Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Community in Conflict Wins State History Book Award

Plaque given to award winners from the Historical Society of Michigan.

Aaron (right) and Gary accepting the award given to us by Historical Society of Michigan's Board of Trustees President Robert Myers from St. Joseph, Michigan.  

Gary giving a few "Thank Yous" after accepting the award in Kalamazoo's incredible downtown historical museum. 

Gary (left) and Aaron displaying their awards. 

Gary and Aaron standing beside Michigan State University Press' Assistant Director and Editor-in-Chief Julie Loehr. Michigan State University Press did very well at the state history awards, as two other offerings from the press received state history book awards. 
We are excited and proud to announce that Community in Conflict has won a 2013 Historical Society of Michigan Book Award. This award, given yearly to Michigan's best historical publications, cements the fact that Copper Country history and the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike are worthy of statewide recognition. Aaron and I are excited that we were able to bring this history forth, while honoring those that were historical actors in the strike. 

Historical Society of Michigan director Larry Wagenaar commented that this year's field of nominees for the award was top notch, and that picking winners was difficult. Aaron and I are certainly honored that the book was chosen, and thank Michigan State University Press and Julie Loehr of MSU Press for nominating the book, and the Historical Society of Michigan for choosing the book as an award winner.

From the Historical Society of Michigan press release:

Society Presents 2013 State History Awards in Kalamazoo

posted Oct 1, 2013

KALAMAZOO–The Historical Society of Michigan presented the 2013 State History Awards Friday evening at its Annual Meeting and State History Conference held September 27-28 in Kalamazoo. The State History Awards are the highest recognition given by the state’s official historical society...

Publications: University and Commercial Press

Written by Aaron Goings and Gary Kaunonen and published by Michigan State University Press, “Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy” received a State History Award as well. Goings and Kaunonen focused their efforts of the Michigan copper strike that received national attention and was a major struggle between labor and management. The strike was overshadowed, though, by violent incidents such as the Italian Hall Tragedy, in which dozens of workers and working-class children died. Goings and Kaunonen utilize previously unused sources such as labor spy reports, union newspapers, coded messages, and artifacts to shed light on this labor event.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Talk for the Painesdale Mine Shaft, Inc. Organization

Wrapping up talks for this year, I (Gary) did a keynote talk, well, really a reading of a paper for the commemoration of violence in and around the Painesdale and Seeberville areas a couple of weeks ago. Citing some of the new research on the Seeberville shootings of striking workers Alois Tijan and Steven Putrich, and some of the new research on the Dally-Jane shootings in Painesdale, I spoke about the specter of the strike's violence 100 years later.

The event, a commemoration of events in the Painesdale area, was held in the Methodist Church and also featured remarks by Rep. Scott Dianda, a member of organized labor and a beacon for the labor movement in Michigan's legislature.

Houghton's Daily Mining Gazette covered the event, which was well attended by about 100 people. The article from the Gazette is below along with a photo of Rep. Dianda at the podium, and me in the background taking notes on his talk. The Gazette article doesn't get all the facts right about the events at Seeberville, but does a good job summing the thoughts of the day regarding remembering the sacrifice of strikers while enduring the violence of the strike.

