The Greatest Public Relations Coup of All Time

The branding campaign which transformed the labor movement into the "Worldwide Communist Conspiracy"

By Jack Barkstrom

Labor Struggles in the United States - Part Two

The Copper Mines of Bisbee, Arizona - 1917

Copper deposits, and the Copper Queen mine, would turn Bisbee, a town in the middle of the Arizona desert south of Tombstone, into a boomtown after the turn of the century. Phelps, Dodge & Company, the owner of the mine, would hire workers from around the world. By 1908 Bisbee had eight thousand residents, a YMCA, and new schools.[218] Until 1911, Phelps, Dodge, and the town of Bisbee, under the guidance of Dr. James Douglas, had tolerated unions, or at least were not antagonistic. Dr. Douglas' son, Walter, who took over as general manager that year, was rabidly anti-union. "We will not compromise with rattlesnakes," he said, referring to union organizers. In contrast to Colorado, the state of Arizona was sympathetic to unions, adopting a number of union-friendly policies when Arizona attained statehood in 1912.[219]

If Walter Douglas disliked unions, both sides managed to avoid all-out war until 1917. In June of that year the Bisbee local of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers called a strike. Perhaps the main demand was for a wage increase to $6 a day, but it also included calls for reform of the company's policy of deducting water, electricity, and housing rental from worker paychecks. This time the company found an ally in Sheriff Harry Wheeler, along with Cochise County authorities, who was willing to take decisive action, when it came to unions.

Sheriff Wheeler was able to quickly organize a small army of volunteers to confront the union. Called the Citizens' Protective League, it was a two-thousand member vigilante organization, whose main goal was to eliminate the strikers and their Wobbly supporters from the labor force. The force was modeled after the Jerome Loyalty League, which, on July 10, armed with guns and pick handles, had seized IWW strike leaders in the town of Jerome, Arizona and driven them out of town.[220] Two days later, at dawn on July 12, Sheriff Wheeler began his campaign in Bisbee. The town was first cut off - phone, telegraph, and rail service to Bisbee were stopped. The League members were deputized, given white armbands, and weapons, if they had none, and then sent into Bisbee to search for IWW supporters. In a door-to-door search, they questioned everyone and held those they suspected as strike supporters. There was one violent confrontation, when a striker opened fire on a League member, killing him, and the striker was killed in the return fire. By the end of the day, nearly thirteen hundred Wobblies and IWW-loyal miners had been rounded up and held in a baseball field in nearby Warren. In addition to the armed vigilantes, Sheriff Wheeler had fitted an automobile with a machine gun as part of the guarding force.[221]

The captives were herded into twenty-four boxcars of a waiting freight train, which was to take them east to Hermanas, New Mexico, some 180 miles away. Armed Protective League members accompanied the train in automobiles and when the train reached its destination, the League members warned them they would be killed if they attempted to return to Bisbee. Left without food or water, they received help from the U.S. Army, which provided them refuge at its camp at Columbus, New Mexico.[222]

Whether organizations were called Citizen's Alliance, as in Colorado, or Citizens' Protective Leagues, as in Arizona, they served as outside enforcement arms for corporate interests. Some would definitely be classified as death squads, exemplified by the lynching of Frank Little, in Butte, Montana in 1917. More routinely, they engaged in intimidation tactics, rather than murder, as in Bisbee. Around midnight on June 1912, five men, including a deputy sheriff and a mine superintendent, burst into the room of Michael Livoda, a union organizer at the Victor-American mine of Ravenwood, and beat him so badly he had trouble sitting or standing for two months. They did threaten to kill him, but instead escorted him out of camp and warned him to get out of Colorado.[223]

The Wyoming Cattle Wars of the 1890s

The cattle industry, divided between ranchers and cowboys, did not comfortably fit into a conventional view of the labor struggle. In beef producing states, such as Wyoming, the issue was further confused by conflict between large cattle-producing ranchers and smaller operations, involved in ranching, growing sheep or farming. The Wyoming Stockgrowers' Association turned to 'regulators,' contract gunmen more than willing to kill. There were a number of murders in what became known as the 'Johnson County War,' centered around the town of Buffalo. The first took place on July 23, 1889, when a couple, named Jim Averell and Ellen Watson were seized and strung up near their ranch. On June 4, 1891, Thomas Waggoner was hung. This was followed in November by the killing of Orley Everett Jones and, on December 1, by the killing of John A. Tisdale, who was shot in the back while on the road, along with two horses and a dog.[224]

In February 1892, the Stockgrowers' Association began what they hoped would be a final effort at control, by recruiting gunmen from Paris, Texas. The force, when it left Cheyenne on April 5, was sizable, about fifty men, with a death list which included Johnson County law enforcement officers and county commissioners. Before reaching Buffalo, they learned that Nate Champion, and several of those on their list, were on Champion's ranch. The diversion would cost them the element of surprise. Three men visiting the ranch were taken prisoner when they left, so as not to alert those remaining inside. Nick Ray, another individual on their list, however, was shot and mortally wounded when he stepped outside. When Nate Champion returned fire, the invading force gave up on plans to rush the cabin, turning what was to be a surprise attack into a siege. When two men approached with a wagon during the day, one of them was recognized as Jack Flagg, another individual on their hit list. The two individuals turned away, pursued by some of the regulators, who wounded some of the horses. Jack Flagg's return fire discouraged the pursuers. Before Champion was killed as he rushed out of his cabin on April 9, he had killed four of the attacking force and wounded a number of others. They retreated to a nearby ranch, where they prepared to defend against a growing force of small ranchers and local workers prepared to attack. They were rescued on April 12, by a force of army regulars from Fort McKinley, who took them into custody.[225]

The regulators of the Johnson County War and the Tough Riders, the cowboy gunmen who volunteered to clean up Telluride in 1902, represented the more memorable aspects of the labor conflict in the West. Much of the conflict was of an ongoing nature, or at least did not rise to a level which made dramatic headlines. Many of those hired from outside were employed as guards, and much of their activity involved more routine activities, such as harassment and threats.

The Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency, somewhat similar to the Pinkerton Agency, was one of the employers of hired guns. It had gained experience, and a reputation as an anti-union strikebreaking force, in the West Virginia coal strike earlier.[226] To reinforce its intimidating image, it built an armored vehicle, known as "The Death Special," equipped with a searchlight and a mounted machine gun, which could also hold several detectives.[227] In October 1913, during the Ludlow strike, the mounted machine gun on the Death Special was estimated to have fired around 600 rounds into the tent colony, mostly hitting tents, crockery, and furniture, but also killing a Slav striker and wounding a mine guard.[228] It was not totally unprovoked. Some of the strikers were armed and had engaged in nighttime sniping attacks.

Labor Strife in the Colorado Coal Fields

Coal, when it came to making headlines, could hardly compete with gold, which promised spectacular, if short-lived, returns. California gulch, at what would become Oro City, and later Leadville, between its discovery in April 1860 and 1865, produced about $4,000,000 in gold, then saw its output drop to almost nothing.[229] The Colorado coal industry, against such competition, was barely noticed in the beginning. Yet, Colorado coal mining got its start about the same time, or not very long after, the gold rush create the first mining industry in Colorado. Coal was first mined at Marshall, south of Boulder, in 1859.

When the Union Pacific and Central Pacific met at Promontory Point, Utah, on May 10, 1869, to complete the transcontinental railroad, the route through Nebraska and Wyoming had bypassed Denver and Colorado to avoid the difficult mountain terrain west of Denver. The Denver and Rio Grande would eventually build a line through the Royal Gorge and make a western connection through Salt Lake City, while the Denver Pacific would make a northern connection with the Union Pacific Line. The railroads would provide both a market for coal and serve as the most efficient (or only) mode of transport when it came to moving large quantities of coal.

Among the first attempts at commercial coal development in Colorado was the Colorado Coal and Iron Company (CC&I), organized by William Jackson Palmer, the principal builder of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, in 1880. CC&I was also the first steelmaker, owning the Bessemer steelworks in Pueblo, the only iron and steel plant in the West. [230] It soon faced competition from Colorado Fuel Company (CFC), founded in 1883 by John Cleveland Osgood, a former mining company bookkeeper from Ottumwa, Iowa. When Palmer's CC&I foundered, Osgood was asked to take over, and the new company which emerged, in October 1892, was Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I).[231]

Osgood's business acumen can explain part of his financial success, but he had the help of an experienced geologist when it came to finding prime mineral properties. Richard Charles Hills, a fellow of the Royal Geological Society, served as a consultant, traveling through Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico, looking for the coal deposits.[232] Where gold prospecting involved something of a hit-and-miss form of random sampling to locate surface deposits of small flakes and nuggets, coal could be located more systematically, based on large geological formations and rock types. Since gold might pay $20 an ounce and be carried around in a small pouch, few individuals were interested in coal, which might pay $5, and was measured by the ton. When CF&I was formed in 1892, it owned 71,837 acres of coal land containing an estimated 400 million tons of domestic and coking coals, fourteen mines with a capacity of 12,000 tons daily, four coking plants comprising 800 ovens that could produce 1,000 tons of coke daily, and iron lands in excess of 2,000 acres.[233] In 1901, a subsidiary would expand its holdings with the purchase of 258,000 acres of the Maxwell Land Grant near the New Mexico border.[234] Between 1899 and 1903, CF&I would invest $24 million to expand and modernize its Pueblo steel mill.[235]

Osgood's consolidation of his industrial empire under CF&I in 1892, came on the eve of a major downturn in the U.S. economy, the Panic of 1893. From June 1893 until June 1894 CF&I had to deal with a drastic fall in demand for the products it specialized in - coal, coke, and rails. Its response was to close mines or work them at reduced output, lay off miners, and reduce wages for those who remained.[236] In some cases, cash-short companies granted miners credit by paying them in scrip, company notes or company money, which could only be used at company stores. Wages were effectively reduced further, since the company stores overcharged workers for the goods they carried.

