120 Years Ago Today

Brotherhood of Firemen Journal 1898 Massacre Scene

Today marks the 120th Anniversary of the Lattimer Massacre. The Lattimer Massacre took place over about three minutes in September of 1897. A posse of as many as 150 deputized local men armed with pistols and rifles shot immigrant coal mine laborers marching on strike in the town of Lattimer, Pennsylvania. The posse killed at least 19 and wounded as many as forty more, emptying their rifles into the backs of the fleeing men. The victims were Eastern Europeans, demonstrating for fair wages and working and living conditions. Many details of the event are obscured by the passage of time and by many conflicting accounts. In such incidents of explicit subjective violence, we can see the crystallization of hidden social antagonisms suddenly materialized.

Tensions were on the rise between capital and labor in the years leading up to the Massacre of 1897. Beginning in the early 1880s, a series of global and regional economic depressions affected the industry. Leading up to the Panic of 1893, the price of coal dropped to the lowest it had been since its peak in about 1865, with the exception of the 1877 depression. In these uncertain times, coal operators had recourse to a few options to maintain profitability. They could moderate productivity to drive up prices by work stoppages or limiting the coal cars available for miners (Blatz 2004:48; Walker 1924). They could also cut production costs by mechanizing extraction processes and decreasing labor costs. In testimony to a Federal investigation of these monopolistic price controls during the strike of 1888, an attorney described this system as one in which “[the coal operators] take first the miner by the throat with one hand and the consumer by the throat with the other” (W.H. Hines, to Congress 1889: 530).

In this period coal mine operators always maintained a pool of surplus labor. Doing so granted them the logistical flexibility to respond to the exigencies of an unpredictable market. In 1898 one operator admitted to a reporter that he, “must have more men on hand than could be used at any except for the best business periods” (Brooks 1898: 306). Throughout the last couple decades of the nineteenth century, immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe filled these ranks, joining or replacing earlier generations of workers.

As in many industrial contexts, new immigrants were at first put to work in relatively unskilled laboring roles, and paid considerably less than longer established groups. At this time, coal operators introduced mechanized processes such as strip mining and washery operations. Washery operations used mechanical means to reclaim small fraction coal from the ubiquitous waste, or culm banks of the region. At their introduction, long established underground miners recognized these new processes as efforts to bypass or destabilize the value of their craft skills. A motto of strikes during the time incited a boycott of coal produced through the washery process: “Don’t handle washery coal; that is what the operator stole from the miner” (quoted in Roberts 1901: 212).

The diversity of groups entering the region offered an additional advantage to operators, whose carefully balanced arrangements were threatened most by the possibility of organization. Competition, hierarchicalization and language barriers made organization particularly difficult. Edward Pinkowski (1950: 209) alleges that, “[Calvin Pardee] filled the houses at Lattimer largely with Italian immigrants and those in Harwood with Slovaks, Poles and Lithuanians. With a wholesale mixture of nationalities he felt that there would be less chance of a consolidation of the working men against his interests”. Despite their responsibility for the initial introduction of new immigrant labor to the region, coal mine operators nonetheless kept a wary eye out for signs of radicalism in their new workers.

Blatz, Perry K.
1994 Democratic Miners Work and Labor Relations in the Anthracite Coal Industry, 1875-1925. State University of New York Press, Albany.

Pinkowski, Edward
1950 The Lattimer Massacre. Sunshine, Philadelphia.

Roberts, Peter
1901 The Anthracite Coal Industry. Macmillan Company, London.

Walker, Francis
1924 The Development of the Anthracite Combination. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 111:234-248.

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Slovak Newspaper article on the Lattimer Massacre by journalist Tomas Vasiliko

A Slovak journalist by the name of Tomas Vasiliko has been investigating the historical relationships between his village, Valaskovce, and the Anthracite Region for some time. He has confirmed that a number of people from the village came to the Hazleton mines in 1890s. Last week he published an article in the local paper describing the Lattimer Massacre and our project documenting its contexts. Tomas’ research led him to discover some information about massacre victim Michael Cheslock in Slovak parish records including his birth record, the record of his marriage with Alžbeta Koško and the birth of his first daughter Alzbeta. 

