Little Bits of History

Ludlow Massacre

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 20, 2011

After the tent colony was burned.

April 20, 1914: Twenty-two people die in the Ludlow massacre in Colorado. The coal miners had been striking for 14 months prior to this date without success. The union had asked for seven points to be granted including that the union be recognized as a bargaining unit, increase in pay scale, eight hour work days, payment for “dead time” work, and mandated following of Colorado laws, especially concerning safety in the mines.

Between the years of 1884 and 1912 over 1,700 miners had died in Colorado. This was between two and three-and-a-half times the national average. Miners were not paid for “dead time” work such as laying rails, timbering, and shoring up walls. Safety measures were not enforced and if a miner wished to make his job safer, he was not paid for the labor. He also lived in company towns that had a reputation of charging higher rates for goods and services.

By the 1890s the gold and silver miners had unionized. Beginning in 1900 the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) had begun to organize the mines without much appreciable gain. Miners felt that they were not only overworked, but that the scales did not weigh correctly further shorting them on earned pay. By the fall of 1913, the UMWA went on strike. They had leased land by the canyon mouths so that families could set up tents away from the company towns and the men could watch for strike breakers coming in to work.

The Colorado National Guard was called out in October 1913 after several run-ins with scabs that resulted in violence and even death. By spring of the next year, tensions had escalated. On this date, Guardsmen approached the tent camp demanding the “release” of a man who they said was being held against his will. As this was happening their peers were setting up a machine gun on a nearby ridge. The fight lasted all day. At 7 PM a train stopped between the ridge and the tent city and allowed for many of the strikers and their families to escape. The tents were set on fire. Four women and 11 children trapped in a pit under a tent were consumed by the flames. Three other strikers were shot and killed. Three company guards and one militia man were also killed. The president had to send in federal troops to calm rioting here and at other camps that resulted in 69-199 deaths, depending on the report read. The union demands were not met.

“I think we all care just as much about our coal miners as we do our deer and turkey.” – Steve Earle

“Coal miners face their worst nightmare. Drilling, pumping and praying.” – Jim Richardson

“Man has a primary property right to his person and his labor.” – unknown

“This is a union that knows how to prepare a strike and knows how to win.” – Kate Bronfenbrenner

Also on this day:
Whodunit? – In 1841 the first mystery story is published.
Germ Theory – In 1862, Pasteur demonstrated his new theory.

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One Response

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  1. GYSC said, on April 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Wow, never heard of this. Thanks!


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