With the national economy still in a depression, 1894 was not a good time to call a strike, yet the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) did just that, calling for a national work stoppage in April. It would last until August 1894. In terms of concessions from Colorado mine owners, it achieved nothing, since they would not agree to any of the union demands. At the same time, it suggested that miners were not satisfied with conditions or pay. An estimated 4,000 to 5,000 miners joined the strike, representing three-fourths of Colorado's coalmine workers. Most of the larger mines were shut down, including those of CF&I, which managed to keep three open.[237]The strike cost CF&I $40,000, although it had even managed to get the miners to pay for these costs, by deducting a small fee for every ton of coal mined, which went into a strike fund.[238]

With the recovery in the national economy, the fortunes of CF&I improved, although the improvements did not filter down to the miners. Osgood paid close attention to costs, when it came to miners and the wages he paid them, but his obsession with wages, as part of any cost-saving program, was matched by an almost instinctive hatred of unions. In January 1901 he told a legislative committee he considered the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) "a kind of multiple Satan."[239] This attitude, combined with working conditions, led to a resurgence of union activity, and growth in UMWA membership, in late 1900.[240]

In January 1901, miners in Osgood's American Fuel Company mines in Gallup, New Mexico, went on strike.[241] The company responded by locking them out and replacing them with Japanese workers. Around 1,000 miners in CF&I facilities around Canon City responded with a strike in support of the Gallup strikers in mid-January. The company responded, in turn, by discharging union members and forcibly removing them from company camps. Union meetings were broken up, often by members of law enforcement. Jefferson Farr, the sheriff of Huerfano County, along with his deputies, in January 1901, disbursed a union gathering by driving the miners into an arroyo, where they were beaten with revolvers. Others were jailed.[242]

Although Osgood succeeded in breaking the 1901 strike, he realized that the public image of CF&I had suffered. In an attempt to improve CF&I's public image, as well as to limit further union inroads, the Sociological Department was created within the company in July 1901, to be headed by Dr. Richard Corwin, chief surgeon of the company.[243] During its three-year history, between 1901 and 1903, the Department would develop eight new camps, mostly around the Trinidad area, with new housing, adequate and safe water supplies, medical services, including a company hospital in Pueblo, free kindergartens, and ten public schools. In many ways, the towns were modeled after Pullman's town in Illinois. Redstone, intended as the ultimate showcase model village, was located in western Colorado, to the west of what is now Aspen. The nearby mines produced some of the finest coking coal in the West, but they were too far from the Pueblo steel mills to remain economically viable and the Redstone coking plant and Coal Basin mine were closed in 1909.[244]

However successful CF&I seemed at the time, Osgood decided, in 1901, to sell the company. He was told, or so he said, that United States Steel was interested.[245] Nothing came of any discussions at the time, although John D. Rockefeller, in the fall of 1902, sent his son John D. Rockefeller, Jr., to look at the Pueblo steel mills and coal fields, then visited the region himself, following which, he bought $6 million in CF&I stock. CF&I, by that time was already in serious trouble. The Pueblo expansion was behind schedule, experiencing cost overruns, and losing revenue from being out of production. Even $3 million in loans from Rockefeller and George Gould, Jay Gould's son, were not enough.[246]

Gould and Rockefeller were clearly interested in the company, but not in Osgood, who was forced to step down as head of the company. On June 24, 1903, he resigned as an officer and director.[247] By August the Rockefeller takeover was complete and the CF&I Board had been reorganized.[248] On November 9 the UMWA called a strike against CF&I and the Victor Fuel Company, a company Osgood owned, and over 10,000 miners - 95 percent of Colorado miners - answered the call and struck. The owners prepared to act decisively. CF&I and Victor Fuel agreed to cover the cost of the appointment of 115 deputy sheriffs by Sheriff O.T. Clark of Las Animas County to help guard the mines and fight the strikers. Victor Fuel had also purchased the entire stock of rifles and revolvers at a Trinidad hardware store during the first week of the strike, and ordered more.[249]

The companies also evicted strikers from company property and demolished houses built by workers on leased company ground. Unauthorized personnel attempting to enter the towns of Hastings and Delagua were arrested, briefly jailed, and escorted out of town with instructions never to return. In December, Victor Fuel sued national and local officials of the UMWA for damages, claimed to total $85,000. In Hastings, a group of Italian women protested by attempting to stop the demolition of worker shanties. A group of miners in Hastings later attempted to blow up the Victor Fuel Company's powerhouse.[250]

On March 22, 1904, after repeated requests for troops, Colorado Governor James Peabody proclaimed the Trinidad fields under martial law and dispatched 400 troops to Las Animas County. The decision came only after Peabody got the employers to cover the costs of the order. That cost was estimated at $200,000, divided up or shared between the various companies. CF&I contributed $80,000, Victor Fuel $70,000, the Trinidad Citizens' Alliance $30,000, and railroad companies contributed $20,000.[251]

When the commander of the force, Major Zeph Hill, arrived he ordered that miners were to be disarmed, although he allowed others to keep their arms. All incoming telephone calls were monitored by the signal corps and those not in English were prohibited. Telegraph messages had to be approved before transmission. Military authorities arrested 160 men and incarcerated in the Las Animas County jail. Nonresident strike leaders were ordered deported from Las Animas County. By the end of the strike, around 97 individuals, some labor leaders and miners, others, saloon keepers and newspaper editors, had been escorted from the district to eastern Colorado, Kansas, or New Mexico.[252]

On April 27, 1904, the UMWA's national executive board voted to end the strike and on June 11, Governor Peabody ordered the troops withdrawn.[253]

The Ludlow Massacre - April 1914

The Colorado Fuel and Iron (CF&I) and Victor-American Fuel, (the 1909 descendant of Victor Fuel), believed their success in the 1903-1904 strike had given them a formula which could solve their union problems. They tightened control by creating closed town systems, building company housing while charging exorbitant rent, establishing company stores with exorbitant prices, paying in scrip so as to avoid paying in cash, and ignoring safety laws and regulations. For its part, the UMWA basically wrote off Colorado as too tough and expensive to organize.

Nevertheless, it scored an unexpected victory on July 14, 1908, when seventeen companies in the northern coalfields northwest of Denver agreed to a contract with the union. Caught off guard, the southern owners had assumed that the union would take years to recover from 1904. They decided to hold off on any immediate action. The real fight would begin in 1910, when the contract came up for renewal. The northern owners might have been inclined to avoid a fight, except the union now demanded a five-and-a-half cent wage boost. When this was rejected the union called a strike, beginning on April 4, 1910.[254]

The northern owners assumed the tactics which had been employed in the southern fields would translate to the northern fields. Baldwin-Felts agents were hired as guards and the mine guard force was increased. What was different was the political situation in the north, even in the state government, and even more, in the public mood. The Boulder County sheriff, MP Capp, was not allied with the owners. He refused to deputize the guards or to request state troops. Colorado governor John Shafroth refused to send militia troops to deal with the situation. Even a federal district judge decided that strikers had the right to picket and assemble.[255]

In April 1912 CF&I announced a 10 percent wage increase for all its 10,000 miners. Victor-American Fuel and Rocky Mountain Fuel did the same. In early 1913, CF&I abolished the scrip system, adopted a semi-monthly pay day, and implemented an eight-hour workday.[256] If they were intended to discourage miner interest in union representation, they also split the UMWA over continued organizing efforts in the southern fields. Short of funds, the union was reluctant to throw its weight behind a new effort. John Lawson argued that, unless they continued organizing efforts, the pay increases and concessions would be withdrawn once public pressure was gone. The union decided to back the effort.[257]

The increased organizing activity escalated the owner response. The Baldwin-Felts men were brought in and spying and harassment activities were increased. The UMWA estimated that in 1912, Colorado coal companies fired 1,200 mine workers suspected of having union sympathies.[258] Miner support for the union grew in response, with organizers able to open branch offices in Aguilar, Walsenburg, and Florence. The response on the owner's side was another escalation. With a defense fund, they purchased large quantities of arms and ammunition, including eight machine guns from the Coal Operators' Association of West Virginia. They recruited professional gunmen from Salt Lake City, Kansas City, and Chicago. The guard force around mines was doubled, barb wire was strung around closed camps, and new gates were installed on public roads to control traffic. Union agents, in turn, purchased arms and ammunition, while also making preparations to set up tent colonies on nearby land, to house strikers.[259]

