Lattimer Massacre Memorial Mass, September 10, 2014

On September 10, 2014 a memorial mass was held at the Remembrance Rock at the corner of Lattimer and Quality Roads in Lattimer.

The mass was…. intense. Opening the event was a historical narrative provided by Bill Bachman of Penn State University, Wilkes Barre. The mass was conducted by an interfaith group of religious leaders who co-wrote and presented an emotional responsorial which focused on healing in the present.

One: Shots suddenly rang out

All: We have come here today to remember the stark reality
of shots fired that caused injury, death and destruction that day,
and down through the years.

One: We can stand here today and hear the echoes of these
shots. the righteous anger of the victims and their
families, as well as the communities in which they
lived and served.

All: We have come to remember nineteen unarmed miners
shot dead that day.
One: Remembrance begins with deep, personal identification.
It begins with remembering the affliction of our
brothers and sisters, and marking their pain as our
own. Remembrance is a sacred moment when we raise
up and hold to the light of the eternal moment, the good
who have died.

….

One: For the conflagration of bullets and nightmare images
forever seared into our corporate memory…
All: we lift up the ashes of our pain, 0 Breathing Spirit of the
World.

In conclusion, the mass ended with a prayer asking that all the communities affected by the massacre be blessed “so that blaming the immigrants, like slavery before it, may become for us only a shameful historic memory”. That sent chills down my spine.

The memorial service was sponsored by the following organizations:

St. James Episcopal Church
St. Luke’s Lutheran Church
Trinity Lutheran West Hazleton
Queen of Heaven Parish
Beth Israel Temple
Agudas Israel Synagogue
Christ Lutheran Church
Iglesia Buenas Nuevas
Faith United Church of Christ
Immaculate Conception
St, John’s Lutheran Church
Lattimer United Methodist
Hazleton One Community Center

Lattimer Massacre Memorial Mass to be held, Sept. 10, 2014

Remembrance Rock 2

117 years ago this Wednesday, 19 men were shot by a company sponsored posse in the Lattimer Massacre. This Wednesday, September 10, 2014 starting at 6:30 PM a memorial mass will be held at the monument at the corner of Quality and Lattimer roads. The Lattimer Massacre Project will be in attendance documenting the event. See you there!

The Italian Community on Strike

Wolensky cover
It has been awhile since the last blogpost. We have been busy working on our other archaeology project which focuses on company town life in the towns of Lattimer and Pardeesville (http://lattimerarchaeology.wordpress.com/). This post is a book review of sorts. First of all we will introduce some recent scholarship written about the massacre, examining Anthracite Labor Wars: Tenancy, Italians, and Organized Crime in the Northern Coalfield of Northeast Pennsylvania, 1897-1959 by Robert P. Wolensky and William A. Hastie Sr.  The book is remarkable, describing the intimate relationships and conflicts that arose between many different groups in the region. It looks at local labor history through the often neglected or misunderstood lenses of organized crime, Italian immigration and the evolving system of contracting or leasing work in the region. The latter system contributed to many of the tensions that arose between workers and owners in the coal mines.

Importantly for us Wolensky and Hastie provide an important conceptual bridge between the two Lattimer projects. Specifically, the chapter on the Italian community on strike was informative and revelatory. We have spent the last three years conducting archaeological fieldwork at Italian shanty settlements in Lattimer and Pardeesville, examining the everyday life of workers and their families. We see the choice of expanding our project into company town life as a way of understanding the historical context of the massacre, particularly in regards to the lives of those who had much at stake in the strike. Wolensky and Hastie make this connection explicit in this chapter, extending the narrative of the events of the 1897 massacre to the Italian community.

GreeneIn 1968, Victor Greene wrote The Slavic Community on Strike: Immigrant Labor in Pennsylvania Labor, a very important text challenging narratives of labor radicalism in the region.  Before this point, the important roles that Eastern European workers and their families played in establishing unions and reforming the industry have been underplayed or even entirely disregarded. In fact, Greene, writing at the time, suggests that “far from weakening labor organization, the Polish, Lithuanian, Slovak, and Ukrainian mineworkers, their families, and their communities supported labor protest more enthusiastically than many other groups and were essential to the establishment of unionism permanently in the coal fields” (Greene 1968: xv).

