THE LUDLOW MASSACRE AND SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY
B.A., Metropolitan State College, 1990
A thesis submitted to the
University of Colorado at Denver
in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Social Sciences
This thesis for the Master of Social Sciences
has been approved
Hasenbalg, Ann (M.S.S.)
Social Movement Theory and the Ludlow Massacre
Thesis directed by Professor Jana Everett
This thesis meshes sociology and history by using social movement theory to
explain the events surrounding the Ludlow Massacre in Colorado in 1914. Political
process theory, resource mobilization theory, and cultural aspects of new social
movement theory are used to enhance our understanding of those events so many
decades in the past. All the theories are examined and comparison between the three
is discussed briefly. Within the frameworks of one or all the theories, the history of
that movement is investigated. Structural conditions in the coal fields of Colorado
are examined at some length encompassing discussion of grievances of the miners
and a brief history of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Companythe primary opposition
to the strikers. It becomes clear as the narrative continues, that political process
theory provides the most useful framework. Resources, although clearly crucial to a
social movement, do not serve as the primary emergent factor. Cultural aspects of
the movement are also very important but, like resources, are only a partial factor in
a movements emergence, peak, and decline. Utilizing the combination of the three
theories, presents a clearer picture of the movement process than using any one
theory by itself.
The Ludlow Massacre and its aftermath are also discussed from the
perspective of social movement theory. The massacre and the subsequent strife were
agents of drastic change for the coal miners. Accordingly, the aftermath of the
massacre has influenced labor history ever since.
This abstract accurately represents the content of the candidates thesis. I
recommend its publication.
1. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORKS...................................5
Resource Mobilization................................. 9
Political Process Theory..............................16
Cultural Aspects of New Social Movement Theory........23
2. STRUCTURAL CONDITIONS LEADING TO THE COAL STRIKE. .28
Coal Mining in Colorado History........................30
Ethnic Background of Miners............................32
Colorado Fuel and Iron.................................33
Conditions in the Coal Mines and Camps.................34
3. HISTORY BEHIND THE 1913-1914 COAL STRIKE................46
Emergence of the United Mine Workers in Colorado......48
Organizational Development and Political Contention...53
4. THE COLORADO COAL STRIKE OF 1913-1914...................74
The Ludlow Massacre...................................93
6. SOCIAL MOVEMENT THEORY AND THE MASSACRE................108
The causes of industrial unrest,... are not to be removed by promises of
endless investigations or by a sudden willingness to hold conferences. They
lie in the treatment of men, not as chattels to be disposed of by deed and will;
not in absentee land-lordism, in the theft of natural resources, or indifference
to the necessities and aspirations of those who toil in the dark for the benefit
of those in the light. (John Lawson, qtd. in Beshoar, 1941, pg. 263).
The years prior to the tragic 1914 Ludlow massacre, in the early years of the
twentieth century, saw immigrant miners suffer under unsafe, inhumane conditions
while being paid paltry wageswhich more times than not were owed to the
company store. Theirs was an isolated mean sort of a lifefor both the worker and
his wife and children. The coal miners, with or without the help from the union,
many times organized and went on strike because of the poor conditions they found
in Colorado. The numerous strikes, which took place very early in Colorado
history, did not end with the nineteenth century and continued up to the present time.
It is vital to examine the grievances and circumstances prior to the 1913-
1914-Colorado coal miners strike. The phenomena of the strike, its players, and all
the complications extanteven though they occurred many years in the pastcan
augment our knowledge of social movement theory in the present. This is not for the
purpose of promulgating one more opinion regarding the ongoing debate on which
side would bear the burden of guiltbut instead, to more fully understand the events
which still have bearing on our continuing labor history. Ramifications surrounding
issues such as labor unions, laborers, immigrants issues, poor people, capitalism,
elitism, and social movements give Ludlow enduring importance.
Consequently, this thesis will be a theoretically focused case study of the
events of the coal strike history from 1900 to 1914 in Colorado. My purpose is to
examine the particulars of the coal miners strike and mesh not only sociological
theories with social movementsin order to attempt to fully explain what
happenedbut to also mesh sociology with history in an attempt to .. .historically
ground sociological explanation and interpretations to the events leading to the
Ludlow massacre of 1914. (Griffin, 1995, p. 12). This thesis will examine the
usefulness of applying social movement theories in to a historical event; attempt to
shed light on the emergence, growth, and the bitter decline of the strike; and will
(optimistically) contribute to the already rich discussion of social movement theory.
My study of the events leading to the massacre will draw on the various
social movement theories as they address the dynamics of the strike. My thesis will
not be used as an agent to test the various theories but instead to use them to interpret
the historical events which will lead to a richer understanding of the phenomenon.
My goal is to, not only, .get the history right but to also, . .get the sociology
right (qtd. in Griffin, 1995, p. 12). It will soon be obvious that this is not strictly a
historical paper nor, is it totally sociological. Sociologists may question the lack of
any information regarding conflict theorywhich would also explain many of the
events in the southern coal field. Marxs theory of conflict, according to John F.
Sitton (1996) is firmly encompassed in history. Social class, in conflict theory,
serves to identify and predict historical events and behavior in terms of the
proletariat who is both created by and consummates world-historical change, the
gravedigger of capitalism (p. 1). Therefore, conflict theory would certainly be an
additional avenue to explore historical events. My interest, however, for the purpose
of this paper, lies within social movement theories.
It appears that a sort of synthesis of several theories of social movements
might best explain the events leading to the massacre. The structural theories that
will be used to explain social movementspolitical process theory, resource
mobilization theory, and cultural aspects of new social movement theory, will, I
believe, more solidly address the Ludlow phenomena than others. As Sidney Tarrow
(1998) suggests, it will be necessary to examine clues for when contentious politics
... leads to the emergence of the coal strike and the subsequent event (p. 20).
Within the thesis, some comparative discussion around the theories will appear, but
my primary intent is not to compare theories, but again, to synthesize salient features
of several against the background of a unique phenomenon. The cumulative body of
knowledge wherein theory explains the movementenhances not only sociology
but history as well. Additionally, the knowledge gleaned from past events enables
participants of incipient movements to prepare more effectively for their actions in
the future. A vast amount of literature has been written about the Ludlow Massacre
and numerous historiographical analysis have been conducted. This thesis, however,
is not another history of Ludlowas evidenced by the obvious lack of complete
historical references. This thesis is a historical case study utilizing social movement
I have selected events described out of volumes of material that, in my
opinion, are pertinent to the emergence of the movement. Many factors will be
examined and addressed through the framework of various theories. After
discussing theoretical frameworks in Chapter 1, the structural conditions that gave
birth to the movement will be examined in Chapter 2. The labor history behind the
strike will be discussed in Chapter 3 and the coal strike of 1913-1914 in Chapter 4.
The aftermath of the massacre is detailed in Chapter 5 and finally, Chapter 6
describes the conclusion of this study.
Sometimes, however, the poor do become defiant. They challenge traditional
authorities, and the rules laid down by those authorities. They demand
redress for their grievances. American history is punctuated by such events,
from the first uprisings by freeholders, tenants, and slaves in colonial
America, to the post revolutionary debtor rebellions, through the periodic
eruptions of strikes and riots by industrial workers, to the ghetto riots of the
twentieth century. In each instance, masses of the poor were somehow able,
if only briefly, to overcome the shame bred by a cultures which blames them
for their plight; somehow they were able to break the bonds of conformity
enforced by work, by family, by community, by every strand of institutional
life; somehow they were able to overcome the fears induced by police, by
militia, by company guards. (Piven and Cloward, 1979, p. 7).
Social movement theories have proliferated in the past few decades,
especially since the civil rights movement. Social movement theory appears to be a
popular and exciting field of inquirygiven the massive amount of literature extant.
Social movements are debated by many theorists and it becomes readily apparent
that the more one reads about social movement theory, the more one discovers the
complexity of the subject. There abound in many publications, myriad opinions of
which theory best explains social movement phenomenon as well as many opinions
on the definition of a social movement.
Doug McAdam (1982) contends that there are so many different types of
social movements that no one theory, .. .save the most general and therefore least
usefulcan adequately account for such a diverse range of phenomena (p. 24). He
wrote many years later that social movements, .like all forms of popular politics,
is itself a fluid social phenomenon subject to change through institutional pressures,
popular innovation, and a host of other evolutionary pressures (Guigni, McAdam
and Tilly, eds., 1998, p. 229). McAdams defines social movements as, . .rational
attempts by excluded groups to mobilize sufficient political leverage to advance
collective interest through noninstitutionalized means (1982, p. 37).
McAdam appears to share Piven and Clowards (1979) opinion that
inequality is a norm rather than an aberration and disruption is infrequent. They
contend that throughout history the poor and downtrodden usually accept their lot in
life and drudge through it possibly believing they are getting what they deserve.
Once in awhile, however, even the poor and seemingly impotent masses
structurally precludedtransform and are, .. .afforded the socially determined
opportunity to press for their own class interest (p. 7). In order for the
transformation to occur, the authors believe that a, . .combination of (social)
dislocations must occur. Historically, the incipient factors of an insurgency are
hardship, thwarted expectations, rapid economic changes, and the accompanying
changes in the daily structures of life (pp. 10-11). Under these conditions, Piven and
Cloward argue that people perceive the circumstances are wrong and that they can do
something about it. In the coal fields of Colorado, where rampant injustices and
hardships occurred on a daily basis, it is easy to discern that the times and the
conditions could lead to little else than insurrection.
Sidney Tarrow (1998), contends that even though some movements fail,
social movements usually cause a change in some fashion. Over the centuries there
have multitudinous insurgencies against those in power. The author only labels
events as social movements when there are, .. .sequences of contentious politics
that are based on underlying social networks and resonant collective action frames,
and which develop the capacity to maintain sustained challenges against powerful
opponents (p. 2).
Tarrow believes that the modem age has ushered in social movements which
help sustain an insurgency initiated by ordinary people and make it a force to
contend with as it plots and then moves against a dominant organizationsometimes
enabled with the help of outsiders. Tarrow agrees with many others who believe that
contentious action occurs when people lack access to normal channels to power. He
writes that contention, brings people together to, .. .exploit political opportunities,
... create collective identities,... and mobilize people against more powerful
opponents (p. 3).
Contentious politics set in motion the subsequent social movement that
mounts, coordinates, and sustains confrontations against powerful opponents.
Tarrow adds that contentious politics emerge when social actors gain incentives as
political opportunities and constraints are changed. Furthermore, Tarrow argues that
contentious politics must precede social movements and only those disruptive events
that are sustained qualify as a social movement.
Piven and Cloward assert that historically, mass uprisings have a tendency to
be more disruptive than violent simply because violence by challengers is risky and
it begets swift and uncompromising violence from the resource endowed opposition.
It is important to note, that the amount of disruption from a group is directly
proportional to the political impact of the disruptions which is, . .mediated by the
electoral-representative system (p. 27).
Generally, and in ordinary times, according to Piven and Cloward, if the
protesting group has little power they will be ignored, repressed, or they may (rarely)
receives concessions in some minimal fashion. If the disruption is local and has little
ripple affect to the larger society, oftentimes it will be ignored. Conversely, when
the disruption affects a larger segment of peoplerepression will be swift and
Piven and Cloward argue convincingly that social movements, oftentimes,
take place in unusual circumstances when changes are already extant. This renders
the conditions favorable so that political leaders may be more vulnerable and
therefore will seek other options rather than to ignore or repress. Additionally
important, they believe, is the attempt of the political leaders to coopt the
movement leaders by offering incentives to direct behavior toward a more
normalizedand consequently less disruptivechannel of protest (p. 30). Another
measure used to curb the disorder is to disrupt the flow of sympathy toward the
movement by offering token conciliations which only have the appearance of
addressing the grievances of the disruptive group and only serve to smooth the way
Eventually, Piven and Cloward contend actions undertaken by the elite
thoroughly weaken, erode and eventually end the movement by transforming both
the movement and the political climate that originally nourished it. The authors
argue that although it is perceived that concessions have been made, the concessions
that were made are merely those which should have been extant in the first place and
actually were, .. .prefigured by institutional arrangements that already existed, that
were drawn from a repertoire provided by existing traditions (p. 33). The
government does everything in its power to direct the disruption toward routinization
and urges participants into the fold, in order to once again isolate them from
supporterseventually ending up little better off than before. Additionally, public
sympathy erodes as conciliations are proffered to the movement; consequently the
atmosphere which spawned the movement declines and dies.
Resource mobilization is a partial theory devised by John D. McCarthy, and
Mayer N. Zald (1977). The authors define a social movement as a . .set of
opinions and beliefs in a population which represents preferences for changing
elements of the social structure and/or reward distribution of a society (p. 1218).
According to their theory, organizations do not necessarily develop from increasing
and intolerable grievances; grievances are a factor but not the most important one.
Instead, the authors theorize, vital resources, in terms of legitimacy, money,
facilities, and labor, must be aggregated by some sort of organization (even if is
very minimal) to entice people to participate (p. 1220).
McCarthy and Zald suggest that outsidersboth individuals and groups are a
vital component to a movements success or failure. They argue that it is very
important to pay attention to the costs and rewards when trying to explain why actors
get involved and become active in the social movement organization. Resource
mobilization theory suggests that social movements use existing infrastructure to
further their cause. Social movement organizations must obtain and control
resources before any action by the movement occurs. Before resources can be
obtained, the groups or individuals who originally possessed them must be turned
from and adherent to a constituent (p. 1221).
Social movement mobilization is also affected, according to McCarthy and
Zald, by social control-efforts by authorities or their agentswho could hurt, or at
times, actually help a movement. (Remember Bull Conner? Or more importantly
for this paper, Sheriff Farr of Huerfano County or Lt. Linderfelt?) The authors
believe that few persons on their own work to obtain collective goods because of
the costs necessary (p. 1216). McCarthy and Zald, place a great deal of emphasis on
strategic tasks which include, .mobilizing supporters, neutralizing and/or
transforming mass and elite publics into sympathizers, (and) achieving change in
targets(p. 1217). Supporters, therefore, both inside and outside the organizations
are crucial to the emergence and maintenance of the movement.
Resource mobilization theory hypothesizes that as the amount of resources
available in the society increases, so to does the amount of resources available to the
social movement. It also suggests that the more resources the social movement
system has, the greater the likelihood that the social movement and the social
movement industry will emerge and compete. Additionally, the more resources the
conscious adherents have, the greater the likelihood that both the social movement
organizations and the social movement industry will respond to preferences for
Social movement industries, according to the authors, are social movement
organizations that have, . .as their goal the attainment of the broadest preferences
of a social movement (p. 1219). The authors differentiate between social
movement organizations and social movement industries by noting that social
movements are, never fully mobilized and they focus explicitly upon the
organizational component of activity (p. 1219). Social movements may also be
represented by more than one social movement organization and the social
movement industry is not reliant on neither the size nor the intensity of the
preferences within it (p. 1219).
Social movement industries and social movement organizations also compete
for resources; the more resources available, the more the movement grows. For
example, in the coal field of Colorado in the late 19 and early 20th century, two
unions, the Western Federation of Miners and the United Mine Workers of America
vied for members. Both unions would be considered to be social movement
organization because they were both determined to address the grievances of the
miners. The broader based social movement industry was made up of both unions
plus any other organization that agreed with the goals of the industry. The term
social movement sector borrowed by the authors from economists, includes all the
social movement industries that are present in a societyregardless of which social
movement they are attached.