The union chose September 23, 1913 as the strike date. Around Trinidad, the weather brought freezing rain, then sleet, and ended with snow. Thousands of miners and their families, evicted from their homes in the coal camps, walked to the eight tent colonies set up for them, the largest near Ludlow.[260] A shipment of 1,000 tents, purchased from West Virginia strikers, would not arrive until September 27, leaving most of the 1,200 - 1,300 residents huddling under wagons or makeshift shelters.[261]

The rain and snow, if nothing else, temporarily reduced the risk of open conflict - few on either side were willing or enthusiastic about fighting during a drenching storm. The truce was unlikely to last, given the available supply of arms. CF&I alone, it is estimated, spent $25,000 to $30,000 for guns and ammunition, arming its mine guards and sheriff's deputies, which didn't include purchases by Victor-American and Rocky Mountain Fuel companies, compared to UMWA expenditures of $7,500 for arms and ammunition.[262]

The fighting began, not as a major battle, but in a series of pitched battles fought around the main camp at Ludlow and the smaller tent colony at Forbes. Sometimes the Baldwin-Felts guards arrived in the Death Special, sometimes not. One incident, on October 7, involved seventeen mounted mine guards who exchanged gunfire with the strikers at Ludlow. Both sides blamed the other for starting the fight. John Lawson took the precaution of posting guards around the Ludlow colony on a twenty-four hour basis.[263]

Ten days later, on October 17, a dozen deputies attempted to disarm residents of the Forbes tent colony. Shooting started. This time the Death Special arrived after the shooting began, fired some 600 rounds from its machine gun into the colony, mostly hitting the tents. One Slav striker was killed and a mine guard wounded. Governor Ammons was reluctant to send in the militia but felt the need to visit the area. He arrived on October 21, visited some of the mines and left on October 21, still undecided about whether to send in the militia.[264] On October 24, mine guards, serving as deputies, fired into a crowd of demonstrators in Walsenburg, killing three strikers. Later reports suggested the deputies might have been drinking.[265]

There was a brief lull but fighting between armed strikers and guards began the next afternoon, Saturday, October 25 and continued into Sunday. A group of armed miners set out from Ludlow to attack company properties. They seized the section house south of Ludlow and burned it. They then went through Berwind Canyon and once reaching the Berwind and Tabasco mine, took up positions in the hills and began firing into the buildings.[266]

On October 28, about 300 strikers left Ludlow before dawn to attack Berwind and Hastings. Ten guards and deputies fell to their fire before noon. This time they cut telephone and telegraph wires and blew up railroad tracks. Another detachment attacked the Tabasco mine, driving the guards and their families into the mine. The miners retreated when machine gun fire forced them back. Two of the Greek attackers were killed. The Hastings mine once again came under attack from snipers in the hills. [267] The attacks prompted Governor Ammons to sign an executive order sending National Guard troops to the region on October 28.[268]

The cost of sending 400 troops to Trinidad in the 1903-1904 strike had been $200,000.[269] The number of troops sent in 1913 was 1,000, and the cost had increased to $250,000, this time guaranteed by the bankers' Clearing House Association. [270] While the militia did not play an entirely neutral role, enrolling mine guards and Baldwin-Felts detectives as militia members, escorting strikebreakers into the mines (the use of strikebreakers was expressly forbidden in Governor Ammons's decree), and stealing jewelry and money from strikers in the tent colonies while supposedly searching for weapons, there were no major outbreaks of violence.[271] The presence of a Congressional investigating committee in Colorado, which began hearings in December, may have contributed to the calm. As a result, Governor Ammons, on February 27, 1914, ordered all but 200 troops withdrawn from the strike zone.[272]

On March 10, a militia detachment tore down the tents at the Forbes camp and gave the colonists forty-eight hours to leave the camp or face deportation. When the colonists attempted to rebuild the colony, mounted troops tore down the tents and camped on the ground to make sure the tents stayed down.[273]

On Monday, April 20, 1914, following a militia demand to search the Ludlow camp for a missing man supposedly being held hostage, troops were deployed along the crest of Water Tank Hill, with a machine gun, about 1,000 yards south of the tent colony. Fearing a militia attack, armed strikers began leaving the camp and taking up positions in a sandbank southeast of the camp. There was an exchange of gunfire, then three timed explosions, sixty seconds apart, behind the militia tents - dynamite charges planted by the militia leader, Lieutenant Karl Linderfelt. Shortly after the explosions the intensity of the firing increased. For a time the machine gun fire was directed at the armed strikers. Once they retreated from their positions, the machine gun crew began firing into the tent colony.[274]

There was a lull in the early afternoon while both sides waited for reinforcements and more ammunition. Just before sunset, one of the tents closest to the militia caught fire. At dusk the militia began their assault on the camp. Some engaged in looting, as they moved from tent to tent. The flames began to spread. Some witnesses claimed that soldiers with lit oil-soaked brooms set fire to the tents as they moved through the camp. The whole camp was eventually engulfed in flame. The soldiers were ordered to withdraw from the camp around midnight.[275]

Sometime in the afternoon of the following day, the bodies of two women and eleven children were discovered in a pit under the charred remains of a tent. It was officially reported that they suffocated, although no outside doctors, inspectors or reporters were given access to the site until Wednesday, leading to suspicions of a cover-up. There were conflicting versions of what happened to three union men taken prisoner. There was no doubt that they had been killed - shot in the back - left for three days near the railroad tracks where they had fallen. Louis Tikas, a prominent union organizer, James Fyler, the union paymaster, and John Bartolotti, had surrendered. Lieutenant Linderfelt claimed that they had been killed in the cross fire as they tried to escape. Others claimed that Linderfelt had ordered them shot. They were pushed over the railroad track and shot.[276]

The Ten Days' (Coalfield) War

Two days after Ludlow, a group of 160 strikers attacked the Victor-American mines at Delagua and Hastings. Wednesday, April 22, 1914, the day of the attack, marked the beginning of what became known as the Ten Days' War or the Coalfield War. The group was unsuccessful in their attempts to capture the Delagua mine but the attack left three mine guards dead. Thwarted in their primary attack, they went after secondary targets. The reservoir supplying water to all the major mines and camps in the area - Delagua, Hastings, Tabasco, and Berwing - was dynamited and the Dalagua and Hastings coal camps were set on fire. Another group of strikers attacked the Southwestern Fuel Company's Empire mine west of Aguilar. J.W. Siple, the company's president, along with 35 mine officials, employees, wives, and children took shelter in the mine. The women and children were allowed to leave, even being escorted to safety. The strikers dynamited the shaft house and tipple and set fire to all the mine buildings on the property, including the houses. Siple and the 20 employees who remained with him were rescued fifty hours later by General Chase and a detachment of 75 cavalrymen.[277]

The strikers, numbering between 1,000 and 1,500, went on to attack other mines - the Southwestern, Green Canyon, Royal, and Broadhead - setting fire to buildings and tipples. Between the fire and dynamite they destroyed some $200,000 worth of property. [278] In Denver, Governor Ammons agreed to send the militia back in, but General Chase, who had pledged to raise a force of 600, found that only 362 men were willing to serve. The others were unwilling to volunteer until they received their back pay. The trains carrying the troops arrived back in Ludlow on April 24. A forty-eight hour truce was arranged, which went into effect on April 25.[279]

A force of several hundred strikers, on April 25, either unaware of the truce or ignoring it, attacked the Victor-American mine at Chandler, seven miles south of Canon City. The mine defenders were too well entrenched and armed, with two machine guns, for a frontal assault, so the strikers took up positions in the hills above and spent most of the day firing down into the camp. The attack was renewed the next day and the force of strikers, having grown to an estimated 800 to 1,000, managed to capture the property in the afternoon. Offices, stores, and houses were looted, equipment was sabotaged, and mine records were destroyed. The strikers seemed more interested in destroying the camp, although they mostly smashed furniture and fixtures and breaking glass windows. Having vented their anger, they left. When General Chase arrived on April 27 with his cavalry troop, he found the camp deserted.[280]

The CF&I McNally mine near Walsenburg was attacked on April 27 and by nightfall had been captured. The bunkhouse, tipple, and shaft house were set on fire. The nearby Walsen mine was attacked, the strikers taking up positions on the Hogback ridge above the mine. While they were unable to take the mine, a detachment of 60 soldiers from Ludlow was unable to force them off the ridge, which they still held forty-hours later.[281]

While the conflict was mostly confined to the southern region, General Chase was worried enough about the northern fields to send a detachment of militia to Louisville, to protect the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company's Hecla and Vulcan properties.[282]

The last attack, on April 29, was on the Forbes mine and camp, north of Trinidad. A force of about 300 arrived about dawn, drove the mine guards out and set fire to the tipple and other company buildings. Twelve camp buildings were set on fire, including a shack in which four Japanese miners died. By ten A.M., having destroyed most of the the camp, they abandoned it.[283]

President Wilson, after appeals from Governor Ammons and requests by Colorado's congressional delegation, along with mine owners and union officials, agreed to send in federal troops. The order was given on April 28, 1914. They began arriving on April 29, in Canon City. On April 30, a detachment from the Fifth U.S. Cavalry reached Walsenburg. The strikers holding the Hogback above the Walsen mine came down and surrendered their guns, bringing the Ten Days' War to an end.[284]