From Daily Mining Gazette reporter Garret Neese's article "A Time to Remember: Ceremony Held on 100th Anniversary of Miners' Strike:
HOUGHTON - A century after miners went on strike in the Copper Country, people met to remember the hardships and violence the miners endured during the strike.
A ceremony took place Saturday morning at the Albert Paine Memorial United Methodist Church in Painesdale.
The keynote speaker was Gary Kaunonen, author of "Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Mine Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy."
Upon writing the book in 2011, he uncovered previously unseen mining company documents from the era that detailed a campaign of intimidation against the striking miners.
An incident in nearby Seeberville was "one of the most cold-blooded massacres" in the area's history, Kaunonen said. When one resident of a boarding house threw a bowling pin at a sheriff's deputy, he and others fired, killing two miners - Steve Putrich and Alois Tijan - who had not been involved. Putrich's infant son was grazed by a bullet. He retained the scar for the rest of his life.
Houghton County Sheriff James Cruse hindered efforts to find the perpetrators, Kaunonen said; eventually, six men were arrested. The whereabouts of one suspect, Thomas Raleigh, who escaped, were said to be unknown at the time. But Kaunonen found correspondence between the Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. and a law firm representing them that placed Raleigh in New York City. He was working for Calumet & Hecla to spy on the Western Federation of Miners.
In December, three people - Thomas Dally, Arthur Jane and Harry Jane - were killed at a boarding house in Painesdale.
John Huhta was eventually convicted of the crime.
But labor organizers said Huhta was a dupe, framed because of his ties to the labor movement.
"In reality, it was not Huhta ... on trial, it was the Western Federation of Miners," he said.
Ultimately, Kaunonen said, his research into the mining strike had revealed, beyond bureaucratic red tape, a "uniquely human story."
State Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet, felt a connection on multiple levels.
His grandfather worked at the mine in Painesdale; he also has a background in labor, having been past president of Local 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
He said many of today's families still have ties to the era of the mining strike.
"It's a part of who we are up here," he said.
Tours of the Champion No. 4 shafthouse, captain's office and house building were also available after the ceremony.
Deanna Niemi of Painesdale was interested in the incidents in Seeberville, where her grandparents were from and where she lived for a year as a child.
"It's important to remember them, the sacrifices," she said.
"And to keep that history alive, so future generations will know what went on in those days," added Ruth Wisti of Hancock.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Calumet Heritage Days 2013

I (Gary) was asked to give the opening talk for Calumet Heritage Days last night August 12, 2013. I spoke in the very beautiful Keweenaw Heritage Center, once the home of St. Anne's Catholic Church. The venue was amazing, but the acoustics were not so great for presenting.

This presentation was supposed to be the last of our full and very involved summer presentation schedule, but a new one was added on August 20 in Marquette. I will be speaking to a group of journalists about the 1913-14 Strike, in general, and plan to share some of our new research on Italian Hall. Specifically looking at the media coverage of the Italian Hall giving special attention to WFM media outlets: Miner's Bulletin and Tyomies.

Monday, July 29, 2013

100 Years Ago...

Hard to believe that 100 years ago the Keweenaw Peninsula was in the midst of one of the most contentious upheavals in American labor history. Daily, the streets of the Copper Country were alive with the passion of striking workers.

July 23, 1913, was the day the strike began, but 9 long months would transpire before the strike came to an end. Not only was the strike a long affair in regards to time, but it was also a massive affair in terms of geography. Spread out over more than 60 miles of rugged terrain, the copper strike encompassed three counties, tens of cities, and thousands of workers from Ontonagon County in the south, through all of Houghton County, and into Michigan's northern-most county, Keweenaw County.

There was no disputing it, the strike was a massive and tumultuous affair. The image below is just one such capturing of this massive upheaval of worker sentiment in the Copper Country, and it also disputes the company-led notion that strikers were a wild bunch of hooligans and ruffians.

Striking workers affiliated with the Western Federation of Miners and their families parade down Red Jacket Road . The strikers will soon be passing in front of Calumet and Hecla Mining Company's headquarters in their Sunday bests, no less. Image from Michigan Technological University's Copper Country Historical Collections.
As can be seen in the image strike parades often consisted of mineworkers and their families dressed in Sunday bests and marching in an orderly fashion through the streets of mining controlled landscapes.

Wishing a thoughtful and meaningful appreciation to those who participated in the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike on this 100 year anniversary of one this epic historical event.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

TV Coverage of Community in Conflict

It has been a busy month of presentations, more on that later, but I gave a presentation at the State of Michigan's Iron Industry Museum in Negaunee and broadcast television's ABC 5 and 10 evening news covered the talk.

A link to this news story:

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Book has Arrived!

Eight copies of our book Community in Conflict arrived on my (Aaron's) doorstep today.  As this photo shows, I was pretty happy about their arrival.  The book was many years in the making, and this seems like a good time to extend our gratitude to everyone who made the book possible.  We owe a special debt of gratitude to everyone at Michigan State University Press, and the anonymous readers who gave us valuable suggestions along the way.

A final (and big) thank you to John Beck, Larry Lankton, Elizabeth Jameson, and Erik Nordberg who wrote very kind blurbs for the back of the book.  It certainly feels good to be recognized by such a star-studded group of scholars.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Wanted for Murder...

This handwritten letter on Waddell-Mahon detective agency letterhead shows Raleigh's signature and that he was working as a labor spy for the company in 1914.

