June 21, 1877 – 142 years ago this June 2019 – ten alleged members of a reputed, oath-bound, secret society of Irish immigrant coal miners were hanged in prisons in Mauch Chunk and Pottsville (Pa.). This came after a reign of terror, from 1861 to 1875, around Tamaqua, Lansford, Mahanoy City and other locales of Pennsylvania’s Southern anthracite coal fields. The events were blamed on the men of the Molly Maguires, a subject of controversy to this day.
The Day of the Rope remains one of the largest official mass executions in American history.
Convicted in 1877 of murdering a Pennsylvania mine boss, Frank Langdon, 15 years earlier, John “Black Jack” Kehoe was almost certainly innocent of that crime. But Kehoe also stood accused of being the mastermind in a nefarious secret society called the Molly Maguires. The existence of that organization has long been disputed, but some Irish workers in Pennsylvania clearly used violence to advance the cause of labor as they saw it.