During the Ten Days' War, the strikers had killed thirty-three people and suffered at least two dozen casualties on their side. The number killed by the militia at Ludlow was set at eighteen.[285]

If the operators expected the federal troops to serve as a strikebreaking force, they were soon disappointed. Almost as soon as they arrived in Walsenberg on April 30, the troops arrested six members of the Colorado National Guard for looting a saloon.[286] Major W.A. Holbrook, commander of the Trinidad district, declined an offer from the operators to use their buildings in Trinidad to quarter his troops, choosing instead the fairgrounds northeast of the business district. He also allowed the strikers to rebuild their tent colonies at Forbes and Ludlow.[287]

President Wilson had hoped to pull out federal troops, once the strike situation was resolved. Meetings and reports convinced him that the state of Colorado was prepared to send state militia back in, in a final effort to destroy the union, and he maintained a federal troop presence in Colorado until 1915. If the operators were unsuccessful in winning over President Wilson, they had achieved a near total victory over the UMWA, whose Colorado delegates voted to end the strike on December 7, 1914. The union was out of money. The strike officially ended on December 10.[288]

West Virginia Mine Wars (1912-1921)

The Baldwin-Felts Agency and the 'Death Special' which figured prominently in Colorado and events at Ludlow, had their origins in the coal fields of West Virginia. Baldwin-Felts had entered the security business at a time when the Pinkerton Agency was reducing its presence. Pinkerton had been burned by the bad publicity from its handling of the Homestead Strike. Whether the Pinkerton Agency made a decision to stop supplying armed guards voluntarily or found employers reluctant to use its services, companies began turning to other organizations for their private armies.[289], [290]

If the region was geographically part of the Eastern U.S., there was something of a Wild West feel to events there. It would become famous for the Hatfield and McCoy feud. One of the first jobs Baldwin-Felts had taken on, when it started in the 1890s, was to guard freight trains from local robbers as the trains moved through the hills in the southern part of the state. The robberies came to an end after the Baldwin-Felts men killed some of the would-be robbers and sent a number to prison.[291] Bringing the lawless element to justice may have inspired a legendary sense of admiration among the local residents initially, but later involvement in evictions of miners and their families from company housing would sully that image to the point where they would be regarded as little more than thugs or hired killers.

Labor unions and strikes were hallmarks of an urban and industrialized economy and southern West Virginia, isolated and agrarian, seemed to be the last place labor violence would be expected to occur. The region had been known to have coal beds since colonial times - Thomas Jefferson in 1785 had even written about them. At the same time, knowing about their existence and exploiting them were two different things.[292] The coal industry remained relatively small. There were only 185 mines in the entire state at the time of the Civil War, and they employed less than 1,600 workers.[293] Transportation, or the lack of a major industrial transport network, was the main obstacle. Bulk transport, by river flatboat, had been an early solution, but even that was slow and the network not well developed.

Just how much was actually understood about the quality of the coal in the 1880s, when major investors, such as J. P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller, began to take an interest in what was available, is unknown.[294] It may have been its low cost which was its main attraction at the time. Since much of it was exposed on the surface of the hills, it was easier and cheaper to mine. [295] If West Virginia coal was not anthracite, it was high-quality bituminous, a close second. With a low volatile (vaporizing) content and high fixed carbon ratio, which provided an average British thermal unit of 15,200, it had the highest heat unit of all the coals in the United States. This made it the best steam coal in the country. In addition, its content of ash and sulfur was low, which made it the best coking coal in the country. [296]

Syndicates and corporations from outside of the state acquired large tracks of land between 1890 and 1920. The Norfolk and Western Railroad of Virginia bought 295,000 acres which represented four-fifths of the Pochohontas coal field. From 1901 until 1919 U.S. Steel, through a J. P. Morgan syndicate acquire 32,600 acres in Logan and Mingo counties and 50,000 acres in McDowell County. By 1923 it was calculated that nonresidents of West Virginia owned more than half of the state and controlled four-fifths of its value.[297]

The superior quality of the West Virginia coal, combined with a national marketing campaign, soon found it competing with and replacing other coal suppliers. It became the primary source of fuel for the U.S. Navy. Because Washington, D.C., had strict ordinances against smoke pollution, it was the only coal that could be burned there. More established midwestern coal fields were displaced by the West Virginia coal, which began supplying factories in Indianapolis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Dayton. By 1900, it was even competing against anthracite coal for the New England market.[298]

In 1867, two years after the end of the Civil War, total coal production in West Virginia was 489,000 tons. It had increased to 4,882,000 in 1887 and reached 89,384,000 tons in 1917. By 1920, West Virginia was second only to Pennsylvania as the nation's leading coal producer.[299]

Coal may have turned West Virginia into a national economic powerhouse, but it transformed the nature of the West Virginia economy itself as well. Where it had been somewhat diversified - there had been around 2,500 industries around the state prior to the growth in coal, most in the northern sector. Logging and the lumber industry still existed, but not to the extent of coal. Farming largely disappeared, displaced by mining and the demand for coal lands.[300]

Because the need for workers was greater than the local population, the coal companies had to recruit outside the the region for miners. Blacks from the South were encouraged to move. By 1910 the number of blacks working the mines reached 12,000. European immigrants increased from 924 in 1880 to 28,000 in 1910.[301] The incentive to maximize profits led employers to ignore safety rules, even those watered down in legislation. The mines in the region were considered the most dangerous in the United States. Between 1890 and 1912 they had the highest death rates among the nation's coal producing regions, with a mine-accident death rate five times higher than that of any European country.[302]

The coal fields of southern West Virginia proved difficult for union organizers. There were a number of factors at work. English, Welsh, and Scottish miners, with a tradition of union support, either avoided the state, or left for states with better working conditions.[303] Officials of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) proved corrupt, and many took jobs with the companies. [304]

It may have been the extensive use of company towns to house workers that made for a volatile labor situation. Company towns were not unique to West Virginia, although their use was greater there. It was estimated that some 94 percent of West Virginia miners lived in company towns. Illinois, which was second, with 53 percent. The workers were in something of a double bind. In many of the towns, they were paid in coal scrip, a form of currency printed by the coal companies, which only the company would honor. It was only good for purchases at the company store, which charged high prices, sometimes three times what local trade stores charges. The lack of economic diversification and geographic isolation meant that there were few big cities or industries nearby which might have offered alternative employment or opportunities to earn supplemental income.[305]

There were some native miners who farmed and had an alternative means of employment. During slow times or strikes, they returned to their farms to wait out the temporary disruptions. They were not inclined to join the unions.[306]

The UMWA had little luck organizing in southern West Virginia or using strikes effectively. A nationwide strike in 1897 met with some success in the rest of the country, but not in West Virginia, where miners refused to strike.[307] Miners who associated with unions faced eviction and blacklisting. Organizers were often threatened and beaten.[308] A strike in Kanawha County in 1904 lasted just ten days when coal companies began evicting strikers from company houses.[309] The coal companies, fearful of possible union inroads, turned more and more to the Baldwin-Felts agency for help. By 1910 nearly every company town in Southern West Virginia was using Baldwin-Felts guards.[310]

Paint Creek-Cabin Creek Strike - 1912

In April 1912 thousands of miners in the Paint Creek district, both union and non-union, walked out over a contract dispute. Another 7,500 non-union miners on Cabin Creek, Kanawha and Fayette counties, joined them. The coal operators withdrew recognition of the UMWA, imported strikebreakers from New York and the South, and brought in 300 Baldwin-Felts detectives to break the strike.[311]

The Baldwin-Felts guards were expecting a war. They built iron and concrete forts, equipped with machine guns, throughout the strike districts. They then began evicting the striking miners from their company houses. In the process they destroyed $40,000 worth of the miners' furniture. The miners had set up tent colonies at Holly Grove and Eskdale. The guards harassed the strikers there, often preventing them from leaving and stopped them from using company bridges. There were instances where the guards killed individual striking miners. On June 5, they launched a surprise attack on one of the tent colonies, wounding several people. They would also fire into the tent colonies from the hills every few days.[312]

At one point in the strike, the mine guards created a train, called the "Bull Moose Special," which they equipped with iron-plate siding and machine guns. At night, with its lights turned out, they drove the train through the valleys, machine-gunning the people in the tent colonies on the sides of hills.[313] The women residents of the company towns, prevented it from making a return trip, by tearing up the railroad tracks.[314]

The miners sought help from the officials of the UMWA, but found them reluctant to help, even in arranging meetings. They found the Socialist party more receptive. The Socialists not only supplied speakers and helped organize meetings, but also began bootlegging guns into the region, while conducting a national information campaign, smuggling information and pictures out, then publishing the information in their newspapers.[315]

The miners began to transform their organization into a military operation. Many miners joined the National Rifle Association in order to obtain government surplus guns at low prices. They also created squads of "minutemen," who were willing to go where strikers were threatened. They also began attacking Baldwin-Felts guards, often by sniping at individual guards from the hills. They also engaged in large-scale attacks. In one instance, they surrounded a camp of guards during the night, then opened fire as they prepared breakfast in the morning. Thirteen to fifteen of the guards were killed. In response to the "Bull Moose Special" incident, the miners ambushed a company of mine guards at Mucklow. Sixteen people were killed in the fighting, which lasted several hours. The exact number of dead from all the fighting was unknown, but one observer placed the figure for mine guard deaths at 150.[316]

