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This Day in Labor History: April 20, 1914

[ 93 ] April 20, 2012 |

On April 20, 1914, members of the Colorado National Guard, along with a strikbreaking militia employed by the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, a corporation owned by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., opened fire on a tent camp of strikers at Ludlow, in the coal country of southern Colorado, north of Trinidad. At least 19 people died in the tent camp that day, mostly wives and children of the strikers.

Colorado Fuel and Iron was the largest coal company in the American West. The state of Colorado had passed a significant number of laws concerning the regulation of coal mines but CF&I ensured that none of them were enforced. Workers were not paid for such things as traveling into the mines, shoring up the mine ceilings, or fixing tools; meanwhile they died by the hundreds in mine cave-ins and from disease. Workers lived in company towns; that area of southern Colorado is relatively densely populated for the American West, but there wasn’t anything in Ludlow except for the mines so living in non-company housing wasn’t possible. Moreover, those company houses meant that CF&I agents could enter your home at any time, you had to shop at the company store using company scrip, and company thugs ruled the camp with an iron fist, firing anyone associated with unionism.

The United Mine Workers of America had organized the workers in southern Colorado throughout the early 1910s, despite significant repression. The UMWA overcame significant challenges, including the polyglot workforce, which included large numbers of Greeks, Mexicans, and Italians. The Ludlow Massacre was the culmination of a long struggle among coal miners in southern Colorado for basic working and human rights, including an 8-hour day, the right to choose their own homes and doctors, a pay raise, and enforcement of mine safety laws. In 1913, the union presented these and other demands to CF&I. The company rejected it out of hand and the miners went on strike.

Immediately, the company kicked strikers out of company housing, but the union had anticipated this and leased land near the entrances of canyons for tent cities, the location being important so workers could try and stop scab labor from stealing their jobs. But CF&I did manage to replace some of their labor with scabs and hired the notorious Baldwin-Felts Agency to protect the mines and harass the strikers.

Striking family at Ludlow

Tensions mounted quickly. The Baldwin-Felts agents set up snipers to shoot into the camps. They shone spotlights into the camps at night and created an armored car mounted with a machine gun to drive around the tent town and scare strikers. The governor of Colorado, Elias Ammons, came down on the side of CF&I, calling in the National Guard to “restore order” on October 28, 1913 and for the rest of the winter, strikers faced major harassment from the state.

But by the spring, the state had run out of money to fund the National Guard presence so, leaving 2 Guard units in Ludlow as support, it pulled out but gave CF&I permission to fund its own security forces. As bad as the state was, a private army was sure to lead to disaster. Indeed, that’s what happened on April 20.

On that morning, the Monday after Easter, the private army lured strike leader Louis Tikas, a Greek immigrant, out of camp for a spurious reason. They then began to open fire on the camp and a day-long battle raged. The well-armed miners (armed both to protect themselves against the strikebreakers and to protect their jobs from scabs) fought back bravely, but could not match the machine guns of the CF&I forces. That evening, a train conductor stopped his train between the strikers and the private army, allowing most of the residents to escape into the nearby hills. However, Tikas was soon captured by the militia. One of the National Guard commanders, Karl Linderfelt, promptly broke a rifle butt on Tikas’ head; Tikas and two other strikers were later found shot dead. The milita set the camp on fire to destroy it.


That fire killed 15 more people. Fearing the snipers, many camp residents dug cellars underneath the tents to hide. Four women and eleven children, including two infants named Elvira Valdez and Frank Petrucci, went into the cellars during the day. The fire sucked all the oxygen out and they all suffocated to death. It was the death of these 15 innocents that led to the term “Ludlow Massacre.”

The well-armed strikers did not meekly return to work after the Ludlow Massacre. Outraged, they began their own campaign of violence against the militia and scabs. The UMWA openly armed its strikers and a 10-day guerilla war ensued with high casualties on both sides; somewhere between 69 and 199 people died. Miners destroyed mine building and tunnels, and even blew up the dam that provided drinking water for the Ludlow mines. Finally, Woodrow Wilson sent in the U.S. Army to end the hostilities; unlike previous examples of federal intervention in strikes, Wilson ordered neutrality and in fact the Army arrested several militia members. By December however, the UMWA had run out of funds and the strike ended in a total defeat.

