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On the morning of February 6, 1919, Seattle, a city of 315,000 people, stopped working. 25,000 union members had joined the 35,000 already on strike. Much of the remaining work force was idled as stores closed and streetcars stopped running. The General Strike Committee, composed of delegates from the key striking unions, tried to coordinate vital services and negotiate with city officials, but events moved quickly beyond their control.
Most of the local and national press denounced the strike, while conservatives called for stern measures to suppress what looked to them to be a revolutionary plot. Mayor Ole Hanson, elected the year before with labor support, armed the police and threatened martial law and federal troops. Some of the unions wavered on the strike's third day. Most others had gone back to work by the time the Central Labor Council officially declared an end on February 11. By then police and vigilantes were hard at work rounding up Reds. The IWW hall and Socialist Party headquarters were raided and leaders arrested. Federal agents also closed the Union Record, the labor-owned daily newspaper, and arrested several of its staff. Meanwhile across the country headlines screamed the news that Seattle had been saved, that the revolution had been broken, that, as Mayor Hanson phrased it, “Americanism” had triumphed over “Bolshevism.”