Some of the violence involved attacks on the mines and trains. The tipples of operating mines, used to load rail cars, were blown up. Trains carrying coal mined by scabs were also blown up. The strikers stopped trains carrying scabs into the strike zone and forced the scabs to leave.[317]

Toward the end of 1912, the governor of West Virginia declared martial law and sent the state militia into the strike zone. They immediately arrested 200 striking miners and their leaders without warrants. They were detained in makeshift jails, called bullpens. The soldiers then established military tribunals and court-martialed over one hundred civilian miners.[318])

The military occupation of Paint and Cabin creeks during the winter of 1912 and 1913 stopped the conflict temporarily. The newly elected governor of West Virginia, Henry D. Hatfield, recognized that martial law was only a temporary solution, and persuaded the UMWA to agree to a compromise settlement in April 1913. The mine operators agreed. The rank-and-file hated both the settlement and the actions of their district union officials.[319] The presence of the soldiers prevented the miners from acting and most returned to work.[320]

The governor might have been free to continue the occupation, until he sent state militia into Charleston and Huntington to arrest the editors of two Socialist newspapers, and to smash their presses. It was enough to cause the U.S. Senate to pass an investigative resolution, followed by a Senate investigation of conditions in the coal fields.[321] The miners, following the ratification of the settlement, renewed the conflict, staging wildcat strikes, fought pitched battles with mine guards, dynamited mines, and burned tipples. The locals conducted their own conventions and warned of a renewal of the strike if their demands were ignored. Knowing that the governor would be reluctant to act while Congress was investigating, the operators quickly agreed to the miners' original demands, including a recognition of the union. The strike was over.[322]

World War I - Labor Stalemate in the West Virginia Fields

World War I brought a reduction in the tensions between the miners and mine operators, at least on the surface. Both the mine operators and the UMWA emphasized the patriotic nature of the war effort and the need to produce coal. The miners responded by increasing production, setting records for output in 1917. Their accident rate also increased. In 1918 mine explosions and accidents caused 404 deaths among West Virginia miners.[323]

The wartime demand for coal caused an increase in prices, and the demand for West Virginia coal, in particular, went from under a dollar per ton before America entered the war, to over four dollars, once it was involved. In Raleigh county the price of coal had been $1.00 per ton in 1915 and went to $4.96 per ton in 1917. The increase nationwide caught the attention of the federal government. Concerned about wartime profiteering, Congress passed the Lever Act, which created the Fuel Administration, which was given control over the price and distribution of coal. It played a somewhat neutral party, when it came to the UMWA and the operators, and came up with the Washington Agreement. Under the agreement, the miners got an increase in wages, in return for an agreement not to strike for the duration of the war.[324]

Fearing that the government might confiscate the mines or coal supplies, the operators were relieved to find the Fuel Administration less authoritarian. However, they quickly came to resent what, to them, was a pro-union attitude. It forced the coal companies to actually pay the wage increases of the Washington Agreement and sought the enforcement of mining laws designed to protect miners. Its labor bureau also ordered the coal companies in southern West Virginia to allow the miners to organize.[325] As a result union membership jumped. District 17, in January 1, 1917 had started with a membership of 7,000, went to 17,000 within a few months, and by the end of the war was over 50,000.[326]

The operators were just as angry about the enforcement of price controls on coal as they were about union treatment. They felt they should be allowed to charge whatever prices they could get and ship the coal wherever they pleased. They demanded to be exempted from wartime controls. The chairman of the Council of National Defense found that they had delayed shipping coal out of the state, hoping for an increase in coal prices. They went so far as to ask the U.S. Navy to purchase coal from Utah and British Columbia instead of West Virginia.[327]

The coal companies, failing to obtain exemptions from the controls, simply ignored them. Eventually fifty-two coal companies and their officials, in the southern West Virginia region would be indicted by the Justice Department for "profiteering" in the sale of coal during the war. A number of the coal companies refused to grant the wage increase of the Washington Agreement. Others granted the wage increase, but raised prices at the company store to offset it.[328]

West Virginia - 1919-1921

While the War continued, the miners endured anti-union laws and efforts by the state and the operators to contain their influence. From 1919 on, their frustrations led to more active opposition. The number of wildcat strikes increased. In one coal field alone, there were sixty-three work stoppages in eleven months. Where the owners had been able to threaten organizers and prevent meetings, the miners began openly retaliating. When one hundred miners met at Roderfield, in McDowell County, to form a local, they posted sentries, armed with high-powered rifles, to guard their meeting. When the county sheriff and a squad of Baldwin-Felts guards arrived to break up the meeting, their arrival set off a gun battle in which four were killed and four wounded.[329]

In September 1919 miners in the New River field defied a federal injunction and walked out. After the operators began discharging, evicting, and blacklisting miners, fifty miners in Glen White took control of a mine, drove out the mine guards and strikebreakers and then destroyed the company's mining equipment. At Willis Branch miners broke into buildings, smashed equipment, and cut power lines. The company had the equipment repaired and resumed operations with a reinforced Baldwin-Felts guard contingent. In May 1920, dozens of miners with high-powered rifles invaded Willis Branch, drove out the guards, saturated the tipple with gasoline and destroyed it, forcing the plant to temporarily close. When the plant reopened, the company brought in more Baldwin-Felts guards. In August the guards attacked local independent merchants who had been supplying the striking miners with food and guns. The miners struck back, shooting guards on sight. Once again they attacked the mine, this time dynamiting the hoist house, power house, company store, and the houses of the company officials. The Willis Branch Coal Company decided to finally close the mine.[330]

In November 1919 rumors circulated among the miners in Kanawha County that union organizers sent into Logan County were being beaten and murdered, along with miners who joined the UMWA. Whether there was an organized or spontaneous response, the miners assembled an armed force of between 3,000 and 5,000 just outside of Charleston, ready to march into Logan County to eliminate the mine-guard system. Governor Cornwell and Frank Keeney, President of District 17 of the UMWA, personally met with the miners and persuaded them to disburse and go home.[331]

The Matewan Massacre - May 19, 1920

In January 1920, following the settlement of a national strike, the UMW decided to organize Mingo County. The response of the owners was to fire miners who joined the union and bring in Baldwin-Felts detectives to evict union families from company homes.[332] Albert Felts, the field manager of the detective agency, vowed to break the strike "if it puts one hundred men in jail and costs a million dollars." He had wanted to place machine guns in Matewan, but was refused by the police chief, Sid Hatfield.[333]

The Stone Mountain mine was forced to close after all its miners joined the union and were fired. At the Red Jacket mine, five hundred miners were fired. The evictions resulted in so many homeless that the union rented land and opened tent colonies to house those evicted.[334]

On May 19, 1920 thirteen Baldwin-Felts detectives, including Albert Felts and Lee Felts, brothers of the founder of the agency, arrived in Matewan on the noon train. In the afternoon, they were driven to the Stone Mountain Coal Company, where they were to evict the families of striking miners. Sid Hatfield and the Matewan mayor, C.C. Testerman, briefly confronted the Baldwin-Felts detective over the evictions, then left. Around four o'clock the detectives returned to town. They had evicted six families, although the rumors among the miners made them appear far worse. Just before five they headed for the train to leave town and were confronted by Sid Hatfield, who told them he had warrants for their arrest. Albert Felts countered saying he had an arrest warrant for Sid. Mayor Testerman arrived and said the Felt's warrant was bogus.[335]

There was temporary standoff, and then a shot was fired. No one knew who fired the shot. Both Albert Felts and the mayor fell, Felts shot in the head, Testerman shot in the stomach. Sid Hatfield began firing, along with a number of miners. By the time the battle was over, seven of the Baldwin-Felts detectives had been killed, including Albert and Lee Felts, along with two miners, and Mayor Testerman. Five others had been wounded.[336]

Sid, along with twenty-two miners, would be indicted for the murders of the detectives.[337] In January 1921, the trial began, just for the murder of Albert Felts.[338] In March 1921, the defendants were acquitted.[339]

Sid would later be charged with shooting up a small coal camp in McDowell County. On August 1, 1921, while he and Ed Chambers, a hardware store owner, were climbing the steps of the Welch County Courthouse, Baldwin-Felts detectives shot and killed Hatfield and Chambers.[340] Charlie Lively, a former bookkeeper for the union, acting as an undercover agent for the Baldwin-Felts agency, who had organized the killings, was tried for the murders in December 1922, but was acquitted.[341]

Between October and November 1920, miners attacked, beat, and sometimes killed mine guards and strikebreakers at mines such as Matewan, Thacker, Vulcan, War Eagle, Nolan, and Rose Siding. The miners placed material across the tracks of the mine cars, then ambushed the strikebreakers when the drivers stopped to remove the obstacles. The strikers also blocked and shot up trains bringing strikebreakers into the county. From November 1920 until May 1921, the strikers destroyed property at various mines. On November 7, the tipple at Rose Siding was blown up and on November 10 the railroad tipple at Thacker was dynamited, as well as the drum house at Ajax. The head house at War Eagle was dynamited on May 19, 1921.[342]

