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

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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.

Employee Record Cards, Part II

In our last blog post we talked about the employee records cards that we encountered this summer.  Here is a blog post from University of Maryland anthropology major Katie Chen, who has been working on this difficult project all semester. I asked Katie to talk about her working process:

Hi! My name is Katie Chen and I am a sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park. I am currently studying Anthropology, but recently got interested in archaeology. During my freshman fall semester I studied abroad in London and took a course called Social Anthropology of Britain. During this semester, I started some ethnographic research on the London black cabs, learning about the cab business and the changing geography of London through interviews with the drivers.  This experience confirmed my interest in ethnographic research and anthropology. Someday I hope to return to London to continue what I started.

Recently, having become interested in archaeology, I decided to help Mike on his research on the Lattimer Massacre. I am currently making a database of miner employee records cards. My strategy has been to go through the cards and make an initial attempt at deciphering the handwriting.  After a couple days, I will go back to the cards and read them again. This method has worked almost every time, but some cards need more review time.

On several occasions, I’ve tried to look online to see if there is a name for the type of script used then.  I have not been successful yet, but I’ve been able to look at specific examples, and get an idea of what the letter could be.  Inputting data is rather tedious and can be frustrating, as I have spent more than 30 minutes looking at one card because I can’t read the names or locations. When entering data on locations, I will sometimes look up on Google if my spelling version comes up with any additional spellings. This has worked a couple times, which has been exciting. Otherwise, I will have to go back to taking a break for a couple of days and coming back to the cards.

In addition to this project, I am researching what religious or spiritual beliefs miners might hold across the globe. After reading articles about conditions in the mines and hearing stories, I wondered if there was any belief that propelled the miners to endure such harsh conditions.  The mines are extremely dangerous and miners risk their lives and health every time they go down. With this side project, I would like to find out if the conditions of mining are similar worldwide and if there are any religious, spiritual, superstitious attitudes consistent across them.

Employee Record Cards

One of the most exciting research sources we found this summer are employee record cards from the Lattimer Coal Company.  These cards span the early twentieth century, in the period after the massacre and the Big Strike of 1902. There are 2,685 cards in total.  They contain a huge amount of information about each employee including name, date of employ, age, nationality, country of birth (not always same as nationality), church, doctor, occupation, wage rate, and whether they have a miner’s certificate. Some cards include  the word  “Dead” scrawled across the front of the card. Some of these include notes on the back describing the cause of death for miners.  Other notes include health issues identified by the company doctor.

An example of a card can be seen here.  The name on the card is Manus Gallagher, Jr., a resident of 799 Alter Street.  He was born in Lattimer, PA in 1900.  He began work at the colliery on the July 7th, 1917. He attended a Roman Catholic Church. The collection also includes a card for Manus’ father, who appears to have been killed in the mines.

We are in the process of transcribing all of the data on the cards to a searchable database.  We hope to present it to the public.  Ideally, members of the public could add details, stories and photographs of their family members to the project. In the next post, student Katherine Chen will describe a bit about the process of  transcribing the cards,a project she has taken on for the semester.  We will also report on a visit to Lattimer we made this past week and the discoveries we made.

A Couple of Documents from Lattimer’s Past

This summer project researchers Paul Shackel, Mike Roller and Justin Uehlein spent more than two months living in Hazleton, each day spending about 8 hours in a collection of mining operator company archives in the Heights area of Hazleton. Joe Michel, the owner of the archive, was a generous host. Along the way we had lots of visits from local historians who contributed their knowledge of local history and lore to our proceedings. We also began a series of interviews with people in the area who taught us much about local history.

In a way, digging through archives like this was much like my experience of archaeology; there is no way to prepare for what you might find.  Of course we had ideas of what we wanted to find, but things rarely behave this way.  Besides, that would spoil the fun of it!

We went through 17 boxes of material, and many volumes of mining reports, binders of letters, boxes of photographs and shelves and shelves of maps.  Even then we only scratched the surface.  Here is a description of two things we collected and documented. We will be updating this section throughout the next few months as we catalog our material. You can click on each image to view a higher resolution version.  There is more to come, lots more!

Doublehouse, detail

The first item is the blueprint of a miner’s double house from Lattimer drawn in August of 1889. The description of the drawing is “Standard Mine Dwelling Houses”. It is hand drawn in ink on velum.  This example is just a detail from the blueprint, which also includes  plan (top) views of first and second floors of the houses.  We are interested in the building sequences of the company houses in the area.  We know that houses of different sizes were rented to those in different positions throughout the division of labor at the coal mines.  Eckley Miner’s village has a variety of these houses to view. How about Lattimer? What did the other houses look like? Were they built and maintained by the company as well? How did coal miners and their families alter or customize these houses throughout time to make them livable or to accommodate them to different and evolving lifestyles of various immigrants to the area?

It has been suggested that Northeast Pennsylvania provided some of the first examples of company housing in the coal fields. The style of the double house spread from here to the bituminous coalfields of Western Maryland and Southwestern Pennsylvania, and eventually to parts of the West.

The second item is a propaganda brochure from the Second World War. It urges coal miners to consider the importance of anthracite mining to the war effort.  Note the fantastic drawing at the bottom right corner comparing a coal miner with a pneumatic drill with a soldier and his machine gun.  The text urges miners to “Make it hot (as hot as hell) for Hitler!”  Anthracite coal was understood to be essential to the war effort, fueling factories and troop ships and maintaining the warmth of houses as petroleum supplies were being diverted into the war effort.  For this reason the federal government was dependent on workers to maintain productivity. Companies, furthermore, were pressured by the federal government to maintain stability. The result was tension upon the workers, trapped between the poles of organized labor, company pressure, and now federal intervention. On several occasions in the mid 40s the federal government seized control of the mines, making company personnel employees of the federal government.  Many items in the archive date to this period and represent aspects of this complex situation.

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