It appears that resource mobilization is an important theory in part for the
purpose of this thesis. However, it seems to have been devised at least partially in an
economic framework and it more solidly addresses events such as the civil rights
movementmore so than the coal strikes after the turn of the century because the
unions were the only social movement organization extant. The much more
complicated and diverse civil rights movement was certainly rife with competing
organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Congress of Racial Equality, and many others.
It is indisputable however that resources are crucial to any social movement and the
social movement organization they are dispersed through plays a major role in the
outcome of a movement.
Optimistically, the bulk of the resources will be used to attain the goals, and
in order for the movement to continue, a stable flow of resources remain crucial.
Movement decline is not addressed specifically in this partial theory. However, I
would surmise that withdrawal of support from elites and an accompanying
withdrawal of resources would obviously lead to the decline and eventual demise of
Organizations, according to Doug McAdam (1982), actually provide four
very crucial resources to an aggrieved people: members, an established structure of
solidary incentives, a communication network, and leaders (pg. 44). Members,
McAdams asserts, are a resource which must be recruited along established lines of
interaction (p. 44). In other words the more integrated a person is in the minority
community the easier it is to recruit that person into participating in protest activities.
The membership recruitment generally comes from people who are already in an
associate organization or from the more established organization.
A second resource are the personal rewards available to individuals who join
an organization; these rewards, McAdam calls the, established structure of
solidary incentives (p. 46). In existing organizations, a decision has already been
made by the individuals to join and the existing group now simply transfers
allegiance to the larger movement. This removes the problem of having to induce
participation of new incentives (p. 46).
A communication network, McAdam asserts, is the third vital resource. If
there is an extant organized infrastructure within the movement, the movement has a
greater capability to emerge as a force to contend with. Finally, and probably most
important resource to a social movement, are the leaders. Leaders may be the first to
join an organization and consequently bring in members and lend their prestige and
organizational skills to the incipient movement (p. 47).
Sidney Tarrow believes that although many organized movements seek
change through normative channels, a true social movement must be contentious
because it lacks the stable resources, such as money and access that other groups
control (p. 5). In fact, he argues that contention may be the only resource that the
The dilemma of hierarchical movement organizations is that, when they
permanently internalize their base, they lose their capacity for disruption, but
when they move in the opposite direction, they lack the infrastructure to
maintain a sustained interaction with allies, authorities, and supporters. %fris
suggests a delicate balance between formal organization and autonomyone
that can only be bridged by strong, informal, and nonhierarchical connective
structures. (Tarrow, p. 137).
Resource mobilization theory also contends that groups with grievances
abound; yet without resources a movement can not emerge given the extant climate
in which, Only those with sufficient political capital need apply (McAdam, 1982,
p. 20). In order for a powerless group to gain political strength, it must access a
polityand the only way to access it is through gaining enough resources to make
themselves a force to be reckoned with.
Piven and Cloward, (1979) in their examination of protest movements that
occurred in the United States in the mid-twentieth century, argue that the resource
mobilization theory is flawed in its belief that resources, received from elites, would
serve as a means to further a cause: The flaw is, quite simply, that it is not possible
to compel concessions from elites that can be used as resources to sustain
oppositional organizations over time (p. xi). They also argue that when people
become sufficiently mobilized to make a difference, the very structures of the
organization they adhere to only serves to routinize them, thus losing their power to
disrupt the system:
.. .when tenants refused to pay rent and stood off marshals, organizers
formed building committees; when people were burning and looting,
organizers used that moment of madness to draft constitutions. (Piven and
Cloward, p. xii)
Piven and Cloward assert that the only time powerful entities contribute
any substance that could be construed as a resource, they only contribute to improve
the organization; organizations are not feared by the elites (p. xii). The authors
believe that the potential for change is greatest . .. when large numbers of lower
class people are roused to indignation and defiance and thus when a great deal seems
possible (p. xxi). The authors argue fiercely that efforts made by movement
leaders to build an organization are detrimental to the movement and in fact, the
initial momentum gained with the disruptive event is lost because the leaders are too
busy building a formal organization. Leaders, therefore, according to the same
authors, do not escalate the momentum .because they are preoccupied with trying
to build and sustain embryonic formal organizations in the sure conviction that these
organizations will enlarge and become powerful (pg. xxii).
Political Process Theory
In the course of these large processes, the interests and organization of
ordinary people changed, the loci of power over their lives shifted, and their
opportunities to act together in different ways altered. Ordinary people
responded by creating and adopting new forms of collective action. (Charles
Tilly, 1981, p. 23).
Charles Tilly (1981), suggests that political process made the difference
between the insurgencies of the 18th and 19th century in Europe. Doug McAdam
(1982) expanded and clarified Tillys model and explains how social movements
begin, continue, succeed or failand why. McAdam calls his model the Political
Process Modelso named because he believes a social movement is a political
rather than a psychological phenomenon and is also a processnot a certain phase or
stage of events.
McAdam (1982: 37) believes that power can become available, depending on
the groups position in various politico-economic structures: and can possess
political leverage if they disrupt the routinized structural power of the opposing
group. In order for a social movement to emerge it must possess, expanding
political opportunities, broad socioeconomic processes, indigenous organizational
strength, and cognitive liberation. A final factor enters the mix in the form of, .
.the shifting control response of other groups to the movement (p. 59). McAdam
realizes that a social movement can have all the political opportunities it needs to
progress, but it must also have resources to fully exploit the opportunities. The
indigenous organization, he believes, provides the infrastructure necessary to
develop crucial resources, which can be the members, the personal rewards of the
members, communication networks, and finally, the leaders of the movement.
McAdam believes his model answers questions that are important in
analyzing the myriad facets of a social movement. He based his theory on the fact
that power and wealth are concentrated in the United States in the hands of a few
therefore depriving most citizens of any real control regarding decisions they might
make. He views social movements as rational attempts by excluded groups to
mobilize sufficient political leverage to advance collective interests through
noninstitutionalized means (p. 36). McAdam does not believe that being a
member of an excluded group is a stagnant position. He believes that power can
become availabledepending on the groups position in various politico-economic
structures and it can possess political leverage (p. 37). Furthermore, .. .any
system contains within itself the possibility of a power strong enough to alter it (qtd.
in McAdam, p. 37) Consequently, McAdam asserts that the oppositional group has
the potential abilityto disrupt the routinized structural power the opposing group
Three factors, m McAdams opinion-, are crucial to the development of a
social insurgency: the organization or group must be ready and be organized, the
movements mass base must have a level of insurgent consciousness, and the group
must have the political opportunities to advance their movement. Social movements
require interplay between a groups internal factors and the sociopolitical
environment they wish to change.
McAdam (1982) contends that processes which shape insurgencies are less
dramatic and generally take place over a period of time which finds a, long-run
transformation of the structures of power and of collective action(qtd. McAdam, p.
41). Consequently, expanded political opportunities can undermine the political
system or increase the political leverage of the insurgent group. McAdam asserts
that successful social insurgency comes about when a group is strengthened by broad
social processes which significantly improve their political positiontherefore
increasing their power.
While expanding political opportunities and indigenous organizations are
vital to an insurgency, between the opportunity and the action lies the cognitive
liberation the participants must posses in order for a movement to take place.
Participants must therefore take notice and agree that the political system is
becoming increasingly vulnerable to challenge (p. 48). Piven and Cloward agree
and contend that a change in consciousness and behavior is crucial to an emerging
social movement. A change of consciousness has to involve the beliefs from the
participants that the system is wrong; they must realize that they have rights and
that they have some power to change their circumstances. This is what Doug
McAdam calls cognitive liberation. The concomitant behavior, according to Piven
and Cloward, takes various forms but commonly involves group defiance, riots, and
strikes. Collective defiance, according to the authors, is the salient factor in a social
movement and all too often ignored by formalized organizations.
Piven and Cloward state that the process of change in consciousness begins
when the system loses legitimacy, group members assert themselvesbelieving they
have rights, and finally, members who previously believed they were powerless
adhere to new beliefs that they have some capacity to alter their lot (pp.3-4). Men
and women finally see that their difficulties are endemic. Additionally, .. rapid
institutional change and upheaval may affect elite groups differently, undermining
the power of some segments of the ruling class and enlarge the power of other
segments, so that elites divide among themselves (p. 13). Consequently, the authors
believe that this division helps diminish authority and hopes for change are therefore
nourished in the lower classes at the same time legitimacy is weakened (p. 13).
This cognitive liberation is clearly more probable when there are strong
social ties. Therefore the higher the social integration, the greater the political
efficacy; conversely, isolated individuals may be more likely to see their grievances
as personal troubles rather than problems rife within the system.
McAdam extends his model by describing the development and decline of a
movement. In addition to organizational strength, broad socioeconomic processes,
and shifting political opportunitiesa fourth factor, the shifting control response of
other groups to the insurgent challenge posed by the movement is added to the
model (p. 53). The level of social control is directly related now to the insurgenct
According to McAdam, two factors shape the social control response. The
first factor is the strength of the insurgent forces. The second factor is the amount of
threat or opportunity the challenging group presents toward the target or other groups
which have a vested interest in the movement and its outcome. Therefore and
obviously, the movement must remain strong in order to be sustained in the face of
Keeping a movement strong requires political leverage which increases the
likelihood that insurgent interests will prevail in a confrontation with a group whose
goals conflict with those of the insurgents (p. 20). It will, therefore, become harder
for those in power to subdue the insurgents because the group has gained powerand
repression becomes riskier. If the movement can sustain itself by utilizing the
political leverage, the movement may survivebut if it fails to have enough
leverage to bargain with, the movement may be doomed.
Me Adam contends that the mere development of an organization is not
enough to sustain a movement; informal organizations not originally formed or
planned to sustain a movement such as an insurgency are not equipped to deal with
large scale logistics and sustenance of a movement. He believes that more structured
formalized groups must replace the informal ones that originated. The movement
must hold together at all costs or the entire insurgency will simply roll to a stop.
McAdam believes the group must fuel itself on the initial success of the movement
and mobilize the resources to form the more organized enduring structure.
McAdam also discusses tacticswhich are an important tool in the
maintenance of a social movement. Generally, if a movement uses institutional
tactics, the movement is viewed as non-threatening because following proper
channels boasts compliance to the status quo where the group has no power;
institutional tactics indicate by their very propemess that the structure has not been
jostled. Conversely, noninstutitional tactics threaten the status quo and pose a
direct threat to the structure of society and to the interests of those in power.
Therefore, it is probable that noninstututional means will, at the very least, get the
oppositions attention and will cause some sort of major response. Naturally, the
more revolutionary the goals of the movement, the stronger the response from the
opposition may become. Therefore, the movement must be cautious when setting
their goals; setting excessive revolutionary goals may cause the movement to be
flattened by the opposition and minor goals would not be worth pursuing and the
final impact would be negligible.
Problems, according to McAdam, may erupt with the formalization of the
organization; organizations may back down on their original goals in order to sustain
the organization itself and the group may be coopted by seeking resources from
entities who may not have the same vested interests as the original members.
Additionally, external sponsors may not have the same goals of the organization and
outside sponsors may in effect institutionalize the movement by subtly or not so
subtly changing the direction of the movementor make it less disruptive.
Accordingly, as the group attempts to woo outside support, the original
indigenous support may weaken. As indigenous support dwindles, original goals
may fade away, and the movement may become more and more dependent on
outside supportmaking cooptation likely, and, ultimatelyremove the reason
members joined in the first place. McAdam believes that if the organization
becomes victim to any of the above dangers, the movement will not sustain its
potential for change and may indeed fail. Therefore, four notable processes are
present when a movement declines: .. a significant contraction in political
opportunities, the decline of organizational strength within the movement; a decline
in the salience of certain cognitions essential to sustained insurgency; (and)
increased repression by movement opponent (p. 63).
Cultural Aspects Of New Social Movement Theory
The cultural aspects of social movements should be examined as well. Social
movement theory in the United States, according to Doug Me Adam (1996) has,
given . .short shrift to the, .more cultural and ideational dimensions of
collective action..., which resulted in a strong rationalist and structural bias
(Buelcher and Cylke, Jr., eds. p. 1). Stephen Hart (1996) agrees and insists that a
synthesis of cultural sociology and movement theory can only improve our
understanding of collective behavior (pg.l).
McAdam (1996) explains that movement leaders and organizers can, .. .tap
highly resonant ideational strains in mainstream society as a way of galvanizing
activism (Buelcher and cylke, Jr., eds. p. 2) He believes that even though there are
existing political opportunities preceding a social movement, they merely provide a
structure and therefore, Mediating between opportunity and action are people and
the subjective meanings they attach to their situation (1982, p. 48). The political
opportunities that are crucial to a social movement, according to McAdam, (1996)
therefore are inseparable from the, .. .collective definitional processes by which
the meaning of these shifts is assigned and disseminated (p. 3). McAdam argues
that framing effortsthose efforts that cause .. .organizers [to] seek to join the
cognitive orientations of individuals with those of social movement organization, are
set in motion by cultural opportunities (p. 3).
Me Adam (1996) asserts that the first of four expanding cultural
opportunities is .. any event or set of events that dramatize a glaring
contradiction between a highly resonant cultural value and conventional social
practices (p.3). Suddenly imposed grievances and the appearance to the
participants that the opposition may be vulnerable are the second and third cultural
opportunities (qtd. p. 3). The fourth and final cultural opportunity is the master
frame that serves to guide and direct a movementbased upon experience from an
Me Adam (1996) continues to explain that extant organizations are made up
of participants who form a sort of subculture possessing a how to manual of social
movements. Consequently, the new social movement has a definite advantage
because of the tradition of insurgencies that is remembered and altered enough to
allow for new conditions. In all western industrial nations, for example, the
tradition of labor activism has served as a broad cultural template available to
succeeding generations of workers as a resource supporting mobilization (p. 5).
Conversely, McAdam claims that the opposition has their own how to manual
(Buechler and Cylke, eds., p. 6).
Additionally, the movement, in McAdams (1996) opinion, becomes a world
unto itself, and can, in fact, possess the capability of changing the broader culture of
mainstream society. McAdam suggests that given the opportunity, many times
movements, unless they are very successful, only make changes in cultural dynamics
and do not improve their political and economic situation. Transformation of
ideologies in the broader society may be the most positive gain from the mighty
efforts of a social movement.
McAdam (1996) also contends that social movements that meld two
previously segregated groups together, tend to be more successful in terms of the
continuity of cultural innovations to the larger society. The more the movement is
tied to the established cultural elites the greater the chance the larger cultural
society may experience cultural and ideological changes (Buechler and Cylke, eds.,
Steven Buechler (1995), argues that there have been movements in the past
that have the same qualities as the new social movements (p. 442). He describes
new social movements as those which replaced the social movements of the past that
were associated with, .. proletarian revolution associated with classical Marxism
(p. 442). He believes new social movement theory should be called, new social
movement theories because of the wide variance of ideas that have been spawned as
a result of new social movements (p. 442). He does not, however, dismiss the idea
that there is a new direction being taken by social movements that needs to be
examined but which also seems to encompass only a, . .limited number of
movements in politically or culturally progressive agendas (p.460). Moreover, new
social movement theory explains why much better than how.
