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Posts Tagged ‘labor movement’

On February 7, 1894, a miners’ strike led by the Western Federation of Miners began in Cripple Creek, Colorado.

Elkton Mine, 1894. Image courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, made available via Heritage West.

The strike occurred on the heels of the Panic of 1893 which caused the price of silver to crash but left the price of gold relatively high.  Gold had been discovered near Cripple Creek three years earlier, and in the wake of the Panic, miners began flooding the area.  By the time of the strike there were more than 150 active mines.

C.O.D. Mine, 1894. Image courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, made available via Heritage West.

The conflict began when mine owners lengthened the miners’ work day without increasing wages.  Miners complained, and the owners retaliated by offering to retain the eight-hour work day but decrease compensation from $3.00 a day to $2.50.

Union men on parade before the strike in Victor, Colorado, 1894. Image courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, made available via Heritage West.

The strike escalated through February, March, and April.  In May, the mine owners raised a private army, and in response, the miners armed and organized themselves under the direction of Junius J. Johnson.  They built a fort at Bull Hill, and further attacks were characterized by firefights and dynamite explosions.

The fort at the summit of Bull Hill built by striking miners in 1894. Image courtesy of Cripple Creek District Museum, made available via Heritage West.

In June, the state militia, who had previously assessed the situation in March, returned to Cripple Creek in support of the striking miners, which shortly brought the conflict to a close.  The Cripple Creek strike proved a major victory for the labor movement, and the Western Federation of Miners gained considerable power and influence in the following years.

View of Cripple Creek in 1894. Image courtesy of the Cripple Creek District Museum, made available via Heritage West.

Opening History is a rich resource for major events in the American labor movement, and the Heritage West collection provides an intimate portrait of the miners’ strike at Cripple Creek, Colorado.

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At 1:07 am on October 1, 1910, a bomb exploded directly outside the Los Angeles Times building, sparking a fire that destroyed two buildings and killed 21 people.  The bombing occurred in the midst of a tense strike called to unionize the city’s labor forces, and when John J. McNamara, the secretary-treasurer of the International Union of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers, was implicated in the bombing along with his brother, James, and Ortie McManigal, the trial became the focus of the organized labor movement.  The presidents of the Iron Workers and the American Federation of Labor hired Clarence Darrow to defend the McNamaras, but on December 1, 1911, the McNamara brothers pled guilty in open court. In the wake of the trial, the Los Angeles labor movement collapsed, not to be revived until the 1950s.

Exterior view of the Los Angeles Times buliding as seen from the corner of Broadway and First Street. Image Courtesy of the University of Southern California.

Interior view of the Los Angeles Times Bombing. Image courtesy of the University of Southern California.

The images above are from the California Historical Society Digital Archive.  Find more resources at Opening History.

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The Everett Massacre

The Everett Massacre took place in Everett, Washington as political differences led to a shoot-out between the Industrial Workers of the World organizers and local police on this day in 1916. Everett, Washington was suffering from economic difficulties that year, and as a result there were several confrontation between laborers and employers. Labor unions decided to organize and protest about their conditions. The Industrial Workers of the World came to Everett to show solidarity. Tragically the confrontation between the labor unions and business supporting law enforcement resulted in the death of five union members and two law enforcement officers.

the Industrial Workers of the World demonstrating in New York City

the Industrial Workers of the World demonstrating in New York City. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

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May Day, which in the 20th century became the International Workers’ Day, or Labor Day, is celebrated on May 1st. May 1st is also a birthday of a famous American labor leader Mary Harris “Mother” Jones (1830?-1930).
The Opening History aggregation includes a number of digital collections about labor movement history; one of them is Mining and Mother Jones in Mount Olive collection.
The image below, courtesy of Mount Olive Public Library, Mining and Mother Jones in Mount Olive collection (part of Illinois Digital Archives) is a 1930 newspaper article about Mother Jones’ 100th birthday celebration which took place in Maryland.

Mother Jones' 100th birthday

Mother Jones' 100th birthday


Click on the image to read the rest of the article.

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