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.

Big Annie’s Legacy Lives On

This is one of several iconic images of Big Annie posing with a large American Flag.  (This photo recently appeared in a Daily Mining Gazette article about Big Annie and it is part of the collections at the Keweenaw National Historical Park)

This is one of several iconic images of Big Annie posing with a large American Flag. (This photo recently appeared in a Daily Mining Gazette article. It is from the collections at the Keweenaw National Historical Park)

Thanks to efforts by recent books, exhibits, and a forthcoming induction into Labor’s International Hall of Fame, the legacy of Anna “Big Annie” Clemenc is being honored. Best known for her role as a labor activist and leader of the Western Federation of Miners Women’s Auxiliary during the 1913 Copper Strike in Michigan’s Copper Country, Big Annie is proving to be a historical figure of substantial importance.  A new exhibit at the Coppertown USA Mining Museum shares narratives, photos, and artifacts from her life as well as from the Italian Hall tragedy, which took place during a Christmas Eve party for striking miners and their families that Clemenc helped organize.  She is also the focus of a new, independently published book called Annie Clemenc and the Great Keweenaw Copper Strike by Lyndon Comstock.

Perhaps of most significance, thanks to a nomination by Comstock, Big Annie is part of the 2013 induction group into Labor’s International Hall of Fame.  The ceremony honoring her induction into the hall of fame will take place at the Keweenaw National Historical Park Calumet Visitor Center, on July 26, 2013 at 7 pm.  With the 100 year anniversary of the strike coming up on the 23rd, I can’t think of a better way to get in the spirit of things than to pay tribute to one of the strike’s most enduring figures.

Annie sepia poster-FINAL