Strikes, billy clubs, and imprecations—1909. Piece goods workers, overwhelmingly Jewish and Italian immigrant women, took to the streets outside garment factories in Manhattan seeking shorter work weeks and better wages. On Edison wax cylinder recordings, singers Ada Jones and Billy Murray shouted nice-nice songs into megaphones attached to styluses, but outside cutting floors and factories from Manhattan to Los Angeles, laboring people were struggling.
Above, a pair of faces in the struggle—two of twenty thousand International Ladies' Garment Workers Union strikers pace the picket line encircling the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory half a block from Washington Square. Two years in the future, 1911, a conflagration here was to steal the lives of 146 women.
The men creating the fledgling movie business joined the confrontation and recrimination of 1909. Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company trust— made up of movie producer/distributors Edison, Biograph (Griffith's employer), Vitagraph, Essanay, Selig, Lubin, Kalen, Star (Georges Méliès' American branch), and American Pathé—formed in December 1908 to muscle out competitors.
Within a turret (to evade the eyes of trust detectives) behind a locked door in a studio at 44th and 11th, Mark Dintenfass set up an unlicensed camera to shoot independent cowboy movies—1909.
Griffith captures the strife of the year above in the silo scene of A Corner in Wheat (1909). As the poor plead for bread, the speculator's own wheat buries him.