Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

Guardsmen and their tents in front of the Red Jacket Shaft, 1913. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

Guardsmen and their tents in front of the Red Jacket Shaft, 1913. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

The copper district was seeing major transitions on this day in 1913. Despite a news article earlier in the week that said Governor Ferris and the military board believe the strike situation still required a strong presence, the number of troops had decreased greatly on this day 100 years ago. In a board meeting on August 18, the military board met and determined “the withdrawal of troops is not deemed advisory.”[1]  However, the total strength of officers and troops had decreased greatly from the count of August 13. On the 13 there were roughly 2800 officers and men in Calumet but on August 20 the force was reduced to roughly 100 officers and 1200 National Guard troops.[2]

Additionally on this day in the strike the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company saw one of its stamp mills reopen to process the rock coming out of open shafts. On August 18 the C&H Company opened its fifth shaft. During this week in the strike the major companies had been seeing an influx of men returning to work, especially from those who had left the region when the mines initially shut down at the start of the strike. The announcement that the C&H Company and some other mines were resuming some operations encouraged those who wished to return to work and reapply to their jobs.  Although “pickets were unusually numerous” at the working mines this week, especially with the reopening of the fifth shaft and the Calumet stamp mill in Lake Linden, there were no reported instances of violence at these particular picket lines.[3]


[1] The Calumet News, August 18, 1913.

[2] The Wolverine Guard, vol. 8., no. 1, January 1988, p. 11.

[3] The Calumet News, August 18, 1913.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

Funeral procession in Calumet for Putrich and Tijan, the victims of the Seeberville murders. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

Funeral procession in Calumet for Putrich and Tijan, the victims of the Seeberville murders.  The funeral services took place in Calumet, some 20 miles north of Painesdale and Seeberville, at the only Croatian Catholic church in the area.  (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

The funeral for Steven Putrich and Alois Tijan, the victims of the shootings at Seeberville, took place today in the Calumet district.   The outpouring of sympathy was overwhelming as estimates of 3500-5000 strikers, strike sympathizers, and community members showed up for the funeral procession, with several hundred attending graveside services.  The caskets were carried in horse-drawn carriages, with young women dressed in white behind 18-year old Tijan’s carriage, a Croatian custom. As Tijan died an unmarried young man the Daily Mining Gazette reported that the custom signified “that the dead died with his life incomplete, as he had not married and reared a family.”[1] The procession was a blend of somberness and solidarity for the strikers and their sympathizers. At the gravesite in Lakeview Cemetery, which had been adorned with eight American and Croatian flags, strike leaders made passionate speeches and paid their respects to the fallen. One WFM leader blatantly accused Houghton County Sheriff Cruse of the murders because of his support of the Waddell-Mahon men, and went on to note that any mining officials and community members against the strikers had blood on their hands from the Seeberville incident.

Although the two were buried in unmarked graves, Putrich family descendants started a family collection for a headstone and a marker was placed at the grave on May 8, 2004. One family member said “If you don’t know and remember your people in the past, you have one generation and that’s it – no one would know what your family did.”[2] The marker serves as a monument and commemorative tool, providing a link to the past events at Seeberville.


[1] Daily Mining Gazette, August 19, 1913.

[2] Daily Mining Gazette, May 22, 2004.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

Soldiers and mine workers go underground in C&H's #5 shaft, during August of 1913. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

Soldiers and mine workers go underground in C&H’s #5 shaft, during August of 1913. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive)

According to mining officials from the Calumet & Hecla Mining Company the strike situation has been improving. As of this day in the strike, 4 shafts are hoisting copper on C&H properties and management expects to open more shafts and rockhouses soon. There are roughly 3500 people reporting to work at C&H on this day. All shops and offices are fully staffed and more underground employees are coming to work.  Tomorrow’s Daily Mining Gazette reports that “as far as the C&H property is concerned the strike is ineffective at the present time.”[1]


[1] Daily Mining Gazette, August 17, 1913.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

