Thursday, July 30, 2015

Spies, Spies, Spies

We'll shift our focus now to December of 1913. Some of the most unique material in Community in Conflict comes from research into spy reports from this period of the strike. There were a number of spies in the Copper Country during the strike and the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company collection of archival materials at the Copper Country Historical Collections (Michigan Tech) has a rich account of their activities during the Strike.

The following document, dated Dec. 22, 1913, discusses the deployment of a female agent being deployed in the Calumet area. The spy or "Operative" is from the Foster's Detective Agency and the letter writer, Walter Drew (not 100% sure on the name), is sending this letter from New York to the Calumet offices of C&H attorney A.E. Petermann. Drew writes in glowing terms regarding the female spy, noting that she is much smarter than Foster himself.

While hiring a female labor spy was perhaps really interesting in-and-of-itself, this spy's reason for being Calumet must be considered in a critical manner. This document is incredibly interesting for what it could imply. In the first paragraph, last sentence, the document's author writes, "...and also that she can rest assured that whatever she accomplishes is for the real and best interests of the miners themselves, that no one will be injured by whatever she does except a group of criminal and lawless labor agitators."

Was this writer perhaps implying that some type of action against the strikers was about to happen? Rather an ominous thought given that the Italian Hall tragedy happened just days later. The letter becomes more ominous when we find that after the Italian Hall tragedy this labor spy was put in charge of a clothing and supplies drive for the families of those affected by events at Italian Hall.

More on this operative later, but for now a digital copy of the original letter is below:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Seeberville Shootings III: Raleigh in his own Words

This last document regarding Thomas Raleigh and the farce that was his "escape" from prosecution for the Seeberville murders proves that some people just don't learn their lesson. Put simply, Raleigh was a thug. In this handwritten letter we get an idea of Raleigh's exploits in his own words. They are not complimentary to the man, Raleigh, or the people and company (Waddell Mahon and C&H) who hired him to wreak havoc on the Copper Country's striking population. It takes a while to get used to Raleigh's writing, but the letter is a cold look into the psyche of a paid thug. He plainly recounts his exploits while spying in New York and then begins to ask about his next move. Raleigh was a hired gun and seemingly willing to do whatever for the right price. Especially disturbing is Raleigh's willingness to use violence in New York in 1914, even as he is a wanted man for murder in the Copper Country for something he did less than 6 months ago.

For a little more context on Seeberville murders and Raleigh's violent part in them, we post some text from Community in Conflict:

In fact, C&H knowingly protected the whereabouts of Thomas Raleigh, even though he was wanted for murder. Not only did the company protect Raleigh, it used information obtained by him to spy on WFM activities in New York City. While four of the six shooters at Seeberville were found guilty of manslaughter, Harry James was acquitted under direction of the court, and Thomas Raleigh supposedly fled the Copper Country. Special Prosecutor George Nichols later wrote to the Houghton County Board of Supervisors that it was thought that Raleigh had indeed left the country, but labor spy correspondence reveals that Raleigh was in hiding in New York by January. In fact, he was spying on the WFM’s New York offices for C&H, providing the fruits of his work as a labor spy to Mr. Robinson, a lawyer in the firm of Rees, Robinson, and Petermann, which was on C&H’s payroll. Robinson then forwarded Raleigh’s correspondence to O. F. Bailey, a claim agent with C&H.

Raleigh’s letters to Robinson give further example of the character of men hired by the Waddell-Mahon agency and seem to indicate that while in New York, Raleigh continued to act violently. On one occasion after confronting a competing detective agency that was working with the WFM to get affidavits from former Ascher men, Raleigh wrote, “I raised hell in 80 Wall St. yesterday where I went [this following page of the letter is not digitized] looking for Martin, he was out and the four Jew detectives there would not fight.”

