Today in the 1913 Copper Strike


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.


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