The Colorado Coalfield War Archaeological Project

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Colorado's Southern Coalfields

The harsh working conditions in the mines and the feudal-like living conditions of the coal camps took its toll on the miners and their families. In an attempt to improve these conditions, miners and their families answered the United Mine Workers strike call on September 30, 1913.

The union issued 7 demands:

1) Recognition of the United Mine Workers of America
2) A 10% wage increase
3) Enforcement of the 8 hour day
4) Payment for dead work
5) Right to elect checkweighmen
6) The right to trade in any store, board anywhere, and use any doctor
7) Enforcement of Colorado mining laws and abolishment of armed mine guards

These demands were about more than just higher wages. The union and the strikers wanted a change in both the labor and community relations found in the coal camps.

The coal companies answered the strike with violence and harassment. They began by evicting the miners and their families from company housing and used hired guns, such as the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency and local sheriff deputies, to intimidate strikers. The UMWA established 8 tent cities or strikers' colonies in the strike zone to house and protect the strikers and their families. Despite the union and the strikers' attempts at creating a stable community in the tent cities, the violence of the strike became a normal part of life. The entrance of the Colorado National Guard in November of 1913 promised a move towards peace, but added to the tension and violence of the strike. This violence culminated in the Ludlow Massacre on April 20, 1914 when members of the Colorado National Guard strafed the Ludlow strikers' colony and burned the tents killing 20 colonists in the process.

The Ludlow strikers' colony was the largest of the strikers' colonies and the union's headquarters during the strike. Using historical and archaeological data, we investigated how the union organized the space within the Ludlow strikers' colony. This section of the atlas shows the conditions of the coal camps that led to the strike as well as the conditions strikers faced in and around the Ludlow strikers' colony. We also present the immediate effects of the Ludlow Massacre on the Ludlow strikers.







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