A one-man drill operation
In July 1913, over 7,000 miners struck the C& H Copper Mining Company in Calumet, Michigan. It was largely the usual issues of people who worked for a big company during a time when capitalists operated roughshod over their workers a time when monopolies were a way of life. Strikers’ demands included pay creates, an end to child labor, and safer conditions including an end to one-man drill operations, as well as support beams in the mines( which mine owneds didn’t want because support beams were costly but miners killed in cave-ins do not expense us anything.”)
Italian Hall, Calumet
Six months without work left many miner households with little food for the holidays and no money for presents, so the Ladies’ Auxiliary of the Western Federation of Miners held a Christmas party for the kids. 500 “childrens and” 200 adults indicated up that day, Christmas eve 1913. It was held on the second floor of Calumet’s Italian Hall; the only style in and out was a very steep stairway.
As darkness fell and people began to go home to their family galas, some of the children met around the stage as presents were passed out for many, it would be the only gift they’d receive this year. In the middle of this festive festivity, person possibly more than person or persons opened the door at the bottom of the staircase and screamed, FIRE! “
Chaos ensued. As everybody headed down the stairs to the exit, the door was blocked from the outside, and children and adults were trampled, then suffocated, by the multitude of bodies trying to escape the fire” which didn’t actually exist.
Some of the children who died that day
In all, 73 people, including 59 children, succumbed, most of them Finnish immigrants. The youngest was Rafael Lesar, 2.5 years old. The oldest was Kate Pitteri, 66 years old. Some households lost all of their children, like Frank and Josepa Klarich, who buried their three daughters, Kristina( 11 ), Maria( 9 ), and Katarina( 7 ). Their little crossings are lined up in a row over their tombs in a cemetery west of Calumet.
The culprits who screamed into the hall that day to start the misfortune were never identified, but it’s widely suspected that it was allies of mine management or the owners who did so to disrupt the miners’ party. Nobody was ever prosecuted or even arrested for causing the murder. It is always thus: Those with money and power control the narrative, silence the truth, and thwart justice. Italian Hall was demolished in the 1980 s, but especially during the holiday season, the people of Calumet still talk of that night, 100 years ago, when so many innocents died. What’s left of Italian Hall the archway
Partly because a lot of miners left Calumet behind after this misfortune, the ten-strike didn’t accomplish what the miners wanted. However, it’s deemed to be a turning point for union strength in Michigan’s Copper Country.
In 1941, Woody Guthrie got an idea for a song about the misfortune, which he called 1913 Massacre.” Ella Reeve Mother” Bloor’s eyewitness account in her 1940 volume, We Are Many, ” inspired him. Mother Bloor was a labor organizer who was active in the Western Federation of Miners, the union that represented the people who were on ten-strike in Calumet.
“1 913 Massacre”
Words and music by Woody Guthrie
Take a trip with me in 1913,
To Calumet, Michigan, in the copper country.
I will take you to a place called Italian Hall,
Where the miners are having their big Christmas ball.
I will take you in a doorway and up a high stairs,
Singing and dancing is hear everywhere,
I will let you shake hands with the person or persons you consider,
And watch the kids dance around the big Christmas tree.
You ask about work and you ask about pay,
They’ll tell you they make less than a dollar a day,
Running the copper claims, risking their lives,
So it’s fun to spend Christmas with children and wives.
There’s talking and giggling and songs in the air,
And the spirit of Christmas is there everywhere,
Before you know it you’re friends with us all,
And you’re dancing around and around in the hall.
Well a little girl sits down by the Christmas tree lights,
To play the piano so you gotta keep quiet,
To hear all this fun you would not realize,
That the copper boss’ thug humen are milling outside.
The copper boss’ thugs stuck their heads in the door,
One of them screamed and he called, “there’s a fire, ”
A lady she called, “there’s no such a thing.
Keep on with your party, there’s no such thing.”
A few people hurry and it was only a few,
“It’s only the thugs and the scabs fooling you, ”
A man grabbed his daughter and carried her down,
But the thugs held the door and he could not get out.
And then others followed, a hundred or more,
But most everybody remained on the floor,
The gun thugs they laughed at their murderous joke,
While the children were suffocated on the stairs by the door.
Such a terrible sight I never did consider,
We carried our children back up to their tree,
The scabs outside still laughed at their spree,
And the children that succumbed there were seventy-three.
The piano played a slow funeral tune,
And the town was lighted up by a cold Christmas moon,
The mothers they screamed and the miners they moaned,
“See what your avarice for money has done.”
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