I. A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE COAL WAR
The Colorado Coal Field War was a strike in the Southern Coal Fields of Colorado led by the United Mine Workers Of America
. It lasted 14 months, fromSeptember 1913 until November 1914. 10,000-12,000 miners struck, and, as wascommon practice at the time, were evicted from their company housing. They set up tentcolonies at about twelve locations the length of the strike zone. Within months theColorado National Guard was called out, theoretically to maintain order, but for a number of reasons, it became hopelessly compromised and degenerated into a heavily armedstrikebreaking force. The situation climaxed on April 20th 1914, when shooting broke outat the largest striker colony at Ludlow. The National Guard fired on the colony withmachine guns and rifle fire. The armed miners fought back for as long as possible, whileothers sought shelter wherever they could, including pits dug beneath their tents.Outnumbered and outgunned the strikers held the National Guard off for most of the day.When most of the strikers had fled to relative safety, the Guard moved into the colony,looted it, and burned the tents, not realizing that there were people hiding underneath.Eleven women and children died in a pit beneath one of the tents. The Guard alsocaptured and killed three strikers, including one of the colony leaders Louis Tikas. A totalof about 25 people died in the massacre.For 10 days after Ludlow, bands of strikers fought a series of pitched battlesagainst company mine guards and the National Guard, attacking and burning nearly everymine and company town in the 40 miles from Trinidad to Walsenburg. President Wilsonsent Federal troops to the area to disarm both sides and restore peace. Seven months later the strike finally ended in defeat of the mineworkers.Although it ended in the defeat of the union, the Ludlow Massacre focusednational attention on the conditions in the Colorado coal camps, and on labor conditionsthroughout the US. John D. Rockefeller Jr., the owner of Colorado Fuel & Iron, thelargest company involved in the strike, was singled out and excoriated in the press and ina spectacular series of public hearings before the Commission on Industrial Relations.These hearings did lead to some reforms and improvements in the coal camps andthroughout the US.
II. THE COAL WAR PROJECT
The Colorado Coal Field War Archaeology Project is a joint effort between DeanSaitta (University of Denver), Philip Duke (Fort Lewis College), and Randall McGuire(SUNY-Binghamton). We are investigating sites from the 1913-14 coal strike in order to(a) understand how conditions in the coal camps led to the strike and how the strikechanged those conditions, (b) raise public awareness of the Coal War and the LudlowMassacre (Saitta, McGuire and Duke 1999; Walker 1999). This project is funded by theColorado Historical Society, State Historic Fund.
The following discussion of the Coal War draws primarily on Beshoar (1957) Foner (1980), Gitelman(1988), Long (1985, 1989) McGovern and Guttridge (1972), Papanikolas (1982), Reed (1955), andScamehorn (1990).