View of the home in Seeberville, MI where Steve Putrich and Louis Tijan were killed. The Putrich boardinghouse at #17 Second Street in Seeberville was rented from the Copper Range . The man labeled "Dad" is Joseph Putrich, the woman labeled "Mom," is Antonia Putrich, the woman labeled "Aunt," is Josephine (Grubesich) Tijan, and the others are likely the Putriches' children and boarders/relatives. According to Kim Hoagland in her article "The Boardinghouse Murders: Housing and American Ideals in Michigan's Copper Country in 1913," Croatian immigrants Joseph and Antonia Putrich rented the house from the Copper Range Mining Company. At the time these photos were taken, they had four children under the age of four, one hired girl, Josephine Grubesich (Antonia's sister), and ten male boarders, including Joseph's brother Steve Putrich, who died in the shooting, and his nephews Albert and Louis Tijan (Louis also died in the shooting, and Albert later married Antonia's sister Josephine). The other boarders included John Kalan and his eighteen-year-old son Slave, John Stimac, and two others. This is a rare view of a working-class, boarding house interior. - Jeremiah Mason, with thanks to Kim.

View of the home in Seeberville, MI where Steve Putrich and Louis Tijan were killed. The Putrich boardinghouse, at #17 Second Street in Seeberville, was rented from the Copper Range Mining Company. Joseph and Antonia Putrich lived in the home with their children, relatives, and boarders. In the photo the labels indicate “Dad” (Joseph Putrich), “Mom,” (Antonia Putrich), “Aunt,” (Josephine (Grubesich) Tijan), and the others are likely their children, boarders, and/or other relatives. (Photo Courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives)

On this day in the strike a seemingly regular day ended in tragedy as a boardinghouse in Seeberville was shot up by deputies. On the morning of August 14, 1913 a group of strikers from Seeberville, a residential community of mine homes south of Painesdale, walked a few miles to collect their striker benefits from the WFM office in South Range. The men enjoyed some beer and conversation before they headed home. On the walk back the group separated and two men decided to cut across mine company property to take a shortcut, even though it was off limits due to the strike. Upon entering the company property they were confronted by the company watchman. A few words were exchanged, but the two strikers continued on home to Seeberville.

Upon arriving in Seeberville the two who took the shortcut met up with their other fellows from the boardinghouse, had supper, and enjoyed some ninepin on the front lawn. In the midst of their game, deputies came to the yard and attempted to arrest one of the men who took the shortcut through company property. John Kalan resisted arrest and went into the house along with his fellow boarders. Just as the deputies were about to leave, one of the boarders took a bowling pin and threw it at a deputy’s head. Without hesitation that deputy drew his gun and fired, with the remaining deputies joining in to fire into the house. Two men, Steve Putrich and Alois (Louis) Tijan, were killed and two others were wounded.  None of the men in the house were armed and the men who were hurt and killed were not involved in the incident at company property earlier in the day. One witness reported that the men “didn’t have anything to shoot with except the spoons they had in their hands while they were eating,” illustrating that the hail of bullets was an unwarranted response to a thrown bowling pin.[1] This tragedy is a prominent example of strike violence escalating quickly with horrific results. The Seeberville murders by their very shocking nature had a huge impact on the public at the time of the incident and they have also had a prominent part in the story of the strike.

For a unique perspective on the events and context of the Seeberville tragedy please see Alison Hoaglan’s article “The Seeberville Murders: Death and Life in the Copper Country in 1913,” available as a chapter in New Perspectives on Michigan’s Copper Country (2007). She not only discusses the events of the tragedy but also paints a picture of immigrant life and the company town, using the Seeberville murders and another incident, the Dally-Jane murders which took place four months later, as examples.


[1] Testimony of Antonia Putrich, Agust 22, 1913, The People vs. Thomas Raleigh, Edwin Polkinhorne, Harry James, Joshua Cooper, William Groff, and Arthur Davis, Houghton County Circuit Court Case #4230.

[2] Alison K. Hoagland, Erik C. Nordberg, and Terry S. Reynolds, eds. New Perspectives on Michigan’s Copper Country. Hancock, MI: Quincy Mine Hoist Association, 2007, 115-132.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

Mother Jones and Guy Miller (WFM) lead a labor parade in Calumet.  They are joined by strikers and young boys to show support for all on strike. (Photo courtesy of the MTU Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive, available here)

Mother Jones and Guy Miller (WFM) lead a labor parade in Calumet. They are joined by strikers and young boys to show support for all on strike. (Photo courtesy of the MTU Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archive, available here)

A parade was held in Calumet today and what a parade it was!  Famed labor activist Mother Jones had arrived in Michigan earlier in the week and she marched proudly with the strikers during the August 10th parade. In the photo above you can see Mother Jones alongside Guy Miller, a representative from the Western Federation of Miners.

