baltimore, July 11th, 1877 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company

Office of the President.

To the Officers and Employees of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company:

At a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, held this day, the following preamble and resolutions were adopted:

WHEREAS The depression in the general business interests of the country continues, this seriously affecting the usual earnings of railway companies, and rendering a further reduction of expenses necessary: therefore, bit

RESOLVED That a reduction of ten per cent, be made in the present compensation of officers and employees, of every grade, in the service of the Company, where the amount received exceeds one dollar per day, to take effect on and after July 16th, instant.

RESOLVED That the said reduction shall apply to the Main Stem and Branches east of the Ohio River, and to the Trans-Ohio Divisions, and that it shall embrace all roads leased or operated by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company.

It is hoped and believed that all persons in the service of the Company will appreciate the necessity of, and concur cordially in, this action.

The Board postponed action until some time after its great competitors, the Pennsylvania, New York Central and Hudson River, and New York and Erie Companies, had made general and similar reductions in pay, with the hope that business would so improve that this necessity would be obviated. In this they have been disappointed.

The President, in announcing the decision of the Board, takes occasion to express the conviction and expectation that every officer and man in the service will cheerfully recognize the necessity of the reduction, and earnestly co-operate in every measure of judicious economy, necessary to aid in maintaining effectively the usefulness and success of the Company.



Source | "John W. Garrett to the Officers and Employees of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company, July 11, 1877," B & O Railroad Minute Book, B & O Railroad Museum Archive, Baltimore, Maryland.
Creator | John W. Garrett
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | John W. Garrett, “The President of the B&O Railroad Announces Wage Cuts,” SHEC: Resources for Teachers, accessed September 29, 2023,

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