The Lattimer Massacre is often associated with the marchers and martyrs that died on September 10, 1897. The group of 400 or so men that walked from Harwood, Pennsylvania that day were drawn from the predominantly Eastern European patch towns in the area to the south of Hazleton. It is for this reason that it is sometimes described as “A Slavic Massacre”. The massacre itself, however, occurred within the context of a broader protest made largely of new immigrant groups in the area, and largely supported by the earlier generations of immigrant labor. The immigrant strikers were united in their protest of the burdensome new labor tax on non-citizen labor (the Campbell Act) and the foul treatment received by a young laborer at the hands of Gomer Jones, a ruthless superintendent. More broadly, however, they protested a variety of living and working conditions that affected the miners and their families from every group including low wages, and the imposition of company stores and physicians.

The first protest began on August 19th, 1897, and it involved a coalition of workers including Italian, Hungarian, Polish, Lithuanian, Slovak, Irish and English. They were each represented in a committee made up of representatives of each group. Following a regional strike on the 21st of August a large rally was planned for the 3rd of September, 1897. This was to be the largest rally the town had ever seen. Apparently, this rally was led by a “’burly Italian’ who addressed the gathering in a loud and enthusiastic voice” (Wolensky and Hastie 2013: 207). The Wilkes Barre Times suggested that “… the burst of Italian eloquence tended to invigorate the crowd” (quoted in Wolensky and Hastie 2013: 207).  They marched to Jeansville, shutting down the colliery. According to reports at the time, the Italians “hooked a plank to the [breaker] whistle, leaving it blowing to announce the victory to the surrounding countryside”.  The strikers marched onwards, shutting down a total of four operations and swelling to the ranks of 10,000 miners and laborers that day. The resulting work stoppage clearly unsettled the coal operators. Perhaps more importantly, however, was the solidarity growing between the different ethnic groups in the region.  They quickly conspired to put as quick an end to the movement as possible, calling in the local Sheriff as well as the Coal and Iron police.

A drawing of an Italian miner from Pardeesville drawn by Jay Hambridge for the Century Magazine, April 1898

By the 9th of September most of the collieries in the south of the city of Hazleton had been shut down. On the 9th of September, a group of men from the Lattimer Colliery met with strikers in Harwood asking for the strikers to march to Lattimer. At the time the dominant new immigrant workforce in the town came predominantly from Italy, though our census research suggests it also contained Irish, Slovak, Hungarian and Polish laborers. Those with the most to gain from a strike, however, were likely to have been those at the bottom of the hierarchy. The results of the march have been described in great detail in this blog and in other places. What is interesting here is the way a new context changes the way the event can be understood. Wolensky and Hastie suggest that the Italians not only played a huge role in the unrest during the summer of 1897 but likely instigated the Lattimer march itself (Wolensky and Hastie 2013: 212).

In the summer of 2014 we will continue our excavations in Pardeesville. This time around, we plan to excavate at a company double house occupied by Slovak immigrants between 1910 and 1940. The Yanac family has kindly offered to let us excavate their backyard. In the course of this research we hope to learn about Eastern European community life in the company double houses of Pardeesville. We hope to learn about the inhabitants of these houses before the Eastern European immigrants moved into the region. The story of the massacre only gets richer and richer as we find new perspectives to change the way we look at this event.  As we delve into aspects of everyday life in the region throughout the following century we find ourselves returning again and again to that fateful day in 1897.

Greene. V. (1968) The Slavic Community on Strike. South Bend: Notre Dame Press.

Wolensky. R.P. and Hastie W. (2013) Anthracite Labor Wars: Tenancy, Italians and Organized Crime in the Northern Coalfield of Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1895-1959. Easton: Canal History and Technology Press.

