The Molly Maguires
were a secret society formed in the United States by Irish immigrant
employed in the coal mining industry in Pennsylvania. They were
active from the mid 1860s to the late 1870s, when they organized
a concerted campaign of physical violence against those whom they
perceived were their oppressors, these included the mine owners,
their superintendents, and state and municipal police, who were
under the virtual control of the mine owners. The society drew its
inspiration and derived its name from a similar organization, operating
in Ireland during the potato famine of the 1840's, the group was
named after a widow who led an anti-landlord revolt
During the period of the American Civil War
(1861-1865) membership of the organization increased rapidly. In
1875 the Molly Maguires brought about a coal miners strike that
was ultimately broken through the activities of James McParlan of
the Pinkerton Detective Agency. McParlan was hired by Franklin B.
Gowen, president of the Philadelphia and Reading Coal and Iron Company.
McParlan joined the society and carried out espionage among its
members; the evidence he presented in the courts in 1876 and 1877
resulted in the conviction and execution of many Molly Maguire members,
which ended the group's activities.