This memo-style letter from "D. L. Robinson" of the Rees, Robinson, and Petermann legal offices to O.F. Bailey, an official with C&H, shows that both the law firm and C&H knew the whereabouts of Thomas Raleigh and were employing him to spy against the WFM in New York City. 
For almost 100 years now people have wondered what happened to Thomas Raleigh, the man who was charged with murder in the deaths of Alois Tijan and Steven Putrich in the infamous Seeberville shootings. It was thought that he had fled the country, and even Houghton's Special Prosecuting Attorney brought in to expedite cases during the strike opined that he was unable to be found.

Where did Tom Raleigh go? Well we've "found" him almost 100 years later in the historic record, and what we have uncovered is damning evidence against the Calumet & Hecla (C&H) mining company officials, the legal firm of Rees, Robinson, and Petermann, and the Waddell-Mahon detective agency.

It seems that Thomas Raleigh was working for C&H through Waddell-Mahon to spy on the WFM mineworkers union in New York City. Correspondence between C&H agent O.F. Bailey and a lawyer from Rees, Robinson, and Petermann--a firm representing C&H throughout the strike--gives documentary proof that C&H knew of Raleigh's whereabouts and even employed him in subterfuge during the strike while he was wanted for murder in the Copper Country.

Handwritten letters from Raleigh on Waddell-Mahon stationary also prove that this so-called detective agency, employed by Houghton County Sheriff James Cruse to keep peace in the Copper Country, also knew the whereabouts and shielded Raleigh from being brought to justice in the Copper Country.

It seems that Raleigh had learned little in his brush with a murder charge in the Copper Country because while in New York he reported back to C&H and his handlers at Waddell-Mahon that he had busted into the offices of another rival detective agency and wanted to fight the men inside, but that the "four Jew detectives there would not fight."

Always classy, Raleigh's correspondence with C&H gives a good picture of a bad man, and also highlights the lengths and lowly depths C&H, their legal representatives Rees, Robinson, and Petermann, and Waddell-Mahon went to hid a murderer from justice.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


The Houghton County Democratic Party added this caption to the above photo on their website, "Our Keynote Speaker was historian and author, Gary Kaunonen, who spoke about events during the 1913 mining strike in Houghton County."
The May presentations have come and gone with two presentations given to two outstanding audiences. The first presentation given in mid-May was to the Houghton County Democrats as part of their program, "1913-2013: A Century of Solidarity." I was one of four speakers at the event, and though I gave the keynote, any one of the four speakers could have fit this billing. The presentations were an excellent accounting of organized labor's past, present, and future in Houghton County. Among the other speakers were former Michigan Senator and Steel Workers member Mike Prussi, current Michigan House of Representatives member and union member Scott Dianda, and Michigan Education Association member Terry Lajuenesse.

My keynote included updates on research from Community in Conflict, the 1913-14 Strike's national significance, and why a strike that happened 100 years ago has relevance today. The 1913-14 strike's relevance to today's labor situation is very noticeable in Michigan, where we are seeing our rights to free speech, freedom of assembly, and the right to collectively bargain being whittled away, and sometimes shamelessly stolen in the middle of the night by autocrat governor Rick Snyder and his anti-labor goons. Today, organized labor is in the fight of its life, and lessons of solidarity and commitment to a cause can easily be appreciated and understood by examining the efforts of working-class families during the 1913-14 Strike.

I was graciously given a standing ovation for my remarks by the 60 or so people in attendance, but getting to talk with folks after the program was the real "payoff." Copper Country residents are so proud of their history, regardless of political affiliation, and talking with folks at this event really highlighted the importance of remembering the past to inform our future.

Giving a presentation as part of Keweenaw National Historical Park's Fourth Thursday in History series. The presentation location, in Calumet's Visitor Center, was a unique experience in a historic venue.

There were 75 plus people in attendance for this presentation, which was a part of Keweenaw National Historical Park's 4th Thursday in History program. I spoke on the work I did as Project Historian for the "Tumult and Tragedy" traveling exhibit's project team, which was rounded out by Project Manager Erik Nordberg and Project Graphic Designer Mike Stockwell. After the presentation I joined people in the Visitor Center's traveling exhibit space to answer questions on the exhibit. 