According to Charles Tilly (1981), protests over the ages have changed
forms. Eighteenth century collective actions which might have included food riots,
invasions of fields, or street rituals toward enemies changed gradually in the 19th
century to include strikes, demonstrations and meetings. Organizations were often
formed, and they subsequently became larger in terms of membership. Barbara
Epstein (1990) agrees that social movements have changed during this century and
therefore, rethinking, is crucial to understanding the phenomena. For the purpose of
this paper, the cultural aspectsdescribed recently in new social movement theory
enhances our knowledge of the events that lead to the Ludlow Massacre and
therefore will be a useful framework in addition to the resource mobilization and
political process frameworks.
It appears as if each theory builds on past theoriesaccording to the context
of the specific event being studied but it also appears as if political process theory
lends itself more fully to addressing the events of the coal mine strike in early
Colorado Histoiy. Certainly resources were crucial to the movement in terms of
survival for the strikers, but many other factors must be equally examined to truly
understand the dynamics of a social movement. Additionally, as mentioned in this
past chapter, the examination of culture and ideologies is also crucial to the
enhancement of our understanding of the social movement phenomena. Certainly,
one general theory is not adequate given the distinctive characteristics of various
social movements. A necessary combination of the structure of political process,
the extant opportunity, a stable supply of resources, and that which give participants
the internal desire to take up the causeat risk to themselves and their livelihood
are all necessary to an emergence of that aberrant phenomenathe social movement.
The events leading to the Ludlow Massacre are uniqueas are all movementsand
require an individual social movement analysis.
It is imperative to explore some of the earlier events prior to the 1900s in
order to set the stage for the rise of the movement. The year 1900 has no special
significance to the movement since there were strikes soon after the coal mining
industry took off in Colorado; it was simply a place to start for the purpose of this
paper. My purpose is to trace the movement through the process by choosing
historical events that are pertinent to the rise and fall of the movement. The
following assessment includes conditions and events found in Colorado and
especially in the southern coal fieldfrom approximately 1900 to 1916.
STRUCTURAL CONDITIONS LEADING TO
THE COAL STRIKE OF 1913-1914
In the strike days of 1913-1914, Ludlow was the largest of the tent colonies
established by the United Mine Workers of America throughout southern Colorado.
In the early 1900s, the Trinidad coal field area was the home of numerous coal
mines. Down the road several miles from the Ludlow tent colony, one can still see
the ruins of several coal camps such as Tabasco, Berwind, and Tollerburg. In a
slightly more northerly direction lay the Hastings and Delagua mines. To the south
lay the Majestic and Forbes mines and south of Trinidad one will find the ruins of
the Starkville and Segundo mines. While winding down the dusty road to the
canyon south and west of the Ludlow site, its hard to believe that once thousands of
men, women, and children resided, toiled, suffered, anguished and sometimes died
there. Now the area is peaceful and very quietwith only imagined whispers of
trauma long past and maybe some apprehension of things to comeespecially when
one views the real estate sign advertising 40 acre plots for sale. Little if anything is
left of the communities that once supported schools, churches, stores, and homes to
thousands of coal miners and their families. A few foundations remain but all wood
is gonepart of a tipple remains but only the decimated skeleton.
Thirteen miles north and a little west of Trinidad, Colorado marks the
location where eleven children and two women suffocated and died in a smoke-filled
pit. Additionally, an 11 year old boy, five strikers, Luis Tikasthe Greek union
organizerand an 18 year old hitchiker were killed on April 20, 1914. In the bloody
confused days that followed, countless others were killed but the number of deaths
on both sides of the battle remains unsubstantiated. It is sufficient to say, the number
killed during the massacre were enough to set the world on its ear and enlighten the
nation as to the grievances and tragedies which were the coal miners and their
families lot in Colorado.
This chapter will present brief background descriptions of the conditions in
Colorado that set the stage for the impending insurgencies. Cultural and ethnic
composition of the miners will be discussed as well as the conditions in the coal
mines of Colorado and the grievances of the miners. Additionally, a portion of the
chapter will unfold some of the history of the opposition. The following analysis
appears to confirm that the political process model along with cultural theory is more
helpful in this particular flow of events than the resource mobilization model. It will
become apparent that the strike and massacre were the result of a processnot a
.. stimulus response view of insurgency (McAdam, p. 65). Furthermore, events
of that era either reinforced extant ideologies or appeared to instill similar ideologies
among menwho couldnt even speak the same language.
The events leading to the Ludlow Massacres in 1914 took place primarily in
the southeastern portion of Colorado in the Las Animas County region. This
particular region possesses a wealth of history peopled by diverse inhabitants such as
the native people, Spaniards, French, traders, gold and silver seekers, farmers,
railroaders, coal miners, and cattle and sheep ranchers. Although no gold was found
in the area of the southern portion of the front range, the gold bust in the entire state
between 1860 and 1880 was not as disastrous to this area as might be expected; the
slack was taken up by farming and ranching and the economy managed. Chronic
freight transportation problems were improved drastically and swiftly by the
railroads headed toward Denver and beyondbeginning in the 1870s. Although
some coal mining was done in Colorado as early as the Civil War years, no major
coal mines were evident until the railroad smoked into the state in the 1870s. Major
industries soon followed to feed fuel and equipment into the ravenous jaws of the
Coal Mining in Colorado History
The Fourteenth Biennial Report of the State Inspector of Coal Mines, 1911-
1912, indicates total coal production in Colorado grew from 6,776,551 tons inl904
to 12,104, 887 tons in 1910. This production is especially remarkable given the fact
that numerous strikes shut down operations at several junctures over those years.
The unusual demand in Colorado, according to State Inspector (Colorado) James
Dalrymple, was due to labor problems in other parts of the country (1911-1912, p.
5). The phenomenal increase in production extracted a stiff penalty in terms of the
large number of fatalities occurred. Mining safety laws that were enacted in 1883
and amended in 1887 were found to be inadequate by the State Mining Inspector
Dalrymple, in his 14th report (p.6). The mining laws in the state of Colorado were
brought to the publics attention in light of several mining disaster that had
occurredespecially in 1909 when three mines exploded: Primero Mine; 75
killed; Starkville Mine; 56 killed; Delagua Victor American No. 3; 79 killed.
Additionally, a fire at the Leyden mine killed 10 and 99 more men were killed by
falls of rock and or coal.
Governor Shaffoth appointed a mining commission to either revise the old
mining laws or draft new ones. The commission duly presented a new law to the
Eighteenth General Assembly but according to the State Inspector of Coal Mines in
Colorado, James Dalrymple, .. the bill was so changed and mutilated in the
Senate that the Governor vetoed it (15th Biennial Report, p. 8). Therefore, the State
Inspector made strong recommendations to coal companies requesting improvements
that were not mandated by law. Compliance was spotty yet the Inspector believed
that the laws of the state had little if any authority behind them anyway. Coal
production from 1911 to 1912 suffered as the means of production grew but the
demand did not and the inspector did not, at the time of his report, anticipate any
increase in production unless some sort of new industry developed in the state.
Ethnic Background of Miners
It is imperative that an examination of the cultural and ethnic makeup of the
miners in the years before the Ludlow strike be completed in order to more fully
understand the circumstances surrounding the era. According to the Thirteenth
Census of the United States, Las Animas County in southern Colorado in 1910
counted 11,434 men of voting age. Of that amount, 5,291 were considered native
white with native parentage versus 3,888 in 1900; 856 were considered native white
with foreign or mixed parentage versus 571 in 1900; 4,911 were considered foreign
born white versus 2,255 in 1900; 174 Negroes versus 65 in 1900 and 202 were
considered Indian, Chinese, Japanese, and all otherno numbers were given for
1900 (pg.601, Table 1). The total population of Las Animas County increased from
17,208 in 1890 to 33,643 in 1910 (pg. 601, Table 1).
Statistics from the 1900 and 1910 United States Census clearly indicate a
rapid and large influx of both foreign bom and native bom males of voting age
between the census of 1900 and 1910. This large boom in the population of Las
Animas County can be primarily attributed to the coal mining industry. The fact that
the mining laws were printed in Italian, Greek, Bulgarian, Polish, German, Croatian,
Spanish, and Japanese attests to the number of various cultures and ethnic groups
jumbled together in the coal mines and camps.
Colorado Fuel and Iron Company
William Palmer, founder of the Colorado Coal and Iron Company, built a
steel mill to build rails for his Denver Rio Grande Railroad; the mill was supplied
by coal mined in the nearby Huerfano River area (Atheam, 1985, p. 119). In October
1871, the Denver Rio Grande Railroad reached Colorado Springs and soon after in
1876, the Atchison, Topeka, & Sante Fe Railroad stretched to Pueblo from Kansas.
Near the Trinidad, Colorado area, bituminous coal was obtainableunlike most
other coal deposits in the state which were too deep to make mining profitable.
Around the turn of the century, some 60% of coal output in the entire state came
from the southern coal field in and around Las Animas and Huerfano County
(McGovern and Guttridge, 1972, p. 3).
Colorado Coal and Iron Company according to Frederic J. Atheam (1985)
quickly snapped up the potential coal lands and opened coal mines, iron mines, and
coke ovensin the vicinity of Trinidad, Pueblo, Walsenburg, and Crested Butte,
Colorado. At one time the Colorado Coal and Iron Company was the only blast
furnace between the Missouri River and the West Coast. In 1892, the Colorado Coal
and Iron Company and the Colorado Fuel Company (owned by John Cleveland
Osgood and three associates) consolidated to become the Colorado Fuel and Iron
Company (hereafter called the CF&I).
By the turn of the century, the CF&I was the most powerful coal and steel
enterprise in the West (McGovern and Guttridge, 1972, p. 8). Jesse Welbom,
President of the CF&I company, testified in 1914 that the companys holdings
employed around 12,000 men in Colorado (Hearings, vol.l, p. 489). The lands the
company controlled stretched from southern Colorado to southern Wyoming and
possessed its own railroad called the Colorado and Wyoming. The CF&I company
was well known as the corporation, which was, according to Lee Scamehom, (1992)
. .. for more then half a century the states leading builder and manager of towns,
as well as the regions largest industrial enterprise(p. 84). For the purpose of this
paper, emphasis will be placed on evaluating CF&I and its substantial role in the
events leading to the coal strike in 1913-1914 and the eventual Ludlow Massacre in
Conditions in the Coal Mines and Camps
of Southern Colorado
H.Lee Scamehom (1992) states that CF&I had at least a partial control over
sixty-two towns in Coloradospread out over eleven counties. The author contends
that originally, in order to save money, the CF&I, as well as many other coal
companies, rented land to workers so that they could build their own homes.
Consequently, this practice resulted in inadequate services and planning and left the
area ripe for unhealthy conditions to flourish. Dr. Richard Corwin, employed by
CF&Iprior to the Rockefeller daysunder the leadership of John Osgood
improved coal camps by building and improving homes, upgrading health care,
building hospitals, providing access to education, and implementing recreation
programsthe entire practice of improving coal camps was termed, industrial
sociology (p. 84). Those programs were quickly cutback, however, with the arrival
of Rockefellers man, Lamont M. Bowers in 1908.
Scamehom contends that conditions steadily worsened in the coal camps
following the departure of both Dr. Corwin and John Osgood. The author cites
Eugene S. Gaddis, who was a superintendent of the sociological department in the
days after 1908. Mr. Gaddis condemned the manner in which the coal camps were
operated and testified in the aftermath of the strike as to the outrageous living
conditions extant. Many times, brutal and vicious superintendents ran the camps in
which its inhabitants experienced substandard and inadequate housing, deficient or
non-existent medical care, rigged elections, mandatory trading at the company store,
and many other flagrant abuses.
Most of the delegates who spoke at the Special Convention of District Fifteen
voiced complaints about the chronically poor living conditions in the mining camps.
Delegate Obeza stated: We are charged $8.00 a month for a two room house that is
no better than a stable. We pay $1.00 a month for doctor and 25 cents a month for
hospital. The water we buy is no fit to drink (E.L.Doyle Papers, Special
Convention notes, p. 6). Delegate Lamont concurred:
They keep the miners very close in the camp. The miners who have been on
strike for the last four years can feed and clothe their families better than
those who are working every day in southern Colorado. They get very poor
food and some of the children are dressed in clothes made of gunny-sacks,
and their fathers are working every day. (Special Convention Notes,
E.L.Doyle Papers, p. 5).
Delegate Madona contended:
We are charged $2.25 a room per month for houses not fit to live in, 25 cents
a month for blacksmith, $1.00 per month for the doctor and $1.25 for powder,
which leaves me $4.52 for loading seven box cars of coal. (Special
Convention Notes, E.L.Doyle Papers, p. 10).
Additionally, if an accident occurred with a resultant injury, or a person was ill
enough to seek the company doctor, most of the delegates seemed to believe that
the coal company doctor was much worse than no doctor at all.
George McGovern and Leonard F. Guttridge (1972) assert that the company
towns (after Rockefeller took over) were closed and fenced with the only access road
belonging to the company. Furthermore, the houses were only available as long as
one worked for the company and only three days notice to move was given if the job
was lost. The authors contend that some of the homes the coal companies owned
were actually well built and suitable but a different story emerged in the coal camps
farther from the publics eye where the homes were ramshackle and squalid with
In addition to deplorable living conditions, many of the same working
conditions that had always plagued miners in past erasno matter where the mines
were locatedhad not changed. If anything, conditions may have been worse in
Colorado because of the influx of non-English speaking immigrants who knew little
or nothing about coal mining. Safety considerations were minimal in the mines and ,
the combination of inexperienced workers and their inability to communicate with
each other and their supervisors, invited tragedy, disasters, and the ensuing loss of
life. Commissioner of Mines, John Jones, in his 13th Biennial Report from 1907-
1908 in Colorado, wrote that the coal companies policy of hiring inexperienced and
non-English speaking men accounted for many accidents.
The reports of all the accidents which are on record in this office and which
were made after a careful and thorough investigation into their causes, show
that a large majority of them were due to either carelessness, ignorance or
inability to detect and realize the dangers incident to mining, by the victims
Themselves, or their co-workers, and largely happened in those districts
where miners foreign to the English-speaking countries were employed
James Dalrymple, the State Inspector of Coal Mines in 1909-1910 concurred
when he wrote in his Fourteenth Biennial Report that mine disasters had driven
miners from the coal minesespecially in the southern field. Therefore a serious
shortage of experienced miners caused the employment of, ... mostly natives of
Italy, Austria, Japan and Korea and are not practical miners, very few of them ever
having been in a coal mine before taking employment in the Colorado mines (p. 6).
Edwin Brake, the Deputy Commissioner and Chief Factory Inspector disagrees with
the mining inspector as to the cause of the miner shortage when he wrote in the
Twelfth Biennial Report of Labor Statistics of 1909-910:
It is a well known fact that it is the policy of the C.F. and I. Company to
employ inexperienced miners to the exclusion of experienced ones. The
reason for this is that these non-English speaking foreigners are not
conversant with the rate of wages or the conditions that prevail in this
country, and they will submit to conditions that men will not tolerate who
have had experience as practical miners, (p. 22).