Community in Conflict Review

Review of "Community in Conflict" in Labor Studies Journal
Kaunonen, Gary, and Aaron Goings.
Community in Conflict: A Working-class History of the 1913–
14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy.
East Lansing: Michigan State University
Press, 2013. 304 pp. $29.95 (paper).
Reviewed by: Ron Verzuh,
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, B.C., Canada
If you asked participants in a labor history classroom today how many of them know about the 1913–1914 Michigan copper strike and associated Italian Hall tragedy, chances are not many hands would go up. If they had heard of it, they are unlikelyto be aware of the full details of the labor war that occurred a hundred years ago in what is known as Copper Country, Michigan. That’s where Community in Conflict comes in.
Authors Gary Kaunonen and Aaron Goings set out to restore “the working-class majority to center stage of the region’s history” (p. 243). And they largely succeed, uncovering new and overlooked sources that take us intimately close to the work and social lives of the mine workers and even closer to their struggle with mine owners and bosses.
For some workers, the strike—“an epic showdown between organized labor and monopoly capital”—was about union recognition and better pay (p. 3). For others it was about class war and revolution.
The bitter struggle also revealed the strength and political commitment of the many immigrant groups—Finns, Italians, Croatians, and others—that had migrated to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula only to be confronted with racism, maltreatment, and employer/owner attacks. Ultimately the strike bankrupted the Western Federation Miners and sent this founding affiliate of the Industrial Workers of the World (Wobblies) into decline. The Italian Hall Tragedy, “as horrible as any in the history of American labor” (p. 1), resulted in nearly eighty people, most of them children, being trampled to death when someone yelled “Fire” in the Italian Hall in Calumet, Michigan. Primary among the authors’ tasks in reviving this history was to uncover concrete evidence establishing what actually happened and to contextualize the events without succumbing to what the authors call provincialism. Helping them achieve their goal was the availability of non-English-language sources such as the Finnish and other ethnic labor press.
For example, they quote liberally from Tyomies, the Finnish-language publication associated with the Finnish Socialist Federation in Hancock, Michigan. The authors also present firsthand coverage of events through the Miners’ Bulletin and the Wage-Slave, also published in Hancock. They examine coverage from several mainstream newspapers as well, showing the bias that often colored coverage of miners’ strikes.
Kaunonen and Goings add value for labor educators by revisiting the lives of some of the labor movement’s most famous personalities and explaining their roles during the strike. Wobbly leaders Big Bill Haywood and Mary “Mother Jones” Harris, for example, make an appearance in strike-bound Copper Country. Others include famed lawyer Clarence Darrow, socialist leader Eugene Debs, and social activist Helen Keller.
These are familiar names. Not so familiar are the private detective agencies that were hired as strikebreakers, or the companies that specialized in hiring scabs. The Pinkerton, Thiel, Waddell-Mahon, and Ascher agencies, as well as lesser-known ones, harassed radical trade unionists, ethnic minorities, and socialist politicians. Less familiar still will be the many labor spies that mining companies employed to undermine the union movement and foment dissent during periods of labor strife. As the authors note, “The best lens into the lives, work, and rebellions of the Copper Country mineworkers comes to us through the reports of the labor spies” (p. 93).
With meticulous attention to detail, the authors have constructed a community labor history written with passion and purpose. There is much political zeal here, to be sure, as well as open sympathy for the strikers and the victims. But there is also much solid scholarship that offers a factual base for arguing the cause of those workers in defending themselves from ever-rapacious capital. Community in Conflict is a credible new tool suitable for the labor educator’s teaching kit. It is one that will inspire further curiosity about the often hidden labor history of the United States.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Seeberville Shootings II: Thomas Raleigh Continued

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.

Raleigh was, in fact, in New York City. Through pretty tireless searching of the historic record we "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.

The two "memo" style correspondences above, one a telegram, show that Raleigh was still working for C&H and that he was spying on the WFM's New York offices. Raleigh was attempting to "bust" WFM witnesses from the Ascher Detective Agency who were signing affidavits that were unkind to mining company interests. The former Ascher agents were saying that Copper Country mining companies were advocating the use of violence against striking workers in addition to other unfavorable tactics during the strike.

Raleigh was tasked with spying and confronting these men who were tattling on tactics used by mining companies during the strike. The next post will contain Raleigh's own words regarding one such confrontation.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Community in Conflict Nominated for Gjerde Prize