A portion of the article, written in Slovak (comprehensible in English through Google Translate), can be viewed here:

https://dennikn.sk/545900/strielali-ich-do-chrbta-ako-zajace-v-jednej-z-nahorsich-masakier-v-amerike-zabijali-aj-slovakov/

119th Anniversary of the Lattimer Massacre, September 10, 1897: The Days After the Massacre

NY Evening Journal 1898Yesterday marked the 119th anniversary of the Lattimer Massacre, an event which transpired over the course of about three minutes in September of 1897 in a northeast Pennsylvania coal town on the outskirts of Hazleton. In the next few days people all over the country were in a daze, sorting out exactly what happened and interpreting the significance of the event. An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer printed on the 12th of September gave this report of the scene:

The shooting occurred at the bend of a dusty road leading from Hazleton and bordered by a rank growth of bush. For a background, however, the affray had a row of half a dozen frame cottages, mean enough in appearance, yet in the little yard in front of each a few bright-hued flowers grow. To-day only a step from these desert blossoms lay a portion of a man’s brains, and a little beyond a horrible bundle of gory rags, upon which the blood was still wet.
(Philadelphia Inquirer, 12 September 1897)

The day after the massacre, newspapers across the country expressed shock and dismay in language such as “Yesterday’s butchery- A Mob of Heartless Deputies Fire into a Throng of Marchers and Accomplish Deadly Work” (The Daily Standard), “Strikers Shot in Cold Blood” (Pottsville Republican), “Strikers march to Death” (The New York Tribune), “Mowed Down by Deputies” (San Francisco Chronicle), and “Dead in Heaps, Deputies Fire on Miners at Lattimer” (Boston Daly Globe).

Ethnic newspapers expressed dismay fully appraised the racial, nationalist or ethnic victimization inherent to the brutality, poignantly editorializing the implications. In the socialist Slovak-American newspaper Fakla an editor opined, “In the freest country under the sun, people are shot like dogs. Slavs are the victims of American savagery” (Pucher-Ciernovodsky 1897, quoted in Stolarik 2002:35). A Ukranian paper based in the Anthracite region, Svoboda, used the massacre as an opportunity to illuminate the role of anti-immigration sentiments in the violence when it lamented, “Knowing what hatred is breathing every capricious American against any Slavonic man…. It can be said with certainty, that the sheriff ordered to shoot toward hated Hungarians…” (Svoboda 1897, quoted in Turner 1984:127).

Other editorialists connected the tragedy to other transnational events such as the growing American imperialism evident in the concurrent U.S. involvement in the Spanish-American War. In the saber-rattling aftermath of the blowing up of the Maine, the massacre was invoked by a commentator that questioned the nation’s readiness to mobilize for war in this instance, but for the “carnival of carnage that takes place everyday” in the mines and industrial work environments, “no popular uproar is heard” (Zinn 2003:307). Similarly, a London based paper suggested that, “There is no reason for America to fight Spain after all. An outlet for her fighting energy is provided by the indiscreet vigor of a Pennsylvania Sheriff” (The Daily Mail, 14 September 1897, quoted in Greene 1964:210). Likewise, Lucifer, Light Bringer an anarchist newspaper based in Chicago suggested there was a direct connection between the massacre and imperialism in this stunning passage I quote in full:

If this is not imperialism, pray in what does imperialism consist? From the state of this centralized Federal power packing the Supreme Court with its creatures and partisans… the arrest of Emma Goldman and the massacre of the helpless strikers at Lattimer, Pennsylvania, this hydra-headed imperialism overshadows the land. In brief, the United States has finally become under the evolution of despotism, a judicial military ecclesiastical capitalistic, plutocracy embodying the aristocratic principle of the Doges of Venice, with the imperialism of ancient Rome working through the Parliamentary machinery of monarchial England. Every avenue of the nation’s life is fed and poisoned by a capitalistic corrupted and religion-by law-perverted public school system….And worst of all, the enslaved and degenerate American, thanks to the public school, loves his chains [Baylor 1898:57].