The deaths in Colorado coal mines were significantly higher than in other
states and the United States as a whole had much higher death rates than other
countries. In 1906 there were 91 fatal accidents in coal mines in Colorado, 89
fatalities inl909, 319 in 1910, 91 in 1911, and 75 in 1914 (12th to 15th Biennial
Reports, 1905-1912). Compared with the 2.9 fatalities per 1,000 miners in Illinois
in 1909, and 3.11 per 1,000 in 1910, Colorados rate of 6.76 per 1,000 in 1909 and
21.6 fatalities per 1,000 in 1910 was extremely high; it is fair to say that Colorado
seemed to have a problem with safety in the coal mines (Twelfth Biennial Report,
One has to take into consideration, however, that dust explosions were
certainly more plentiful in Colorado because of the dry climate. Known safety
precautions such as sprinkling the dusty mines and raising the temperature and
humidity in the ventilation systems in the mines, were very effective measures to
combat dust, but were not incorporated in all of the mines. However, James
Dalrymple, the State Inspector of Coal Mines, reported in 1911 that, The Colorado
Fuel and Iron Company some time ago put in, at the main North Primero mine, two
radiators, accompanied by steam and water sprays, which, in my opinion, were very
satisfactory in obtaining the desired results. Additionally, the inspector wrote,
The Colorado Fuel & Iron Company ranks first in making improvements not
compulsory or demanded by the law; it complied cheerfully with most of our
recommendations (Fifteenth Biennial Report, 1911, p. 6-8).
Strikes were rife throughout the histoiy of coal mining in the United States
and Colorado certainly had its share. In Colorado, between 1881 to 1886, sixteen
coal strikes occurredmost having to do with cuts in wages. In addition to low
wages, literature on the subject clearly indicates that coal miners had other salient
In addition to unsafe working conditions and generally deplorable living
situations, delegates at the 1913 Special Convention of District Fifteen, voiced many
more justifiable concerns. A salient concern voiced by nearly every delegate was
that the miners were never paid for dead work. Dead work is the work that had to be
done prior to actual coal mining. Laying track, timbering the ceilings and walls,
hauling out rock and dirt to get to the coal, hunting for timbers and rails as well as
moving equipment and supplies were considered dead work. Delegate Cormwall,
complained, We hauled timber for nothing and loaded several cars of rock for
nothing (Special Convention Notes, E.L.Doyle Papers, p. 4). Delegate Morzox,
appeared to agree:
They (miners) have to look around the mine for rails and ties, thereby losing
half a days work. If we ask the boss to send us rails and ties, he tells us we
will have to look for them ourselves. We also have to take props from old
workings to use in our working places which is veiy dangerous, as we are
liable to be killed while doing so any time. (Special Convention Notes, E.L.
Doyle Papers, p. 4).
Delegate Lamont stated similar concerns:
We got 24 cents for loading a car of coal and had to push the cars ourselves.
We had a contract to cut coal for 19 cents a ton, but we had to handle the dirt
that was mixed with the coal for nothing. The company made 4 cents alone
each day for light. I had to shovel the coal about forty feet. No track was laid
for us and if two men could not push a car, four or five men had to do it. They
paid 55 cents a ton for pick work and 40 cents a ton for loaders. They have to
timber their own places, lay track, drill and shoot for this price in mine #1.
(Special Convention Notes, E.L. Doyle Papers, p. 5).
Delegate Wilkinson contended:
I worked in a seven foot vein at Primero Mine. There were two feet of rock
to three veins of coal. There were about twenty inches of coal in the bottom
and eight inches of rock, then twenty inches of coal again and fourteen inches
of rock and about twenty feet of coal. They paid 60 cents a ton for the coal
and nothing for the rock and $2.25 a yard for entries. There were three cars
of rock to every four cars of coal. (Special Convention Notes, E.L.Doyle
Papers, p. 7).
Delegate Madona complained:
One man asked the track layer if he was going to lay the track in his room,
but was informed that every one had to lay his own track which took one day
and a half without pay. The cars were so large that it was necessary to have
three chains in the body to prevent the sides from spreading. The cars weigh
more than three tons, but the men get paid for thirty-six or forty hundred
pounds at 55 cents a ton. (Special Convention notes, E.L. Doyle Papers, p. 9).
Another grievance voiced by all of the delegates concerned inadequate pay.
Concomitant with inadequate pay was the very viable concern that the miners were
cheated by the checkweighman. DelegateBalek stated:
The men work ten hours a day several times and get paid for eight. One day I
happened to go upon the tipple, the weigh boss had weights to write out and I
saw him dump all the checks in the same box. These checks represented
seven different sized cars, some eight feet long and some nine feet, others
were four feet deep and weighed thirty hundred pounds, but he marked down
one weight for all. (Special Convention Notes, E.L. Doyle Papers, p. 9).
Delegate McDonald also complained:
The cars hold a little more than a ton; we are supposed to get 65 cents a car
but they dock us a good deal and we seldom get more than 55 cents. It costs
us from 50 cents to $1.00 per day to shot down the coal. We are charged
$1.00 for twelve sticks of powder. There are two sticks to a pound. We pay
$6.00 and $8.00 for two and three room houses.(Special Convention notes,
Doyle Papers p. 8).
Additionally, many of the delegates complained that miners who were
thought to belong to the union or who were sympathetic to the cause would find
themselves out of a job. Several cited instances of abuse at the hands of mine guards
if the miners were even remotely affiliated with someone who belonged to the union.
Safety issues were another obvious grievance voiced by many delegates.
Delegates complained that the ventilation in many of the mines was poor at best and
coal dust choked what little fresh air there was. Delegate Morzox commented that,
The work place is about six hundred feet ahead of the air, and every morning that I
went into the mine I thought I would never come out alive (Special Convention
notes, Doyle Papers, p. 4).
The fact that the climate of Colorado made coal mining dangerous without
any other factors was obvious not only to the miners but also to James Dalrymple,
the State Inspector of Coal Mines in 1911. As early as 1905-1906, however,
concerns were raised as to the inadequacy of the outdated mining laws. John D.
Jones, who was the State Inspector of Coal Mines, wrote in his Twelfth Biennial
Our present law governing coal mines was enacted in 1883. It was amended
in 1887, but since then it has not been expanded to cope with the great
changes that science and modem inventions have made in this industry. New
discoveries have led to different methods of extracting coal, of haulage, etc.
Widened experience and scientific observation have disclosed elements of
danger not known to exist in mines when the present statute was framed, and
to which the miner is continuously exposed while working. For instance,
when these regulations for the safeguarding of life were made, the world was
totally unaware of the fact that the coal dust in mines is in itself explosive.
The scientist then claimed that coal dust was dangerous only in the presence
of explosive gas, and it was on that hypothesis that the law required the
sprinkling of gaseous mines only. More than one-half of the explosions
which have taken place in our State occurred in what are classed as non-
gaseous mines, (pp. 5-6).
He also bemoaned the fact that the mining inspectors were unable to inspect the
mines as often as the law required yet his salient message in his report was the
incompetence of the foreign miners:
A large proportion of the miners in Colorado are men of very limited
experience in coal mining, the majority of them are foreigners taking up coal
mining as a livelihood without any previous training, and in consequence are
deficient in detecting the dangerous phases as they present themselves from
roof and wall at the faces of their workings, (p. 5).
Mining laws, which were made some thirty years in the past, were effectively
unenforceable and also woefully inadequate. In Dalrymples letter to the Nineteenth
General Assembly in 1911, he writes that the extant coal mining laws have not only
been ignored but furthermore, the miners, in the .most hazardous occupations
known have been given no more consideration than, .. .the wild deer of the
forest or the trout in the stream (Fifteenth Biennial Report, p. 9). Dalrymple
reported that Colorados coal industry was mining coal at an unprecedented rate and
using more inexperienced miners; changes, therefore, to the current laws were
crucial. Additionally, he cites the increase in more mechanical improvements in the
mining industry were cause for more and stricter safety regulations. Seeming to
possess a prejudicial view of the new immigrant miners, he wrote:
Today we have a very incompetent class of miners, few of them ever having
seen a coal mine until they started work in our, and very few of them
understand the English language. This is a very serious handicap, because
they cannot ready our mining law or understand what is being said to them by
the officials in charge. They know practically nothing about he mining of
coal or the dangers connected therewith. (Fifteenth Biennial Report, 1911-
1912, p. 9-10).
Although Dalrymple seemed to have a low and prejudicial opinion of the new
and inexperienced foreign workers, the State Inspector of Coal Mines still considered
the loss of life in the coal mines to be a serious problem. The new mining laws were
passed but appeared minimal. James Dalrymple, therefore, wrote to operators in the
southern coal fields on September, 19,1911, and requested their cooperation in
voluntarily implementing safety measures in their mines. The safety measures he
recommended included using radiators to instill moisture into the air in the mines in
order to artificially create summer like conditions so that dust would not so readily
cause an explosion. Within the letter he extols CF&I by noting that they had
recently installed heaters and radiators in the Primero mine and had experienced the
desired humidity. He recommended other mining companies follow suit.
In asking you to comply with this letter, I realize that I am asking you to do
something which the law does not require; but, believing you have the
welfare of your employes, (sic) as well as the protection of your property, at
heart, I sincerely hope that you will look upon this letter favorably, and that
you will do everything in your power to carry out the recommendations.
(Fifteenth Biennial Report, p. 11).
The strike called in September, 1913 seriously undercut production as
reported by James Dalyrmple in the First Annual Report of the State Inspector of
Coal Mines in 1913. His report clearly indicates that the new mining laws that called
for two more inspectors, mandatory printing of the law into several languages, and
the requirement that examinations be held for positions of higher authority in the
mines, were not put in force. He concluded that his office was therefore unable to
carry out the duties as they should have. The average earnings of the coal miners, he
reported in the same report, worked out to 55 2/3 cents per ton.
From this chapter, it is easy to discern that working conditions for the coal
miners in the southern coal fields of Colorado were deplorable and dangerous.
Conditions in the mines did not take inexperienced miners into consideration and
both experienced and inexperienced suffered under the same unsafe conditions. The
miners complaint that the mules were treated much better than they appears to be all
too true. Neither did the coal camps ease the miners wretched life; crude housing
and unsanitary conditions disseminated suffering to the wives and children. The
closed coal camps appeared an even worse situation for the miners and their families
where they were never out from under the coal companys patronizing eye. Coal
companies such as CF&I were rich and powerful and clearly the miners had been
powerless in comparison. However, the stirrings of movement was in the blood of
many a miner in Colorado as evidenced by several strikes prior to the days of either
the Western Federation of Miners or the United Mine Workers of America (hereafter
referred to as UMW).
Therefore the events that lead to the Ludlow Massacre were part of an
accompanying process that started many years prior to the UMW opening District
Fifteen. Social movements are a disruption but not a disruption out of the blue. The
following chapter will discuss more clearly the confluence of events that continued
the process toward the emergence of a significant threat to the coal companies and
more specifically, CF&I.
HISTORY BEHIND THE 1913-1914 COAL STRIKE
Clearly, in the southern coal fields of Colorado, in the early 1900s, coal
miners and their families suffered under glaringly harsh conditions, with obvious
grievancesgrievances which were not of their own making but serious flaws in the
system. This chapter will discuss myriad events that gave rise to the strike of 1913-
1914. The events discussed were selected according to their impact on the
emergence of the movement and eventually, on the impending disaster. Throughout
the historical narrative, social movement theories will also be discussed in terms of
the events and their role in the process of the insurgency.
According to McAdams theory, the emergence of a social movement calls
for indigenous organizations to initiate the process of insurgency. Two unions
initiated that process and competed for membership in the early years of mining
history in Colorado: The Western Federation of Miners (mostly hard rock miners
union) and the United Mine Workers. Eventually, the United Mine Workers would
be emerge as the sole organization for the coal miners in Colorado.
There are those who believe the Ludlow strike and the subsequent massacre
were due to the union agitators infiltrating Colorado to further their own cause.
A. A. Berle, wrote in 1914, that there would have never been a strike inl913 if it
werent for the union.
The facts seem to indicate, with rather strong emphasis, that, left to them-
selves, without the outside stimulation and agitation, there would have
been no strike whatever, especially as the uneasy elements did not
appear to be either large enough in numbers or influential enough in
character to bring about such a strike as actually occurred. It was an
imported strike, brought in by an outside organization, with possibly the
best intentions in the world and possibly for some good ends. But, as the
case appears to me, the invasion was one which was not justified by the
conditions; and the assumption that it represented the mine workers
actually in the employ of the companies when declared, is utterly
unjustified by the evidence. (A.A.Berle, 1914, p. 562).
Others, agreed with the Reverend and much was said to discredit any and all
who had any dealings with the outsiders. Mother Jones was vilified by opponents-
- both vocally and in print; references were frequently made to her purported
disgraceful past. The coal companies seemed to be threatened by the increasing
presence of the union in Colorado and focused a great deal of their attention toward
The history of Colorado clearly indicates that coal miners struck many times
regardless of whether the strike was union authorized or not. It is clear that although
strikes were common enough, any real insurgencies never occurred until the union
leaders stepped over the state line. The organizers and the subsequent organization
had a profound affect on the miners and subsequent strikes.
Emergence of the United Mine Workers of America
The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie,
replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by their
revolutionary combination, due to association. .. .The real fruit of their battle
lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the
workers. (Karl Marx, qtd. in Tarrow, 1998, p. 11)
Union organizers played a major role in recruiting the miners to become
members of the union and it was through the union that cognitive liberation was
enhanced sufficiently so that the miners began to believe they could make a
difference. Although mines were typically isolatedespecially in southern
Colorado, Patricia Long (1989) contends that coal miners in general were notorious
for being a roving population and the extreme mobility of the coal-mining
population offset the isolation of the coal camps (p. 193). Records, according to
Long, indicate that at one particular mine in Illinois, only 45 men out of 210 had
worked at that location for the year. Piven and Cloward contend that Americans
were much more mobile than Europeans, both economically and geographically, and
if opportunity seemed nonexistent where they were, they moved west. This
movement of discontented miners was certainly enabled by the newly built railroads
that could transports masses of strikebreakers into an area very quickly.
Additionally, word of mouth increased the miners individual knowledge that
persecutions and danger persisted in their occupation. The more the underground
network disseminated information regarding some new abuse at the hands of the coal
companies or new strategies that might be effective, the more unified the miners
became. Ideas and information therefore circulated rapidly in the eastern coal states
and as miners moved west, the union philosophy continued to be spread in and
around the Rocky Mountains. Consequently, the mobility of the miners increased
cognitive liberation and paved the way to union solidarity.
In addition to rumors of a better life under the union, what drew the miners,
their wives, and their families to risk their livelihood and join the cause? Obviously,
the conditions they worked and lived in were despicableyet what shared beliefs
managed to cement men and women of extremely diverse ethnic backgrounds?
Between the political opportunities, one must address the meanings the miners and
their families attached to their situation. The miners, no longer isolated, became
more and more aware that their life experiencesrife with grinding poverty and
hardshipcould not be remotely compared with their employers. Neither could
their lives even compare to the company guards working and living conditions.
