Ludlow massacre

Ludlow massacre

The Ludlow massacre refers to the violent deaths of 20 people, 11 of them children, during an attack by the Colorado National Guard on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado in the U.S. on April 20, 1914. These deaths occurred after a day-long fight between strikers and the Guard. Two women, eleven children, six miners and union officials and one National Guardsman were killed. In response, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of mines, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard. This was the bloodiest event in the 14-month 1913-1914 southern Colorado Coal Strike. The strike was organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) against coal mining companies in Colorado. The three biggest mining companies were the Rockefeller family-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company (CF&I), the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company (RMF), and the Victor-American Fuel Company (VAF). Ludlow, located 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Trinidad, Colorado, is now a ghost town. The massacre site is owned by the UMWA, which erected a granite monument, in memory of the striking miners and their families who died that day.


Mining firms had long been able to attract low-skill labor, in spite of modest wages and stiff cost-cutting policies designed to maintain profits in a competitive industry. This made conditions in the mines difficult and often dangerous for the workers, and the sector became a ripe target for union organizers. Colorado miners had attempted to periodically unionize since the state's first strike in 1883.

The Western Federation of Miners organized primarily hard rock miners in the gold and silver camps during the 1890s. Beginning in 1900, the UMWA began organizing coal miners in the western states, including southern Colorado. The UMWA decided to focus on the CF&I because of the company's harsh management tactics under the conservative and distant Rockefellers and other investors. As part of their campaign to break or prevent strikes, the coal companies had lured immigrants, mainly from southern and Eastern Europe and Mexico. CF&I's management purposely mixed immigrants of different nationalities in the mines to discourage communication that might lead to organization.

As was typical in the industry of that day, miners were paid by tons of coal mined and not reimbursed for "dead work," such as laying rails, timbering, and shoring the mines to make them operable. Given the intense pressure to produce, mine safety was often given short shrift. More than 1,700 miners died in Colorado from 1884 to 1912, a rate that was between 2 and 3.5 times the national average during those years. Furthermore, the miners felt they were being short-changed on the weight of the coal they mined, arguing that the scales used for paying them were different from those used for coal customers. Miners challenging the weights risked being dismissed.

Most miners also lived in "company towns," where homes, schools, doctors, clergy, and law enforcement were provided by the company, as well as stores offering a full range of goods that could be paid for in company currency, scrip. However, this became an oppressive environment in which law focused on enforcement of increasing prohibitions on speech or assembly by the miners to discourage union-building activity. Also, under pressure to maintain profitability, the mining companies steadily reduced their investment in the town and its amenities while increasing prices at the company store so that miners and their families experienced worsening conditions and higher costs. Colorado's legislature had passed laws to improve the condition of the mines and towns, including the outlawing of the use of scrip, but these laws were poorly enforced.

The mine strike

Despite attempts to suppress union activity, secret organizing continued by the UMWA in the years leading up to 1913. Once everything had been laid out according to their plan, the UMWA presented, on behalf of coal miners, a list of seven demands:

#Recognition of the union as bargaining agent
#An increase in tonnage rates (equivalent to a 10% wage increase)
#Enforcement of the eight-hour work day law
#Payment for "dead work" (laying track, timbering, handling impurities, etc.)
#Weight-checkmen elected by the workers (to keep company weightmen honest)
#The right to use any store, and choose their boarding houses and doctors
#Strict enforcement of Colorado's laws (such as mine safety rules, abolition of scrip), and an end to the dreaded company guard system

The major coal companies rejected the demands and in September 1913, the UMWA called a strike. Those who went on strike were promptly evicted from their company homes, and they moved to tent villages prepared by the UMWA, with tents built on wood platforms and furnished with cast iron stoves on land leased by the union in preparation for a strike.

In leasing the tent village sites, the union had strategically selected locations near the mouths of the canyons, which led to the coal camps for the purpose of monitoring traffic and harassing replacement workers. Confrontations between striking miners and replacement workers, referred to as "scabs" by the union, often got out of control, resulting in deaths. The company hired the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to help break the strike by protecting the replacement workers and otherwise making life difficult for the strikers.