When state police were sent into Mingo County to keep the mines open, they became the target of strikers. At least three policemen at Vulcan and Nolan were shot and killed. There were gun battles between the striking miners against the mine guards and state police. Several of the battles lasted for hours and resulted in numerous deaths. [343]

On May 12, 1920, what would be known as the "Three Days Battle" began around the White Star Mining Company at Merrimac. The strikers had tried to halt operations by blowing up the company's power plant. The plant was repaired and operations were resumed. On May 12, the miners gathered in the hills above the town, cut down the telegraph and telephone lines, and then opened fire on the town. They fired on everything in the town - its buildings, its mines, and its inhabitants, including company officials and strikebreakers. By the time mine guards, state police, and deputy sheriffs arrived to defend Merimac, the miner force had grown in size and moved up the Tug River to attack the towns of Blackberry City, Alden, Sprigg, New Howard, Rawl, and the Kentucky town of McCarr.[344] Nonunion miners on the Kentucky side began firing back, joined by deputies firing machine guns.[345]

One passenger train coming up the river came under fire from sharpshooters stationed on the mountains on either side. Passengers screamed and threw themselves on the floor hoping to escape the bullets hitting around them. The train flew threw a scheduled stop, only stopping once it reached the Hatfield tunnel.[346] When the battle finally ended, at least twenty men had been killed.[347]

The March on Logan - The Battle of Blair Mountain

Following the killing of Sid Hatfield on August 1, 1921, miners began planning a protest march on Logan County. Angered by the governor's refusal to lift martial law in Mingo County, they intended to march through Logan County, then move into Mingo County. The "citizens' army" of union members began assembling on August 20, at Lens Creek, about ten miles south of Charleston. On March 24th, many were waiting for some official word to begin marching, but when none came, small groups began moving up the ridge. When they reached the top a few continued over the ridge into Boone County. Others followed.[348]

The original group which assembled at Lens Creek was estimated at 4,000. As others joined, it is believed that the size of the force increased to between 15,000 and 20,000.[349] Many walked, but some rode on a commandeered train engine and flatcars.[350]

Logan County was fifty miles south of Lens Creek, but the miners had to cross the county to get to Mingo. Don Chafin, the sheriff of Logan County, had organized a force of volunteers, supported by a fleet of privately owned cars and an air force of three biplanes. The volunteer army set up defensive positions on a ten-mile line from Crooked Creek to Blair Mountain, digging trenches, felling trees, blocking roads, and building breastworks of boulders, dirt, and logs. West Virginia Governor Ephraim Morgan kept in contact with Chafin and his planning, but told him not to attack the miners' army.[351] Morgan may have been counting on Federal military intervention to stop the fighting. The federal response was less than enthusiastic. Major C. F. Thompson, sent to monitor the situation, reported that it was not serious enough to require federal troops. Nevertheless, the Secretary of War, ordered Brigadier Harry H. Bandholz to go to Charleston.[352]

Bandholz proved to be enough to deal with the immediate threat. Without bringing in troops, he convinced union officials that, if he did declare martial law, they would be responsible. Fred Mooney, secretary of UMW District 17, and Frank Keeney, the District's President decided to call off the march.[353] Traveling to the town of Madison, both spoke to a group of miners assembled at the Madison ballpark, they appealed both to their patriotism and to the realities of fighting the U.S. Army. They were promised trains to take them home. It was enough to convince the miners to abandon the march and go home.[354]

Not all the miners were convinced. At the town of Clothier, one group commandeered a train, and began picking up miners, as it headed for Blair.[355] Aware of the conflicting reports, Bundholz traveled to the town of Racine, met with miners there, and convinced many to return home.[356]

Bundholz' appeal might have ended the confrontation. However, Captain J.R. Brockus, and the acting state adjutant general, Major Thomas B. Davis, decided to send a contingent of state police to arrest miners who, the state police felt had humiliated them in early August by stopping their car, disarming them, and forcing them to flee. Some seventy troopers, augmented by a force of some two hundred deputies from Chafin's army became involved in a confrontation near the mining camp of Sharples, leaving three miners dead. Brockus ordered his troopers to turn back.[357]

Rumors of what had happened magnified the confrontation, re-igniting the fight. Even miners who had returned home, began heading back to Blair Mountain. Trains and automobiles were commandeered to carry the miners to Blair Mountain.[358] This time President Harding acted. On August 30th, he placed the state of West Virginia under martial law.[359] The miners were given less than forty-eight hours to disband - September 1, 1921.[360]

Fighting between the miners and Chafin's defending army began on August 31, 1921. Although the battle would be named for Blair Mountain, Blair Mountain was one part of Spruce Fork Ridge. The front extended for ten miles along the Ridge. Although there was a large amount of shooting, with the sound of machine gun fire often heard, both sides believed they were inflicting heavier losses than the actual number of casualties. Some of the attackers would fire into wooded areas generally without aiming at anything in particular. After nightfall, both sides apparently fired into the darkness just to see the flames come out of their gun barrels.[361] Don Chafin's three-biplane air force, dropped bombs on the lines of the miners, some of which exploded, but didn't cause any injuries or fatalities.[362]

The fighting had started on Wednesday, August 31 and ended on Saturday evening, September 3rd. The exact number of casualties were unknown, although the total appeared to be about sixteen, twelve among the miners. [363] The official, or unofficial, reason for the end of the fighting was the reluctance of the union members to fight the U.S. Army.[364] Perhaps there was a recognition that facing a trained professional army was several steps above the fighting level they were facing in fighting an army of volunteers. The miners had been reluctant to make a direct assault against the entrenched positions of Don Chafin's army, retreating behind the safety of walls or trenches when coming under fire, so perhaps the arrival of the regular army was the excuse they were looking for to call off the battle.[365] (In view of the casualties involved in such attacks, during the battles of the Civil War and World War I, it may have meant that some tactical lessons about modern warfare were being absorbed.)

Although the federal troops were prepared to fight, they were actually not ordered to engage militarily. President Harding had signed a second proclamation establishing martial law in the region, however, he left it to the discretion of General Bandholz to implement it, and only if it became necessary. Bandholz would decide that the situation was sufficiently under control to avoid the full application of military law.[366]

The number of federal troops sent was relatively small - 2,500, although they were equipped for heavy fighting, with machine guns and howitzers. The force had also been augmented with fourteen bombing planes. They were primarily used for reconnaissance. In fact, General Bandholz ordered them not to drop any bombs or fire any machine guns.[367] While they would make a half dozen or so reconnaissance flights over the fighting zone, they carried no ammunition or bombs. Although they received some damage when miners fired at them, they mostly sat at the Kanawha City field, perhaps better serving the Army as a public relations tool than as a fighting force. Charlestonians flocked to see them, bringing the pilots cigars, cigarettes and pails of ice cream.[368] Perhaps General Bandholz and his staff hoped their presence might place the Army in a positive light - the troops would not be seen as an invading army.

The Treason Trials

Almost as soon as the fighting stopped, special and regular grand juries in Logan County were convened. During September and October of 1921 they returned 1,217 indictments for complicity in the insurrection, which included 325 murder charges and 24 indictments for treason against the state of West Virginia. Hundreds of union miners were jailed.[369] Boone County grand juries also returned indictments.[370]

Within the community of mine operators in West Virginia there may have been the belief that getting the state judicial system involved through formal trials would provide legitimate proof that the miners had been revolutionaries and murderers from the start. That argument did not play well nationally, especially after it was disclosed that the coal companies were financing the treason trials and providing the prosecutors. The Nation claimed that the charges had been trumped up to discredit, or bankrupt, the UMWA. West Virginia looked like some kind of backwater 'middle-ages' state which was stuck in a stage of "industrial feudalism."[371]

Backward or not, there were some officials within the federal government who held the same view of the miners as the mine operators - the miners had been part of an insurrection against the U.S - and should be prosecuted. The Secretary of War, J. M. Wainwright, recommended that at least some of the leaders should be prosecuted. However, the Justice Department put off any decision and, ultimately, declined to take action at the federal level. President Harding himself, in March 1922, was opposed to federal prosecution, and, while some officials may have still favored action, others were willing to go along and drop the charges.[372]

The West Virginia judicial system proved a disappointment for the mine operators. Only one of the miners, Walter Allen, was convicted of treason. Sentenced to ten years in prison, he jumped bail, while the case was on appeal, and was never seen again. Billy Blizzard, one of the more prominent union spokesmen, was found not guilty by a jury after a thirty-day trial in April and May of 1922. Perhaps sensing the anti-union bias in the counties where the charges were brought, many of the trials were moved to other counties. Frank Keeney, the UMWA president of District 17, went on trial in 1922, but was granted a change of venue on grounds of prejudice. The trial eventually wound up in Fayette County, a pro-miner county, where the charges were dismissed. When the final cases were transferred to Fayette County, the operators directed their attorneys to dismiss all remaining indictments. [373]

