Worst-case Scenario

A never-before seen report shows just how fragile our great cities were—and are

There was a time when urban Americans weren’t afraid of terrorists, bombs, and poison gas. The worst thing that could happen in a city was a strike. Cities were unprepared for labor walkouts because nobody could tell who would strike or when and where. Mayors saw to it that they kept on good terms with unions.Read more »

The, Actors’ Revolt

HISTORY’S MOST PHOTOGENIC LABOR dispute lasted thirty days, spread to eight cities, closed thirty-seven plays, and finally won performers some respect

 

1919. The first full year of peace after the World War was a restless one. It saw the advent of Prohibition and the Black Sox scandal. The Communist Labor party of America was founded, while the Socialist party leader Eugene Debs went to jail. The U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Read more »

The Calumet Tragedy

When copper-country miners went on strike, the owners brought thugs from the slums of New York to northern Michigan. The struggle led to an event that killed a city.

On the surface, there was hardly a more unlikely spot for turn-of-the-century prosperity than the isolated community of Calumet. Located in the wilds of Michigan’s rugged Upper Peninsula, on a windswept finger of hardscrabble land that juts out into the cold waters of Lake Superior, it is a place that annually receives more than fifteen feet of snow, where winter begins at the end of September and seldom lets up until April. Read more »

Dirty-faced David & The Twin Goliaths

One of the country’ more bizzarre labor disputes pitted a crowed of outraged newsboys against two powerful opponents—Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolf Hearst

Joseph Pulitzer, nearly blind, suffering from bouts of depression, and so sensitive to sound he exploded when the silverware was rattled, managed his newspapers in absentia for the last twenty years of his life.Read more »

“shut The Goddam Plant!”

The great sit-down strike that transformed American industry

At General Motors’ Flint, Michigan, Fisher Body Number One, the largest auto-body factory in the world, it was early evening of a chill winter day. Suddenly a bright red light began flashing in the window of the United Automobile Workers union hall across the street from the plant’s main gate. It was the signal for an emergency union meeting. Read more »

The West Virginia Mine War

BLOOD FLOWED IN THE PERENNIALLY TROUBLESOME COALFIELDS IN 1921, WHEN THOUSANDS OF MINERS DECIDED THEIR RIGHT TO ORGANIZE WAS WORTH FIGHTING FOR

On the morning of August 1, 1921, the Gazette of Charleston, West Virginia, carried under an eight-column banner on its front page the following dispatch from the city of Bluefield:

“Sid Hatfield lies in the morgue at Welch tonight, a smile frozen on his lips, eyes wide open and five bullet holes in his head and chest. On the slab next to him lies the body of his friend and bodyguard, Ed Chambers. Read more »

Shoot-out In Burke Canyon

The Idaho mine war broke into flame in 1892 and cast a glare with very long shadows

The road running up Burke Canyon from the little town of Wallace in northern Idaho is not too heavily travelled these days. The town of Burke, where the pavement ends six miles from Wallace, still has a couple of saloons and a small general store, and the Union Pacific branch line that freights out ore from the big Hecla silver mine still shares with Burke’s one and only street a common right of way in the narrow cleft of the canyon. But still, the little mining town is only a weather-beaten relic of its days of glory. Read more »