Baldwin-Felts had a reputation for aggressive strike breaking. Agents shone searchlights on the tent villages at night and randomly fired into the tents, occasionally killing and maiming people. They used an improvised armored car, mounted with a M1895 Colt-Browning machine gun that the union called the "Death Special," to patrol the camp's perimeters. The steel-covered car was built in the CF&I plant in Pueblo from the chassis of a large touring sedan. Because of frequent sniping on the tent colonies, miners dug protective pits beneath the tents where they and their families could seek shelter.On October 28, as strike-related violence mounted, Colorado governor Elias M. Ammons, called in the Colorado National Guard. At first, the guard's appearance calmed the situation. But the sympathies of the militia leaders were quickly seen by the strikers to lie with company management. Guard Adjutant General John Chase had served during the violent Cripple Creek strike 10 years earlier, and imposed a harsh regime in Ludlow. On March 10, 1914, the body of a replacement worker was found on the railroad tracks near Forbes. The National Guard believed that the man had been murdered by the strikers. Chase ordered the Forbes tent colony destroyed in retaliation. The attack was carried out while the Forbes colony inhabitants were attending a funeral of infants who had died a few days earlier. The attack was witnessed by a young photographer, Lou Dold, whose images of the destruction appear often in accounts of the strike.

The strikers persevered until the spring of 1914. By then, the state had run out of money to maintain the guard, and was forced to recall them. The governor and the mining companies, fearing a breakdown in order, left two guard units in southern Colorado and allowed the coal companies to finance a residual militia, which consisted largely of CF&I camp guards in National Guard uniforms.

The massacre

On the morning of April 20, the day after Easter was celebrated by the many Greek immigrants at Ludlow, three Guardsmen appeared at the camp ordering the release of a man they claimed was being held against his will. This request prompted the camp leader, Louis Tikas, to meet with a local militia commander at the train station in Ludlow village, a half mile (0.8 km) from the colony. While this meeting was progressing, two companies of militia installed a machine gun on a ridge near the camp and took a position along a rail route about half a mile south of Ludlow. Anticipating trouble, Tikas ran back to the camp. The miners, fearing for the safety of their families, set out to flank the militia positions. A firefight soon broke out.

The fighting raged for the entire day. The militia was reinforced by non-uniformed mine guards later in the afternoon. At dusk, a passing freight train stopped on the tracks in front of the Guards' machine gun placements, allowing many of the miners and their families to escape to an outcrop of hills to the east called the "Black Hills." By 7:00 p.m., the camp was in flames, and the militia descended on it and began to search and loot the camp. Louis Tikas had remained in the camp the entire day and was still there when the fire started. Tikas and two other men were captured by the militia. Tikas and Lt. Karl Linderfelt, commander of one of two Guard companies, had confronted each other several times in the previous months. While two militiamen held Tikas, Linderfelt broke a rifle butt over his head. Tikas and the other two captured miners were later found shot dead. Their bodies lay along the Colorado and Southern tracks for three days in full view of passing trains. The militia officers refused to allow them to be moved until a local of a railway union demanded the bodies be taken away for burial.

During the battle, four women and eleven children had been hiding in a pit beneath one tent, where they were trapped when the tent above them was set on fire. Two of the women and all of the children suffocated. These deaths became a rallying cry for the UMWA, who called the incident the "Ludlow Massacre." [Zinn, H. [ "The Ludlow Massacre"] , Excert from "A People's History of the United States". pgs 346-349.]

In addition to the fire victims, Louis Tikas and the other men who were shot to death, three company guards and one militiaman were also killed in that day's fighting.


