The Baltimore Railroad Strike
& Riot of 1877

Archives of Maryland series: Documents for the Classroom
Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401

Brier, Stephen, producer & director. 1877, The Grand Army of Starvation.
American Social History Productions, inc., 1984. 30 minute video.

The Who Built America? documentaries present an exciting and innovative social history of the United States that focuses on "ordinary" Americans whose actions and beliefs shaped the nation's development. Based on the latest historical scholarship, each video is a 30-minute program--

1877: Grand Army of Starvation
(note: the Real Media version is meant for student review use only. A copy of the video should be purchased or a licensing agreement reached with the vendor at the American Social History Project before accessing the Real Media file) off this page.

The Grand Army of Starvation is designed for use in college and high school classrooms as well as out-of-school settings. The video offers an open-ended and accessible dramatization to stimulate students' interest in the past.

rotating images from Grand Army of Starvation, 1877

For two weeks in the summer of 1877 the United States was brought to a standstill. A nationwide rebellion quickly spread along the country's railroad lines. Eighty thousand railroad workers walked out, joined by hundreds of thousands of Americans--white and black, native- and foreign-born, employed and unemployed--all outraged by the excesses of the giant railroad companies and the misery of a four-year economic depression. Police, state militia and, finally, federal troops clashed with strikers and sympathizers in towns and cities across the country, leaving over one hundred dead and thousands wounded. The Great Uprising shaped the beliefs of a generation of Americans, marking the end of the nation's first century and inaugurating a new era of conflict over the meaning of America in the industrial age. Narrated by James Earl Jones, 1877: The Grand Army of Starvation vividly portrays this little-known yet critical event in U.S. history.

Directed by Stephen Brier, Art direction: Joshua Brown, Editor: Charles Musser, Script: Joshua Brown, Stephen Brier and Nancy Musser

Second Prize, 1986 National Educational Film Festival; Silver Award, 1986 Houston Film Festival; Certificate of Merit, 1985 Chicago Film Festival

"1877: The Grand Army of Starvation 's substance, dramatic impact, and restricted length make it an ideal tool for introducing the themes of industrialization, labor conflict, immigration and ethnicity, and popular culture into a United States history survey course. . . . The tinted and retouched photographs are particularly noteworthy. This is an excellent documentary, with a powerful analytic sweep and pedagogic intent."

Journal of American History

"[1877] mixes fascinating detail and violence-filled drama with information describing the political and economic context of post-Civil War America. But what makes the film most striking is [its use of] animation based on images of the time. [The film's] animators skillfully drew characters out of old [engravings and] lithographs . . . both to explain the strikers' perspective and to reveal the stereotypes by which they were presented in the mass media of the time."

Pat Aufderheide, In These Times

"1877 is a tremendously creative film, filled with spirit, informed by serious scholarship, and addressing an important and overlooked historical event with a fresh perspective."

Film and History

"To see this film is to enter a world of marvelous colors and remarkable drawings . . . Then you realize that the most violent incident in American labor history, and one of the most important ever, has just been carefully explained. . . . Don't go see 1877 because you think you need a history lesson . . . Go because you want to see what a vanished industrial world looks like, and how a revolutionary moment in America feels."

Paul Buhle, The Guardian


Each program in the second series is available in 1/2" VHS format for $75.00 each plus $12.00 shipping and handling. Each video comes with one copy of a viewers guide that may be reproduced without charge. Orders should be directed to:

American Social History Productions, Inc.
Purchasing Department
99 Hudson Street, Third Floor
New York, N.Y. 10013
tel: 212-966-4248 x201

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The Archives of Maryland Documents for the Classroom series of the Maryland State Archives was designed and developed by Dr. Edward C. Papenfuse and Dr. M. Mercer Neale. This packet was prepared and introduced by Dr. Papenfuse with production assistance from R. J. Rockefeller, Lynne MacAdam, Paula Brown, Chris Haley, and other members of the Archives staff. MSA SC 2221-09. Publication no. 1797.

© 1997-1999 Maryland State Archives; rev. February 1999.

For further inquiries, please contact Dr. Papenfuse at:
Phone: MD toll free 800-235-4045 or (410) 260-6401

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