Equally important, in aligning members to the cause in Colorado, was the
unification that occurred when sporadic yet seemingly perpetual loss of life and
limbs occurred in mine explosions and accidents. System vulnerability, another
factor for an insurgency, was present in the early years in the form of mine
shutdowns. If the strikers, at any time, could effectively shut down a mine, the
owners would capitulate sooner. This seldom happened for long because there was
always a steady stream of immigrant men willing to come west for a job.
Finally, each successful tactical response helped set the framework of the
insurgency to come. Social movements, again, are not isolated incidents, but the
repository of experience in battles and strikes all around the world, as well as union
supported strikes in the United States. Colorado was no stranger to miners
discontent and although unions served as the primary agents for organizing the
miners and their families to strike, some of the experienced miners were certainly
aware of the unions and were well versed in strike procedures before they ever came
Although the miners were a mobile lot and able to pick up information,
they were prevented from becoming a powerful force by their own behavior toward
the newand cheaperforeign laborers. The purposeful company policy of hiring
men of different cultural backgrounds and different languages worked well for quite
some time. Consequently, it was much more difficult for workers to organize on a
large enough basis to exert political leverage.
According to Donald McClurg (1959), a large percentage of coal miners in
Colorado were immigrants from southern Europe; in fact the immigrant miners
increased in numbers from 1.5% of the total population of Colorado in 1870 to
17.6% in 1910 in Huerfano and Las Animas counties. The coal miners in the
northern coal fields were made up of a larger percent of men from northern
Europea fact which would make agreement on strike issues between the southern
and northern coal fields more difficult due to the differences in languages and
cultures. Unification in those conditions was extremely difficultwhich made the
job much harder for the union recruiters.
Union organizers increased membership by traveling to coal camps in order
to recruit members, disseminate information, and set up union conventions. In 1890
the Knights of Labor and the National Federation of Miners and Mine Laborers
merged to form the United Mine Workers of America (hereafter referred to as:
UMW), and in 1892 the Western Federation of Miners began in Butte, Montana.
As early as 1897, the Western Federation of Miners union organization
signed a contract for its members in Louisville, Colorado. The UMW union
organization moved into Colorado in 1892 and declared that District 15 encompassed
Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and New Mexico. Friction between the two labor
organizations never allowed the two to consolidate and eventually, the UMW
became the primary union for the coal miners in Colorado.
Clearly, the political process was continuing. Isolated, the miners faced
severe obstacles in striking primarily by the fact that they would lose their job and be
blacklisted at other mines. The most viable option was to move to another mine
hoping for improved conditions elsewhere. Without union organizations, the miners
faced an opposition not many wished to tangle with. Union organizers propagated
hope that the miners could put forth a serious challenge to the coal mine owners and
that they deserved better than they had been receiving. Unions also encouraged
miners by guaranteeing that strikers would be taken care of by the union-in terms of
relief money during the strike.
Miners, who were willing to strike with the unions were a crucial resource for
the movement. Strikes would only be disruptive if the majority of the miners joined
the causenumbers amounted to political leverage. Notwithstanding the role of the
miners, miners wives must be included as a separate and extremely crucial resource.
Women, although they didnt have to work the mines, suffered as just as much and
certainly had a vested interest in whether their men went on strike or not. Support
from the women enabled men to strike; it is extremely doubtful that if not for the
courage and resilience of the women who also experienced hardship in the coal
campsthe movement would have indeed died aborning. Later in the strike, the
tactical use of women to oppose the militia served to gamer some public sympathy
for the cause. Courage and fervent alignment with the cause girded women and they
became a force to be reckoned with in the early years of Colorado. Who can ignore
the role of Mary Harris Jones, better known as Mother Jones, a woman whose,
.. .revolutionary billingsgate had shrilled above the doctrinaire oratory of every
major strike in the past dozen years (McGovern and Guttridge, 1972, p. 46). As
early as 1904, Mother Jones was considered enough of a threat that she was arrested,
placed on an eastern bound train, and told never to return.
Resources from the union in terms of weekly relief pay and a semblance of
protection were crucial to the unionization of coal miners. Relief pay and the
possibility of protection was a powerful incentive to most of the coal miners.
Thousands of men who worked in the coal mines in Colorado could ill afford to walk
off a job but with the comfort of knowing that the union would pay relief, were much
more inclined to strike. Considering the amount of support for the various strikes in
early Colorado history, it is obvious that miners agreed with the strike but just hadnt
joined up until the eve of the strikemainly, I contend, because of the danger extant
Organizational Development and Political Contention
If there is a genius in organizing, it is the capacity to sense what is possible
for people to do under given conditions, and to then help them do it. (Piven
and Cloward, p. 22).
The UMW union managed to consolidate the northern and southern coal field
miners long enough to initiate a strike ini 903. A Manifesto issued in August by the
United Mine Workers of District 15, listed grievances which included safety issues,
and the servile policy adopted by organized capital, to discharge all workers,
. .who show an inclination to unite themselves with their fellow workers (qtd. in
Long, p. 217). The union had a great deal of difficulty keeping the workers from
striking immediately, yet managed to do soprobably due to the fact that the
situation in Colorado was so dangerous. The strikers must have realized they needed
the backing of the national union to sustain them over the course of the strike. The
miners in both the northern and the southern coal fields struck on November 10,
1903; 10,000 strikers stopped work and, Union and non-union, white and Mexican,
all obeyed the strike order of President Mitchell and the tie up is complete (qtd. in
Long, pg. 221). According to Patricia Long, the strikers demanded the following:
an eight hour work day, pay every two weeksand payment in legal U.S. dollars,
improvements in ventilation, and the definition of a ton as 2,000 pounds. The last
four demands had already been mandated but had not been enforced.
So far we have an indigenous organization of miners who had clear
grievances and at least a certain amount of cognitive liberation which enabled a large
number of men to strike. Noticeably lacking, however, were expanding political
opportunities and broad socioeconomic processes as evidenced by the following
The coal companies in Colorado refused to negotiate and brought in strike
breakers and armed guards who were deputized by the local sheriffs. The strikers
had very little political leverage as evidenced by the fact that the coal companies
continued their business on a regular basis and managed to keep up production with
imported strikebreakers. The striking miners found themselves severely
disadvantaged. Obviously, possessing little political leverage severely limited the
effectiveness of the strike. Additionally, resources dwindled as the strike carried on;
the union was the sole support of the strikers and outside elite support was non-
existent. Cognitive liberation was apparently strong, but without political
opportunities and leverage, and a steady supply of resources, movements havent a
Moreover, the dearth of political leverage on the side of the strikers
influenced the amount of social control that raised its head in the form of
intimidation and abuse from corrupt law enforcement. Social control never really
abated in the early years of the twentieth century. In October 1903, one miner
We are often robbed of 50 per cent of the coal mined. To complain of
the injustice means instant dismissal. A man.. .dare not call his soul his
own. If two men are talking together, a deputy sheriff or paid tool of the
company will edge up alongside of him to find out if he is talking about his
work or labor unions. IRockv Mountain News. October, 31, 1903, p. 6).
Additionally, working miners seen in the company of union organizers were at risk
of being fired or black listed.
The northern workers eventually voted to end the strike when the Northern
Coal and Coke Company proposed a settlement to the union. The end to the strike in
the northern coal fields, shattered the fragile unity holding together radical and
conservative unionists and therefore greatly reduced the chances that the southern
coal field would ever win their demands (Long, 1989, p. 231). Fighting within the
ranks of the UMW leadership seemed to be a primary factor for the split between the
northern and southern coal field workers and probably lead to the decline of that
particular strike in the southern coal fields.
Strikebreakers were soon brought into the southern coal field and armed
gunmen who were hired by the coal companies replaced the more neutral sheriff
deputies; the coal companies did not trust the local law enforcement officers to look
after their vested interest. As the strike continued in the southern coal fields, Mother
Jonescharismatic as evermanaged to encourage and lead the strikers whenever it
appeared that they were discouraged and vulnerable to dropping out of the
movement. When other resources dwindled or enthusiasm for the cause ebbed, the
tactical use of Mother Jones helped shore up flagging spirits.
Nearly a year later, the union, practically bankrupt from the exorbitant
expenses involved in such a strike, told its members to go back to work.
Membership, according to Patricia Long had fallen from 9,000 strikers in November
1903 to 425 members in January, 1905. Several problems sent the movement
spiraling toward decline; in addition to combating a very powerful opponent with
little political leverage on the part of the insurgents, the organization split on basic
philosophy. This split destroyed any solidarity between the northern and southern
coal fields for years to come and effectively severed any real chances of the
movement to survive.
Additionally, the southern coal field could not financially sustain itself and
without monetary relief from the union, the miners were forced to go back to work
without a settlement. Many of the miners in the southern coal fields, saw the futility
of the situation; the production eventually rolled steadily on with the importation of
strikebreakers. Consequently, thousands left Colorado to seek work elsewhere and
many of those who remained and were allowed to work in the same mines, found
themselves surrounded by newly arrived western Europeans. It is important to note
that the miners achieved the cognitive liberation necessary to emerge as a force to
contend withas evidenced by the number of men who made the decision to go on
strike. However, a movement without resources and political leverage could not
continue; the strike stumbled to an ignominious end.
Another factor that influenced the strike, was the situation of the CF&I
company. The strike had damaged the company enough to show a loss of over a
million dollars. The loss was exacerbated due to the closure of the steel mill in
Pueblo. Patricia Long (1989) contends that the steel mill in Pueblo had been closed
because all the coal in southern Colorado was used fill customer orders and none was
leftover for use in the mill. The coal companies had won the war with the strikers
and the union but the price for victory was extremely high.
The union leaders must be applauded in their efforts to organize thousands of
men to walk out of the mines during the 1903-1904 strike. Theirs was an extremely
difficult task given the myriad cultures of the men, the relative isolation of the mines,
the social control extant, and the massive size of the area they had to cover. One
particular union organizer, John Lawson, was particularly effective to gathering
support for the union.
John Lawson, well known as the UMWs international board member, strike
leader, and organizer during the Ludlow years, first arrived in Walsenburg, Colorado
in 1907. Lawsonnot as well known as Mother Jonesnor quite so charismatic,
was a most important leader in the strike of 1913-1914 and a key player in the
arduous tasks of unifying the miners. Lawson, had grown up in coal mining towns,
worked the coal mines as an adolescent, and learned first hand, the force of social
control after his home was dynamited during the 1903 strike. He was also the
recipient of a blast from a mine owners shotgun that crippled him for months
thereafter. He eventually recovered from his wounds and gained important
recognition throughout the coal fields of Colorado; the recognition and respect he
earnedin addition to his own calm and stalwart naturewould be crucial in
keeping some semblance of control over massive numbers of embittered and angry
men in the upcoming strike.
In 1907, the UMW again moved into the southern coal fields where the WFM
had already been building their membership for several years. Both unions
organized despite threats, intimidation, illegal treatment from corrupt politicians,
and hired guns. Organization for the union continued over the years in spite of the
miners knowledge that the law that allowed them to join and belong to a union-
would not protect them against the seemingly corrupt officials in the coal fields.
On January 23, 1907, the Primero Mines in Las Animas County exploded
because of dust and gas24 men were killed. In late 1907, both union drives
dwindled and stopped when the economic depression hit; the coal companies were
also faced with economic hardships. The UMW continued to pay its workers but the
coffers were substantially overdrawn. The UMW, continuing their work regardless,
made a very wise decision in 1907 to remove their anti-exclusion policy toward
Japanese and Chinesefinally figuring out that split groups of workers were an asset
to the coal companies.
Barron Beshoar (1942) believes that the union leaders, in large measure, were
responsible for the signed contract in the northern coal fields between the strikers
and the coal companies on July 14, 1908. Provisions agreed to were: proper
ventilation in the mine, a closed shop, an eight hour work day, permission to take a
day off when a fellow coal miner was killed in the mine, limitation on blacksmith
costs, inability to charge employees more than two dollars a ton for coal for their
own use, improvements in safety measure in the mines, and imposition of grievance
Although this contract signed by the coal owners was a triumph for the union,
once again in 1909, the UMW voted to back out of Coloradodue to the inability to
sustain itself financially. The decision to pull out of Colorado was certainly
influenced by the fact that it was summerthe time of year when layoffs were
expected and coal was not needed for heat. Obviously resources, vital to the
sustenance of an organization and therefore to its movement, were crucial and
without union relief, solidarity was waning. In addition to resources, political
leverage was nonexistent; the coal companies had very little demand for the coal so
no one cared if the miners went on strike. It was apparently time for the union to
regroup for better opportunities.
On July 6, 1909, the Toller Mine in Las Animas County exploded because of
gas and an open light-9 men were killed. On January 31,1910, the Primero Mine,
owned by CF&I, exploded as a result of dust and gas and killed 75 men. (Later the
CF&I installed radiatorsthought to control the dust by raising the humidity in the
mines and therefore lessen the chance of dust explosion.) In April, 1910, the
northern coal workers2,200 strongwalked out of the mines for better working
conditions and increased wages after their contract with the Northern Coal and Coke
Company was not renewed. Patricia Long (1989) contends that many people
believed the CF&I coal company influenced the Northern Company in its refusal to
renew the contract with the union. Mother Jones, back with the UMW union, urged
the southern field to strike also and, . .lick the Colorado Fuel and Iron Co. out of
its boots... (qtd. in Long, 1989, p. 253). Knowing that the northern field had little
chance to win the strike, organizers descended to southern Colorado to recruit
membership again and to persuade those southern miners to join the northern
workers in their cause.
Organizing was difficult in the southern coal fields; mines werent as close
together as they had been in the northern coal field, most of the miners lived in the
coal company camps, and the camps were harder to get into than in the northern field
where most of the miners lived off the company property. Organizers in the southern
coal field were also up against a very militant opposition of hired guns, detective
agencies, and miners who all too clearly remembered being left high and dry by the
northern coal workers in the 1903 strike. The UMW could not at that time,
financially support the strike in both fields.
On October 8,1910, the Starkville mineowned by CF&Iexploded
because of a buildup of gas that ignited from an arc from a runaway tripsending
56 men to their graves. Men, as deep as four miles into the labyrinth of the coal
mine at Starkville, died. The massive explosion, deep within the bowels of the mine,
managed to rip the supporting timbers all the way to the entrance (McGovern and
Guttridge, p. 64). Gradually, it became apparent that company negligencenot
mistakes from miners was behind the great mine disasters of that era. The local
newspaper noted that the victims families were being taken care of:
Everything that can be done is being done for the families of the victims by
the company. Yesterday and today, the widows of the entombed men with
their children thronged the company store where supplies were given to them.
The company has ordered that these unfortunate ones be cared for and that
their condition be relieved. Moreover, the various foreign societies to which
these entombed miners are said to have belonged,, are doing their part to
alleviate the distress. (Trinidad Chronicle News. October 11, 1910, p. 1).
The Trinidad Chronicle News later reported, on October 21,1910, that CF&I
failed to exercise the proper caution in keeping the mine free of dust, (in violation of
the law) thereby causing the explosion in the Starkville mine. The guilt of the coal
companies was all the more evident when a month later the Delagua Mine, also in
Las Animas County, (owned by the Victor American Fuel Company) exploded
again because of dust79 miners would never see the sun again. Public sentiment,
another resource for the movement, demanded improved mining laws as a direct
result of the needless loss of life in the mines.