Ludlow survivors

Still, the Ludlow Massacre was a public relations disaster for CF&I and for Rockefeller. Rockefeller was vilified in the press for the killing of women and children. He responded to this negative publicity by launching his own “investigation,” flooding the country with pro-coal operator propaganda, etc. It didn’t work. The U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations savaged Rockefeller and the mine operators in their report, noting that the mine owners were hostile to all unionization, referred to the workers as socialists and anarchists and called Rockefeller’s representative in Colorado, L.M. Bowers, “bitter and prejudiced in the extreme, with an adherence to the individualistic economic doctrines of a century ago that was almost grotesque in its intensity.”

Conditions in the mines did not improve rapidly. Strikes plagued the region through the late 1920s. Rockefeller created a company union that allowed for the presentation of grievances, but it was a sham. Eventually, conditions for miners improved, but all you can say about Ludlow is that it was one event that helped move public opinion to a point that the nation moved to allow working-class people to live decent lives. Unfortunately, we are tearing this down in the early 21st century.

Today, the United Mine Workers of America owns the site of the massacre and there’s a nice monument. The original monument was desecrated in 2003 and I haven’t seen the new one. It should be a National Park site though. It would tell a key story in American labor and industrial history and would give a nice tourism boost to southern Colorado. I would also note that it’s interesting to drive on the old mining roads up into the hills to see the old mine ruins and imagine the horrors of the guerrilla war of 1913-14.

And of course, the Ludlow Massacre inspired the greatest labor song in American history.

“It was early springtime and the strike was on.” That’s one of my favorite first lines in music.

Any reading on the Ludlow Massacre has to start with Thomas Andrews’ brilliant Bancroft Prize-winning book Killing for Coal. You can also read the many reports produced about Ludlow thanks to the wonderful series of reprints of key labor documents in the 1970s by Arno Press and the New York Times. It’s also interesting to remember that George McGovern’s dissertation was on the Colorado coal war, particularly since he turned sour on labor during his career.

This series has also covered events including the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968 and the beating of the women and children in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912.

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  1. DrDick says:

    One more shining example of capitalist benevolence in action. To all the libertarian loons out there: every single worker right and benefit you have was literally bought with the blood of union men and women fighting tooth and nail against overwhelming odds to win them and often dying in the process. In the libertarian dream world we would be back to 12 hour days 6 days a week and child labor.

    • wengler says:

      16 hour days, every other Sunday off.

      But automation means we need a genocide first.

    • Bart says:

      Some folks still work 12×6 at two or three jobs to put food on the table, while the minimum wage continues to live up to its name.

    • BradP says:

      And to all you progressive loons, note the complicit role the state played in the violent breakup of the strike.

      • DrDick says:

        Which, at best, would only be replaced by private power (see the Pinkertons or Erik’s example from Matewon below) in your “Freee Market” paradise. The reality is if you ever got you way, we would revert to Gilded Age conditions. You delude yourself if you think otherwise. Even Adam Smith recognized the need to regulate capital and reign in its excesses and overweening power.

        • BradP says:

          The reality is if you ever got you way, we would revert to Gilded Age conditions. You delude yourself if you think otherwise.

          One must completely ignore the manner in which the state bent over backwards during the preceding decades to provide Rockefeller with the financial and legal mechanations that put him in a dominant position over those workers in the first place.

          One would hope that the government bullets that were fired at the striking miners would at least make you a little less certain of the benefits the state provides.

          • DrDick says:

            To believe as you do, one must ignore the entire history of laissez-faire capitalism and the reality that the monied interests will always buy the politicians and game the system in their favor as much as they can. While government is often the tool of the powerful, it is also the only real check working people have over the power of capital. The enemy is capitalism and wealth, not the government. I would think the entire history of capitalism up until the 1950s would disabuse you of the notion that capitalism is ever, or can ever be, anything except an inherently corrupt and brutal system of exploitation.

          • Erik Loomis says:

            Let’s be clear, the vast majority of the bullets fired came from the private soldiers.

            • BradP says:

              One might wonder why no government bullets were found in the company aggressors?

