Ludlow Massacre

Ludlow Massacre
Ruins of Ludlow restored.jpg
Ruins of the Ludlow Colony in the aftermath of the massacre.
DateApril 20, 1914
LocationLudlow, Colorado
37°20′21″N 104°35′02″W / 37°20′21″N 104°35′02″W / 37.33917; -104.58389
GoalsUnion recognition
MethodsStrikes, protest, demonstrations
Parties to the civil conflict
Lead figures
Arrests, etc
Deaths: 19-25
Injuries:
Arrests:
Deaths: 4
Injuries:

The Ludlow Massacre was a labor conflict: the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards attacked a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado, on April 20, 1914, with the National Guard using machine guns to fire into the colony. About two dozen people, including miners' wives and children, were killed. The chief owner of the mine, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., was widely criticized for having orchestrated the massacre.

The massacre, the seminal event in the Colorado Coal Wars, resulted in the deaths of an estimated 25 people, although accounts vary.[1][2] Ludlow was the deadliest single incident in the southern Colorado Coal Strike, which lasted from September 1913 through December 1914. The strike was organized by the miners against coal mining companies in Colorado. The three largest companies involved were Colorado Fuel & Iron Company, owned by the powerful Rockefeller family; Rocky Mountain Fuel Company, and Victor-American Fuel Company.

In retaliation for the massacre at Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of anti-union establishments over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg.[3] An estimated total of 69 to 199 deaths occurred during the entire strike. Thomas G. Andrews described it as the "deadliest strike in the history of the United States",[4] and it is commonly referred to as the Colorado Coalfield War.

The Ludlow Massacre was a watershed moment in American labor relations. Historian Howard Zinn described this as "the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history".[5] Congress responded to public outrage by directing the House Committee on Mines and Mining to investigate the events.[6] Its report, published in 1915, was influential in promoting child labor laws and an eight-hour work day.

The Ludlow site, 18 miles northwest of Trinidad, Colorado, is now a ghost town. The massacre site is owned by the United Mine Workers of America, which erected a granite monument in memory of the miners and their families who died that day.[7] The Ludlow Tent Colony Site was designated as a National Historic Landmark on January 16, 2009, and dedicated on June 28, 2009.[7] Evidence from modern archeological investigation largely supports the strikers' reports of the event.[8]

Background

Photo, Ludlow Tent Colony, prior to the Ludlow Massacre. Caption reads: "THE COLORADO TENT COLONY SHOT UP BY THE MILITIA, Ludlow, a canvas community of 900 souls, was riddled with machine guns shooting 400 bullets a minute. Then the tents were burned. The site is private property leased by the miners' union, which has supported the colony seven months."

Areas of the Rocky Mountains have veins of coal close to the surface of the land, providing significant and relatively accessible reserves. In 1867, these coal deposits caught the attention of William Jackson Palmer, then leading a survey team planning the route of the Kansas Pacific Railway. The rapid expansion of rail transport in the United States made coal a highly valued commodity, and it was rapidly commercialized.

At its peak in 1910, the coal mining industry of Colorado employed 15,864 people, accounting for 10 percent of those employed in the state.[9] Colorado's coal industry was dominated by a handful of operators. Colorado Fuel and Iron, was the largest coal operator in the west, as well as one of the nation's most powerful corporations, at one point employing 7,050 individuals and controlling 71,837 acres (290.71 km2) of coal land.[10] The Colorado Fuel & Iron Company was purchased by John D. Rockefeller in 1902, and nine years later he turned over his controlling interest in the company to his son, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who managed the company from his offices at 26 Broadway in New York.[11]

Mining was dangerous and difficult work. Colliers in Colorado were at constant risk for explosion, suffocation, and collapsing mine walls. In 1912, the death rate in Colorado's mines was 7.055 per 1,000 employees, compared to a national rate of 3.15.[12] In 1914, the United States House Committee on Mines and Mining reported that

Colorado has good mining laws and such that ought to afford protection to the miners as to safety in the mine if they were enforced, yet in this State the percentage of fatalities is larger than any other, showing there is undoubtedly something wrong in reference to the management of its coal mines.[13]

Miners were generally paid according to tonnage of coal produced, while so-called "dead work", such as shoring up unstable roofs, was often unpaid.[13] According to historian Thomas G. Andrews, the tonnage system drove many poor and ambitious colliers to gamble with their lives by neglecting precautions and taking on risk, with consequences that were often fatal.[14] Between 1884 and 1912, mining accidents claimed the lives of more than 1,700 in Colorado.[15] In 1913 alone, "104 men would die in Colorado's mines, and 6 in the mine workings on the surface, in accidents that widowed 51 and left 108 children fatherless."[16]

Colliers had little opportunity to air their grievances. Many colliers resided in company towns, in which all land, real estate, and amenities were owned by the mine operator, and which were expressly designed to inculcate loyalty and squelch dissent.[17] Welfare capitalists believed that anger and unrest among the workers could be placated by raising colliers' standard of living, while subsuming it under company management. Company towns indeed brought tangible improvements to the lives of many colliers and their families, including larger houses, better medical care, and broader access to education.[18] But, ownership of the towns provided companies considerable control over all aspects of workers' lives, and they did not always use this power to augment public welfare. Historian Philip S. Foner has described company towns as "feudal domain[s], with the company acting as lord and master. ... The 'law' consisted of the company rules. Curfews were imposed. Company guards - brutal thugs armed with machine guns and rifles loaded with soft-point bullets - would not admit any 'suspicious' stranger into the camp and would not permit any miner to leave." Miners who came into conflict with the company were liable to find themselves and their families summarily evicted from their homes.[19]

Frustrated by working conditions which they believed were unsafe and unjust, colliers increasingly turned to unionism. Nationwide, organized mines boasted 40 percent fewer fatalities than nonunion mines.[20] Colorado miners had repeatedly attempted to unionize since the state's first strike in 1883. The Western Federation of Miners organized primarily hard rock miners in the gold and silver camps during the 1890s.

Beginning in 1900, the United Mine Workers of America began organizing coal miners in the western states, including southern Colorado. The union decided to focus on the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company because of its harsh management tactics under the conservative and distant Rockefellers and other investors. To break or prevent strikes, the coal companies hired strike breakers, mainly from Mexico and southern and eastern Europe. The Colorado Fuel & Iron Company's management mixed immigrants of different nationalities in the mines, a practice which discouraged communication that might lead to organization.

Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Ludlow Tô͘-sat
한국어: 루드로 학살
norsk nynorsk: Ludlowmassakren
português: Massacre de Ludlow
українська: Лудлоуська бійня