Lattimer Massacre: the early history of its commemoration

On September 10th, 1897 19 miners were shot to death on the road and fields at the east end of Lattimer.  Today mark’s its 116th anniversary.  The entire event took place over about 5 to 7 minutes in the late afternoon of that day.  In the days and weeks immediately afterwards, funeral processions made up of the families, community members and fellow workers of the fallen made their way across the city of Hazleton. This was the first commemoration of the fallen.

In the following decades, efforts were made to commemorate the event, and plans made to build a monument to the fallen in the city of Hazleton.  This article from 1903, six years after the event, describes a Labor Day plan to commemorate “Lattimer Day” with a speech by Mother Jones addressing miner’s of the Lehigh Region:

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This article, from September 8, 1903 from the Philadelphia Enquirer describes either the same event, or another one, in Lattimer, this time not mentioning Mother Jones, but prominent members of the UMWA speaking at the event, held in Lattimer. The speakers were preceded by “a big demonstration”:

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At this time, plans to build a monument in the city of West Hazleton came about. Numerous articles detail the meetings and planning that went into this effort. Two lots were purchased in West Hazleton and a basic design was chosen. In 1903 $8,300 was collected into a fund by the UMWA to build the monument with extra to set aside for its maintenance. A newspaper article from the time states that:

A prominent member of the committee stated yesterday that the monument would be erected next summer without fail and would be dedicated with a big demonstration….. if a site could not be secured on the river commons one would be purchased at Lattimer and the the monument erected there. It will be an imposing shaft of granite, about twenty feet high, surmounted with a bronze figure of a miner, and will have a massive base on which will be some suitable inscription. (September 16, 1903, Wilkes-Barre-Times)

An editorial added to this article illuminates the controversy and tenderness over the monument present at the time, still only a few years after the event. The article states that members of the city council will be placed in an awkward position voting to erect the monument on public land:

If they vote for placing it on city property they will be accused of condoning the action of the rioters, while their refusal will lead to mean they approved of the shooting. There will ·be lots of opposition from motives that cannot be otherwise than honest.

The editorial goes on to state that “no monument relating to any of our national struggles grace any of our open spaces and it will hardly be acceptable to a great many people to place a local event In the front rank.”  At this time it seems that the writer perceives the event as confined to only local significance.  To commemorate it on open public space might overshadow the perhaps underrepresented celebration of broader national events.  This somewhat cryptic article may hint at some of the controversies that kept the monument from erection for more than 70 years.

In 1907, the monument still had not been erected. There is no indication whether  the event was commemorated in town in some way or another. This article cites that the plan is to have the monument set one year hence:

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The eleventh anniversary came without a monument being constructed.  This article from September 11, 1908 in the Philadelphia Enquirer, also states that there was no observance of the event at this time. It simply states that the plans “have not yet been completed”.

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Newspapers were silent about the event and the plan to build a monument for a few years after this, though plans resurfaced again in 1911 and 1912.  After this, the trail goes dry until the 75th anniversary, September 10, 1972, when the monument we know so well was erected by the United Labor Council of Lower Luzerne and Carbon Counties along with the UMWA and the AFL-CIO. In a speech given at the time of the commemoration, George Meany, president of the AFL-CIO, stated that “The things [the fallen miners] died for have not yet been achieved.”

To mark the 116th anniversary this year, a ceremony is to be held at the monument today. An interfaith service will be held at 3:30 p.m. in memory of those who lost their lives that day. Several members of the clergy in the area will participate.

Lattimer Archaeology at Eckley Patch Town Days/ Project Update

20130613-162634.jpg
A couple of updates here, but first of all, we’d like to announce that the Lattimer Archaeology Project will have a table set up at Eckley Miner’s Village Patch Town Day. The festival will run 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM this Saturday, June 15th and 16th. Their website for the event can be found here.

The picture below shows some items we are preparing for display at our table.

