History of the Labor Movement in the United States - Vol. 4

By Philip S. Foner | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 22
The Mesabi Range Strike

THE WORKERS AND THE INDUSTRY

Located in Northeastern Minnesota and lying some 60 miles inland and Northwest of Duluth is the Mesabi Range, the greatest iron-ore mining center in the world. Iron ore was discovered on the Mesabi Range in 1890, and soon thereafter mining began in vast open-pit and underground operations. Soon, too, settlements sprang up in the wilderness surrounding the open-pits and mine shafts, and in time became villages and towns bearing the names of Mt. Iron, McKinley, Biwabik, Virginia, Eveleth, Hibbing, Nashwauk, Keewaitin, and Bovey. Into these early rough, frontier settlements and later into some twenty villages and towns, extending over a distance of so miles, poured an immigrant population of more than 30 nationalities. In the first wave of immigration to the Range came native Americans, English from Cornwall, English, Scotch, Irish and French from Canada, Scandinavians and Finns, as well as some Slovenians, Italians, Bohemians, Poles, and Lithuanians. After 1900, the Slovenians, Croatians, Serbians, Montenegrins, Italians, Bulgarians, Greeks, Poles, and Russians came in great numbers. By 1910, there were at least 35 different nationality groups on the Range of sufficient size to be easily identifiable, while scattered numbers were present from at least ten other nationalities.1

Each nationality group fitted into the mining activity on the Range according to the requirements for labor at the time of arrival. Since early mining activity on the Mesabi was predominantly in underground mines, the earliest arrivals usually secured mine jobs. After 1905, when pit and stripping activities increased, the new arrivals usually found employment in surface operations. Thus, the Carpatho-Russians, Montene. grins, Serbs, Bulgarians, Roumanians, Italians, Galician Poles, Lithuanians and Greeks, who arrived in these years, went into pit and stripping work, while the Finns, Slovenians, Croatians, and Italians, with smaller numbers of Poles, Slovaks, Bohemians, Lithuanians, and Bulgarians,

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