Obviously, resources in the form a steady supply of money from outside elite,
said to be crucial to a movements emergence according to resource mobilization
theory, is refuted in this particular instance. The movement was well on its way and
outside support was not evident. However, there is no denying that resources in
terms of money for relief for the striking miners and public sympathy were without
question vital to the movementa fact that supports McAdams (1982) notion that
involvement from outside groups is actually reactive (pg. 62).
Consequently, the mining commission was formed to investigate the disasters
and either revise or draft new mining laws (14th Biennial Report, p. 7). James
Dalyrmple, the State Coal Inspector in 1910, optimistically predicted that the coal
companies would continue to improve conditions in the mines and coal output would
only increase in the years to come.
The coal operators manifested a great desire to place their mines on a safe
method of working the mines at the risk of life and limb. The increased and
sanitary basis, realizing that this will give better results in every way than a
careless production of the past two years indicates that the coal industry of
this State is in a flourishing condition commercially, and that in a few years
the production will reach the twenty million mark. Furthermore, the
promptness and readiness with which the coal operators in most instances
complied with the recommendations for improvements made by this
department, shows that a new stringent mining law will have no depressing
effect on their activity. (14th Biennial Report, p. 7).
Before the years end, on December 4, 1910, the Leyden Coal Company was the site
of a fire in the mine which claimed the lives of 10 miners.
The UMW found itself in financial straits in 1910; Patricia Long (1989)
contends that districts in Illinois and other states were providing for the bulk of the
income into the deficit coffers. Between 1900 and 1919, McGovern and Guttridge
report that nearly $9 million dollars had been spent by the union to finance strikes
and the chances of recouping their funds were negligiblegiven the depression of
1911 which had laid off thousands of union members.
Compounding the financial problems further, E.L. Doyle, the newly elected
secretary for the UMWA in district 15, found inadequate and inaccurate financial
records upon his arrival in the southern coal field.. Doyle also, in Longs opinion,
believed the district president Frank Smith had been in cahoots with the mine
Patricia Long (1989) wrote that chronic financial difficulties continued to
plague the UMWA union as they found themselves $310,026 in debt in May of
191 l--and operating on loans from other districts. Above all else it soon became
apparent that the UMWA was coopted by its president, Thomas Lewis, who was
found to be surreptitiously working in the interests of the operators (Long, p. 261).
Once defeated from his post in 1911, Lewis joined the West Virginia Coal
Operators Associationtaking many of the unions records with him. Although the
union was not supported by outside groups, cooptation was evidently a problem
within the ranks of the UMW.
On February 4, 1911, the Cokedale Mine explodeddue to a dust explosion
ignited by a blown out shotkilling 17 men. The 15th Biennial Report of the Coal
Mine Inspectors, 1911-1912, reported that several significant improvements in safety
conditions had been implemented in mines (p. 5).
The strike in the northern coal field managed to plod sluggishly through the
year of 1911. The Cokedale Mine, on February 4, 1911 exploded as a result of dust
set off from a blown-out shot; 17 men were killed. In September of 1911, CF&I put
radiators in all the mines south of Aguilar, according to the 15th Biennial Report on
Mine Improvements (1911, p. 34). Early in 1912, the newly elected leaders of the
UMW allowed District 15 to once again open a branch office in Trinidadthe first
time since 1907.
Trinidad, Colorado was an older town in the southern coal fields; its citizens
in those days could accurately boast that they had been under martial law oftener
than any other city in the United States (Beshoar, 1942, p. 51). Patricia Long wrote
that the spring and summer of that year saw several unauthorized incipient strikes
that the union organizers attempted to diffuseat least until the strike fund was
sufficient to cover the amounts needed to follow through effectively. The union was
carefully biding its time to make preparations in order to lease ground to set up tent
colonies and to gather enough money to fund the upcoming strike. They were also
waiting for an opportune time, according to Long, when the coal companies were
most vulnerable, and until they could hire enough foreign organizers to get closer to
the non-English speaking miners. The union had learned some lessons from the
prior strikes and was making solid preparations for the impending strike. Cognitive
liberation was apparently running high as evidenced by the willingness for the
miners to strike. Resources in terms of members were becoming more available yet
relief monies from the national office were slow in coming.
In the meantime, strikebreakers continued working in the northern coal fields
and the strike there continued despite a gloomy prognosis. It was in the northern
coal fields that another union organizer joined the ranks of the UMWone who
would later play a significant role in the Ludlow strike and subsequent massacre.
Louis Tikas, a Greek immigrant, was originally hired in the Frederick mine as a scab
but soon quit and joined the union. According to Zeese Papanikolas, (1982) Tikas
left the northern coal field for the southern after being shot by a Baldwin-Felts
detective as he left a boarding house in Lafayette, Colorado in January, 1913.
Apparently the coal companies became worried when faced with a state-wide
strike and accordingly, in April, 1912, the CF& I increased wages to all its miners by
ten per cent. This raise was believed by some to be coldly calculated to calm a
turbulence of exploitable advantage to union organizers.. . L.M. Bowers, the
manager of the CF&I Company wrote to John D. Rockefeller, Jr., that, . .. I know
of no better way than to anticipate demands and do a little better by the men than
they would receive if they belonged to the unions. This keeps them in line and
reasonable happy (qtd. in McGovern and Guttridge, p. 82). Juxtapose this letter to
the letter he wrote to Mr. Rockefeller in 1909 in which he said,
.. .considering these foreigners who do not intend to make America
their home and who live like rats in order to save money, I do not feel
that we ought to maintain high wages in order to increase their
income and shorten their stay in this country. (Long, 1989, p. 243).
On June 18,1912, the Hastings Mine owned by the Victor-American Fuel
Company, exploded from gas ignited by a defective safety lamp; 12 men were
Obviously, the strikers, prior to going on strike, possessed cognitive
liberation, political leverage, and expanding political opportunities as well as broad
socioeconomic processes which increased their bargaining power. Evidence of their
bargaining power appeared when the CF&I abolishing their script system of
payment, started to pay the workers twice a month, and implemented the eight-hour
workday effective March 1, 1913; soon other coal companies followed suit.
McGovern and Guttridge wrote that the state of Colorado also passed a law that
required that mines had to be inspected once every ninety days, mine foremen and
mine bosses had to be certified, and five deputy mine inspectors were hired to
conduct the inspections.
John Lawson attempted to keep a lid on the strikers and said to a reporter
from the Trinidad Chronicle-News: There is no cause for alarm. The organization
I represent is not contemplating a strike as conditions at this time do not call for
action of that kind(qtd. in McGovern and Guttridge, p. 85). John Lawson would
later testify to Congress in 1914 that:
I believed that we could, and hoped that we could, by legislation, do away
with the unnecessary hardships and privations that go with a strike; and
because of that belief I have personally, and with my colleagues a number of
times, either gone into the field myself or sent men into the field where men
had either threatened to strike or where they had actually gone on strike, and
either have gotten them not to strike; or, if they had gone on strike, I have
succeeded in getting them to return to work under the same identical
conditions under which they left. (Congressional report, 1914, p. 207).
Matters eventually worsened in the southern field. On August 15,1913,
Gerald Lippiatt, an Italian organizer from the northern field met two Baldwin-Feltz
detectives on the streets of Trinidad; he was killed when six shots entered his body
but he managed to shoot one detective in the leg. Interestingly, on the same day that
Gerald Lippiatt was killed, the Trinidad Chronicle News reported that Commercial
Club of Colorado met and resolved to do whatever possible to avert a strike that
would, ... cripple the industries of the entire state (p. 1). The article reported
that the coal mine owners were not against the miners organizing but they adamantly
refused to recognize the union. Apparently the Trinidad Chronicle News had
avoided taking sides on the strike issue as evidenced by the following note above the
(Note.The Chronicle -News has felt all along that no good purpose could
be served by giving publicity to the controversy between the miners and
operators of the southern fields. Outside parties have, however, precipitated
matters by holding meetings in Denver, Pueblo and lastly in this city, thereby
making of a private controversy between employers and employes, (sic) a
public affair. The Chronicle-News, therefore, is obliged, as a news medium,
to publish the facts without bias and without comment.) (p. 1)
As a result of the Gerald Lippiatts death, the Trinidad Trades Assembly passed a
motion to prepare to recall Sheriff J.S. Grisham from office. The recall was
requested as a result of the sheriff s,
.. .alleged failure to regard the wishes of the Trades Assembly set forth in
resolutions adopted two weeks ago, which asked that the commissions of all
Baldwin-Felts detectives be revoked with those of all deputies known to be
avowed enemies of organized labor. (Trinidad Chronicle News. August 18,
A coroners jury later dismissed any charges against the detectives in the killing of
Gerald Lippiattcalling the incident justifiable homicide (qtd. In McGovern and
Guttridge, 1972, p. 90).
Governor Elias Ammons, with the help of the state labor commissioner,
Edwin Brake, prepared a compromise that offered the miners freedom to work in the
mines, freedom to purchase wherever they chose, and the right to checkweighman.
The compromise was rejected on August 24,1913, by the union vice president,
Frank Hayes; unless full recognition of the union was also offered there would be no
compromise. E.L.Doyle, secretary -treasurer of the UMWA, District 15, wrote on
September 13,1913 to the national office of the UMWA that,
... the greatest difficulty seems to be the preventing of a strike on the part of
the men before the organization had fully prepared its plan, but with the aid
of the many international organizers in the field and the conservative local
leaders throughout the district, we have been able to counsel the men into
remaining at work until the last effort to secure a conference has been
exhausted and a call sent out by the Policy Committee. (Envelope 4, p. 1).
Clearly evident from this letter was the fact that the unionthis time, meant to be
fully prepared in order to be advantaged against the coal companies.
McGovern and Guttridge contend that the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency
was first hired to work the northern coal fields in the early 1900s but were seen on
the streets of Trinidad some eight years later. Detective agencies, for many years in
the East had a reputation of being either snoops, spies, or snipers and were usually
hired by large companies to scope out and prosecuteor persecutethe
troublesome laborers. The Baldwin-Felts Agency originated in the east and
enjoyed a reputation within the coal industry as experts in coal mining disputes.
When trouble erupted in Colorado, a steady stream of the agencys employees,
headed for the coal fields. The men were hired as guardsoriginally in northern
Colorado but they eventually found more permanent work in the southern coal fields.
Miners knew those industrial operatives were actually hired thugs; the vile
reputation the detectives possessed in the opinion of the miners, preceded them to
McGovern and Guttridge maintain that forty to seventy-five operatives were
hired by local sheriffs to stem what they believed to be the impending threat of the
striking miners. It was said at the time that Sheriff Jefferson Farr boasted that he
had recruited up to 326 men to serve as deputies. Jefferson Farr, according to the
same authors, became Sheriff of Huerfano County after his brother Edwin (the
sheriff at the time) was killed; the posse he was riding with cornered a train
robbers syndicate which included Black Jack Ketchum and Butch Cassidy. The
vengeful Farr declared war on evildoers, according to McGovern and Guttridge, and
soon decided that labor agitators were part of the lowlife crowd. Farr, eventually
became one of the biggest cattle dealers in southern Colorado and also added real
estate and control of saloons and brothels to his list of assets. Hand picked juries,
corrupt courts, bought votes for the Republican party, and corrupt investigations
into mining accidents were rife under the reign of Sheriff Farr. Countless arrests and
incarceration of miners and union organizers also continued throughout the his
tenure (p. 31).
In July, 1913, mine guards from the Baldwin Feltz Detective Agency were
seen in and around the southern coal fields and a report from Louis Tikas, a Greek
interpreter for the union indicated that,
Conditions in the Southern Coal Fields of this state are so tyrannus, the
injustices, brutalities and cohersions heaped upon the miners are such,
that I found the spirit manifested among my three hundred and fifty
countryman working there to be that of war. They are ready at any time to
.. .engage in an industrial war and to fight, just as their fathers and
brothers in the fatherland have fought the Turks until their freedom has
been obtained.... (qtd. in Long, p. 267).
Repression from the opposition came originally from the mine guards who
were reported to be Baldwin-Felts detectives. Chronic complaints from the
inhabitants of the tent colonies indicated that the guards intimidated them by firing
pot-shots in and around the tent colonies. Consequently, many of the inhabitants of
the Ludlow colony dug pits under their tents for protection from flying bulletsand
for warmth in the winter. Clearly, tents were no obstacle from the lead from the
Albert C. Felts (of the notorious Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency) went so
far as to order an ordinary car to be altered by the CF&I steel plant in Pueblo to
resemble a sort of armored car. The sides were reinforced by three-eight inch steel
and served as a lethal nest for two machine guns. The armored vehicle served its
purpose well by alarming the occupants of the tent colonies as it meandered
menacingly in and around the tent colonies. In addition to intimidation, tensions
soared as the strike continued and a blinding hatred remained unabated between the
tent inhabitants and many of the mine guards. Furthermore, when the Colorado
Militia was brought insupposedly to keep the peacetensions continued unabated
when it was soon discovered that many of the militiamen sided with the companies
as evidenced by the illegal importation of strikebreakers.
General Chase, admits abuses in his report to Governor Ammons, in the
spring of 1914, that:
There is no question but that there were instances where the mine guards
unnecessarily provoked the residents of the tent colonies. These latter, in
turn, seemed honestly to believe that they and their families were in danger
from the mine guards. They, therefore, armed themselves for protection. As
instances of violence increased, the opposing parties to the controversy
became violently aroused, (reproduced in Stein, 1971, p. 8).
Men employed in the Colorado Militia in Huerfano County were not all vile and
corrupt. When Company K was in charge of controlling the Ludlow Tent Colony,
baseball and other games were played between the militia men and the tent
inhabitants. Trouble brewed, however, when Lt. Linderfelt, at the request of
General John Chase, was brought to the southern coal fields and initially commanded
the mine guards who escorted strikebreakers into the mines. Linderfelt enjoyed a
reputation for especially hating Greeks and other eastern Europeanswho were the
primary inhabitants of the Ludlow colony.
The years prior to the strike of 1913-1914 saw myriad events that served to
set the stage for events yet to come. The organization of the UMW had, at times,
barely survived its lessons in Colorado. Disruption in funding and decreasing or
non-existent political opportunities sent the movement toward a decline on several
occasions. The union kept coming back for moreresources would dwindle and dry
up and then would renew again. Gains, however, on the side of the strikers, were
noticeable in the years just prior to the strike of 1913-1914. Consequently, it appears
as if the movement, although it had to sit and simmer at timesaccording to whether
the union was viable in the state or notwas successful in some regards as
evidenced by the increased wages and improved working conditions in the mines.
In southern Colorado a voluntary increase in wages was granted amounting to about
10 percent to the miners and 5 percent to the company men (15th Biennial Report,
Improvements in the miners lot, signals, according to political process
theory, expanding political opportunities, and broader economic processes
considered an additional asset in the cycle of an insurgency. As discussed earlier,
the movement did not arise from the sudden appearance of resources, but instead
emerged as a result of an organization that served as a medium to enhance cognitive
liberation. Resources, in terms of members, women, public sympathy, and relief
aidcrucial to sustaining the movementwere gathered and encouraged by the
organization. Additionally, the very viable cultural idealogies of the strikers served
to eventually overcome, in some regards, the prejudice the varied groups originally
felt toward one another and join together in a combined effort to foment change.
