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The Archaeology of Class War

The Archaeology of Class War: The Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-1914

Karin Larkin
Randall H. McGuire
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 432
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  • Book Info
    The Archaeology of Class War
    Book Description:

    The Archaeology of the Colorado Coalfield War Project has conducted archaeological investigations at the site of the Ludlow Massacre in Ludlow, Colorado, since 1996. With the help of the United Mine Workers of America and funds from the Colorado State Historical Society and the Colorado Endowment for the Humanities, the scholars involved have integrated archaeological finds with archival evidence to show how the everyday experiences of miners and their families shaped the strike and its outcome.The Archaeology of Class War weaves together material culture, documents, oral histories, landscapes, and photographs to reveal aspects of the strike and life in early twentieth-century Colorado coalfields unlike any standard documentary history. Excavations at the site of the massacre and the nearby town of Berwind exposed tent platforms, latrines, trash dumps, and the cellars in which families huddled during the attack. Myriad artifacts—from canning jars to a doll’s head—reveal the details of daily existence and bring the community to life.The Archaeology of Class War will be of interest to archaeologists, historians, and general readers interested in mining and labor history.

    eISBN: 978-1-60732-039-5
    Subjects: History, Archaeology, Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Preface and Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xx)
  6. 1 Unearthing Class War
    (pp. 1-28)

    At Ludlow, a granite coal miner gazes resolutely across the windswept plains of Colorado. Beside him, a woman in classical drapery clutches her baby with one hand and rests her head on her other hand in grief (Figure 1.1). Once they gazed up into mountain valleys teeming with activity. Great coal tipples loomed over miners’ homes shrouded in the acid smoke of coke ovens. In recent times they have stared up at crumbling foundations, sealed mine shafts, and red mounds of bricks that were once coke ovens. For eighty-five years the couple stood sentinel in their grief over the site...

  7. 2 A Terrible Unrest: Class War in Colorado
    (pp. 29-68)

    On April 21, 1914, class warfare raged on the plains of southern Colorado. Near the Ludlow railroad depot, troops of the Colorado National Guard hunkered down in a burned-out union tent colony, besieged by armed strikers. The morning before, they had attacked the colony with machine gun and rifle fire and, after a daylong battle, driven the strikers out. The bodies of two women and ten children lay at the bottom of a dark, smoky pit in the colony. Passengers on a passing train were horrified to see the corpses of union leaders Louis Tikas and James Fyler sprawled by...

  8. 3 Archaeology and the Colorado Coalfield War
    (pp. 69-122)

    The Colorado Coalfield War Archaeology Project (CCWAP) strove to complement the written history of the 1913–1914 labor strike in southern Colorado. While the written history provides a thorough description of the events and their larger implications, it does not paint a complete picture of how the events affected the daily lives of the men, women, and children who experienced them. Further, it cannot show the living conditions that led up to the strike or illustrate the strike’s effect on the material conditions of the workers and their families. Such is the nature of history. The archaeology of the CCWAP...

  9. 4 Building the Corporate Family: Constructing Homes, Families, and the Nation
    (pp. 123-160)

    A year and a half after the tragic events at Ludlow, John D. Rockefeller Jr. embarked on a tour of the coal camps of southern Colorado. Donning overalls, the young Rockefeller visited nearly every camp in the Trinidad area (Figure 4.1). At Berwind he ate with a group of miners in the boardinghouse, visited prisoners in the local jail, and attended a party at which he danced with miners’ wives and daughters (Hogle 1995:93). Rockefeller intended to do more than improve his reputation, which had been sullied by the bloody massacre in 1914. Through close contact with the miners and...

  10. 5 From Shacks to Shanties: Working-Class Poverty and the 1913–1914 Southern Colorado Coalfield Strike
    (pp. 161-186)

    The Ludlow Massacre thrust the brutalities of labor conflict and the realities of working-class poverty into the American consciousness. The well-publicized reforms that followed the strike successfully focused national attention on “improvements” made to miners’ lives and the new relationship forged between management and labor in the early twentieth century but did little to change the lived experience of southern Colorado coal miners.

    Framed as a measurable outcome and objectified as a generalized condition, poverty in the United States has relied on a consistent recycling of prejudices, characterized by shifting blame and ensuing responsibility. Whose fault is it, and who...