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In other news, we were rained out again today, but we didn’t let it bring us down. We had a great and productive day last Wednesday. We finished up Unit 1, which ended with the discovery of a 6″ sewer pipe. This is a occupational hazard, and not an uncommon occurrence in the field of archaeology! We are looking into historic maps and other documents to determine the chronology of infrastructure development into the town. Thinking back to a previous posting in which we discussed the biased observations of turn of the century visitors to the town, sanitation was a big issue, a grounds for judgement in their part. How and when did things change over the course of the following 100 years in Pardeesville? In other units we are still uncovering mysterious features. In Unit 2 we are delineating the remains of some outbuilding. In another we are digging through fine layers of coal dust and ash, layered in sequences. We are theorizing that it represents cycles of coal cracking then burning in the side yards of the house. We are hoping to find the earliest yard surfaces deep below.

We were lucky on Wednesday to have some youthful energy helping us screen at the site. The picture below shows Tristan Hendricks in the foreground with James Kuzma and Teresa Robbins. Tristan helped us out on the Canal Street dig last year as well. See yous [sic] at Patch Town Days?

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Images of the Massacre

The NY Evening Journal, 11 September 1897

Much has been written describing the terrifying moments of the massacre itself. All of this writing is rich in description, with evocative expressions of the sounds and smells of the event in addition to sensual evocations  of the movements of the people involved. These descriptions, written and oral, began in the days just after the event, as witnesses from both sides of the massacre told their accounts of what they saw and heard.  Two books have been written about the events (Pinkowski 1950; Novak 1976) which both feature rich descriptive text of the events from many perspectives. Fragments of the trial transcripts have also survived in newspapers and excepted in books.  These trial transcripts include  first-person accounts from different witnesses, often with varying details.

Today we live in a  world saturated with images:  photography in magazines, newspapers and social media, videos on television, film, and on the internet, live footage from surveillance cameras, etc. Just image if the marchers and posse had cell phone cameras… we would have hundreds of individual perspectives of the event!

A recent strike and massacre of coal miners in South Africa was heavily photographed.  When I viewed these photos, particularly the ones of police officers firing upon and then standing over the bodies of prone miners, I immediately thought of the following images.  Be careful, these are very difficult photos to look at here.

Of course none of this was present during the moments of the massacre. We are lucky to have the one amazing photo of the marching miners from the day of the event, and a few after action images of the massacre site. Here are five representations of the massacre that I have found. Some have been blogged here before, but there is something powerful about collecting them all together here.

The first (pictured above) is from the New York Evening Journal from the day after the Massacre. It is really one of the most powerful images I have seen, showing the posse firing upon the strikers with a calculated precision.  One individual, however, seems to be contemplating his rifle.  Is he clearing a jam, or having second thoughts?

The second image (below) is from the New York Evening Journal from 1898.  It was drawn during the trial.  It is a powerful image that emphasizes the accounts that suggest that the encounter between the posse and strikers was at very close range, close enough that  the posse fired at wounded strikers while they were lying on the ground.

The third print image, also from newsprint, is probably the best known image of the massacre. It was printed in the Philadelphia Enquirer two days after the event.  It shows the strikers backed up against the trolley tracks, a long line of posse members firing upon them from a distance, opening up with pistols and rifles. The vantage point is from behind the line of the posse. Strikers can be seen running over the trolley tracks, silhouetted against the sky.

The first painting I only recently discovered (thanks to Ralph Brauer, who I made acquaintance of through his blogpost on the massacre). It is from an article in the journal Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine from November, 1897. As far as I know it is only available in printed format so the colors, which were probably quite striking, are lost to time. In the foreground, it shows the struggle between Sheriff Martin and the bearer of the flag.  Behind them, the posse is already firing into strikers who have begun to turn and run.

The second painting is from the Hazleton Historical Society.  The painters name, Louis Lamont, is written in the bottom right corner of the painting. The image shows the moment of the initial confrontation between Sheriff Martin and the posse. Sheriff Martin has been forced to the ground and a thin stream of blood runs down his chest.  A striker has also been shot and an even larger stream of blood is running down his front. The posse looks on threateningly from the left side of the scene. This image was reproduced for a commemorative postcard printed in 1986 (pictured next). I don’t know anything about the painter. (please contact me if you have any info on this lattimermassacreproject@gmail.com)

Do you know of any other images of the massacre you could share with us?