The following chapter examines the strike of 1913-1914 within the framework of the
political process model, resource mobilization and cultural aspects processes of
social movement theory. The process continued on.
THE COLORADO COAL STRIKE OF 1913-1914
The processes that eventually lead to the strike of 1913-1914, as noted in
earlier chapters, began many years prior to the Special Convention that called for a
strike. The processes that began much earlier, gathered strength and momentum and
surfaced againthis time much more prepared. The movement had emerged, was
subdued, and although the union kept outlandish behavior somewhat under control, it
was apparent that control was held with a very thin thread. The events outlined in
this chapter will discuss various incidents, actors, and tactics from both the union and
the coal companies.
The dynamics of the impending coal strike indicated an obvious opponent
the coal companies. Clearly, however, the state of Colorado in their response to the
strike could quickly alter events in the southern coal field. In the past, the state had
effectively ignored noncompliance with mining laws that had been extant for years.
The coal miners as well as the coal companies each held a wild card in the form of
state intervention. Accordingly, other players, on one side or the other who are
equally important to the movement will be discussed as to their role in the strike and
the subsequent massacre.
Mother Jones arrived in Colorado just prior to the convention held in
Trinidad September 15 and 16,1913. This special District Convention had invited
operators but none appeared. Mother Jones, Mike Livoda, John Lawson, and E.L.
Doyle of the UMW were present and spoke openly to the miners delegates.
Delegates voiced their concerns over the working conditions, low pay, non-payment
for dead work, poor health care, favortism and corruption, poor housing, expensive
rent, and forced patronage at the company store. Following is an excerpt from the
Proceedings of the Special Convention of District FifteenUnited Mine Workers of
America, September 16, 1913:
We, the representatives of the Mine Workers of District #15, after repeated
efforts to secure a conference with the operators for the purpose of
establishing joint relations and a fair wage agreement, and having been
denied such a conference, the operators ignoring our invitation entirely, and
believing as we do that we have grievances of great moment that demand
immediate adjudication, we submit the following as a basis of settlement:
First We demand a recognition of the Union.
Second We demand a ten per cent advance in wages on the tonnage
rates, and the following day wage scale, which is practically in accord with
the Wyoming Day Wage Scale. We also demand a ten per cent advance on
the wages paid coke oven workers, and on all other classes of labor not
Third We demand an eight hour work day for all classes of labor in or
around the coal mines and at coke ovens.
Fourth We demand pay for all narrow work and dead work, which
includes brushing, timbering, removing falls, handling impurities etc., etc.
Fifth We demand checkweighman at all mines to be elected by the
miners, without any interference by company officials in said election.
Sixth We demand the right to trade in any store we please, and the right
to choose our own boarding place and our own doctor.
Seventh We demand the enforcement of the Colorado Mining Laws and
the abolition of the notorious and criminal guard system which has prevailed
in the mining camps of Colorado for many years. (E.L.Doyle Papers,
envelope 10, p. 21-23).
The demands were signed by the Policy and Scale Committee made up of Pete
Miller, Thomas Dennison, John Lawson, John Sidle, John Burke, George Collier,
James Noon, Jr., and Chas. W. Goold.
The delegates voted to strike on September 23,1913 and efforts to recruit
were intensified all over southern Colorado. The UMWs secretary E.L. Doyle, in a
letter to William Green, estimated that 98% of the miners responded to the strike
even though only a small percentage were members of the union (E.L. Doyle Papers,
envelope 4). This may certainly have had more to do with initial fear of reprisal
from the coal companies rather than from lack of cognitive liberation. Obviously
non-union miners were fed up with the conditions and apparently decided that the
strike was worth the risk, as indicated by the massive numbers who walked out of
The UMW had done their homework much more effectively this time. They
had managed to wait until they were financially able to provide the necessary
resources for the strike. Additionally, the sites for the tent colonies were leased in
highly strategic areas close to the mines and the railroad where activity as far as
importation of strikebreakers could be observed and disrupted.
The miners were ready and eager to strikeobviously indicating cognitive
liberation. Strikers were well aware that in order to be effective, the coal companies
had to be in a vulnerable position. Obviously, a statewide strike would at least have a
detrimental effect on the coal companies if it continued for very long. The union,
however, from past history, was much more vulnerable if the strike prolonged. The
union was presenting as much stronger and more prepared than beforeindicating
increased organizational strength that was lacking in the prior strikes. Success was
more attainable now that there was only one union and the national union appeared
to be solidly behind District 15 in Colorado. The union had made the logistical plans
and the time had finally come.
On September 23,1913, the strike began and the Ludlow location became the
largest of eight colonies that were located on previously leased landland vital to
house striking miners, their families, and their possessions. The Ludlow colony
consisted of twelve hundred people who spoke 24 languages. The union supplied
coal for heat, water, and strike relief, which consisted of, three dollars per week for
each miner, two dollars per woman and seventy-five cents per child. The camp was
situated so that occupants of the colony had full range vision of the bare hills that
surrounded them. The move to the Ludlow tent site took place on a dreary
miserable day when the wind driven sleet and rain thoroughly soaked the miners,
their wives, children, and their meager possessions.
E.L.Doyle estimated in a letter to the President of the national UMWA, John
White, that $30,000 per week would be necessary to sustain the striking miners and
their families. It is indeed fortunate that we prepared to such an extent or the call
would not have been successful. ... 98% of the miners responded to the call
(Envelope #4, p. 2). He wrote about a week later, again to President White, that 21
independent mines had signed with the union; he wrote optimistically that the strike
would be short lived. E.L.Doyle, according to the letters he wrote to secretaries of
local unions, that he was concerned that members who lived outside the strike zone
were showing up to draw relief. E.L.Doyles financial disbursement records showed
a huge increase from $19,929.60 in September 1913 to a spectacular increase in
October to $143,156.05. Disbursements would peak to $156,400.00 in November,
fall slightly to $121,600.00 in December, and rise again to $152,000.00 in January
(Envelope #8). The bulk of the income came from national union dues and early
success in Colorado was necessary to keep the flow of resources streaming into
District 15s coffers.
L.M. Bowers, chairman of the board for CF&I, blamed the strikenot on the
conditions in the coal mines but on the union organizers, and said in a letter to John
Rockefeller on October 21,1913 that,
With everything running so smoothly and with an excellent outlook for 1914,
it is mighty discouraging to have this vicious gang come into our state and
not only destroy our profit but into that which has heretofore been saved (qtd.
in McGovern and Guttridge, p. 112).
McGovern and Guttridge believe that the mine owners were under the very firm
opinion that the bulk of the striking workers would go back to work if they felt
safe enough from union intimidation to do so. John Rockefeller obdurately
advocated the right of all men to work and would stand behind any behavior that
allowed the strikebreakers to work in the coal fields.
Intimidation to join a cause was not a factor found in the social movement
framework. Purported abuses at the hands of strikers toward those who sided with
the coal companiesalthough not endemicdid occur. Since many of the books
on the Ludlow Massacre were clearly pro-union, little is said about those
occurrences. It was to both sides advantage to gamer public sympathy and
supportboth valuable resources. The coal companies publicly stated that men have
the right to work yet intimidation by union members prevented them from doing so.
On the other hand, strikers contended that company guards, and later the militia,
intimidated and persecuted not only themselves but their wives and families.
Conditions in the coal field after the strike began were indeed volatile and
initially the striking miners were the agents behind the destruction of buildings,
snipings, and mob like behavior toward strikebreakers. Conversely, the union
organizers believed that dynamiting had been done by the mine guards to make the
union appear out of control.
Mother Jones and John Lawson gave speeches in the Ludlow colony in the
morning of October 7, 1913, and shots rang out later that afternoon between striking
miners and representatives of CF&I, who were on a reconnaissance drive near the
tent colonies. No one knew who fired the first roundeach side blamed the other
yet the mine guards rode into the Ludlow colony and opened up on the strikers now
crouching behind a string of freight cars along the Colorado and Southern track
(McGovern and Guttridge, p. 115). In the meantime, according to McGovern and
Guttridge, John Lawson calmed down the Greek sharpshooters enough so that when
Sheriff Grisham brought in a local Colorado National Guard unit, they found no one
On October 17,1913, mine guards fired numerous rounds of ammunition into
the Forbes tent colony; a Slav striker was killed, a mine guard wounded and a boy
was crippled for life after being shot in his legs. Governor Ammons personally
visited the southern coal fields on October 21,1913, and after meeting both union
representatives and mine managers, he found no urgency in calling out the National
Guard. Around the same time, McGovern and Guttridge contend that Governor
Ammons left the strike zone, Karl Linderfelt, who had been recently sworn in as a
deputy by Sheriff Grisham, took the train from Trinidad to Ludlow. Linderfelt and
other deputies descended into the area surrounding the tent colonies and bullets flew
between both sides; several men were killed including a mine guard and one deputy.
The authors wrote that as negotiations continued well into the night of October 26,
1913, coal mine owners adamantly refused to meet with the union representatives
merely the act of a meeting would be construed as recognitionin their opinion.
McGovern and Guttridge believe that Denver bankers encouraged the
governor to send in the troops and even agreed to pay the militias wages for 30
days; Roady Kenehan, the state auditor had refused to pay for a militia without a
court order. The governors attempts to peacefully negotiate between the union and
the coal mine owners to end the strike met with failure. In the meantime, small
battles raged on intermittently in and around the coal camps as a train load of
deputies dogged their way toward the tent colonies between strikers bullets. The
strikers, ever fearful that the armed deputies would open fire on the unprotected tent
colonies waited undercover in the hillsides. Lt. Linderfelt and others opened fire
from various locations; bullets penetrated the school at Tabasco and two Greek
strikers were killed in the hills around the Tabasco coke ovens. Lt. Linderfelt sent
several telegrams to General Chase stressing the urgency of the situation. The
messages were relayed to Governor Ammons.
Governor Elias Ammons, a democrat elected by labor, apparently found
himself tom between the people who elected him and the powerful coal companies.
Up to this point he had been an ineffective hand-wringing vacillator. His
uncertainty and irresolution may have spurred inactive or nonexistent groups to
emerge to do somethingeither on one side or the othersimply because he did
little or nothing.
In addition to an inability to ignore the striking miners because of the
economics of the situation, it was neither a time to repress them. Governor
Ammons decision to send in the Colorado Militia was probably not intended to
repress the miners but to keep the peace. However, the (probably) unintended
outcome of the presence of the militia actually served the cause more than the coal
owners because of the sympathy the persecutions rendered. The UMW and the
Trinidad Trades Assembly voiced strong opposition to the influx of the militia, but to
no avail. Governor Ammons wrote to General John Chase and directed him to
disarm everyone, close up saloons in the event of disturbances, make sure the guards
stayed on the property to be guarded, make sure that those hired as deputies were
citizens of the U.S., (only the amount needed should be hired) protect those willing
to go to work, and make sure no strikebreakers went sent in (Stein, 1971, p. 69-70).
John Lawson managed to settle the strikers down after the last battle with the
militia, according to McGovern and Guttridge, and so it appeared as if peace was
once again in evidence by the time General Chase and his entourage of some 931
men arrived. This initial cordiality soon dissipated when the Generals men only
rounded up thirty or forty rifles from the strikers when they had estimated that
thousands were possessed.
We passed by Ludlow, occupied the Berwind and Hastings canons, and then
returned to the colony to receive the surrender of the hundreds of high-power
rifles I knew the strikers to be possessed of. At this point occurred the first
instance of bad faith on the part of the striking people. Expecting to receive
hundreds, if not thousands, of arms, there were delivered into my possession
some twenty or thirty weapons, many of them obsolete pattern, the strikers
topping off the humor of the situation by including in the delivery of arms a
childs toy pop-gun. (Stein, 1971, p. 14).
The atmosphere in and around the tent colonies remained relatively peaceful
for a few weeks, due in good part to Captain Philip Van Cise who commanded
Company K across from the Ludlow tent colony. According to McGovern and
Guttridge, Captain Van Cise proved to be a decent commander and managed to be
fair in his dealings with the strikers and their families.
Outside Ludlow, however was a different story. Near the town of La Veta,
William Gambling, a miner who had refused to join the union, was wounded while
the three mine guards and a driverwere killed by strikers. The strikers were soon
arrested and handed over to Sheriff Jeff Farr. Governor Ammons, upon hearing that
latest bit of bad news, threatened to send for federal troops. He personally held the
state auditor, Roady Kenehan, (who appeared to be a staunch labor supporter)
responsible for not allowing the payment of the militiamen. The governor,
McGovern and Guttridge contend, again appealed to businessmen for credit to
sustain the military force in the southern coal field. Later, in November, Governor
Ammons, desperately filed a suit against Roady Kenehan to approve certificates on
indebtedness so the military could be paid (McGovern and Guttridge, 1972, p.
145). At last, to the governors gratification, the Colorado Supreme Court ordered
the state auditor to issue the certificates of indebtedness.
The government of Colorado appeared to be not only vulnerable because the
strike was effectively tearing the state apart politically, but the state also found itself
in dire straits financially. The state, in the decision to send in the militia, placed
itself at severe risk of going bankrupt the longer the strike continued. McAdam
contends that the strength of insurgent forces directly influences the amount of
social control expended toward the movement. The thousands of lives involved in
the strike in southern Colorado presented far greater repercussions if poor decisions
were made. Consequently, the governor of Colorado, in hopes of quieting and
ending the strike, seemed to find himself reacting to the behavior of the strikers.
Therefore, as McAdams theory predicts, the strikers directly influenced the
oppositions response by their choice of tactics. The degree to which the movement
appears threatening to the status quo, equals the oppositions attempt at control.
Non- institutional means of addressing grievances will, according to political process
theory, pose more of a threat than using institutional means.
The union, facing its share of grief, stumbled on toward the new year.
Strikebreakers were illegally imported from other states in large numbers and
consequently no solid shutdown of the mines in southern Colorado ever occurred in
McGovern and Guttridges opinion. Other states, the authors assert, had prepared for
the coal strike and stockpiled coal. It was therefore estimated that worries about the
coal supply wouldnt happen until well into late 1914. Consequently, the strike,
although extremely disruptive to the state of Colorado, was not disruptive to the
country in general nor to the coal companies. The National UMW office in the east,
who had never experienced deep coffers at any point in their history, was becoming
more and more concerned with the rapid depletion of funds in the southern coal
fields of Colorado. McGovern and Guttridge contend that although the union
purported equality of workers, many of those in the national offices believed that the
newly arrived eastern Europeans that made up the tent colonies were not worth the
money being spent on a long drawn out strike. Enthusiasm for the cause began to
wane in the national office.
McGovern and Guttridge, state that Secretary of Labor, William Wilson,
asked John Rockefeller, Jr. to cooperate so that at least some concessions could be
made on both sides to bring closure to the situation in southern Colorado.
Rockefeller soon replied in a telegram that said in no uncertain terms that he had left
all matters in the hands of his executive officers. He wrote that if the workers could
be guaranteed safety, they would gladly go back to work and the strike would end.