Anarchist organizations throughout the country used the example of Hazleton to call for violent retribution. Branch 2 of the organization Social Democracy in America passed a resolution demanding that for, “every miner killed or wounded a millionaire should be treated in the same manner” (Falk 2003:288). A member of that organization’s board of directors responded that he would “burn every dollar’s worth of their property” and “destroy their palaces” (Falk 2003:288).

Other media sources were more supportive of the cause of the Sheriff’s cause, writing in support of the Sheriff, generally supporting his unequivocal duty to maintain the peace and the strength of law. For example, on the 23 September 1897 the New York Observer wrote that, “The first duty of government is to protect life and property, so to defend its citizens in possession of the results of their toil….It is for such emergencies that sheriff’s posses exist, and the law places no limit to the means they shall use…” Similarly, Life Magazine wrote that given the lack of available troops at Lattimer at the time we should accept that, “…the Sheriff did his best, there is nothing for it but to back him up, condone his indiscretion if he was indiscreet, and admit that he did his duty” (23 September 1897, Life).

Three days after the massacre Emma Goldman gave a speech in Boston, asking the crowd a crucial question, contextualizing the violence by initiating a similar exploration into everyday life (Falk 2003:286). She theorized:

If those strikers had been Americans the sheriff would not have dared to fire upon them. But they were foreigners, and foreigners do not amount to anything. The foreigner is good enough to build your elegant houses and your roads, sew your clothes, and do everything for your comfort, but he is not good enough to enjoy the advantages that belong to the heads of the government….

In her speech Emma Goldman uses the instance of violence to ask crucial questions about everyday life and history in America. As Goldman suggests, the crucial clue to the origins of the violence comes not from the sequence of the event, but in the social, political and material context that allowed the violence to take place.

Falk, Candace (editor)
2003 Emma Goldman: A Documentary History of the American Years: Made in America,1890–1901, Vol 1. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Greene, Victor R.
1964 A Study In Slavs, Strikes, And Unions: The Anthracite Strike Of 1897. Pennsylvania History 31(2):199-215.

Stolarik, M. Mark
2002 A Slovak Perspective on the Lattimer Massacre. Pennsylvania History 96(1):31-41.

Turner, George
1984 Ethnic Responses to the Lattimer Massacre. In Hard Coal, Hard Times: Ethnicity and Labor in the Anthracite Region, edited by David L. Salay, pp. 126-152. The Anthracite Museum Press, Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Zinn, Howard
2003 A People’s History of the United States. Harper Perennial, New York.

A Brief Worker’s Utopia: Employee Ownership in Lattimer, 1938-1939

The spirited revolt that led to the massacre was, to a certain degree, a utopic one. The migrant laborers that struck during during the summer of 1897 imagined a better world for themselves, one that offered them the baseline of equal living and working conditions to the longer-established nativized miners. They sought the same kinds of protections as nativized Americans, and in this sense their utopia was not all that different from what was offered within the principles laid down within American democracy itself. They also sought reforms that would help all employees and families living under the control of the collieries as well: the abolishment of the company store and housing system and the enforced use of company doctors. Far from these modest goals (arguably, for which they were shot…) was the hope for an upending of the vertical relationship between employees and employers. Amazingly, for a short period of time in 1938 this change did occur. What some newspapers described as a “unique experiment” occurred at Lattimer and four other collieries owned by the Pardee Brothers and leased to the Lattimer Coal Company: the workers took control of the company.

In February of 1938 the Lattimer Coal Company went bankrupt, filing papers for a loan with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) in Washington D.C. Immediately, negotiations between the workers, the company and the United Mine Workers took place regarding the future of the company. In the front of everyone’s minds were the nearly 1000 jobs provided by the work and the matter of whether the $65,000 in back wages owed to miners and laborers would be paid (Shamokin New Dispatch (SND) 17 February 1938: 15). Boyd Osler, now in charge, pursued a loan and a company restructuring effort to negotiate the sale of the company. In early March, however, the RFC rejected the application suggesting that the efforts of the ownership and management were insufficient to save the company. In March, bypassing the company ownership, employees of the company along with the UMWA appealed this ruling. As a result the RFC agreed to reconsider the loan (SND, 14 March 1938). Negotiations lasted until the end of May with a variety of bids rejected by the committee.

