Journal of the Senate of PA, 1897 & the Yale Review, 1898

I’ve decided to start posting bits of what I’m reading/researching about the Lattimer massacre on any given day.  I definitely have strong opinions about some of this stuff, but will try to keep these in check; however, I hope you share yours in the comments below!

The quotes aren’t necessarily meant to go together.  They’re just what I think are interesting!  Anyway, here’s a start:

Source: Journal of the Senate of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 1897 Vol. 2

http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/vol3/harvan/images/others/map.jpg

The PA Anthracite Region, image from http://www.albany.edu/jmmh/

“One of the primary objects of the investigation [into anthracite mining conditions] was to establish the facts with respect to the condition of the miners and men employed in and about the mines, it being set forth in the preamble and resolution that a condition bordering upon starvation existed among the above named class of people.  The testimony  shows conclusively the deplorable condition of affairs for a period covering about two years, and particularly since the first of January of the present year [1897], since which time the men in and about the collieries have been employed not more than two or three three-fourth days per week, earning on an average $4 per week, upon which, in many instances, they were compelled to support large families, in some cases as high as eleven members, paying house rent and coal and the necessities of life, which to this committee seems an impossibility” (page 1826).

“While the country has always encouraged foreign immigration, yet since the time mentioned [1875], a class of foreigners have been coming in to which particular objection is made on the part of those employed in the anthracite mining regions [e.g. earlier immigrants – English, Irish, Welsh, etc.], namely the Poles, Hungarians, Italians and Slavs.  At first, doubtless, they were all employed as laborers, but gradually they became miners and in many instances the former employe [sic] was confronted by his foreign laborer as a rival for  his own position.

It is claimed that this class of people are un-American in every way, adopting none of our ideas of citizenship and living in a manner unknown to us as a people.  In most cases their objects and aims are to secure sufficient to enable them to return to their native lands or to assist in bringing others of their kin to this country.  Unless a change is speedily made, the time is not far distant when the miners of the anthracite region will be composed entirely of these people to whom they now so strenuously object.  Such a condition of affairs is not conducive to safety in the mines.  … The committee has referred to the undesirability of this class of people….  The committee is of the opinion that there will be no general prosperity among the miners of the anthracite regions and the laborers employed in and about the mines until the national Congress shall pass and provide for the rigid enforcement of a restricted immigration law” (pages 1831-2, 1838).

“You will observe that the average excess charged by the company stores over the independent stores is 30 per cent. which, of course, indicates that some of the prices are most intolerably high.  Indeed some of them charge as much as 35 per cent. higher than their neighboring independent stores, and when it is taken into consideration that the independent stores have a probable profit of 25 per cent. you will observe that it makes in the worst places a total profit of 60 per cent. in the company stores” (page 1840).

Source: The  Yale Review: A Quarterly Journal for the Scientific Discussion of Economic, Political and Social Questions. Vol 6, May 1897-February 1898. “An Impression of the Anthracite Coal Troubles” by J.G. Brooks

“Here is obviously a tap root of much of the difficulty.  Immigration has been purposely stimulated by these coal owners to the specific end that an adequate supply of the cheapest labor might be at hand for every rising exigency of business.  It is extremely ignorant and easily a prey to the agitator.

In the enforced periods of idleness which come with the shifting conditions of the market innumerable occasions for troubles like those at Lattimer may at any moment appear.  ‘What can you do with such wild beasts when they get off their heads but shoot ’em?’ were words which the writer heard, and it may be, in any given moment, that the social safety demands quick, sharp and bloody enforcement of the law.  It is, however, a very sinister state of affairs when conditions, which have been definitely encouraged by the mine owners and by our general policy of immigration, have come to be such, that, in their very nature, they are certain to breed chronic outbreaks like this in the Hazleton district.  A mine manager of twenty years experience said, ‘The truth is that the time came when somewhere hereabouts we had got to do some shooting.  It could not be put off much longer.’ The question was put to him, ‘When will you have to do some more shooting?’  The reply was, ‘In hard times, it is likely to come at any moment'” (p. 307).

“For any future worth discussing, no effective organization [of mine workers] seems possible.  The difficulties with a homogeneous population in English mines have been great.  What shall be said of the difficulties to be faced in t case of fourteen or fifteen nationalities?  The question of race enters here with almost terrific force.  The least adroit of employers can play upon these race prejudices so effectively as to weaken the strongest trade union in times of excitement.  It is this fact of race differences which baffles the student of trade unions in this country” (p. 308-9).

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About LM Project
The LMP is a collaborative endeavor which aims to recognize the events surrounding the Lattimer Massacre, an incident that changed the labor movement and impacted the world by bringing to light economic disparities and ethnic tensions in the anthracite region of PA.

2 Responses to Journal of the Senate of PA, 1897 & the Yale Review, 1898

  1. Justin Uehlein says:

    This issue seems to really strike home in this day and age with the current immigration enforcement problems that are currently arissing. One must wonder what happened to the mantra of, “Give me your tired, your starving, your huddled masses.” Lattimer would be an incredably interesting topic of study, both in uncovering lost data and in bringing to light the issue of immigration and violent behavior in modern times.

    • LM Project says:

      I couldn’t agree more, Justin. I’m really interested to find out more about if Lattimer-area locals feel similarly (so far I’m receiving a mixed bag of opinions). Immigration is a particularly sensitive issue in that area.

      I hear you are (may be? are considering?) coming to UMD – are you thinking of working on this if Paul and others continue with research in the area? That would be awesome!
      – Kristin
      PS: I posted some more period text about immigration today (from the US Immigration Commission in 1911). I was like a nerdy kid in a candy shop picking the report up from our school’s library; it’s fascinating (a little terrifying at times – but fascinating nevertheless)!

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