May 28, 2020

Edward Cohen Plaque

In the Executive Wing of the Statehouse there is a plaque remembering Edward Cohen's contribution to the labor movement in Massachusetts.

In the 222 years of the Massachusetts Statehouse, there has only been one reported fatality - Edward Cohen. He was a labor leader who was shot in the head as the assassin mistaken him for the Massachusetts Governor.

In 1907, Edward Cohen was the president of the American Federation of Labor and he worked hard to protect children's labor rights.

According to local reports:

On the afternoon in December 5th, he was waiting in the Executive Office waiting to meet Governor Curtis Guild Jr. John Steele came bursting in the room and started shooting around. Bullets flew all over the room hitting the walls and furniture. Two bullets ended up hitting Edward Cohen and Dennis D. Driscoll - another labor leader in the room.

Arthur M. Huddell, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers attacked John Steel and held him until police arrived.

A couple of days later, Edward Cohen was pronounced dead at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Dennis Driscol recovered from his injuries - it took about two months. His first visit after recovering was the State House. A few years later he became the Deputy Institution Commissioner. A public testimonial fund was set up and $10,000 was raised.

John Steele was committed to Bridgewater State Hospital. He was 38-years old at the time of the shooting. There isn't anything else about his life after that.

Labor Massachusetts

Six Things I Learned

  1. Representative Steven M. Walsh sponsored a bill for the plaque. The bill was sign into law on the last day of Governor Jane Swift term.
  2. Created by Meredith Bergmann
  3. Installed on October 4. 2009 near the speaker of the house office.
  4. There are three newspapers on the plaque, these are the headlines:
    • 1911 - "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts An Act Related to Employee Injuries"
    • 1913 - "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts An Act to regulate Labor of Minors"
    • 2006 - "The Commonwealth of Massachusetts An Act Increasing the Minimum Wage"
  5. The sign that the girl is holding says: "We Want Bread and Roses too" - a reference to the slogan that was used during the textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912.
  6. Bottom of the Plaque reads, "Dedicated to the Massachusetts AFL CIO in Voice of Working Families." This is hard to read while looking at the plaque.

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