Currently Reading: Death’s Door

Interior of Italian Hall - Photo Courtesy of MTU Archives/Keweenaw Digital Archive

Over the holidays of 1913 the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the whole state, and the country as a whole heard news of a tragedy that took place in the city of Calumet. On Christmas Eve on the second floor of Italian Hall, a gathering place for locals, mostly striking miners and their families enjoyed a crowded and festive holiday party. At one point, someone cried “Fire” and panic swept over the crowd and people fled down the stairs and for the door. The doors were stuck. Panic swelled. Yet, there was no fire.

In the aftermath of the chaos it was found that six dozen people, many of them children, had been crushed to death in the stampede for the door. The lingering questions of how such a thing could happen and why the doors wouldn’t budge open when people tried to evacuate have intrigued local people and historians for almost a century.

I am currently reading a book that tackles the Italian Hall disaster, Death’s Door: The Truth Behind Michigan’s Largest Mass Murder by Steve Lehto. I hope to have a review in the coming week. In the meantime, please have a listen to Woody Guthrie’s song, 1913 Massacre, which was named after this tragic event.

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4 thoughts on “Currently Reading: Death’s Door

  1. I saw the reference to Death’s Door (I wrote it). I put a book out this past year which includes a lot of info that I found out after that book was published, including the name of the man who cried Fire at the Hall. I also have a Facebook page where I am putting up everything I have on the Hall and related topics. I’m still uploading but students of copper country history should enjoy it.
    https://www.facebook.com/pages/Deaths-Door-The-Italian-Hall-Disaster/291845417514549

    • Thank you so much for the comment. I’ll definitely check out your Facebook page. I’d be interested to see what you have up there. I recently moved from the DC area to Illinois so my blog writing is on hiatus for a while. I hope to get back into it with the start of Spring semester. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thanks for stopping by. This site is a labor of love, so it sometimes takes a backseat to work and school. I will try to reinvigorate the posting schedule for 2012!

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