Witness to Warsaw Rebellion 1905
Johnson Service Company employee witnesses Warsaw rebellion
April 14, 1905 (PD: 201404)
An article in the April 14, 1905 issue of The Evening Wisconsin recounted the story of William Gehrs, a Johnson Service Company engineer who had found himself in the midst of a revolutionary uprising in Warsaw, Poland (then part of the Russian Empire).
The uprising that he described to the paper was one of many that occurred throughout the Russian Empire during the Russian Revolution of 1905, which was caused by worsening economic conditions and Russian losses in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).
Although the “Bloody Sunday” massacre of striking workers by Russian troops outside the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on January 22, 1905 is considered the “spark” which ignited the Revolution, unrest in Warsaw had already begun earlier in the month. Demonstrations and strikes had resulted in over ninety fatalities by January 17, when the Russian government declared that Warsaw was under a state of siege.
Gehrs, who had been personally hired by company founder Warren Johnson in 1882, was in Warsaw to supervise the installation of a temperature regulation system in the Warsaw Technical Society building on January 25, when he noticed that Russian soldiers were arriving in great numbers in the city. Two days later, the 150 factory employees where Gehrs was working laid down their tools and walked off their jobs to join in a general strike calling for both improved conditions for workers and more political freedom for the Poles.
Gehrs witnessed numerous fatalities and injuries as Polish rioters clashed with Russian soldiers until an uneasy peace was restored the following week. Dedicated to his job, Gehrs remained in Warsaw until February 10 to complete the installation.