              Plus, my comment was as much directed at the decades of government subsidized mergers and pools that enabled giant powerful monopolies that dominated the gilded age. Those conglomerations were no more efficient than the small independents they absorbed and replaced, rather they were only successful to the degree they could use their monopoly and size to coerce local governments and organizations and to buy property and other legal privileges from the federal government.

              Without decades of government sponsored and subsidized mergers and conglomerations, the rail, coal, oil, and steel industries around the turn of the century and the following decades would have been much more flat and decentralized. The wealth accumulations that allowed companies to basically enslave their workforce would by-and-large not existed.

              • Anonymous says:

                what mergers were government sponsored?

              • DrDick says:

                government subsidized mergers and pools that enabled giant powerful monopolies that dominated the gilded age.

                I can only assume that you mean they subsidized them through the complete lack of government regulation. Otherwise, you ate the wrong mushrooms. Again, the problem is capital, not the government. The government is at least marginally answerable to the larger public, but capital is not at all.

                • BradP says:

                  If you think that the expansion of railroads and the mining industry into the west went without massive government support, then I think you need to revisit your own socialist/marxist beliefs.

                  Most of what I am saying comes from new-left historians and Marxists.

                  Even you grant that government is the enabler of big capitalism.

                • DrDick says:

                  Government did subsidize development of railroads and mining. They did not subsidize the mergers and rise of monopolies, except through a lack of government regulation. Your “solutions” would only make this situation worse.

                • BradP says:

                  Your “solutions” would only make this situation worse.

                  Yeah, I’m coming to grips with my inability to convince folks of that.

                  And believe it or not, I also grant the need of the government to correct the inequities we have inherited or brought upon ourselves. I have listened to some valuable perspectives on this blog that have shifted some of my views.

              • David M. Nieporent says:

                One might wonder why no government bullets were found in the company aggressors?

                The “company aggressors”? You’ll notice how Loomis tries to bury the lede:

                “so workers could try and stop scab labor from stealing their jobs” and “The well-armed miners (armed both to protect themselves against the strikebreakers and to protect their jobs from scabs)”

                In short, they didn’t want to work, but they wanted to violently prevent other people from working, too.

                • DrDick says:

                  And notice that Nieporent conveniently tries to divert attention from the fact that it was the company who slaughtered men. women, and children, not the workers. Standing up to power is a much more grievous sin in his world than mass killings, but we already knew he was a soulless sociopath.

                • Erik Loomis says:

                  Exactly, they were just lazy…….

      • Erik Loomis says:

        This is just stupid.

        Sure the state was complicit.

        And you know when private companies stopped killing strikers?

        When the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT stepped in to protect labor.

        • DrDick says:

          Always remember that to be a libertarian is to willfully ignore all of history.

        • BradP says:

          Or in the case of the Ludlow Massacre, when the unions start shooting back and the public becomes sympathetic to their cause. You are the expert on this: How many government interventions didn’t come as attempts to squash reciprocal violence by labor and didn’t lag greatly behind union demands and public outrage?

          Then they step in to oversee the utter failure of the strike because they are dragged kicking and screaming by public outrage to look like they put their foot down. Of course the federal government lagged behind public opinion for decades. And it was only through continued unionized radicalism that any concessions were made.

          What charges did CF&I or John Rockefeller face for the the killing of 45 people, or the blatant, witnessed murder of Tilkas?

          • Anonymous says:

            and you think not having a government without sufficient power to step in at all will result in better outcomes?

            • BradP says:

              No, I think it takes a large government to implement all of the cheap financing, legal systems, and property takings given to railroads and their western suppliers during that era.

              It doesn’t take a large government at all to stop a private detective agency from mowing down miners.

              For all the love the government is getting for its reaction, one would think that state police didn’t massacre another group of miners in Colorado over a decade later.

              • DrDick says:

                it takes a large government to implement all of the cheap financing, legal systems, and property takings that make capitalism possible.

                FTFY

                • BradP says:

                  it takes a large government to implement all of the cheap financing, legal systems, and property takings that make capitalism possible.

                  While I believe that in a free market capital tends to flow to its most productive use, and therefore is in some degree preferable and natural, I doubt we are very far off on this issue.

