#AceHistoryNews – May.20: The Bread-Winners is an 1883 anti-labor novel by John Hay, who was Assistant Secretary to the President under Abraham Lincoln and McKinley’s final Secretary of State. Originally published anonymously in instalments in The Century Magazine, the book attracted wide interest and provoked considerable speculation over the author’s identity.
Hay wrote his only novel as a reaction to several strikes that affected him and his business interests in the 1870s and early 1880s. In the main storyline, a wealthy former army captain, Arthur Farnham, organizes Civil War veterans to keep the peace when the Bread-winners, a group of lazy and malcontented workers, call a violent general strike.
Hay had left hints as to his identity in the novel, and some guessed right, but he never acknowledged the book as his, and it did not appear with his name on it until after his death in 1905.
Hay’s hostile view of organized labor was soon seen as outdated, and the book is best remembered for its onetime popularity and controversial nature.