New York Evening Journal, 10 March, 1898

Philadelphia Enquirer, 12 September 1897



Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine, November 1897

Lamont, Hazleton Historical Society

Lattimer Canal Street Archaeology Project Starting Today!

We started posting blogposts from our archaeological fieldschool starting on the 29th of May, 2012. We will be posting regularly there throughout the field season.  Please visit us here.

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Lattimer Massacre Monument erected at National Labor College

As mentioned in the last post, a monument to the Lattimer Massacre was erected at the National Labor College last Friday at their yearly Worker’s Memorial Day event.  The sculpture was made by Timothy Turnbach, who I learned has lived in and around Hazleton his entire life.  In fact, his family has been in the area since the 19th century.  I was lucky to speak to Tim and his family about Hazleton and labor history.

I was really moved to hear Tim describe how, as a welding teacher, he used the construction of the monument to teach his students the craft of welding as well as to talk about the sacrifices of organized labor.  Below is a picture of Tim and the monument, and a close-up of the plaque describing the piece. It is fantastic to have a memorial to the massacre near Washington DC, ensuring this history gets the national attention it deserves! Looking forward to meeting with Tim and his family this summer when we start our project in Lattimer, exploring the lives of the folks involved in this tragic event.

Lattimer Massacre Monument to be Dedicated at the Meany Center, Silver Spring, MD

Here at the Lattimer Massacre Project we were excited to hear that a sculpture of the massacre will be dedicated at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland this April.  The sculpture was made by Tim Turnbach of Scranton, who is a member of the UA Local 524.  The dedication will take place on the Worker’s Memorial Day ceremony at the college on Friday, April 27, 2012.  A schedule of events can be found here. Cecil Roberts, president of the UMWA will be present for the ceremony.

The National Labor College is the only college in the United States dedicated exclusively to the education needs of union members, leaders and their families. (website: http://www.nlc.edu/). It is located on the northern outskirts of Washington, D.C., in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Address: 10,000 New Hampshire Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20903.

For more info and to RSVP to the event contact: LBarrantes@nlc.edu

Archaeology Project/ New Blog

A brief  project update.  Things are happening here at the Lattimer Archaeology Project.  Here are a couple of updates:

1) Archaeological Field School: We are planning the logistics for a summer archaeological dig in Lattimer this summer.  At the moment we are gathering a team for the project.  Details of the project can be found at our blog, which we will devote entirely to the archaeology project. Check it out!: http://lattimerarchaeology.wordpress.com/ Folks in the area, we would love to have visitors or volunteers.  We will be blogging our progress as we go, so check back during the summer.  The site we will be working on is going to be amazing…

2) We are working on a master list of names in our employee record cards. (read post below for info on this)  We will post this in GoogleDocs soon for open public access. University of Maryland students Katie Nyulassy and Katie Chen (see a post on their work here) are hard at work transcribing the information on the cards. We would love to have public input on the spelling of names and other information.  We would also love to fill in this database with personal and family stories.

4) University of Maryland student Jeremy Krones transcribed the community and life history interviews we collected this summer about Hazleton life, labor history and coal mining.  Jeremy’s post on his experience and research will go up on this blog soon.  We will post sections of these transcripts on this blog as well. We would love to conduct more family and community histories the next time we are in Hazleton.  Please contact us if you have a story to tell about Patchtown life, labor heritage and/or immigration.

3) We have also been gathering names and other information on immigration to Hazleton and Lattimer between 1850 and 1900.  We have a list of names and other information from Italy, Germany and Russia between these dates.  Many of the Russian ships have Eastern European names we suspect originate in Poland, Lithuania and other parts of Eastern Europe.  These will also be posted to GoogleDocs for public access.

Thanks for all of your comments on past posts.  We love to hear from Hazleton folks about their family and community histories. Hope to see you this summer.

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