                  It just kinda stuns me that in two consecutive points you will both call out the role government has taken in promoting your hated capitalism, then turn around and defend the government as a grand protector from capitalism.

                • DrDick says:

                  While I believe that in a free market capital tends to flow to its most productive use

                  Do you also believe in unicorns and fairies? They are every bit as real as your “free market.”

                  you will both call out the role government has taken in promoting your hated capitalism, then turn around and defend the government as a grand protector from capitalism.

                  Does your reading comprehension completely disappear whenever anyone says something positive about the government. What I have said, repeatedly, is that while government normally operates in the interests of capital, it is also the only institution capable of protecting the interests of labor. This is particularly true in democracies, where the need for votes makes it at least marginally answerable to the masses.

                  My hatred of capitalism does not come from the actions of government (though I would argue your hatred of government is a product of the normal operations of capitalism), but are grounded in the fundamental nature of the system, which operates to transfer value from the workers to the capitalists through a legal theft of labor in the form of profits.

                • BradP says:

                  Do you also believe in unicorns and fairies? They are every bit as real as your “free market.”

                  It only requires a social revolution similar to that of the socialists. Some libertarians have even laid out the process by which this revolution comes.

                • DrDick says:

                  It only requires a social revolution similar to that of the socialists.

                  Markets can and do only exist in the context of strong state regulation. We have been over this many times before, but state regulation is what allows them to work by providing the necessary trust for people to routinely engage in transactions with strangers.

                • BradP says:

                  Markets can and do only exist in the context of strong state regulation. We have been over this many times before, but state regulation is what allows them to work by providing the necessary trust for people to routinely engage in transactions with strangers.

                  And why is this not precisely true of socialism too? Does it not require a common solidarity?

                • DrDick says:

                  And why is this not precisely true of socialism too? Does it not require a common solidarity?

                  Please note that I am not the one arguing against the need for a strong government and government regulation, which I actively support.

              • Hogan says:

                For all the love the government is getting for its reaction

                I don’t think “at least this one time they stepped in and did the minimally decent thing” is all that much love, but then I’m a progressive loony, so that’s just what you would expect from me.

              • Anonymous says:

                but as the current state governments show us, it is much easier and cheaper to buy a smaller government

              • DrDick says:

                It does indeed take a large government to counterbalance the power of large corporations. Again, there is a difference in recognizing the ability of government to act in the interests of the masses against the power of capital and failing to recognize that it often or generally acts in the interests of capital. Nothing you propose would change the latter fact, and would make it worse in fact, while eviscerating its ability to do the former. At the risk of being obsessively redundant, the problem is not the government, it is the power of capital and its ability to corrupt the government that is the problem. The problems stem from capital and the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

                • DrDick says:

                  To put this in perspective, Exxon-Mobile’s profit of $32.3 billion is greater than the GDP of 95 countries.

              • Scott P. says:

                You are correct that without government aid, there would be no railroad in Colorado, but with no railroad, there is no mine either. I fail to see how that is a net improvement on the situation.

          • Hogan says:

            Or in the case of the Ludlow Massacre, when the unions start shooting back and the public becomes sympathetic to their cause.

            So in the absence of potentially countervailing government power, how does this public sympathy turn into pressure on CF&I? Letter writing campaign? People stop using coal? Demonstrations in front of Rockefeller’s house?

            • DrDick says:

              You might as well give up. Libertarianism is impervious to facts and logic.

            • Anonymous says:

              cunning arguments changing the minds of the job creators so that they respect labor

            • BradP says:

              My point is that government has consistently enabled these massive capital conglomerations that create the huge power disparities that in turn lead to atrocities like Ludlow. Not only did the workers not have the ability to prevent the company from treating them in a way no man should be treated, but they didn’t even have the power to petition the government to rectify the situation.

              Liberals and progressives have favored and promoted these conglomerations of capital under the illusion that government will be able to counteract the vertical hierarchy it creates for a century and a half. Unfortunately, the government’s success rate at doing that approaches zero.

              The expansion of the railroad system couldn’t be a better example of this, and miner struggles in the west can not be understood outside of government promotion of rail expansion.