Don’t Be a Scab!

The dog's vest says "Don't go to Calumet or Hancock Mich, where all miners are on a strike. The reverse side of the vest discouraged people from going to break the strike in the Colorado coalfields.

The dog’s vest says “Don’t go to Calumet or Hancock Mich, where all miners are on a strike.” The reverse side of the vest discouraged people from going to break the strike in the Colorado coalfields. (Photo courtesy of the Miners’ Magazine)

The Miners’ Magazine, a weekly publication of the Western Federation of Miners had an interesting story in the October 30th, 1913 issue. “A Valuable Dog,” pictured above, was put to good use on the streets of Chicago to discourage men from moving to the Copper Country or the Colorado coal fields to break those strikes. M.J. Riley of the WFM and P. W. Quinn of the United Mine Workers of America utilized the dog as a publicity tool to inform people of the strikes taking place “against the arrogant despotism of industrial tyrants.”[1] In addition to highlighting the dog, the article spoke directly to the realities of class conflict (within and between classes) and appealed to men to awaken to the guiding principles of the labor movement.  Apparently sentiment of solidarity can come in all shapes and sizes.  A special thanks to Dr. Susan Martin and Alice Margerum for bringing my attention to this unique photo.


[1] “A Valuable Dog,” The Miners’ Magazine, October 30, 1913, page 7.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

telegramAugust2

MacNaughton Telegram to Shaw, August 2nd, 1913.  The original is part of the Calumet and Hecla Company Collection held at the Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections in Houghton, MI.

On August 2, James MacNaughton sent a brief telegram to Quincy Shaw reporting that all is quiet in the Calumet district, but quiet isn’t truly accurate.  While there weren’t any major instances of violence on that day, as opposed to previous days, strikers made major displays throughout the weekend. There was a strike parade from Calumet to Wolverine to Kearsarge and the Western Federation of Miners had a huge demonstration and parade planned for the Calumet district on Saturday, August 3.[1] The Quincy District also saw a lot of activity on August 2nd with a massive strike parade. Women, children, and a striker on horseback paraded from Quincy, to Hancock, to Houghton, and back to Hancock to end the parade at Kansankotl Hall. The Daily Mining Gazette noted that this parade “was the biggest of any day since the strike was called” and it attracted a lot of attention in the community.[2]

Parades were an important method to boost morale and show support for the cause.  Although the copper districts were quiet from lack of violence on August 2 that does not mean there was no strike activity or action by the WFM. Despite news from mining officials and headlines in the local papers proclaiming the mines and their corporate offices would not recognize the union, the strikers and WFM leaders remained optimistic and surged ahead in showing support. Although not all miners supported the strike, with some gathering to talk about returning to work, those who supported the cause were steadfast in their beliefs.


[1] Daily Mining Gazette, Saturday, August 3, 1913.

[2] Daily Mining Gazette, Friday, August 2, 1913.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

guard

The Michigan National Guard, who were called up shortly after the strike began, pitched a large number of tents in a field near the Calumet and Hecla offices in Calumet. (Photo courtesy of the MIchigan Tech Archives, Keweenaw Digital Archives, available here)

Seven men sat in a jail on this day in 1913 after being arrested by guardsmen for approaching the Red Jacket shaft house in Calumet in the evening on July 31. When the men were taken into the mining captain’s office to be questioned, one of them reportedly attempted to explode a few sticks of dynamite. Despite arrests like these, James MacNaughton (General Manager of Calumet & Hecla) and other mining managers were unable to connect such disturbances to “real leaders” in the union.[1]

In a related story, Lake Superior copper companies refused to have a conference with the Western Federation of Miners regarding grievances. The companies noted that the WFM’s history of violence, rioting, and murder in other striking districts created a roadblock to civil discussion. Incidents at Cripple Creek (1894), such as strikers dynamiting mine buildings and equipment, and the Colorado smelters’ strike of 1903-1904, where WFM leaders, strikers, and the Colorado’s National Guard collided in increasingly violent and deadly clashes, were no doubt on the minds of Michigan copper mine officials. Making negotiations seem even less likely, most mine officials were claiming they treated workers fairly and most mine employees did not want the strike, so there was little hope of companies recognizing, let alone negotiating with, the union on this day in 1913.