The local newspaper, the Daily Mining Gazette, covered the event, and the story on the presentation can be read by clicking on this link:


Monday, May 6, 2013

Upcoming Talk

1913-2013: A Century of Solidarity

I (Gary) will be speaking at the upcoming Houghton County Democratic Party's annual dinner and awards banquet. Scott Dianda, a member of Michigan State Employees Association union and current Michigan State Representative, will be speaking along with former state senator Mike Prussi and Michigan Education Association director Terry Lajuenesse. I'm not always encouraged by party politics, but I voted for and strongly endorsed the "Union" candidate Scott Dianda, and am excited to meet him this Saturday.

A link to their event, and ticket sales information:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Community in Conflict MSU Press Catalog Listing

More proof that we've been working; the MSU book catalog page for Community in Conflict. Please right click on the image to enlarge and read. Special thanks to Erik Nordberg for the incredible quote in support of the book.

We're Back

After a long hiatus from blogging, we're back. The last three months have been busy ones, filled with finishing the book, writing articles on information from the book, presenting, and preparing for a summer of "touring" to get the word out about our work.

In April, Aaron and I ventured to East Lansing and Michigan State University to give a talk at the Our Daily Work, Our Daily Lives "Brown Bag" series. We were invited by John Beck, who was also gracious enough to give us a tour through the MSU Museum's exhibit on labor history and work.
John Beck explaining a museum exhibit to Aaron before our talk at the Our Daily Work, Our Daily Lives "Brown Bag" presentation at Michigan State University

The talk went well as we spoke to over 50 people about our research and some of the new information we have found regarding the strike and the Italian Hall tragedy. It was a great trip. We got to meet new folks, talked with staff at MSU Press, answered some questions regarding the strike and labor history, and had some great food.

Aaron speaking to a packed room in the Michigan State University Library. We received some great questions and used this presentation to gear up for our packed summer of presentations.
It was also an historic trip from the perspective of weather. I picked Aaron up at O'Hare in Chicago, which was in the middle of flooding...same was true for East Lansing.

So, all in all the trip was a pretty incredible one that we soon won't forget.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Presentation to Global City

Had a great chance to speak at a Global City gathering at Michigan Tech. There were about 40 people at the talk, and I got peppered with a couple of really good, thoughtful questions.  The details of the talk:

Dear all - please join us this TUESDAY, JANUARY 29, for an exciting presentation on the history of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike

In honor of the centennial anniversary of the strike we have asked Gary Kaunonen to be our guest this week.
Gary is currently the Associate Director of Michigan Tech's Writing Program, a Graduate Teaching Instructor, and a PhD student at Michigan Tech in the Rhetoric and Technical Communication program. He has researched and written extensively on immigration, labor, and the industrial heritage of the local area.Fisher 138 from 6:00-7:00! Pizza and drinks will be provided. Please bring your own cup if you can!

Link to Global City's web page:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Michigan Sate University Press Overview for Community in Conflict

A mirror of the great changes that were occurring on the national labor right scene, the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike was a time of unprecedented social upheaval in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. With organized labor taking an aggressive stance against the excesses of unfettered capital, the stage was set for a major struggle between workers and management. The Michigan Copper Strike received national attention and garnered the support of luminaries in organized labor like Mother Jones, John Mitchell, and Charles Moyer. The hope of victory was overshadowed, however, by violent incidents like the shooting of striking workers and their family members; and the bitterness of a community divided. No other event came to symbolize or memorialize the Strike more than the Italian Hall tragedy, in which dozens of workers and working-class children died. In Community in Conflict, the efforts of working people to gain a voice on the job and in their community through their union, and the efforts of employers to crush those unions, take center stage. Previously untapped historic sources shine new light on this epic, and ultimately tragic, period in American labor history.

Friday, January 11, 2013

About the Community in Conflict Cover

We are very proud to share the cover to the upcoming book, Community in Conflict: A Working-class History of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy. The book itself is the culmination of research going back almost 10 years. I (Gary) had been working with sources from the Copper Country's Finnish immigrant population, which was instrumental in bringing about the strike and also during the strike while working on a Master's at Michigan Tech and some of these sources were inevitably used in Community as well.