              • Hogan says:

                Liberals and progressives have favored and promoted these conglomerations of capital

                Who exactly?

                • BradP says:

                  Guilded era or modern times?

                • Hogan says:

                  Either. Both.

                • Bill Murray says:

                  well if you consider Bill Clinton and the DLC liberal, then they certainly qualify.

                  In the end though, I doubt most of arguing against you Brad disagree that government can be suborned by the power of wealth.

                  The difference, as DrDick argues (partially) above, is that reducing the size and power of government removes any chance for redress until such a time that the situation is so out of control that soldiers are needed.

                  This is much like the argument that one can sue to redress grievance against companies. Sure, this is possible, but why is this better than working to prevent the grievance cause in the first place.

                • BradP says:

                  Well, here is a quote from the Social Democratic Party’s Campaign Book of 1900:

                  “one cannot but acknowledge the natural development of the successive steps of this [Standard Oil] monopoly…No better way could be invented by which the natural resources may be made available for the world’s need”

                  This is from The Worker in 1901:

                  “(The socialists) are not making the Revolution… It would be nearer to the truth that Morgan and Rockefeller are making it”

                  When JP Morgan died, the socialist Call wrote:

                  “if Morgan is remembered at all, it will be for the part he played in making it [socialism] possible and assisting, though unconsciously, in its realization”

                  ___________________________

                  To the progressives of the era, these massive conglomerations were the most efficient way to deliver resources, and the government would be counted on to counteract their abuses.

                  For even radical Marxists, these massive conglomerations were a necessary step in the transition from mercantilism to capitalism to socialism.

                • DrDick says:

                  For even radical Marxists, these massive conglomerations were a necessary step in the transition from mercantilism to capitalism to socialism.

                  That is a radically wrong misreading of the socialist position, which was that the excesses and abuses of the monopolists so alienated the working classes as to push them toward socialism as a means of redress.

                  Also, the Democratic Party of 1900 was not a notably progressive or liberal institution, only being mildly less pro-corporate than the Republicans.

                • Hogan says:

                  To the progressives of the era, these massive conglomerations were the most efficient way to deliver resources,

                  Were they wrong? Were they not distinguihsing between “massive conglomerations” and “massive conglomerations in private hands”?

                  and the government would be counted on to counteract their abuses.

                  Well, no, for actual socialists the collectivization and democratic public control of those conglomerations would counteract their abuses. For liberals and progressives, government would have to scale up in order to try to counteract their abuses precisely because no one was in a position to prevent those conglomerations from forming, as they had been for hundreds of years.

                  As some guy once said, we make our own history, but not in circumstances of our own choosing.

                  For even radical Marxists, these massive conglomerations were a necessary step in the transition from mercantilism to capitalism to socialism.

                  For radical Marxists, enclosure of common lands and the immiseration and expulsion of peasants from their farms was a necessary stage in that transition too. That doesn’t mean they supported or applauded it.

                • BradP says:

                  Also, the Democratic Party of 1900 was not a notably progressive or liberal institution, only being mildly less pro-corporate than the Republicans.

                  That was the Social Democratic Party, the socialist party, that put that in their campaign book.

                  Click here, and read Chapter 3, which has the somewhat ominous subtitle:

                  COMPETITION MEANS INDUSTRIAL ANARCHY. ORGANIZATION MEANS INDUSTRIAL PROGRESS.

                • DrDick says:

                  read Chapter 3, which has the somewhat ominous subtitle:

                  If you read the whole thing, you will see that the point is that the presence or absence of monopolies does nothing to improve the status of labor, though trusts can lower costs through greater efficiency, which in no way supports your point.

              • Scott P. says:

                “Huge power disparities” are an essential component of the state of nature, they don’t need a government to create them. Take away government, and the railroad company becomes stronger, not weaker.

                • DrDick says:

                  “Huge power disparities” are an essential component of the state of nature, they don’t need a government to create them.

                  This is not, in fact true. It is true that they are an essential component of the nature of the state.

              • Bill Murray says:

                My point is that government has consistently enabled these massive capital conglomerations that create the huge power disparities that in turn lead to atrocities like Ludlow. Not only did the workers not have the ability to prevent the company from treating them in a way no man should be treated, but they didn’t even have the power to petition the government to rectify the situation.