Community in Conflict was honored to be nominated for this award because the Gjerde Prize is administered by the Midwestern History Association and is awarded to the best book authored on a Midwestern history topic during a calendar year.
There were some excellent books nominated in addition to Community in Conflict. These included (among others): Michael Schumacher's, November's Fury: The Deadly Great Lakes Hurricane of 1913 (University of Minnesota Press); Dean A. Strang's, Worse than the Devil: Anarchists, Clarence Darrow, and Justice in a Time of Terror (University of Wisconsin Press); Sylvia Bell White and Jody LePage's, Sister: An African American Life in Search of Justice (U. of Wisconsin); David Vaught's, The Farmer's Game: Baseball in Rural America (Johns Hopkins U.); and Richard Drake's, The Education of an Anti-Imperialist: Robert La Follette and U.S. Expansion (U. of Wisconsin).
Ultimately University of Minnesota Press author Aaron Shapiro took home the prize with his Lure of the North Woods: Cultivating Tourism in the Upper Midwest.
Congratulations to Aaron!
The Gjerde Prize is named for University of California-Berkeley historian Jon Gjerde, who wrote extensively about the Midwest and its immigrant peoples. Gjerde, who was born in Waterloo, Iowa, earned his BA from the University of Northern Iowa and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Minnesota and went on to become the Alexander F. and May T. Morrison Professor of American History and American Citizenship at the University of California-Berkeley, where he also served as Dean of the Division of Social Sciences in the College of Letters and Science. Gjerde passed away suddenly in October 2008. In the fall of 2014, the MHA’s annual book award was named in his honor.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Seeberville Shootings: The Unbelievable Story of Thomas Raleigh

One of the worst early, violent events against organized labor during the strike was the shootings of unarmed striking workers in Seeberville. We examine the event in the book, but found some damning historical documents regarding one of the principle actors in the event: Thomas Raleigh.

For some background on the event...taken from Community in Conflict:

The crowded, hardscrabble back streets of a ramshackle mining location [Seeberville] was the
setting for possibly the most notorious of the Waddell-Mahon men’s exploits. This ghastly event occurred in mid-August 1913, and the labor newspapers were quick to print a nuanced recounting of the event: “The character of these bloodhounds dressed as humans revealed itself for the first time on August 14th when they executed one of the most cold blooded massacres known to the history of the American workers’ battles in Seeberville location near Painesdale.”

Antti Sarell, who wrote for a Finnish-language labor newspaper, Tyomies, further described the event:

For absolutely no reason six crooks identified as sheriff ’s deputies, of which four were Waddell-Mahon’s Detective Agency gun hounds, attacked the men of Croatian Joseph Putrich’s boarding house, driving the men from the courtyard to the inside of the house and after that shooting in through the house’s windows with their revolvers. The consequence was that 18-year-old striker Aloiz Tijan was instantly killed and a striker named Steve Putrich died from gunshot wounds some days later. Two other strikers and the infant who was in the arms of the house’s lady suff ered gunshot wounds, with a shot of the revolver burning the child’s face. After they had committed this cruel deed, the gun hounds went to the road in front of the house where they loaded their revolvers again and jeered amongst themselves 'we wonder how many dead bodies there are in the house.'

Naturally, Sheriff Cruse, who had hired the men, did as much as possible to hinder eff orts to locate the assailants and bring the shooters to justice. After finally rounding up the suspects, the sheriff ordered the arrests of six “murderers”: James Cooper, Arthur Davis, William Groff , Harry James, Edward Polkinghorne, and Thomas Raleigh. According to Sarell, “The hounds that had committed the massacre were let to be on the loose for a long time before the sheriff , pressured by public
opinion, saw that it was better to take them ‘under his surveillance’ in the county jail where they weren’t treated like other prisoners at all, but were allowed to live like kings.”

That was our rendering of events from the historical sources of the labor press. What was especially intriguing was that while five of the men were eventually tried in court for the crime; one, Thomas Raleigh got away. Houghton County officials (including law enforcement, mine managers, and elected officials, who were often mine managers) claimed to have no idea of what happened to Raleigh. The Waddell-Mahon Detective Agency, who employed Raleigh, also was not helpful in determining Raleigh's whereabouts after the shooting.

We found documents that suggested otherwise! I'll include the first round of these documents below and then more in the next post along with more interpretation from Community in Conflict. The documents below were scanned from the originals contained in Tech's Copper Country Historical Collections.

As can be seen from the signature, this was Tom Raleigh reporting back to a handler at Wadell-Mahon regarding activities of organized labor in New York City. Raleigh was even using Waddell-Mahon stationary. The Waddell-Mahon Detective Agency was the company hired by Copper Country mine managers as additional security and company police during the strike. Some of these men were also deputized by Sheriff Cruse to police and ultimately strike-break during the labor action as Houghton County deputy sheriffs. Raleigh was one such deputy and he was one of the shooters during the Seeberville incident. After Fall 1913 Raleigh was a wanted man in the Copper Country--wanted for murder--so it is odd that he was writing to his employer in January of 1914. Amazingly, he was still on the job. So the Waddell-Mahon company was still employing Raleigh, a wanted man, in trying to union bust.

One begins to wonder, who else knew Raleigh was in New York City?

More to come in the next post...