MTU Archives to open 1913 Strike exhibit

“Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913-14 Copper Strike,” a traveling exhibit created by the Michigan Tech Archives, will premier at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 1, in the J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library at Michigan Technological University in Houghton. Members of the exhibit project team will discuss the research and design process for the exhibit. The event is free, open to the public and refreshments will be served.

The exhibit was made possible through a $14,500 grant from the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional funding was provided by Michigan Technological University, Cranking Graphics, and Dr. Robert and Ruth Nara.

“Tumult and Tragedy” explores the story of a remarkable period in Michigan’s history. The conflict, sorrow, and tragedy of this confrontation between organized labor and mining companies affected local residents from all walks of life, created headlines across the nation, and continues to resonate in Michigan’s Copper Country today.

Tensions boiled over on July 23, 1913, when members of the Western Federation of Miners took to the streets over grievances about pay and working conditions. The strike was marked by violence, including the deaths of more than 70 people, mainly children, during a Christmas Eve party at Calumet’s Italian Hall. Local mining companies refused to recognize the union, however, and the strike ended in April 1914.

The “Tumult and Tragedy” traveling exhibit consists of 12 panels exploring the context, community, conflict, and consequence of the events, and includes photographs, excerpts from newspapers, documents, and songs from the strike era. A free brochure contains links to related web content about the 1913-14 Michigan copper strike.

The exhibit will remain on display at Michigan Tech through November 30 during the library’s regular hours of operation, Monday-Thursday 7:45 a.m. to Midnight, Friday 7:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday noon to 5:00 p.m., and Sunday noon to midnight.

In December, the exhibit will begin a tour of six libraries and museums in Houghton, Ontonagon and Baraga Counties. Special events at each host site will include presentations relating to the 1913-1914 Michigan Copper Strike.

For further information, contact the Michigan Tech Archives at or 906-487-2505.

Exhibit Tour and Special Events

November 1 – November 30
J. Robert Van Pelt and John and Ruanne Opie Library
Michigan Technological University, Houghton
Special event: Thursday, November 1, 6:30 p.m.
Grand Opening with Comments by the Exhibit Project Team


December 1 – January 5
Ontonagon County Historical Museum, Ontonagon
Special event: Saturday, December 1, 1:00 p.m.
Bruce Johanson, “Ontonagon County and the 1913 Strike”

January 7 – February 1
Calumet Public-School Library, Calumet High School, Calumet
Special event: Tuesday, January 15, 6:30 p.m.
Kim Hoagland, “Seeberville 1913: Everyday Life in Violent Times”

February 2 – 28
Carnegie Museum, Downtown Houghton
Special event: Saturday, February 9, 1:00 p.m.
Larry Lankton, “Mine Safety Issues in the 1913 Strike Era”

March 4 – March 27
L’Anse Area School Public Library, L’Anse High School, L’Anse
Special event: Sunday, March 17, 1:00 p.m.
Jane Nordberg, “Pulp and Propaganda: Newspapers in the Strike Era”

April 8 – May 1
Sarah Sargent Paine Historical Research Center
Jeffers High School Library, Painesdale
Special event: Wednesday, April 10, 7:00 p.m.
Erik Nordberg, “Company Houses Along the Picket Line”

May 2 – June 1
Calumet Visitors Center, Keweenaw National Historical Park, Calumet
Special event: Thursday, May 23, 7:00 p.m.
Gary Kaunonen, “Interpreting the 1913 Michigan Copper Strike”