In response to the Ludlow massacre, the leaders of organized labor in Colorado issued a call to arms, urging union members to acquire "all the arms and ammunition legally available," and a large-scale guerrilla war ensued, lasting ten days. In Trinidad, Colorado, UMW officials openly distributed arms and ammunition to strikers at union headquarters. Believing their women and children to have been "wantonly slaughtered" by the militia, 700 to 1,000 inflamed strikers "attacked mine after mine, driving off or killing the guards and setting fire to the buildings." At least fifty people, including those at Ludlow, were killed in ten days of fighting against mine guards and hundreds of militia reinforcements rushed back into the strike zone. The fighting ended only when U.S. President Woodrow Wilson sent in federal troops. [Norwood (2002) p. 148 ] The troops disarmed both sides (displacing, and often arresting, the militia in the process) and reported directly to Washington.

This conflict, called the Colorado Coalfield War, was the most violent labor conflict in U.S. history; the reported death toll ranged from 69 in the Colorado government report, to 199 in the investigation ordered by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

The UMWA finally ran out of money, and called off the strike on December 10, 1914.

In the end, the strikers failed to obtain their demands, the union did not obtain recognition, and many striking workers were replaced by new workers. Over 400 strikers were arrested, 332 of whom were indicted for murder. Only one man, John Lawson, leader of the strike, was convicted of murder, and that verdict was eventually overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court. Twenty-two National Guardsmen, including 10 officers, were court-martialed. All were acquitted, except Lt. Linderfelt, who was found guilty of assault for his attack on Louis Tikas. However, he was given only a light reprimand.

Rev. Cook pastored the local church in Trinadad, Colorado. He was one of the few Pastors in Trinidad that tried to provide Christian burials to the deceased victims of the Ludlow Massacre. Rev. Cook died in 1938.


Although the UMWA failed to win recognition by the company, the strike had a lasting impact both on conditions at the Colorado mines and on labor relations nationally. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. engaged labor relations experts, and future Canadian Prime Minister, W. L. Mackenzie King to help him develop reforms for the mines and towns, which included paved roads and recreational facilities, as well as worker representation on committees dealing with working conditions, safety, health, and recreation. There was to be no discrimination of workers who had belonged to unions, and the establishment of a company union. The Rockefeller plan was accepted by the miners in a vote.

A United States Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR), headed by labor lawyer and Democratic activist Frank Walsh, conducted hearings in Washington, collecting information and taking testimony from all the principals, including Rockefeller. The commission's 1,200 page report suggested many reforms sought by the unions, and provided support for bills establishing a national eight-hour work day and a ban on child labor.

The UMWA eventually bought the site of the Ludlow tent colony in 1916. Two years later, they erected the Ludlow Monument to commemorate those who had died during the strike. The monument was damaged in May 2003 by unknown vandals. The repaired monument was unveiled on June 5, 2005 with slightly altered faces on the statues. [ [ Picture of Ludlow Monument] ]

Several popular songs have been written and recorded about the events at Ludlow. Among them is "Ludlow Massacre" by the popular American folk singer Woody Guthrie, and '"The Monument (Lest We Forget)" by the Irish musician Andy Irvine. The incident is also mentioned by name in the song "Bread and Roses" by folk singer Jon Sirkis, from his album, "Songs for Kelly".

The last survivor of the Ludlow Massacre, Mary Benich-McCleary, died of a stroke at the age of 94 on June 28, 2007. She was 18 months old when the massacre occurred. McCleary's parents and her two brothers narrowly escaped death when the conductor of the train that brought the militia to the tent colony stopped the train to shield the family and others trying to flee. But Mary had been left behind. A 16-year-old boy heard Mary Benich's screams and gathered her up into his coat and then ran into the woods. Mary and the boy were found several days later, still hiding. McCleary's daughter said family members didn't speak of the massacre. [Alhadef, "Last Survivor of Ludlow Massacre Dies at 94," "Pueblo Chieftain," July 6, 2007.]

