The Michigan Copper Strike of 1913

By Rubyan-Ling, Saronne | History Today, March 1998 | Go to article overview

The Michigan Copper Strike of 1913


Rubyan-Ling, Saronne, History Today


Take a trip with me into 1913 To Calumet, Michigan, in the Copper Country. I'll take you to a place called the Italian Hall Where the miners are having their big Christmas ball. (Woody Guthrie)

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1913, strikers and their families began arriving at the Italian Hall, a two-storey brick building, just over a block from Calumet's fire station. At one end of the building a single set of double doors opened onto a straight flight of stairs to the social rooms on the upper floor. By two o'clock, over 175 adults and 500 children had crowded inside to seek relief from the stresses of the five-month-old miners' strike against the owners of the Calumet & Hecla (C & H) copper mine. They sang carols and the children queued to see Santa Claus, who had modest gifts for each of them. Then, around half past four as the party began to disperse, there was a cry of `Fire!' and the panic-striken families ran desperately for the stairs.

A few escaped, but once one fell, a wall of human bodies dammed the staircase as the terrified people continued to pour down the stairs. Those at the bottom died first, crushed to death by the weight of their brothers, sisters, friends and union comrades. When rescuers arrived, the corpses were so tightly packed that they had to lift them like rubble from the top. A temporary morgue was set up in the village hall and, having been stripped for the coroner's examination, the seventy-four bodies, sixty of them aged between two and sixteen, were laid out, as if sleeping.

By noon the next day, the shell-shocked communities of the Keewenaw peninsula had raised $25,000 for the families, with many opponents of the strike donating to the relief fund. But there was anger as well as grief on the striking miners' side. The president of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM), Charles Moyer, declared that the union would bury its own dead and take no aid from people who so recently had denounced the strikers as `undesirables'. Fifty of the victims were Finns and the local socialist Finnish language paper, Tyomies (`The Worker'), blamed the catastrophe on an unidentified intruder from a company-sponsored vigilante group, the Citizens' Alliance, who had played a cruel hoax but had got out before the crush began. A few union members even suggested that other Alliance men had held the doors, ensuring the lethal crush on the stairs. In the desperate hours immediately after the tragedy, the awful accident was re-interpreted as cold-blooded mass murder.

The reaction of the Citizens' Alliance was direct. An official delegation of five men went to Moyer's hotel room in Hancock that same day. They subsequently claimed that Moyer, with some reservations, agreed to accept Alliance donations to the relief funds and to dampen down the rumours surrounding the recent tragedy. Shortly thereafter, an `unofficial' mob ran the union leader out of town. With a gunshot flesh-wound in his back, Moyer was bundled onto a Chicago-bound train and told firmly that, if he set foot in the region again, he would be lynched. In the short term, the mob's action proved a mistake since it drew national attention to the dispute at a time when the Italian Hall disaster evoked sympathy for the strikers. Cinemas across America showed newsreel footage of the children's mass funerals with captions spreading the rumour that a man wearing a Citizens' Alliance button had triggered the stampede.

Stories about other dramatic incidents within the strike gained circulation. At the head of the funeral cortege in the newsreel had been the striking figure of Annie Clemenc carrying the American flag. Known locally as `Big Annie', Mrs Clemenc was the American-born wife of a Croatian copper miner who worked at the C & H mine. When her husband went on strike in July 1913, Annie joined him on marches as a flag-bearer. Confronted by company-hired `deputies' and cavalry from the Michigan National Guard, `Big Annie' had led the strikers forward. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Michigan Copper Strike of 1913
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.