Painesdale Hosts Labor History Exhibit

Company houses at Osceola location. The role that company-provided houses played in the 1913 Michigan Copper Strike will be the topic of a presentation at the Jeffers High School Library at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday. Photograph courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives, Image #MTU Neg 05670.

Labor and and management conflict in the Keweenaw Peninsula is explored through a traveling exhibit in Painesdale during the month of April. “Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-14 Copper Strike,” a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, will be on display through May 1. The exhibit is hosted by the Sarah Sargent Paine Historical Research Center in the Jeffers High School Library in Painesdale.

A special open house will take place Wednesday, April 10.  Michigan Tech Archivist Erik Nordberg will present an illustrated talk entitled “Company Houses Along the Picket Line” exploring the role of company-owned houses in the 1913 strike. The event is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. and the exhibit will be open to visitors. Support for this event is provided by the Sarah Sargent Paine Historical Research Center.

On July 23, 1913, members of the Western Federation of Miners took to the streets over grievances about pay and working conditions. The strike was marked by violence and tragedy, including the deaths of more than 70 people, mainly children during a Christmas Eve party at Calumet’s Italian Hall. Local mining companies refused to recognize the union, however, and the strike finally ended in April 1914. The confrontation between organized labor and mining companies affected local residents from all walks of life, created headlines across the nation, and continues to resonate in Michigan’s Copper Country today.

The “Tumult and Tragedy” traveling exhibit consists of 12 panels and includes photographs, excerpts from newspapers, documents, and songs from the strike era. A free giveaway brochure contains links to related web content about the 1913-14 Michigan copper strike online here.

The exhibit was made possible through a $14,500 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding was provided by Michigan Technological University, Cranking Graphics, and Dr. Robert and Ruth Nara.

For further information, contact the Michigan Tech Archives at copper@mtu.eduor 906-487-2505, or the Jeffers High School Library at 906-487-0599.