Aaron and I started working together on the book in 2011. His expertise in the national labor scene at that time gives Community in Conflict something that other book length histories of the strike do not provide: a national context. Workers in the Copper Country did not live in a vacuum, and national events in the labor movement and business and management relations had great impacts on local workers and their surroundings in the Copper Country. That is the "community" in Community in Conflict--we strive to paint a whole picture of the Copper Country's labor movement and not just what happened in the mines and streets of the Copper Country during the dates of the strike.

Thus, the book is a look at not only striking workers, but their families, the copper bosses, and the social and political environment in which the Copper Country's working-class lived. The back story provided in the book leads up to the great clash between labor and management that was the 1913-14 strike, and the truly tragic events at Italian Hall--mostly with regard to and using the perspective of the Copper Country's working class members.

The cover itself is a symbol of our attempt to include the personal stories of members of the Copper Country's working class. The artwork on the cover is an engaging political cartoon drawn by Konstu Sallinen, a Finnish immigrant working at the Tyomies Publishing Company in Hancock, Michigan, during the strike. Salllinen drew the cartoon in the early days of the actual strike and captured the "conflict" that was consuming the Copper Country at that time. His artwork is an artistic first person perspective on conditions from a working-class perspective.

You'll note in the Sallinen's cartoon the haggered, but determined look look on many of the strikers' faces. One striking worker is carrying a sign that reads a familiar slogan shouted during strike parades by workers. In the background the artillery of the Michigan National Guard sits ready for use, while Michigan National Guardsmen themselves stand watching strikers with guns outfitted with bayonets next to military issue tents.

We felt the image was a powerful representation of the tension and conflict simmering in the Copper Country. While we selected the image, Michigan State University Press, our publisher, employed an incredible graphic artist to select the color scheme, font, and organize the cover's layout. We feel the graphic artist did a great job and when we first received the cover to look over from the Press, Aaron had copies made and distributed them throughout St. Martin's University where he teaches.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Upcoming Strike-related Historical Events

The centennial year of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike is here, and events with strike-related history are already happening and about to happen. Hoping to keep people updated, I'm posting some events from the Historical Society of Michigan's Upper Peninsula events calendar. For those interested, a link to that site:

Seeberville 1913: Everyday Life in Violent Times

When: Tue January 15
Where: Calumet
The Calumet Public-School Library presents “Seeberville 1913: Everyday Life in Violent Times.” Join Kim Hoagland as she talks about Seeberville and its role in the copper strike. This program is part of the traveling exhibit “Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-1914 Copper Strike.” The program begins at 6:30 p.m. at Calumet High School. For more information about the program, visit

Mine Safety Issues in the 1913 Strike Era

When: Sat February 9
Where: Houghton
The Carnegie Museum presents “Mine Safety Issues in the 1913 Strike Era.” Join Larry Lankton as he speaks about the conditions of the mines and the dangers miners faced. This program is part of the traveling exhibit “Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-1914 Copper Strike.” The program begins at 1 p.m. at the Carnegie Museum. For more information, call (906) 482-7140 or visit

Pulp and Propaganda: Newspapers in the Strike Era

When: Sun March 17
Where: L’Anse
The L’Anse Area School Public Library presents “Pulp and Propaganda: Newspapers in the Strike Era.” Join Jane Nordberg as she speaks about newspapers and their role in the copper strike. This program is part of the traveling exhibit “Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-1914 Copper Strike.” The program begins at 1 p.m. at the L’Anse Highschool. For more information, visit

Company Houses Along the Picket Line

When: Wed April 10
Where: Painesdale
The Sarah Sargent Paine Historical Research Center presents “Company Houses Along the Picket Line.” Join Erik Nordberg as he talks about the mining company and their impact on the Painesdale area. This program is part of the traveling exhibit “Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-1914 Copper Strike.” The program begins at 7 p.m. at the Jeffers High School Library. For more information, visit

Interpreting the 1913 Michigan Copper Strike

When: Thu May 23
Where: Calumet
The Keweenaw National Historical Park presents “Interpreting the 1913 Michigan Copper Strike.” Join Gary Kaunonen as he discusses the copper strike and its impact on the Upper Peninsula. This program is part of the traveling exhibit “Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-1914 Copper Strike.” The program begins at 7 p.m. at the Calumet Visitor Center in the Keweenaw National Historical Park. For more information, visit