“Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913–1914 Copper Strike”

Mining in the Upper Peninsula has a rich and deep–rooted history….and that history is on exhibit right now.

The Michigan Tech Archives and Copper Country Historical Collection have put together an exhibit on one of the biggest strikes in Michigan history. “Tumult and Tragedy: Michigan’s 1913–1914  Copper  Strike” chronicles one of the confrontations between organized labor and mining companies. The exhibit features photographs, newspaper clippings, songs and artifacts from the strike.

Striking mine workers paraded through downtown Calumet.
Striking mine workers paraded through downtown Calumet.

“Because so many people focus on the tragedy on December of 1913, they don’t know the whole story of everything else that was going on at that time and why that was such an important event,” says Dan Truckey, director of the Beaumier Heritage Center.

It chronicles one of the greatest upheavals in Michigan’s history. The determination, conflict, sorrow, and tragedy of this epic confrontation changed the Copper Country for decades and memories of conflict remain to this day. The complex story involves many actors: copper mining corporations with Eastern executives, Michigan managers, and thousands of mine workers; national labor organizations with Copper Country union locals; governmental agents at the local, state, and national level; the state militia, local police agencies, and privately-hired deputies; and local commercial and civic groups.

The exhibit intends to highlight the contexts within which this disruptive labor-management conflict developed and played out. Public familiarity with the history of organized labor has declined during the last century, so some additional emphasis has been given to understanding mineworkers’ perspectives at the time of these events.

Truckey says, “For us, we deal with the whole U.P. here. It’s not just Marquette or the Central U.P. so we’re trying to bring in these things from the U.P., these stories that will give people a better view of what the whole region is like.”

The historical display of the Copper Strike on loan to the Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center at Northern Michigan University.

It will be available to the public for viewing until September 27 in 105 Cohodas Hall at Northern Michigan University.  The Beaumier Center is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday-Saturday.  Admission is free.