[1] MacNaughton to Quincy A. Shaw. Telegram. 1 August 1913. Calumet & Hecla Mining Company Collection, Box 350, Folder 004.  Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections.

Today in the 1913 Copper Strike

This telegram, from Calumet & Hecla General Manager James MacNaughton to financier Quincy Shaw, describes MacNaughton's views on the initial days of the strike as well as alludes to his belief that the strike would not endure very long.  The closing line, "Absolutely no cause for worry" seems to indicate that everything will be under control thanks to the dispatch of the guard.

This telegram, from Calumet & Hecla General Manager James MacNaughton to financier Quincy Shaw, describes MacNaughton’s views on the initial days of the strike as well as alludes to his belief that the strike would not endure very long. The closing line, “Absolutely no cause for worry” seems to indicate that everything will be under control thanks to the dispatch of the guard. This telegram, and others, can be found online here as part of a Michigan Tech student project. The original telegram is part of the Calumet and Hecla Mining Copmany Collection (MS-002, Box 350), which is part of the collections at the Michigan Tech University Archives.

On this day in 1913 Michigan Governor Woodbridge Ferris ordered the dispatch of some 2,500 state troops to ensure order in Calumet during the initial days of the labor strike. According to the Daily Mining Gazette, the previous day saw mobs attacking deputy sheriffs and non-union mine employees who had tried to report to work. General reports of rioting in the district also reportedly alarmed residents who sent telegrams to the governor. How severe the rioting was is up for historical debate. One example of violence, according to the Gazette, stems from strikers being provoked by metal lunch pails or law enforcement star badges:

“A common occurrence was to observe a group of strikers mob a man carrying a dinner pail [assuming he was reporting for work]. Any man who might be suspected of being a deputy sheriff was subjected to a personal examination. If the star was found inside his coat he was pounded upon and beaten up without further ado.”[1]

Another example of the violence, separate from the headline, is in a small snippet on page 2 of that day’s paper, noting a union man presented himself at Tamarack hospital stating he was shot by a deputy. Despite claims of violence throughout the day, the evening of July 24 ended peacefully with a large parade of strikers marching to all of the shafts in the C&H properties. Upon seeing mine operations shut down, the parade continued to the next shaft. In a July 25th telegram to Quincy Shaw, a Boston-based C&H financier, C&H General Manager James MacNaughton reported on the violence, but made no mention of peaceful demonstrations. MacNaughton welcomed the arrival of the Michigan National Guardsmen and felt their presence would put a damper on violent outbursts by strikers as well as allow those men who wished to work to be safely escorted to their duty locations.


[1] Daily Mining Gazette, “2,500 Militiamen on Way to Put Down Riots in Copper Country,” Vol. XIV, Friday, July 25, 1913.

100 Years in the Making

A crowd (strikers?) gathers outside of Tyomie's Publishing Co. in February 1914.  Photo Courtesy of MTU Digital Archive.

A crowd gathers outside of Tyomie’s Publishing Co. in February 1914. Photo Courtesy of MTU Digital Archive.

Today marks the beginning of the centennial of the historic Michigan copper miners’ strike. On this day in 1913, after mining managers across the Copper Country ignored a letter sent by the locals calling for a meeting to discuss worker grievances, miners went out on strike. Picket lines blocked the entrance to mines and some violence ensued if people attempted to report to work. There are reports of people being beaten with pipes and rocks were thrown at those who tried to break the line.

This is the moment I have been waiting for in my research as the centennial season will be full of activities, lectures, and commemorative events to mark the historic events of the strike. As I wrap up my internship next month I will be able to spend more time doing research and reporting on the events of the strike. Stay tuned for new features that will come under the heading “Today in the Strike.” I will post news, updates, and anecdotes as they appeared in local newspaper 100 years ago.