                1. This is certainly true

                2. People are no longer allowed to be treated this way in America. Thus, someone got the situation changed and they used the government to accomplish this.

                3. We can argue forever whether or not a different approach in the 1870s would have been better. In the present, the huge conglomerations of capital that exist can only be balanced by governmental power. Shrinking government only can be a possible solution in the interests of people if the conglomerations of money are reduced in size/power as much or more than the size/power of government.

                4. Even if the private conglomerates are reduced in size, unless this is done in perpetuity, the private conglomerates will grow. Without a government growing sufficiently to keep up with the conglomerates and the government being willing to keep the conglomerates in line, the conglomerates will control everyone.

                5. Thus, we end with Poincare cycles in politics. With a cycle time of about 50 years (this is a very vague estimate) and people/labor having maybe 10 years where the situation is sort of in their favor. This is the best case. There is a significant probability that the state gets shrunk, the conglomerates don’t and it takes a labor-capital war to make things better.

                6. Then the question is what about the liberal/progressive paradigm. I have t go but will take this up later if I get time and remember.

                • Grigori, Trained Octopus says:

                  I don’t believe Brad is arguing in bad faith here, and I don’t think it does any good to belittle someone who is making interesting arguments in good faith. The question is how to reconcile our calls for a more empowered government with the historical and contemporary shittiness of government in this country (whether we’re talking about abetting wealth consolidation in 1880 or 2010 or spying on all of us in 2014). Now, I think Dr. Dick and others are also completely right that libertarian “solutions” would just make things worse for all but the parasites. The idea that a magical, truly unencumbered (or unsupported) free market would not have produced massive conglomerations of wealth and power is very weak stuff. And if government wasn’t currently creating a repressive surveillance apparatus, our libertarian corporate overlords certainly would (and in fact, they are). The difference is that governments are somewhat accountable to their citizens, as Dr. Dick says. So it matters a lot who’s controlling their levers. Yes, we need government to hold capital in check, but we won’t have any success at that until we capture government power and purge corporate interests from the system. However, it’s ultimately going to be hard to argue with a lot of libertarian and anarchist-leaning people that the state, even controlled by some iteration of “the people” wouldn’t continue to surveil and repress us and otherwise abuse its power. How do we counter that particular tendency without undermining the effort to harness state power for the common good?

    • David M. Nieporent says:

      No. Worker benefits came from wealth. There’s a reason the vast majority of Americans make far more than the minimum wage and do not work “12 hour days 6 days a week,” and it’s not because of either unions or the government. People make more when their labor is worth more.

      • DrDick says:

        No. Wealth come from theft of the value of the workers’ labor. Both Adam Smith and Karl Marx recognized that labor is the source of all value in the economy. You also prove yourself totally ignorant of labor history, which comes at a surprise to no one. Just where did you get that law degree you claim to have? Was it Oral Roberts University, Liberty University, or off the back of a matchbook?

  2. Mac says:

    Thank you for your focus on labor history. Not only are the stories interesting as history, but they illuminate very clearly what the current Republican party want this country to become again. I’m not in a profession that is organized, but I’ll stick with the union ’til every battle’s won.

    • njorl says:

      It’s weird. I’m not in a real union, nor was my father. Both my grandfathers were, though, and my father impressed on me the importance of what they did. I’m a second generation white-collar high-tech worker, and I’ll always be pro-union.

  3. Jamie Mayerfeld says:

    Thank you, Erik. I learned so much from this.

  4. wengler says:

    Machine-gunnuing people in tents falls under a corporation’s First Amendment Rights.

  5. Hogan says:

    with an adherence to the individualistic economic doctrines of a century ago that was almost grotesque in its intensity.

    See also Calvin Coolidge et al.

  6. TN says:

    I never saw the old monument, but the new one is very nice, and well worth the visit. It’s about halfway between Santa Fe and Denver, if you’re in the area.

  7. Wow, very neat post, grreat website and have a great union fought for weekend.

  8. jon says:

    I’ve been to Ludlow. It’s a bad place to die, so desolate and forlorn, with only the historic marker there to give any shape to the place.

