This Day in History

May 26, 1937: Battle of the Overpass

Time Periods: 1920
Themes: Economics, Labor

On May 26, 1937, the Battle of the Overpass took place. Union members were beaten by Ford Motor Co. reps for distributing leaflets. The company tried to destroy the photos, but this one survived, raising public sympathy for the union and leading to the establishment of the Pulitzer Prize for photography. Historian Kevin Boyle says: “A symbolic moment where ordinary people who weren’t union members, people living out in Dubuque, Iowa out on the farm, could look at the newspaper and say, ‘Jeez, that’s not right.’ That’s what you want, that one flash where people who aren’t tied to you, suddenly sympathize with your cause.”

Ford Motor Company Servicemen beat Richard Frankensteen, a UAW organizer, during the “Battle of the Overpass”, Dearborn, Michigan. From left to right: Tellford, unidentified, Angelo Caruso, Commett, Goodman. Frankensteen is in the foreground with his jacket pulled over his head. At the far right are photographers and/or reporters from the local press. Image Source: James E. (Scotty) Kilpatrick / Detroit News.

Read more in the Smithsonian and at the website for the film Brothers On The Line

Here are resources for teaching outside the textbook about labor history