Item no. 24130
|Collection: American Social History and Social Movements|
The Italian Hall Disaster--2 litho stereoviews.
The 1913-14 copper miners' strike in Calumet, Michigan of the Western Federation of Miners, affiliated with the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), started in July, 1913 and lasted for nine months. It was one of Michigan's bitterest labor conflicts. It was triggered by the introduction of the one-man drill, which caused miners to fear job cutbacks and the need to work alone. The strikers also demanded recognition of their union, a reduction in their working hours from 10 to 8 and a daily wage of $3.50.
On Christmas Eve in 1913, the union held a party for the strikers' children in the upstairs of the city's Italian Hall. During the program, someone opened a door at the bottom of the stairs and yelled "Fire!" The party's participants, mostly children, rushed down the stairs and tried to get out. There was no fire. The doors opened inward, and the first children there were crushed against the door. As more and more came down the stairs, victims suffocated and nearly whole families died. It was believed that strikebreakers, hired by the mine captains, were reponsible for the tragedy, but no one was ever convicted. The two stereoviews are of the Hall after the disaster and the cemetery. Both bear titles in English and Finnish, since many of the strikers were Finnish socialists.