Ludlow Massacre

Over the years the United Mine Workers of America had attempted to organize the Colorado coal fields, but to no avail. The companies, led by the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel and Iron Company, would not deal with the union. These companies dominated the Colorado mining areas "through the ruthless suppression of unionism, accomplished by the use of the power of summary discharge, the black list, armed guards, and spies, and by the active aid of venal state, county and town officials."

Seeking, union recognition, the miners wanted wages of $3.45 a day, the eight-hour day, a union man checking the weighing of coal (for they felt the company was cheating them), the right not to buy at the company store, and the "abolition of the notorious and criminal guard system which has prevailed in the mining camps of Colorado for many years." The operators refused. In September, 1913, the miners voted to strike. Sheriff Jefferson Farr of Huerfano County immediately commissioned several hundred deputies.

Workers left company-owned hovels for tent camps in Ludlow and nearby areas established by the UMW. In the meantime, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company provided its guards with a specially built armored car, the "Death Special," which could be used to intimidate pickets and strikers. The miners began to arm after several of their number were killed. Clashes between strikers and guards increased.

Yielding to the companies' pressure, Governor Elias Ammons sent the National Guard into the strike district. At first the strikers welcomed the soldiers, who had been instructed to protect property and preserve the peace. But when the militiamen sided with the company guards and deputies, the miners protested. Subsequently the governor withdrew most of the National Guard, leaving a company commanded by Lieutenant Karl E Linderfelt, a "rare combination of a bully and a bulldog."

On April 20, 1914, Ludlow exploded. Linderfelt's soldiers attacked the tent colony, spraying it with bullets and setting fire to the tents. Eleven children and two women died in the flames. Louis Tikas, strike leader at Ludlow, and two others were murdered. Angered miners burned mines and killed guardsmen. The military began falling back as strikers advanced to the cry "Remember Ludlow!" In a ten-day war, forty-six people died in the assault, most of them company guards.

President Woodrow Wilson, at the request of the governor, sent in federal troops, and it was all over. Court-martials absolved soldiers of any responsibility in the Ludlow Massacre. Linderfelt, tried for murder, got off with a light reprimand. - US Department of Labor



Y/M/D Description Place
1914/04/20 Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards attack 1200 striking coal miners and their families Ludlow Tent Colony Site, Ludlow
1914/04/29 Wearing a white suit and black armband, Upton Sinclair is arrested while protesting conditions of Colorado coal miners in front of the offices of John D Rockefeller at the Standard Oil Building, New York City. Wall Street Historic District, New York City
1914/05/00 Organized by Upton Sinclair, protesters dressed in black crepe picket the Standard Oil Building at 26 Broadway at Beaver St. Wall Street Historic District, New York City
1914/05/02 Organized by Upton Sinclair, five silent mourners picket the Rockefeller Townhouse at 10 W 54th St (demolished, now the Museum of Modern Art's sculpture garden). Residences at 5-15 West 54th Street, New York City
1914/07/04 Much of the top three floors of an apartment building at 1626 Lexington Ave in New York City, is accidentally exploded by 3 anarchists constructing a bomb. The intended target was probably John D Rockefeller.

Data »

Labor: Labor Strike
Workers: Labor, Workers
Workers: Union Labor

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