Post World War I labor struggles

The war effort, the need to maintain industrial output, and even the absence of those serving in the military, had served to reduce labor conflict, or at least keep it under control. At the same time, the country had to transition from a war to a peacetime economy, which meant reduced demand for products, a falloff in factory output, and eventually layoffs. March 1919 would see 175 major strikes, followed in April by 248, increased to 303 in June, increase still further in July, to 360, followed by another increase in August, to 373. [374] The migration of African-Americans from the south for job opportunities in the north added another element. Race riots in East St. Louis in 1917 and Chicago and other cities, in 1919 were an indication of rising tension - and of things to come.[375] In the Washington, D.C. rioting which began in July, left at least five blacks and ten whites dead. In Chicago, thirteen days of street fighting left 23 blacks and 15 whites dead, 537 injured, and 1,000 black families homeless.[376]

Seattle saw the beginnings of a conflict, at the end of 1918, when shipbuilders' unions demanded increased wages for unskilled workers at government-run shipyards. Mixed in with these demands was opposition to foreign involvement in the conflict in Russia. On January 12, 1919, police attacked a downtown rally, clubbing participants and making numerous arrests. Police attacked demonstrators again during a protest on January 16. In response some thirty-five thousand workers walked off the docks on January 21, followed by an even bigger demonstration on February 6, when an estimated sixty thousand Seattle laborers, halted work. [377]

About one thousand Federal troops from nearby Fort Lewis were brought in, and Seattle's mayor, Ole Hanson, swore in more than two thousand 'special deputies' including students from the University of Washington. Thirty-nine Wobblies were arrested during raids at selected 'radical' offices in the city. [378] The Seattle Central Labor Council, not willing to engage in a protracted struggle, called off the strike after about a week. [379]

In September the Boston police voted - 1,134 to 2 to strike. On September 9, most of the 1,500 member force walked off the job. Boston police commissioner Edwin Curtis, with the backing of Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge, refused to negotiate, locked out the strikers, and hired replacements. [380]

Steelworkers went on strike on September 22, 1919, when 350,000 workers, in nine different states, walked off the job. The chairman of U.S. Steel, Judge Elbert H. Gary, refused to negotiate. Gary was able to enlist the support of both state and federal officials. Eighteen strikers were killed during the course of the strike. Both National Guard and federal troops were involved in the occupation of Gary, Indiana. The strike collapsed in January 1920 and the workers went back to work without having won any concessions.[381]

The United Mine Workers struck on November 1, when 500,000 coal miners stopped work. A federal court in Indiana issued an injunction against the union and most of the strikers went back to work. Ironically, they may have fared better than union workers in other industries, since the government suggested a wage increase of 14 cents and established an arbitration council to review claims. [382]

1925 to 1950 - Reluctant Acceptance

A period of relative calm followed the unrest of the early 1920s. Part of it might be explained by the Great Depression, which reduced the number of employed, increased the competition for available jobs, and perhaps made workers reluctant to challenge employers over wages or working conditions. Yet, in 1934 three cities - Toledo, Minneapolis, and San Francisco - had to deal with major labor unrest.

Electric Auto-Lite, in Toledo, Ohio, manufactured automobile parts, and was one of the nation's largest. In April 1934 it was struck by an AFL union. Since only about half its work force had joined the strike it managed to maintain production with those who stayed. Nevertheless, it found its plant under siege from a large group of protesters. On the surface, the turmoil seemed related to wages or working conditions in the plant, but the protesters may have targeted the company for grievances and frustrations beyond employment, and many of those involved may have been local residents with no connection to the company. Two of the protesters would be killed when national guard troops opened fire, but the troops may have been facing a mob situation which was growing out of control. Protesters, at one point had been able to maneuver a wagonload of bricks close enough to the factory building to be used as an ammunition source. They then began using the bricks to break windows. The company had obtained an injunction to restrict picketing, but found it difficult to enforce, when the size of the protest crowds reached as high as six thousand. At one point, the crowd stormed the factory three times, got into hand-to-hand fighting with deputies, and overturned and burned cars.[383]

After two days of fighting, the company closed the plant, to wait until tensions subsided. When it did reopen, Electric Auto-Lite had recognized the AFL local and granted a slight wage increase.[384]

San Francisco in 1934, may have been similar to Seattle in 1919, in that both were port cities, however, San Francisco's conflict revolved around longshoremen, workers who loaded and unloaded ships, while Seattle's had started with shipyard workers, federal employees, and gained support from other labor groups sympathetic to, but not directly involved in the dispute. The local police were heavily involved in both disputes. In Seattle, support among labor groups had involved a broad coalition of labor unions, whereas in San Francisco, the longshoremen found their strongest support from another union organization involved in transport, the Teamsters.

In the spring of 1934, members of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA), dissatisfied with a proposed agreement and walked out. San Francisco was the center of the strike, although longshoremen in most of the West Coast cities, including Seattle and San Diego, went out in support of the strike. The Teamsters in San Francisco joined in support of the ILA and refused to haul any goods to or from the docks.[385]

The Industrial Association of San Francisco, the business organization representing owners, in July tried to break the strike, with convoys of trucks carrying goods for loading on ships. The police escorts were insufficient to protect the trucks, which were seized by strikers and had their cargo dumped. The attacks turned into a general melee, with the police using tear gas and vomiting gas, as well as fire hoses, to stop the rioting. The strikers answered by throwing bricks, stones, and railroad spikes. Two strikers were killed and dozens of the police and strikers were injured. National Guard troops were called in. California officials requested federal troops but their requests were turned down. The strike became a general strike in the San Francisco area, however, it collapsed after four days and both sides agreed to mediation.[386]

The conflict in Minneapolis in 1934 involved a confrontation between Teamsters Local 574 and the local affiliate of the Citizens Alliance, a national employers association. In some ways the Minneapolis Citizens Alliance became somewhat obsessed with the Teamster's attempts to organize and its determination to keep Minneapolis a closed shop. It established a strike headquarters and asked for volunteers to serve in an antistrike army.

The strike began on May 12, 1934. The local was able to prevent most goods from moving into the city and sympathy strikes succeeded in shutting much of the city down. Nevertheless, there was a relative calm until an alliance spy sent picketers into an ambush, later dubbed Newspaper Alley, because it took place behind the Minneapolis Tribune building, where they were attacked by police and members of the volunteer vigilante force. In retaliation, the strikers planned their own attack and on May 21, managed to separate the volunteers from the protection of the police and then attacked them with baseball bats and improvised weapons. They then attacked the police, sending two dozen to the hospital.[387]

The strike took a deadly turn the next day when the fighting led to the death of C. Arthur Lyman, counsel for the Citizens Alliance, who received a fractured skull. A deputy also died in the fighting. The police waited until July 20 to retaliate. Escorting a truck into the market, they waited until the strikers blocked the truck, then emerged with shotguns and fired at the strikers, wounding seventy people, two of whom later died.[388]

Minnesota governor Floyd Olson did use the National Guard to disperse a protest march but also moved directly against the strike leaders on both sides. First, he ordered a surprise 4 a.m. raid on the Teamsters headquarters, taking dozens of members into custody and holding them in a stockade at the state fairgrounds in St. Paul. They were soon released and allowed to return to their strike hall. In addition, Olson ordered the headquarters of the Citizens Alliance raided. The strike ended in August after employers agreed to allow employees to vote on union representation.[389]

Almost at the end of 1936, December 30, workers at a Flint, Michigan auto plant of General Motors began a sit-down strike of the plant. Rather than leaving the plant and picketing outside the plant, they stayed at the assembly line and stopped working. On January 11, police tried to end the strike by firing tear gas into the building. Driven back, they wounded thirteen picketers when they fired revolvers into a crowd during a second attempt to enter the building. On February 1, strikers took over another building. Despite the threat of injunctions, strikers managed to hold out until February 11, when GM agreed to a six-month truce. While the United Auto Workers (UMW) did not gain all of its demands, the agreement signaled a change in labor relations.[390]

A change of management at U.S. Steel, the descendant of Carnegie's steel organization, brought a more conciliatory attitude toward labor. On March 2, 1937, U.S. Steel recognized the Steel Workers Organizing Committee (SWOC), announced a 5 percent wage hike, and agree to an eight-hour day and a forty-hour week.[391] Not all steelmakers were as willing to negotiate. Some of the smaller steel companies, such as Republic Steel, resisted. On May 30, 1937, strikers attending a Sunday afternoon rally on the south side of Chicago. They began a march on the Republic Steel plant. Whether rocks were thrown at waiting police or the crowd got too close, the police began chasing the protesters, both shooting and beating the strikers. At the end of the day, ten marchers were dead or dying and more than one hundred wounded.[392]

In May 1941, Henry Ford, the founder of the Ford Motor Company, agreed to cooperate with the United Auto Workers, after earlier vowing to resist unionization at the company.[393] On May 26, 1937, Ford's "Service Department" employees received national attention when they were photographed attacking and beating UAW protesters. The employees even grabbed cameras and film to prevent distribution. One cameraman escaped with his film.[394]

Henry Ford's son, Edsel, represented a change in management, similar to that of U.S. Steel. Rather than engage in a costly struggle, he simply accepted unions as an element of modern industrial relations.[395]