By the end of the month a meeting between the employees of the company and the Hazelton Chamber of Commerce hashed out the beginnings of what newspapers described as a “Unique Experiment” (SND 18 July 1938: 1; Pittston Gazette 18 July 1938). By the beginning of June, with company ownership admitting failure and an inability to affect a plan, a coalition of officials from the UMWA and the workers presented their own plan to bankruptcy referee William K. Goldstein. In early June it was announced that the 1,000 employees of the company would run the company for a time, using profits to repay themselves the back wages (Harrisburg Telegraph 1 June 1938: 5). On the June 1, 1938 The Harrisburg Telegraph ran the victorious banner at the top of their paper, “Workmen to Operate Closed Mine Near Hazleton.” The plan required that the workers would work for thirty days without pay, and after an additional ninety days would begin repayment of their back wages in ten percent increments. In a show of support the Hazleton business community contributed investment money to get the operation underway (SND 4 June 1938: 12). By October the Shamokin News Dispatch (1938: 7) reported that $250,000 in wages including a 10 percent payment on back wages had been paid and $100,000 in debts had been met.

An article from the Evening Journal (Harrisburg) from 1 June 1938 reporting on employee ownership of the Lattimer Colliery

An article from the Evening Journal (Harrisburg) from 1 June 1938 reporting on employee ownership of the Lattimer Colliery

Newspapers report that in the period of employee ownership, the company rapidly paid their debts, both from wages accrued by the employees and to the many creditors seeking returns on credit. The experiment was reported in the news as a great success and miners in similar situations throughout the region studied the operating plans the miner’s at Lattimer adopted (SND 26 July 1938: 10; 3 December 1938: 2).Representatives from Lattimer reportedly visited mines in Gilberton and elsewhere to consult and share tactics for adoption in similar conditions of company liquidation.

Presumably, when the debts to worker’s wages were paid, the operations of the colliery were to return to the oversight of the board. Newspapers and company documents provide little in the way of illuminating how this transition transpired. Undoubtedly the short period of company ownership which the company resolved itself of significant debts to creditors and to the workers themselves was a point of great pride.

An important question remains regarding the negotiations conducted between the RFC, the UMWA and the workers of the Lattimer Colliery during the early summer of 1938. This was a significant year for the villages of Lattimer No. 1 and 2 as the companies divested themselves of the housing in each town, selling it off to renters. Was this settlement negotiated by the employees of the company as part of the restructuring deal? If so, the short period of worker control at Lattimer had broad reaching implications.

Cesar Chavez at Lattimer, 1972

In 1972 a monument to the Lattimer Massacre was dedicated at the corner of Quality Road and Main Street Lattimer. A massive memorial gathering commenced with over 700 people in attendance. Among the speakers was Cesar Chavez, a major figure in the efforts to organize the farm workers of the country. Chavez was busy at the moment advocating a boycott of grapes all over the country, zipping across the country zipping from interview to rally to speech. After attending the 117th annual memorial service we became interested in whether we might be able to find a copy of Chavez’s speech. We were specifically interested in how Chavez would have related the plight of the Eastern European laborers who struck in 1897 to the organizing movements of his time.

cesar-chavez-600x460

Chavez giving a speech at Lattimer, 1972

In the time since Chavez’s visit, Hazleton has become host to a large Spanish-speaking population, many of whom work in the warehousing and manufacturing jobs in the region. How would this visit by this great figure in America’s recent history resonate with their everyday life? Namely, how might it serve to connect their lives to the long history of work and struggle in the region?