    • jon says:

      FYI, nearby Trinidad used to be the sex change capitol of the US. Probably because of lax regulations.

      • H-Bob says:

        No, it was a single doctor based there. He left and his replacement kept the practice going until the local busybodies harassed her and her patients too much.

    • I find the site quite moving, not desolate. Maybe that’s because I live nearby and like the landscape. It’s well worth a stop for anybody driving I-25 between Trinidad and Walsenburg, CO.

      The labor and overall social history of that region — Walsenburg, Pueblo, Cripple Creek — is fascinating. And sobering.

      Ironically, Colorado Springs, Mother House of the religious right and one of the most right-wing spots on the planet, is nearby.

  9. bobbyp says:

    “The well-armed miners (armed both to protect themselves against the strikers and to protect their jobs from scabs) fought back bravely…”

    You meant to write “strike-breakers” no doubt.

    Great series. Keep it up.

    Next: June 23, 1947?

  10. mark f says:

    Excellent as always, Erik.

    So, funny story. I was going to suggest a minor improvement. I like Woody Guthrie as much as the next guy, but his singing style is just a little too happy-go-lucky for these songs. I was going to recommend the Ramblin’ Jack Elliott version instead, since his heavier tone suits the material a little better, at least to my ears. But, and this is the funny part, the song I was thinking of is about a different massacre. U.S. labor history is just too chock-full of ‘em for us amateurs to keep straight.

  11. creature says:

    As always, a great lesson in labor relations history in America. I remeber my maternal grandparents telling me about the ‘old days’ when they were organizing the rubber workers, the turmoil and the solidarity in reaction to the oppression. Perhaps it will be that way once again, if the corporate and conservative governments keep there agenda of oppression and kleptocracy.

  12. creature says:

    As always, a great lesson in labor relations history in America. I remeber my maternal grandparents telling me about the ‘old days’ when they were organizing the rubber workers, the turmoil and the solidarity in reaction to the oppression. Perhaps it will be that way once again, if the corporate and conservative governments keep their agenda of oppression and kleptocracy.

  13. Furious Jorge says:

    Thanks for this, Erik. I don’t know nearly as much as I should about labor history in the US. Thanks for helping get me started.

  14. GeoX says:

    There’s a section of Pynchon’s Against the Day that takes place in Ludlow in the days leading up to the massacre. When I first read it, I assumed that the notion of a giant fucking machine-gun-mounted armor car called the “Death Special” had to be a Pynchonian invention. More fool me, right? And yes, they really called it that. I find that it’s hard to wrap my brain around the extent to which the movers and shakers of this country have been cartoon supervillains. I mean, it’s one thing to say it, but another to really feel it. The sheer fucking depravity is just horrifying. I wish that people knew about it so that they could understand what our republican masters are hellbent on returning us to.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      “I find that it’s hard to wrap my brain around the extent to which the movers and shakers of this country have been cartoon supervillains.”

      I once showed the film Matewan to some people I knew. They were young, hipster types, or whatever passed for that in around 2000. They thought it was a ridiculous movie because the Baldwin-Felts agents were so cartoonish supervillians. It made me mad, because of course Baldwin-Felts agents WERE cartoon supervillians!

  15. efgoldman says:

    Because I am ignorant of most labor history (hey, I was a music major), I saw “Ludlow” and I assumed there was history I didn’t know about the paper mills in Ludlow, MA or Ludlow, VT.

  16. [...] of Martin Luther King during sanitation strike in Memphis April 20, 1914–Ludlow Massacre April 30, 1894–Coxey’s Army May 4, 1886–Haymarket Riot May 9, [...]

  17. [...] mining industry has always loved violent labor intimidation, armed thugs, paramilitary operations against unions, and other fun parts of the Gilded Age we once [...]

  18. […] Next week will mark the 100th anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre. While it seems like a long time ago, in the New Gilded Age, it remains disturbingly relevant because the conditions that created such horrors in 1914 are returning to the United States of 2014. The historian Thai Jones gives an overview of the event and closes with this: […]

  19. […] saw his role as a crusader for American workers. He alienated the capitalists quickly. After the Ludlow Massacre, he called John D. Rockefeller Jr. before his committee, and publicly humiliated the powerful man […]

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