The Michigan Copper Strike of 1913

One of the industrial disputes of early 20th century America ended in a tragic accident that was remembered in folk song. Saronne Rubyan-Ling explores the cultural, ethnic, political and economic circumstances that gave rise to the bitter conflict.

Take a trip with me into 1913
To Calumet, Michigan, in the Copper Country.
I'll take you to a place called the Italian Hall
Where the miners are having their big Christmas ball.
(Woody Guthrie)

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, 1913, strikers and their families began arriving at the Italian Hall, a two-storey brick building just over a block from Calumet’s fire station. At one end of the building a single set of double doors opened onto a straight flight of stairs to the social rooms on the upper floor. By two o'clock, over 175 adults and 500 children had crowded inside to seek relief from the stresses of the five-month-old miners' strike against the owners of the Calumet & Hecla (C & H) copper mine. They sang carols and the children queued to see Santa Claus who had modest gifts for each of them. Then, around half past four as the party began to disperse, there was a cry of 'Fire!' and the panic-striken families ran desperately for me stairs.

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