We found a copy of Cesar Chavez’s handwritten notes to the speech he delivered at Lattimer in 1972 on microfilm from the archives of the United Farm Workers. We have transcribed them below. Below that are scans of the handwritten notes. An earlier draft was also found which contains some additional marginalia notated at the bottom:

Cesar Chavez — Speech Notes at Lattimer Massacre Monument

1) (Greetings to leaders present)

2) (Thanks to memmbers of Monument Committee for inviting me—- for work they are doing—-

3) In this — 75th year —- We come to [Lattimer] to honor
-the past
-pay tribute to the present
-Organize for the future

4) In their 75th year — gather at site where good men
Peaceful Union Men —-
Seeking bread + Justice —- were massacred
in an unprecedented Act of Brutality
—endowing all working men + women
— Inheritance—- Generation

5) No Better treatment to Power of Non-Violence +
Might of Sacrifice to be
Found anywhere in this land

6) These Martyred Immigrants
-only crime at the time
their poverty —their strange sounding names —
their foreign tongues.

-If could speak to us today
They would tell us plainly
-in the words of another labor martyr
-DONT MOURN FOR US, ORGANIZE.

7) It [is] fitting + proper, unveil memorial plaque commemorating the 75th year at Tragic Event
— For only in Preserving Labor’s Past, can we preserve labor’s future.

8) We Know Only Too Well
— Hardships + Sacrifice of these
mineworkers
September 10, 1897
— Group of workers in America today
— lives so closely parallel
lives of those miners
— they too are immigrants
— they too– have strange sounding names
— they too — speak a foreign language
— they too — trying to Build a Union
— they too — face hostile sheriffs
and recalcitrant employers
— they too — had powerful employers
— they too — Are Non-Violent, As
these men were

9) Let there be Strength +
Unity in the Ranks of Labor
throughout this land
–Let there be only one voice
–Let there be only one Lattimer
–Let there be Peace.
–Let there be Justice.
Let there be Love
Amen.

[an earlier draft contains some memos in the margins that Cesar may have addressed in the speech. Some text is inscrutable, but what is readable is transcribed below]
*Companies who ???? Promote violence
*violence & frustratingstriking lettuce workers with injunctions and unconstit. laws
*farmworkers have their martyrs
*Pixley Cotton – grape strike
“Pixley massacre” 1931
*(3)(13)? strikers shot down during union meeting in Pixley

Cesar Archives reel 2 page 3 Cesar Archives reel 2 page 2 Cesar Archives reel 2 page 1

New Image of the Massacre, Wilkes Barre Times, 11 September 1897

Wilkes Barres Times 9_11_1897

Recently we posted a collection of images of the massacre. We missed this one, which comes from the cover of the Wilkes Barre Times, 11 September 1897. It is an interesting one in that it shows one dwarf-like striker with a club, a second one being shot holding a club aloft and a deputy on the ground, his hand still holding a rifle on the ground at his side. The orientation of the parties in the event is the opposite of what it should be: the breaker, seen in the background of the image, was actually behind the backs of the deputies, the strikers marching in from the west.

Many of these images were drawn by artists based upon the first accounts they heard of the events. Quite interesting to see them all together.

Lattimer Massacre Memorial Dedication, September 10, 1972

In the last post we reported on the Lattimer Massacre Mass we witnessed on the 10 of September, 2014. In a past post we also wrote about the long path to assembling a monument to the event, a process which began nearly a year after the massacre occurred. It was not until 1972 that a monument was dedicated with a major celebration. Scholars, activists, politicians and working men and women were all present at the event. Among them, Cesar Chavez, Edward Pinkowski, Harold Aurand, and Congressman Dan Flood were all present. The Lattimer Band, which was composed mostly of Pardeesville residents and directed by Reverend Ferrara, played the national anthem. It sounds like it was a momentous day. Here is a moving recollection by United Farm Worker’s organizer Ernie Powell of his experience driving Cesar Chavez up to Pennsylvania for the event in 1972 and of the visit by Congressman Flood, who arrived by helicopter to the site.   Below are pages from the event brochure. We are in the process of hunting down the text from Cesar Chavez’s speech. As far as we know it was not filmed.

1972 memorial mass_Page_11972 memorial mass_Page_21972 memorial mass_Page_41972 memorial mass_Page_31972 memorial mass_Page_51972 memorial mass_Page_6

Lattimer Massacre Memorial Service, September 10, 2014

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

The service 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 service 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.