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(219) Dray, ibid, pp. 355-356.
(220) Dray, ibid, p. 355.
(221) Dray, ibid, p. 357.
(222) Dray, ibid, pp. 357-358.
(223) Munsell, op.cit., p. 146.
(224) Mark Lause, "The Great Cowboy Strike: Bullets, Ballots & Class Conflicts in the American West," (Brooklyn:Verso, 2017), p. 235.
(225) Lause, ibid, pp. 236-239.
(226) Munsell, op.cit., p. 146.
(227) Dray, op.cit., p. 336.
(228) Munsell, op.cit., p. 171.
(229) Stephen M. Voynick, "Leadville: A Miner's Epic," (Missoula, MT:Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1992), p. 21.
(230) Munsell, op.cit., p. 14.
(231) Munsell, ibid, p. 15.
(232) Munsell, ibid, p. 13.
(233) Munsell, ibid, p. 15.
(234) Munsell, ibid, p. 18.
(235) Munsell, ibid, p. 20.
(236) Munsell, ibid, p. 16.
(237) Munsell, ibid, p. 16.
(238) Munsell, ibid, p. 17.
(239) Munsell, ibid, p. 25.
(240) Munsell, ibid, p. 21.
(241) Munsell, ibid, pp. 21-22.
(242) Munsell, ibid, p. 23.
(243) Munsell, ibid, p. 33.
(244) Munsell, ibid, p. 50.
(245) Munsell, ibid, p. 57.
(246) Munsell, ibid, p. 63.
(247) Munsell, ibid, p. 64.
(248) Munsell, ibid, p. 82.
(249) Munsell, ibid, p. 88.
(250) Munsell, ibid, p. 89.
(251) Munsell, ibid, p. 92.
(252) Munsell, ibid, pp. 93-94.
(253) Munsell, ibid, p. 97.
(254) Munsell, ibid, p. 142.
(255) Munsell, ibid, p. 143.
(256) Munsell, ibid, p. 143.
(257) Munsell, ibid, p. 145.
(258) Munsell, ibid, p. 147.
(259) Munsell, ibid, p. 148.
(260) Munsell, ibid, p. 161.
(261) Munsell, ibid, p. 163.
(262) Munsell, ibid, p. 169.
(263) Munsell, ibid, p. 170.
(264) Munsell, ibid, pp. 171-175.
(265) Munsell, ibid, p. 177.
(266) Munsell, ibid, p. 178.
(267) Munsell, ibid, p. 179.
(268) Munsell, ibid, p. 183.
(269) Munsell, ibid, p. 92.
(270) Munsell, ibid, p. 174.
(271) Munsell, ibid, p. 215.
(272) Munsell, ibid, p. 227.
(273) Munsell, ibid, pp. 227-228.
(274) Munsell, ibid, pp. 238-243.
(275) Munsell, ibid, pp. 244-247.
(276) Munsell, ibid, p. 246.
(277) Munsell, ibid, p. 258.
(278) Munsell, ibid, p. 259.
(279) Munsell, ibid, p. 261.
(280) Munsell, ibid, p. 269.
(281) Munsell, ibid, p. 269.
(282) Munsell, ibid, p. 269.
(283) Munsell, ibid, pp. 272-273.
(284) Munsell, ibid, p. 273.
(285) Munsell, ibid, p. 274.
(286) Munsell, ibid, p. 273.
(287) Munsell, ibid, p. 278.
(288) Munsell, ibid, p. 315.
(289) David Alan Corbin, ed., "Gun Thugs, Rednecks, and Radicals: A Dcoumentary History of the West Virginia Mine Wars," (Oakland, CA:Pm Press, 2011), p. 30.
(290) Robert Michael Smith, "From Blackjacks to Briefcases: A History of Commercialized Strikebreaking and Unionbusting in the United Statew," (Athens, OH:Ohio University Press, 2003), pp.20-21.
(291) Smith, ibid, p. 22.
(292) David A. Corbin, "Life, Work, And Rebellion in the Coal Fields: The Southern West Virginia Miners 1880-1922," (Morgantown, WV:West Virginia University Press, 2015), pp. 1-2.
(293) David A. Corbin, ibid, p. 2.
(294) Corbin, ibid, p. 2.
(295) Corbin, ibid, p. 5.
(296) Corbin, ibid, p. 4.
(297) Corbin, ibid, p. 4.
(298) Corbin, ibid, p. 5.
(299) Corbin, ibid, p. 5.
(300) Corbin, ibid, pp. 6-7.
(301) Corbin, ibid, p. 8.
(302) Corbin, ibid, p. 10.
(303) Corbin, ibid, pp. 27-28.
(304) Corbin, ibid, p. 30.
(305) Corbin, ibid, p. 8.
(306) Corbin, ibid, p. 27.
(307) Corbin, ibid, p. 45.
(308) Corbin, ibid, p. 47.
(309) Corbin, ibid, p. 49.
(310) Corbin, ibid, p. 50.
(311) Corbin, ibid, p. 87.
(312) Corbin, ibid, p. 88.
(313) Corbin, ibid, p. 88.
(314) Corbin, ibid, p. 92.
(315) Corbin, ibid, pp. 89-90.
(316) Corbin, ibid, p. 90.
(317) Corbin, ibid, p. 91.
(318) Corbin, ibid, p. 96.
(319) Corbin, ibid, pp. 96-97.
(320) Corbin, ibid, p. 98.
(321) Corbin, ibid, pp. 98-99.
(322) Corbin, ibid, p. 99.
(323) Corbin, ibid, p. 181.
(324) Corbin, ibid, p. 183.
(325) Corbin, ibid, pp. 183-184.
(326) Corbin, ibid, p. 184.
(327) Corbin, ibid, p. 184.
(328) Corbin, ibid, p. 185.
(329) Corbin, ibid, p. 196.
(330) Corbin, ibid, pp. 198-199.
(331) Corbin, ibid, pp. 199-200.
(332) Lon Savage, "Thunder in the Mountains: The West Virginia Mine War, 1920-21," (Pittsburgh, PA:Universty of Pittsburgh Press, 1990), pp. 14-16.
(333) Savage, ibid, p. 16.
(334) Savage, ibid, p. 18.
(335) Savage, ibid, pp. 21-22.
(336) Savage, ibid, p. 24.
(337) Savage, ibid, p. 30.
(338) Corbin, "Life, Work, And Rebellion in the Coal Fields," op.cit., p. 215.
(339) Savage, op.cit., p. 49.
(340) Corbin, "Life, Work, And Rebellion in the Coal Fields," op.cit., p. 217.
(341) Savage, op.cit., p. 167.
(342) Corbin, "Life, Work, And Rebellion in the Coal Fields," op.cit., p. 203.
(343) Corbin, ibid, pp. 203-204.
(344) Corbin, ibid, p. 205.
(345) Savage, op.cit., p. 51.
(346) Savage, ibid, p. 52.
(347) Corbin, "Life, Work, And Rebellion in the Coal Fields," op.cit., p. 205.
(348) Savage, op.cit., pp. 76-77.
(349) Corbin, "Life, Work, And Rebellion in the Coal Fields," op.cit., p. 219.
(350) Savage, op.cit., p. 80.
(351) Savage, ibid, pp. 82-83.
(352) Savage, ibid, p. 85.
(353) Savage, ibid, p. 87.
(354) Savage, ibid, p. 89.
(355) Savage, ibid, p. 95.
(356) Savage, ibid, pp. 100-101.
(357) Savage, ibid, p. 105.
(358) Savage, ibid, p. 108.
(359) Corbin, "Life, Work, And Rebellion in the Coal Fields," op.cit., p. 223.
(360) Savage, op.cit., p. 113.
(361) Savage, ibid, p. 128.
(362) Savage, ibid, p. 139.
(363) Savage, ibid, pp. 160-161.
(364) Savage, ibid, p. 148.
(365) Savage, ibid, p. 134.
(366) Savage, ibid, p. 156.
(367) Savage, ibid, p. 149.
(368) Savage, ibid, p. 146.
(369) Savage, ibid, p. 165.
(370) Corbin, "Life, Work, And Rebellion in the Coal Fields," op.cit., p. 237.
(371) Corbin, ibid, pp. 237-238.
(372) Corbin, ibid, pp. 239-240.
(373) Savage, op.cit., p. 165.
(374) Dray, op.cit., p. 368.
(375) Dray, ibid, p. 369.
(376) Ackerman, op.cit., pp. 59-60.
(377) Dray, op.cit., p. 370.
(378) Dray, ibid, p. 371.
(379) Dray, ibid, p. 373.
(380) Dray, ibid, pp. 380-382.
(381) Dray, ibid, pp. 384-387.
(382) Dray, ibid, p. 388.
(383) Dray, ibid, p. 429.
(384) Dray, ibid, p. 429.
(385) Dray, ibid, p. 430.
(386) Dray, ibid, pp. 431-432.
(387) Dray, ibid, p. 436.
(388) Dray, ibid, pp. 437-438.
(389) Dray, ibid, p. 430.
(390) Dray, ibid, pp. 461-466.
(391) Dray, ibid, p. 468.
(392) Dray, ibid, pp. 469-470.
(393) Dray, ibid, p. 484.
(394) Dray, ibid, p. 480.
(395) Dray, ibid, p. 483.