  11. 6 Landscapes of Hope and Fear: A Study of Space in the Ludlow Strikers’ Colony
    (pp. 187-218)

    During the 1913–1914 strike, strikers and their families, along with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), established a new community on the plains of southeastern Colorado. This community offered more than shelter to strikers and their families. It was also a symbolic expression of what miners and their families wanted in the establishment of place and home in the coal camps. The strike became a struggle for miners to develop the material and social conditions that would give them a larger voice in negotiating community in the coal camps. This chapter examines the issue of community development in...

  12. 7 Material Culture of the Marginalized
    (pp. 219-250)

    The history of the southern Colorado coalfields is a complex one involving social interactions among established residents, Anglo-Americans, Hispanos, African Americans, Asians, and newly arriving immigrants from Europe and Mexico. By studying the material culture of immigrants and “in-between peoples,” we can begin to examine their experiences in America and the cultural negotiations that occurred in their lives. The negotiation of culture through the use of the objects of daily life is of interest in this study. Analysis of the use of objects in “facilitating judgment, classification, and self-expression” provides insight into the construction of an individual’s cultural identity (Beaudry,...

  13. 8 “Thou Shalt Not Dose Thyself”: Proprietary Medicine Use at the Ludlow Tent Colony
    (pp. 251-284)

    In 1913 the coal miners of southern Colorado drew up a list of seven demands to be presented by their union, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), to the mining companies. The sixth of the seven demands encompassed the frustration miners and their families felt over their employers’ intrusion into all aspects of home life—a lack of choice in where to live, where to shop, and where to obtain medical services. While early–twentieth-century mining companies had an interest in keeping workers relatively satisfied, the deskilling of the work and a ready force of new immigrants made workers...

  14. 9 Working Parents and the Material Culture of Victorianism: Children’s Toys at the Ludlow Tent Colony
    (pp. 285-310)

    The “mass exodus” of striking families from the coal camps in the rain and snow on September 17, 1914, struck an emotional chord among those who saw it (Long 1989:272). In her historical account of the 1913–1914 strike, Priscilla Long quotes remarks Mary “Mother” Jones made to the strikers several days later: “ ‘There was a lot of poor wretches on that wagon,’ Jones said of one family, ‘their life earnings were piled on that wagon…. [A] child of about ten years old, and the mother—she had a babe in her arms and did not have clothing enough...

  15. 10 Archaeology and Workers’ Memory
    (pp. 311-330)

    The Ludlow Project is an explicitly political project, an attempt to fuse scholarly labor with working-class interests (Ludlow Collective 2001:95). The goal of working with union members and organized labor, an audience outside the traditional realm of archaeology, confronts us with a history little studied by archaeologists and little taught within general historical education. The Ludlow Massacre, like many historical episodes, is a silenced history, written out to the margins of national history. The Ludlow Massacre helped change the lives of working-class people throughout the United States, so its absence in official history, and the absence of events like it,...

  16. 11 Teaching Class Conflict: A Trans-Atlantic Comparison Using the Colorado Coalfield War Archaeology Project in Undergraduate Curricula
    (pp. 331-350)

    Like many good collaborations, this chapter began in a pub. When the 2005 Society for Historical Archaeology meetings were held in York, England, the two of us took the opportunity to get in a good visit. As newly minted faculty teaching historical archaeology, we spent much of our time talking about teaching, discussing students, and comparing notes about pedagogy as viewed from different sides of the Atlantic. During one of these meandering conversations, our discussion turned to the Colorado Coalfield War Archaeology Project. In the field, only one of us (Clark) had intersected with this research, once at the inception...

  17. 12 Why We Dig: Archaeology, Ludlow, and the Public
    (pp. 351-362)

    From its inception, the Colorado Coalfield War Archaeology Project was committed to developing a serious and focused public outreach component. We hoped we could go beyond the public lecture and other traditional forms of information sharing—important though these outlets are—to involving the public actively in our work and to a continuing conversation about its relevance to local and wider communities. We were fortunate to have archaeology as a medium to engage the public in a dialogue about Ludlow, labor wars, and class struggle. Archaeology is popular at many levels of society, as evidenced by the number of local...

  18. Index
    (pp. 363-380)