Author recounts horrific Italian Hall incident

The Michigan Iron Industry Museum kicked off their Tuesday Afternoon History Series with a look at one of the greatest tragedies the labor movement has even seen.

Author Gary Kaunonen went into great detail about the 1913-14 Copper Strike in the Keweenaw Peninsula, and the Italian Hall Tragedy where more than 73 miners were trampled to death as a result of fabricated fire warning.

At the center of the incident, was the rise of labor unions and immigrant workforces on a local and national level; issues that are still relevant today.

“I think it has resonance for Michigan, especially. The Right-to-Work legislation that has been enacted. Some of those early struggles just to get an 8-hour day, to get benefits, are in some ways being eroded. You say that with Right-to-Work legislation that’s occurring in Michigan, but also on the national level. Union membership is down, except within public sectors, and so all of the struggles that have occurred historically, we’re possibly going to be running into them again,” explained Kaunonen, who’s book was published through Michigan State University Press.

The book and traveling tour digs deep into first–hand accounts of the horrific ordeal, providing more questions than answers.

Kaunonen has seen a spirited reaction at most of his stops, with some of the victim’s family and friends stopping to chat with him about what they know and what they’re still unclear about.

You can find Gary’s book, “Community in Conflict”, for purchase online at

The museum’s upcoming Tuesday Afternoon History Series schedule is available online at,4570,7-153-54463_54464_48537—M_2013_07,00.html.