PA Historic Context Study: Anthracite Resources
June 29, 2010 Leave a comment
I recently found out that there’s an historic context study done on the anthracite region of Northeastern PA. These sorts of studies document why certain resources are historically or culturally valuable, why they’re significant to a community, state, or the country.
Anyway, in case anyone is interested in such a thing, I wanted to put a link here (to the downloadable .pdf file): Anthracite-Related Resources of Northeastern Pennsylvania, 1769-1945 from the Bureau for Historic Preservation in Harrisburg, PA. The PA Historical and Museum Commission submitted signed the report the day after the Lattimer massacre centennial.
Here’s an excerpt from the report’s section about Lattimer (p. 60-61):
“The UMW [United Mine Workers] recognized that organization of the entire region could not occur until the new immigrants joined the union. This required a shift in the thinking of many union members, who believed that Slavs and Italians were ‘wage-cheapening laborers easily controlled by management.’ Slavs and Italians were relegated to low status jobs. While large numbers of these immigrants worked and resided in the anthracite region in the 1880s, few had become contract miners, the elite of the laboring class, by the late 1890s.
A major turning point in the history of organized labor within the anthracite region occurred in 1897, during another nationwide economic depression. Beginning with the Panic of 1893, the country had experienced massive unemployment and personal suffering. The economic downturn triggered a merciless price war among businesses seeking to raise revenues simply to pay off their creditors. Cartel and pooling arrangements collapsed in this hyper-competitive climate. With the coal market depressed, many workers could find only half-time work. Much of the little income they earned was siphoned back to the operators in the form of deductions for rent and company store bills. Companies ignored a law stating that workers were to be paid bi-weekly and paid workers monthly, forcing many deeply into debt.
It was under these conditions that the Lattimer incident occurred, marking a turning point in the labor history of the anthracite region. The violent confrontation between workers and operator agents that took place near the Lattimer mine in September 1897 initiated the long, slow process of building cooperation between all mine workers. This cooperation led to the development of a solid labor front in the anthracite region, which the UMW nurtured in the late 1890s and early 1900s….
The Lattimer incident brought together the various immigrant communities within the anthracite region and dispelled old myths that Slavic and Italian workers were docile pawns of management. The new immigrants were recognized as an important force within the region. Fellow miners expressed their shock and outrage over the killings by joining the UMW. Within four months, over fifteen thousand anthracite workers had joined the UMW. Lattimer insured the UMW a future in the region, though it would take several more strikes before the union could take advantage of its new found strength. On a national level, Slavic organizations through the United States contributed money to relief efforts for the Lattimer victims and their families, while at the international level, the Austrian-Hungarian ambassador demanded, but did not receive, compensation for the killings from the United States government.”
Your thoughts – accurate? Missing something? Other?
(here’s the link again to the context study: Anthracite Resources Context Study)