"A definitive study of the Ludlow massacre and events leading up to it. This story has much drama and struggle, and it holds some crucial lessons about industrial strife and about how viciously brutal America's capitalists were a couple of generations ago." -- Los Angeles Times
"The effect of this work is simply enraging, for the reality that the documentation evokes, both of wickedness and of the suffering that that wickedness caused, is intolerable." -- The New Yorker
In the early 20th century, Colorado yielded more than a million tons of coal annually -- hacked and blasted out by immigrants from Eastern Europe living in crudely built towns owned by powerful mine operators. The companies owned the stores, ran the schools, churches, hospitals, and saloons, and bribed the region's lawmen to keep union organizers out.
Mine safety was all but unheard-of when in 1913 mine explosions killed more than four hundred workers in just two of the mines. The United Mineworkers' Union infiltrated the towns, and thirteen thousand miners and their families made one mass exodus to establish a tent colony near the rail outpost at Ludlow. Months of fighting between the miners and company gunmen assisted by the Colorado State National Guard culminated in the Ludlow Massacre where tents were set afire, suffocating women and children who had sought shelter in storage pits beneath tent floorboards.
The resultant public scandal compelled Washington to intervene, but it would take years before Colorado's coal miners gained union protection. The Great Coalfield War is a part of western history and an especially important part in view of today's declining union enrollments and the national movement to deregulate workplace safety laws and the federal agencies that enforce them.