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An Archaeology of Labor: Research on Ludlow and the 1913-14 Coal War.

An Archaeology of Labor: Research on Ludlow and the 1913-14 Coal War.

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Published by Mark
ABSTRACT
In The Archaeology of the Colorado Coal War Project, we take a class-based approach to the archaeology of mine workers. We are working on sites associated with the 1913-14 coal strike in Las Animas and Huerfano Counties in Southern Colorado, including the Ludlow Massacre Site (5LA1829) and the nearby coal company town of Berwind. In this paper I will present our overall research goals for the project, along with some of our findings from the season’s work at the Ludlow Tent Colony. I will also discuss some of the issues and potentials in using class as an entry-point for the archaeological study of labor and as a concern in public archaeology interpretation.
ABSTRACT
In The Archaeology of the Colorado Coal War Project, we take a class-based approach to the archaeology of mine workers. We are working on sites associated with the 1913-14 coal strike in Las Animas and Huerfano Counties in Southern Colorado, including the Ludlow Massacre Site (5LA1829) and the nearby coal company town of Berwind. In this paper I will present our overall research goals for the project, along with some of our findings from the season’s work at the Ludlow Tent Colony. I will also discuss some of the issues and potentials in using class as an entry-point for the archaeological study of labor and as a concern in public archaeology interpretation.

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Published by: Mark on Jun 19, 2008
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05/09/2014

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AN ARCHAEOLOGY OF LABOR:RESEARCH ON LUDLOW AND THE 1913-14 COAL WAR Mark Walker
The Archaeology of the Colorado Coalfield War Project 
Department of AnthropologyUniversity of Denver Denver, CO 80208-2406(303) 871-2406(markwalk@du.edu)
ABSTRACT
In
The Archaeology of the Colorado Coal War Project 
, we take a class-based approach to the archaeologyof mine workers. We are working on sites associated with the 1913-14 coal strike in Las Animas andHuerfano Counties in Southern Colorado, including the Ludlow Massacre Site (5LA1829) and the nearbycoal company town of Berwind. In this paper I will present our overall research goals for the project, alongwith some of our findings from the season’s work at the Ludlow Tent Colony. I will also discuss some of the issues and potentials in using class as an entry-point for the archaeological study of labor and as aconcern in public archaeology interpretation.
Submitted for the 1999 Colorado Council for Professional ArchaeologistsSymposium,
 Exploring Ethnicity, Gender, and Class through Historical Archaeology
.Glenwood Springs, Colorado, March 1999.
 
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
1
. 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.
1
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).
 
During the 1998 season we worked at two sites, the Ludlow Massacre Site and thenearby Colorado Fuel & Iron Company town of Berwind. At Ludlow, we completelyexposed a tent platform that is part of a tent row. We also identified a pit, which was possibly one of the ones excavated beneath the tents before the massacre for protectionfrom sporadic attacks by mine guards and private detectives. The pit was filled withdebris, primarily tin cans and bottles, either cleanup from the burned colony or trash fromthe tent colony. At the top of the rubbish, and separated from it by a thin layer of sediment was the wire frame for a wreath.At Berwind, a team under the direction of Margaret Wood surveyed and mappedthe entire town. We discovered twenty-one geographically distinct residential/use areas,including areas associated with different classes and ethnic groups, including African-Americans, Italians, and Hispanics. Test excavations were conducted in four areas of thetown where we discovered intact deposits dating to the strike period. We completed oralhistory interviews with four informants who were able to tell us a great deal about their everyday lives growing up in Berwind (ACCFWP 1998).
III. WHAT IS CLASS?
We are doing this project for a lot of reasons, not the least of which, as academicmarxists, it gives us a chance to put some of our money where our mouths are. Probablythe defining concept of marxist approaches is
class,
class as defined by class struggle. AtLudlow we can actually dig up a strike and engage in an archaeological study of labor struggle. Ludlow gives us an opportunity to study class in the past, to realize this studyas action in the present, and it highlights the problematic relationship between past and present-day interests (Duke and Saitta 1998; McGuire and Walker 1997).First of all I think it is important to say what we
do
and do
not
mean by class.Someone once wrote of Marx that he used “words like bats”; sometimes they look likemice and sometimes like birds (Sayer 1987). “Class” is one of these words. Onedifficulty is that classes are not categories. Classes are relations; historically specificrelations between people, something that happens. Class has been said to occur at the juncture of structure and agency. Structurally, it is the position of people within therelations of production, relations in capitalism that are based in the exploitation of labor.Subjectively, it is the experience and understanding of these relations, and the actiontaken based upon these understandings and experiences (Thompson 1963).It might be useful to conceive of class as having different levels of abstraction, being stratified if you will. For example, Katznelson (1986) conceives of class havingfour levels, moving from abstract conceptions to concrete historical situations:1)Class as structure
 Abstract 
2)Class as social organization3)Class as disposition4) Class as action
Concrete
At the most abstract level we might talk about class in a structural sense as the position in the relations of production, or of the famous two great classes of bourgeoisieand proletariat. As we move from abstraction to concrete reality, we need to address

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