Victims of the massacre

The following individuals died in the massacre and are listed on the Ludlow Monument:

* John Bartolotti. Age: 45 Yrs.
* Charlie Costa. Age: 31 Yrs.
* Fedelina Costa. Age: 27 Yrs.
* Lucy Costa. Age: 4 Yrs.
* Onafrio Costa. Age: 6 Yrs.
* James Fyler. Age: 43 Yrs.
* Cloriva Pedregon. Age: 4 Yrs.
* Rodgerlo Pedregon. Age: 6 Yrs.
* Frank Petrucci. Age: 4 Mo.
* Joe Petrucci. Age: 4½ Yrs.
* Lucy Petrucci. Age: 2½ Yrs.
* Frank Rubino. Age: 23 Yrs.
* William Snyder Jr.. Age: 11 Yrs.
* Louis Tikas. Age: 30 Yrs.
* Eulala Valdez. Age: 8 Yrs.
* Elvira Valdez. Age: 3 Mo.
* Mary Valdez. Age: 7 Yrs.
* Patria Valdez. Age: 37 Yrs.
* George Ullman. Age: 56 Yrs.


ee also

* See also the Columbine Mine Massacre of 1927 for additional information on Colorado labor struggles.
*Commission on Industrial Relations whose chairman grilled John D. Rockefeller, Jr. for three days about the Ludlow massacre.
*Colorado Fuel and Iron
*Colorado Labor Wars



