Thursday, June 25, 2015

102 Anniversary of the Strike: Sharing Primary Documents

Community in Conflict brought to light new and sometimes controversial research on the study of the 1913-14 Strike. As historians we stumbled upon some new primary sources that added to the understanding of the event and we would now like to share some of these sources with the general public. Knowing that a primary source is a historical document produced at the time of the event in question, we think that the public might find these original documents interesting and of use in future research on the event. As the 102 anniversary of the strike rolls around we thought it might be a good time to share some of our research.

The first such document (image below) is really the first piece of primary evidence that let us as historians know that there was more to the story of the 1913-14 Strike than many had written about before. This telegraph between C&H management used coded language to describe events during the strike. There are hundreds of such documents in the C&H archival collection at the Copper Country Historical Collections at Michigan Tech. For most of these coded messages a translation of the telegram is located along with the original message. These coded messages led us to look deeper into the archival collection because we began to wonder, "Why might a company need to send coded messages...what intrigue was behind the messages and what intrigue might also be ahead?"

The short answer to this question: a lot! And, we'll share the other documents on this site in the coming weeks and months.

This document from C&H Superintendent James MacNaughton to C&H President Quincy Shaw demonstrates the use of a coded message to disguise the interests of the mining company during the strike. Original document housed at the Copper Country Historical Archive, Michigan Technological University. Scanned by Gary Kaunonen.

Be certain to check back for more primary documents as we document the documents we used in telling the sometimes controversial working-class history of the 1913-14 Strike. We will publish documents pertaining to the use of labor spies by mining companies to infiltrate the Western Federation of Miners, the tragedy at Italian Hall, and the search for the men who murdered the strikers at Seeberville.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Calumet's Butler Row Housing--Immigrant Life in Industrial Calumet

Life in Calumet's industrial spaces was cramped, especially for the area's immigrants. In Community in Conflict, we detail one such space--the Butler Row Houses. Packed into this group of attached houses with about 5,000 square feet were almost 90-some people. Maps and an image of the row houses show the utterly cramped conditions in which some immigrants lived.

The Butler Row Houses, to the left of the "D" in the center of this image, show the tiny, cramped living conditions where sometimes a family of 5-10 would live. The above image is from a turn-of-the-century Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Calumet.

This circa 1910 image of Calumet shows the Butler Row Houses. The houses, which are shown at side view (the almost round shaped roof) in the center of the image just behind the road that runs through the center of the image, were packed tightly into Calumet's urban setting. Keweenaw National Historical Park archivist Jeremiah Mason shared this photo with us and it is from the Park's collection of images.

From Community in Conflict:

A snapshot of the lives of eastern European working-class immigrant families
can be seen by examining the Butler Row Houses, an approximately 5,600-square foot
structure comprised of eight miniature boardinghouses in Calumet. Packed
into the Butler Row Houses were dozens of working-class immigrants at the time
of the 1910 U.S. Census. The Butler Row Houses was actually a row of small, one and-
a-half-story houses connected by common outside steps. These houses were
approximately 562.5 square feet each and were subdivided into two units. Within
these small units lived large groups of working-class families with up to twelve
residents per house. Tellingly, the row of boardinghouses was marked “tenement”
on a 1907 Sanborn map, and in terms of living conditions the Butler Row Houses
differed little from the tenements of major eastern cities. Eighty-one working-class
immigrants and American-born children squeezed into these cramped spaces.

Th e Millers—Louis, Margaret, and Mortiz—were one such Butler Row Houses
family. Louis, the husband, father, and “head” of the family, emigrated in 1901 from
Croatia. By 1910, Louis had taken a job at Calumet where he, like so many local
Croatians, worked as a trammer. Margaret, Louis’s wife, a Croatian-born woman
who immigrated to the United States in 1908, worked as a boardinghouse keeper,
tending to the family’s boarders and their infant son, Mortiz, who was born in
Michigan. Th e Miller household also included seven Croatian-born boarders, all of
whom labored as trammers, as well as Annie Yalich, an eighteen-year-old Croatian
woman who worked as a servant in the home.