President Woodrow Wilson, additionally concerned about the strike in Colorado,
wrote to L.M. Bowers, and enjoined him to agree to an arbitration by and unbiased
boardbut to no avail (qtd. in McGovern and Guttridge, p. 147).
The Colorado National Guard, under the command of General John Chase,
soon displayed which side they were aligned with when they escorted strikebreakers
past the colonies to work in the mines. Conditions continued to deteriorate as both
sides antagonized each other and the presence of Lieutenant Linderfelt encouraged
wrath on the side of the strikers. The Report on the Colorado Strike by George P.
West in 1915, states that Linderfelt, .was the object of an intenser (sic) hatred
from the strikers than any other man in the field (Stein, 1971, p. 124). Additionally,
Linderfelt had, . .an intense hatred for the Greeks and southern Europeans who
predominated in the Test Colony at Ludlow (p. 125).
President Woodrow Wilson, displaying his concern for Colorado, wrote to
CF&I President, Jesse Welborn, in order to determine the companys views prior to
ordering his own investigation. Vice President Welborn replied to the President and
let him know that the employee relations were just fine, according to Patricia Long.
Ethelbert Steward, Chief Statistician of the Bureau of Labor Statistics was sent by
President Wilson to attempt to mediate between CF&I and the strikers. He reported
that Lamont Bowers told him that they didnt have any problems with labor and,
. the thing is to force us to employ union men: not while LMB is in the saddle:
(qtd. in Long, p. 277). Ethelbert Steward also reported that Bowers adamantly stated
that the company, had never recognized the existence of the union and they never
would (qtd. in Long, p. 277).
In November, strikers killed three mine guards and a strikebreaker. Two
weeks later, George Belcher, the detective who killed Gerald Lippiatt in August was
killed. Although the strikers were not innocent bystanders it soon became apparent
that the Colorado National Guard was not impartial and many of them were
threatening and lethal to the strikers and their families. Little if any discipline
appeared evident as some members of the militia began to exhibit behavior that
looked more like uniformed thugs than peaceful law officers.
Governor Ammons, in McGovern and Guttridges opinion, found himself
increasingly vulnerable as conditions continued to deteriorate in the southern coal
fields. It appeared probable that a congressional investigation was pending in
Colorado, strike leaders complained that hired detectives were joining the National
Guard, and debtors holding certificates of payment from the state circulated the
rumor that the certificates were worthless. Ammons proposal to the strikers in
November, 1913, according to the authors, offered them assurance that coal
companies would comply with current mining lawsthe very same ineffective laws
that had been ignored for years. Additionally, the proposal offered reemployment
opportunities, but no union recognition nor higher wages. The UMW agreed to a
referendum but on November 30,1913, all the strikers turned down the proposal
because of the lack of union recognition, no proffered wage increase, and disbelief
that mining laws would be followed.
In December, the Vulcan Mine in Garfield County exploded, killing 37
strikebreakers; the coroners jury decided the blast had been due solely to company
negligence. At the same time, the State Federation of Labor called a special
convention demanding to recall Governor Ammons and the removal of General
Chase. A federal grand jury investigation issued indictments to both unionists and
coal company operators but nothing ever came of it.
In January, 1914, Mother Jones was deported from the state of Colorado by
the Colorado National Guard, reappeared a week later, was rearrested, and held in
custody for nine weeks in the San Raphael Hospital in Trinidad. On January 22,
1914, women protesting the arrest and captivity of Mother Jones were run roughshod
by General Chases men and several women were subsequently arrested. General
Chases report regarding the Mother Jones riot vilified the striking miners:
They adopted as a device the plan of hiding behind their womens skirts,
believing, as was indeed the case, that it would be more embarrassing for the
military to deal with women than with men. (Stein, p. 28).
Opinions regarding the cause of the riot were mixeddepending on which side one
was on. The strikers viewed the parade as peaceful until the marchers turned in the
general direction of the San Rafael Hospital. The soldiers evidently figured the
participants were intent on marching to the hospital to demand the release of the
Mother Jones. The soldiers stopped the parade and a young girl who was marching
in the parade was purported by the union side to have been kicked viciously by
General Chase. The generals horse shied or stumbled enough so that General Chase
fell off. Witnesses to the event said at that moment, the general ordered his men to,
Ride down the women (qtd, in McGovern and Guttridge, p. 173). A riot erupted
as the soldiers rode toward the women and the miner spectators, brandishing then-
swords and rifles. Several women were arrested including Mary Thomas, a miners
wife who was not in the parade. Her testimony the next year at the Congressional
Investigation reported that she was physically struck several times by a soldier and
then arrested and jailed for eleven days. She was never told what her charges had
been (Hearings, p. 794-800).
Resources in the form of public sympathy were generated toward the women
in the parade and of course toward poor Mother Joneswho was held captive. Its
not clear whether the women had intentions of breaching the doors of the hospital to
force Mother Jones release. However, it is clear the women were not total innocents
and in fact, on many occasions the strategy was for the women to provoke the militia
in order to gain even more sympathy. Subsequently, the union organizers had an
even more difficult task in keeping the lid on the tempers of the striking miners
especially when exaggerated reports (probably on both sides) continued unabated.
In the meantime, the nagging and chronic financial woes of the UMWA
continued unabated as the strike dragged on into the dead of winter of 1914.
Disbursements by the union rose strikingly between Decembers output of $121,600
to January, 1914 when union checks reached a staggering $152,000 (E.L. Doyle
Papers, envelope 7). The union was not the only entity with financial woes;
McGovern and Guttridge note that as of the end February, 1914, the state of
Colorado had spent $685,000 for six months of expenses for the militia. The
governor therefore recalled all but 200 men from the southern coal fieldstate
expenses, however, were far from over in the southern coal fields.
Strikers and their families continued to survive in a miserable fashion with
nothing but canvas between them and the outside winter elements. The strike
continued as a serious faction of opposition but the level of social control was
equally if not more dangerous now that the strikers were confined with their families
in mere tents. The hopes of the strikers and their families were strengthened,
however, when the U.S. Congress finally passed a resolution to investigate the
conditions in the coal fields of southern Colorado.
In February, 1914, the subcommittee of the House Committee on Mines
began taking testimony in order to investigate the corrupt brutal conditions in
southern Colorado. Since the area had quieted down Governor Ammons decided to
recall some of the troops from the strike zone. During the entire month of February,
no problems occurred, yet when the five committee members left the area in March,
members of the Colorado National Guard maliciously tore down twenty-three tents
in the Forbes colony and then continued to surround the tents on a nightly basis. It
appeared as if the guardsmen became worse as time went onpossibly due to the
lack of payment to the troops by the state auditor. Consequently, many of the better
troops had returned home to find work that paid them on a regular basis and many of
the militia who remained were men paid by the coal companies.
The state auditor, Roady Kenehan, according to Patricia Long, had refused to
issue any warrants for military expenditures unless he had a court order; the
National Guard troops had not been paid except in I.O.U.s (pg. 289). The Denver
Post, on April 16,1914 printed a headline that said, $15,000,000 Cost Of Colorado
Coal Strike To Date and $2,000,000 More Is Added With Every Month (p. 1). The
newspaper also reported that the state owed $1,000,000 for the cost of the troops
stationed in the southern coal fields and the coal companies had lost $3,928,000 and
the loss of wages for the miners totaled $4,284,000 (p. 2). According to the same
paper, Roady Kenehan, $300,000 had been issued for bills presented up to January
1,1914yet many more bills were pending; he continued to resist payment of those
bills until he received accurate invoices as the source of the expense (p. 1). The
payments were made in certificates that the state would have to reimburse in the
The state of Colorado was financially strapped and the strike problem
continued to be large thorn in the side of Governor Ammons, who seemed popular
with neither the coal companies nor the strikers. This state of affairs could fairly be
called a situation of political vulnerability in which shifting political opportunities on
either side could occurbased on future tactics of both sides. Clearly, the
conditions were ripe for an incident.
Mother Jones was finally released from the San Rafael Hospital; she
promptly left the state only to return the next week when she was re-arrested. This
time she was placed in the Walsenberg County jail but was released a week later.
Patricia Long reports that in April, 1914, Senator Helen Ring Robinson visited the
strike zone and in her report to the Commission on Industrial Relations, stated she
had observed Colorado National Guardsmen walking into the C.F.& I. office to
collect paychecks. The senator also reported hearingfrom both mine guards and
strikersthat the Ludlow tent colony was in imminent danger of being wiped out.
Tensions remained high in the early spring of 1914 and the organizers had all they
could do to keep emotions from boiling over in the tent colonies.
Approximately 500 yards separated Company B from the tents of the striker
in the Ludlow colony. Unfortunately Company B had replaced the former Company
K which had been on a friendly basis with the strikers and their families. Company
B under the direction of Major Patrick Hamrock did not get along so well with the
inhabitants of the tent colony and constant bickering and jibes back and forth wore
on the nerves of both sides. Zeese Papinikolas (1982) contends information from
strikers indicate that many times the militia would initiate searches of the strikers
tents that added up to nothing more than harassment. Additional oral reports from
survivors insist that militia men would steal what they could under the guise of rifle
searches (p. 150).
The coal strike, much to the dismay to all those concerned, did not run a
quick course. The state of Colorado was nearly bankrupt, and strikers, their wives
and children spent the winter months of 1913-1914 miserably huddled in temporary
canvas homes. Symptoms of a decline to the movement were noticeable in the early
spring of 1914. The union found itself in dire straits once again in Colorado as the
expenses of the strike rapidly depleted the national funds; relief payments for nearly
20,000 people every month was a massive expenditure. Furthermore, the coal
companies, although disrupted, appeared to be the least affected of all the players;
the imported strikebreakers kept the mines running, and the militiamen kept the
strikers on the defense. The coal companies had no reason to capitulate to the
demands of the strikers and they could therefore wait until the union ran out of
moneyas it had in the past.
The soul of the strike appeared intact, at least until the massacre, as indicated
by the fact that the strikers and their families spent the entire winter in tents;
certainly all the residents remained stalwart in their alignment to the cause to put up
with those conditions. It is quite possible, however, that many of the inhabitants had
no other place to go and were in fact trapped into staying loyal to the union because
of the relief and shelter it offered. It had to be discouraging to the strikers to see that
life for the coal companies was nearly normal while they were losing political
leverage with each passing day of the strike. A sense of community and the
concomitant ideologies of the camp had to compensate for discouragement as the
strike continued on. A life rife with poverty, cultural differences and political
undertones, the sense of community amongst miners and their families was a
significant part of their survival (Baron Beshoar, qtd. in Trinidad Chronicle News.
May 21, 1999).
The Ludlow Massacre
The Greeks, who made up a substantial portion of the Ludlow colony, tended
to alienate themselves somewhat from the tents of families; most were single and
were .truculent showoffs among themselves, and apparently without exception
were unhampered by wives or children (McGovern and Guttridge, p. 211). The
militia especially found the Greeks more doughty than other nationalities
probably due to the close involvementeither directly or indirectly with the Balkan
War in Europe (McGovern and Guttridge, p. 211). Consequently, the relationship
between the Greeks and the prejudiced militia served to blow the building tensions
into a devastating battle.
On Sunday, April 19,1914, the Greeks and others in the colony had
celebrated the Orthodox Church Easter with a meal and a baseball game in the
morning. Later in the day, the Greeks in native costume entertained the people of the
tent colony along with several members of the militia. The militias visit, according
to McGovern and Guttridge, was not a cordial one, and an undercurrent of danger
seemed to ride with the normal threats and insults that passed between the two sides.
The militia menvastly outnumberedmay have been trigger happy and the miners
were on edge from their vulnerability; months and months of the same situation was
moving inexorably toward a climax.
On Monday, April 20,1914, a day after the Greeks in the colony had
celebrated the Greek Orthodox Easter, rifle fire erupted in the tent colony of
Ludlowno one knew who actually fired the first shots but nonetheless, the war
began. Fighting raged throughout the day between both sides; the first casualty was
11 year old Frank Snyder who was shot in the head as he came up from one of the
pits to get something to eat or to get water for his little sister or mother. Rumors
from the strikers contended that the howitzer that was situated approximately a mile
and a half from the colony fired upon the tents. (Randy McGuire from the State
University of New York at Birmingham said the ongoing archeological dig at the
Ludlow camp area, however, has not uncovered any evidence so far that would
indicate that the howitzer had ever fired upon the Ludlow tent colony.)
Bullets rained the entire day between both sides and many of the inhabitants
escaped to the arroyo to the north at the same time as others fled as far as the black
hills some three miles to the east. Sometime before the sun went down, the militia
stormed the colony and soon after the tent colony was set on fire. Some say the fire
was set on purpose by the a soldier who dipped a broom into kerosene and threw it
into a tent; the National Guard report indicated that stray bullets had set the first tent
on fire or a stove had overturned and did the same (Reed, 1916, p. 83). When the
entire colony appeared to be on fire around 7:00 in the evening, the remainder of the
inhabitants remained trapped under the rain of bullets. Fortunately around 7:20 p.m.
the local freight train served as a barrier between the two sides which allowed
women and children to run for cover and the strikers to further entrench.
When the militia finally breached the colony, some reports indicate that a few
of the soldiers assisted some of the inhabitants away from the burning ruins while
others acted in a mob-like fashion and plundered at random. The militia uncovered
what was to become a death trap for thirteen people; two women and 11 children
suffocated when they gathered in a pit under a burning tent to escape the flying
Lieutenant Linderfelt who happened to be in the area, captured the Greek
interpreter and leader, Louis Tikas, when he attempted to run toward screams in the
tent colony. Testimony from Major P.J. Hamrock who commanded the militia at
Ludlow, according to George West in his official report, indicated that earlier that
morning Louis Tikas had strenuously attempted to prevent trouble (Stein, 1971). Lt.
Linderfelt and Louis Tikas had met under disagreeable circumstances several times
in the past and neither was fond of each other. Earlier in the year, Linderfelt had
attempted to have Tikas arrested for defying him. On this particular evening,
Linderfelt and Tikas apparently exchanged words, and although Tikas stood
defenseless, Linderfelt cracked his skull with the butt of his rifle. Tikas was soon
shot three times in the back along with two other prisoners. Linderfelt later testified
that he did not know who killed Tikas, but rumors circulated that Linderfelt later
bragged about killing him.
By the end of the day, twenty people had been killed and of those killed,
eleven were children, and two women. Found dead were: Patricia Valdez, her four
children, Elvira, 3 months, Eulala, 8, Mary, 7, and Rudolph, 9; Cedilano Costa,
(pregnant) and her children, Onaffio, 6, and Lucy, 4; the two Pedregon children,
Gloria, 4 and Roderlo, 6; the three Petrucci children, Frank, 6 months, Lucy, 3, and
Joe, 4; Primo Larese, (a hitchiker on the main road was hit by a stray bullet) Louis
Tikas, the Greek organizer, Frank Snyder, plus several other miners and militiamen.
Major Hanrock sent a telegram to General Chase stating that the strikers had
opened fire, the militia returned fire and when the tents were accidently set afire,
the militia men diligently and gallantly worked to save the inhabitants (McGovern
and Guttridge, p. 230). McGovern and Guttridge assert that as wires between the
southern coal field and the governor flewrumors half mixed with truths incited