* Adams, G., "The Age of Industrial Violence, 1910-1915: The Activities and Findings of the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations." Columbia University Press, New York, 1966.
*Alhadef, Tammy. "Last Survivor of Ludlow Massacre Dies at 94." "Pueblo Chieftain." July 6, 2007.
* Beshoar, Barron B., "Out of the Depths: The Story of John R. Lawson, a Labor Leader". Colorado Historical Commission and Denver Trades and Labor Assembly, Denver, 1957.
* Boughton, Major Edward J., Capt. William C. Danks, and Capt. Philip S. Van Cise, "Ludlow: Being the Report of the Special Board of Officers Appointed by the Governor of Colorado to Investigate and Determine the Facts with Reference to the Armed Conflict Between the Colorado National Guard and Certain Persons Engaged in the Coal Mining Strike at Ludlow, Colo.", April 20, 1914.
* Chernow, R., "Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr.", Random House, New York, 1998.
* Clyne, R., "Coal People: Life in Southern Colorado’s Company Towns, 1890-1930". Colorado Historical Society, Denver, 1999.
* "Coal --The Kingdom Below", Trinidad Printing, Trinidad, Colorado, 1992
* Cronin, W., G. Miles, and J. Gitlin, "Becoming West: Toward a New Meaning for Western History, Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past", edited by W. Cronin, G. Miles, and J. Gitlin, W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 1992.
* Downing, Sybil, "Fire in the Hole". University Press of Colorado, Niwot, Colorado, 1996.
* Farrar, Frederick, Papers of the Colorado Attorney General, Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library, including Testimony by Capt. Philip S. Van Cise in the Transcript of the Court of Inquiry Ordered by Gov. Carlson in 1915.
* Foner, Philip S., "History of the Labor Movement in the United States, Volume V: The AFL in the Progressive Era, 1910-1915". International Publishers, New York, 1980.
* Foote, K., "Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy". University of Texas Press, Austin, 1997.
* Fox, M., "United We Stand: The United Mine Workers of America, 1890-1990". International Union, United Mine Workers of America, Washington, 1990.
* Gitelman, H., "Legacy of the Ludlow Massacre: A Chapter in American Industrial Relations". University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1988.
* Long, Priscilla, "Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America's Bloody Coal Industry". Paragon Books, New York, 1991.
* Mahan, Bill, "The Ludlow Massacre: An Audio History. Water Tank Hill Productions, 1994.
* Margolis, Eric, "Western Coal Mining as a Way of Life: An Oral History of the Colorado Coal Miners to 1914". Journal of the West 24(3), 1985.
* Martelle, Scott, "Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West." Rutgers University Press. 2007.
* McGovern, George S., and Leonard F. Guttridge, "The Great Coalfield War". Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1972.
* McGuire, R. and P. Reckner, "The Unromantic West: Labor, Capital, and Struggle". Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Salt Lake City, 1998.
* Memorial Day at Ludlow, "United Mine Workers Journal", June 6, 1918.
* Nankivell, Major John H., "History of the Military Organizations of the State of Colorado 1860-1935", Infantry U.S. Army (Senior Instructor, Colorado National Guard), obtained from the Colorado Historical Society, 1935.
* Norwood, Stephen H.; "Strikebreaking & Intimidation: Mercenaries and Masculinity in Twentieth-Century America." University of North Carolina Press. 2002.
* Papanikolas, Zeese, "Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre". University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1982.
* Roth, L., Company Towns in the Western United States, "The Company Town: Architecture and Society in the Early Industrial Age", edited by John S. Garner. Oxford University Press, New York, 1992.
* Saitta, D., R. McGuire, and P. Duke, "Working and Striking in Southern Colorado, 1913-1914". Presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology annual meeting, Salt Lake City, 1999
* Saitta, D., M. Walker, and P. Reckner, "Battlefields of Class Conflict: Ludlow then and now", Journal of Conflict Archaeology 1, 2005.
* Scamehorn, H. Lee, "Mill & Mine: The CF&I in the Twentieth Century". University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1992.
* Seligman, E., "Colorado’s Civil War and Its Lessons". Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, November 5, 1914.
* Sinclair, Upton, "King Coal". The MacMillan Company, New York, 1917.
* Sunieseri, A., "The Ludlow Massacre: A Study in the Mis-Employment of the National Guard". Salvadore Books, Waterloo, Iowa, 1972.
* "The Coal War". Colorado Associated University Press, Boulder, 1976.
* "The Crisis in Colorado". The Annalist, May 4, 1914.
* Transcript of the Court Martial of Sgt. P.M. Cullen and Privates Mason and Pacheco, among others, Testimony of Lt. K.M. Linderfelt, Sgt. P. Cullen, and Ray W. Benedict, State of Colorado Archives.
* Transcript from the Court Martial of Capt. Edwin F. Carson, Testimony of Sgt. Cullen, State of Colorado Archives.
* The Denver Post: May 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, and 30 and June 3, 1914
* The Trinidad Free Press: April 24 and 29, 1914, and May 9, 1914
* United Mine Workers of America , "An Answer to 'The Report of the Commanding General to the Governor for the Use of the Congressional Committee on the Military Occupation of the Coal Strike Zone by the Colorado National Guard during 1913-1914,’" State of Colorado Archives
* Vallejo, M. E., "Recollections of the Colorado Coal Strike, 1913-1914", La Gente: Hispano History and Life in Colorado, edited by V. De Baca. Colorado Historical Society, Denver, 1998.
* Walker, M., "The Ludlow Massacre: Labor Struggle and Historical Memory in Southern Colorado". Paper presented at the North American Labor History Conference, Detroit, Michigan, 1999.
* Yellen, S., "American Labor Struggles". Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York, 1936.
* Zinn, H., "The Politics of History". Beacon Press, Boston, 1970.
* Zinn, H., Dana Frank, and Robin D. G. Kelley, "Three Strikes: The Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century" ISBN 0-8070-5013-X

External links

* [ The Colorado Coal Field War Project] An account of the strike and the assault by the Colorado State National Guard, published by University of Denver's Anthropology department.
* [ Phelps-Dodge Mine explosion, 1913.] During the time of the Colorado Coalfields Strike (which included Ludlow) this mine in New Mexico exploded, killing 263 men, the 2nd deadliest mine disaster in US history. It was owned by Rockefeller-in-law M. Hartley-Dodge, owner of Remington Arms. []
* [ Ludlow Massacre - Historical Background] Background material prepared by the Colorado Bar for the 2003 Colorado Mock Trial program
* [ The Ludlow Massacre] on
* The lyrics to Woodie Guthrie's "Ludlow Massacre" are here [] and the lyrics to Guthrie's closely related song about copper miners in Calumet, Michigan, "1913 Massacre", are here. []
* [ The Virtual Oral/Aural History Archive] Audio of an interview with Ludlow survivor Mary Thomas O'Neal in 1974.
* [] Howard Zinn on the ludlow Massacre

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