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Muckers and Blackholers – A history essay

February 24, 2011

Immigrant mine workers changed communities, defied corporate notions of progress

Trail's smelter dominates the city skyline in summer 2009.

Descendants of western North American mining and smelting families know that their grandparents came to the United States and Canada as illiterate farmers, shopkeepers, muckers and blackholers[1] looking for a better life, a way to keep their children from dying of destitution in their home villages of Europe, Asia and elsewhere. Their story is usually included in the violent histories of mining communities situated in the rugged wide-open territories that would eventually become American states west of the Missouri River and mountain mining boomtowns west of the Canadian Rockies.

New histories reveal that those stories were often apocryphal and thus suited to fit an accepted and prevalent view of the time regarding the role of immigrants and especially immigrant mine workers. Another myth was added to the history of the West: the immigrant myth. In fact, it appears that the thousands of workers who did migrate west in the 1890s and early twentieth century, men and some women searching and finding hard and dangerous work in mines owned by wealthy and often-absentee owners, changed those communities significantly. They brought with them the cultural and political elements that bred a social climate that still exists today, but they also adjusted to the American and Canadian cultures they encountered.

This paper explores some aspects of the lives of those immigrants who came to dig, fight and die in the western mines. It also focuses on the newer historical research that exposes fissures of inaccuracy and false assumption in the telling of the immigrant miners’ story. Who were these immigrant mine workers and why did they come? How did infant western towns and camps respond to their arrival? How did the fledgling labour movement respond? How did European migrants influence political activity and activism? Was Marxism, as they saw it increase its radical influence in their home countries, a driving force in those politics or were other localized forces a more significant agent of change in their lives? Where did they sit on the ethnic spectrum that was so racialized with the coming of the Chinese immigrant? How did mine owners use the Chinese, Mexican and other immigrant workers in their anti-union strategies?

Immigrants were no doubt among the first of the early gold diggers that sought to get rich quick on a hope, a prayer and very hard labour. The California gold rush of 1849, for example, would have seen Cornish, Irish, Mexican and even some Chinese migrants looking for ways to get rich or just survive either by panning, working in the placer (surface) mines or rendering service to those who did manage to lay claim to something that looked like it might lead to the storied riches that they had heard others bragging about in the taverns and cafes. The Caribou rush in 1858 and Klondike rush in 1898 later attracted similar waves of immigrant miners who headed north in their hopeful but often disappointed thousands.

Add comments from Nugent, Paul and Susan Lee Johnson

As historian Kathryn Morse explains in The Nature of Gold, up to three-quarters of the miners that populated the Klondike were from the United States, but many came from Canada, Europe, Australia and Chile. These “gold seekers, like all human beings, understood and pursued their labors within their culture, a broad and complex set of understandings, expectations, traditions and rules that gave their work and their daily lives meaning, and helped explain their successes and failures.”[2] Morse notes the strong linkage of all miners to nature, adding that “regardless of class, nationality, or race, [they] did the same kinds of work in the same ways because they encountered the same natural environment and wanted the same thing from that environment: gold.”[3]

Perhaps United States President Ulysses S. Grant, who considered himself a westerner, can be blamed for the stampede to find gold in the west after the great rushes to California in the 1850s. In 1873, he signed the Coinage Act, making gold the only monetary standard. That decision stampeded many Americans, including some early immigrant miners, to the Black Hills of North Dakota and into other western mining territories. In 1871, he also signed into law the Indian Appropriation Act, making Indians wards of the state and undermining Indian treaties.[4] This decision led to the accelerated removal by extermination of the aboriginal peoples whose traditional lands harboured the coveted yellow metal. Later immigrants would feel the lash of racism as well in an industry driven by capital accumulation, funded by eastern money, and licensed by the highest governmental authority. 

From that time on, immigrants began to flow more rapidly into the western U.S. partly to escape a homeland that had been devastated by centuries of war, shifting borders and forced allegiances. As historian John Bodnar notes in The Transplanted, they came to find better lives and a way out of the poverty that had been imposed with the new capitalist system that was rapidly developing across Europe with its push for higher agricultural surpluses to feed the markets. As Bodnar puts it,

Most of the Serbs leaving for America came from Croatia, especially from the region of Voivodina, and not Serbia proper. In Croatia they had encountered better soil and superior access to the markets of Budapest and Vienna. Because agriculture in Croatia was more tied to commercial markets, these Serbs found it increasingly difficult to survive on small plots. Since Budapest and Vienna were not about to encourage industrial development in Croatia or even much of Slovenia, thousands of South Slavs had to look elsewhere to make ends meet.[5]

What they found on arrival in the new world may not have been what they expected, but it had to be better than what they had as increasingly impoverished and landless agricultural workers in the old country.

Historian Vernon H. Jensen describes in detail the type of back-breaking and often heart-breaking work that the early gold seekers endured. In Heritage of Conflict he traces western mining to its beginnings and follows the evolution of trade unionism from the early 1860s when the first miners’ unions were formed at the Comstock Lode.[6] Writing in the late 1940s, he seems to have forgotten the immigrant mining population for the most part or neglected to analyze their role in either the process of industrialization or the progress of trade unionism. Still, it is an otherwise rich tapestry of labour history and Jensen does note that,

These men made up a distinctive labor force different from that found in industrial centers in the East, and different from that which was gradually introduced through the later influx of immigrants, although it may be observed that there were many Cornish and Irish immigrants in the western mining camps of the late nineteenth century.[7]

He also acknowledges that “as smelters and refineries grew in size they became typical large-scale business establishments, attracting the unskilled immigrant into the ranks of the employees.”[8]

As Jensen and others show, the first trickle of immigrants would seldom get rich and eventually they would move on to other pursuits as the frontier West gave way to modernity through rapid industrialization. This was never truer than in the mining towns that sprung up throughout what one historian calls the Mountain West. But they told their stories of hardship and success to families back home in Scandinavia, southern and eastern Europe, Asia and south into Mexico and Latin America. As word spread of the prospects of mineral riches or at least some free land to farm on a subsistence level, a new wave of would-be miners was to invade the West from the 1880s through the 1910s. It was with this second wave that we began to see camps transformed into cosmopolitan cultural enclaves that welcomed or shunned newcomers depending on how many jobs were available in the deeps and how high profits were in the eastern metal marketplace.


Perhaps no other western community better epitomizes the results of the coming of this second wave of immigrant workers than Butte, Montana, and the neighbouring town of Anaconda. As historian Laurie Mercier writes in her thoroughly researched Anaconda, “Four generations of Anaconda men, women, and children labored, loved, and lived in the shadow of the giant stack, in a company town that they shaped but whose destiny was ultimately determined by multinational corporate decisions and global metal prices.”[9]

Initially, the immigrants who got jobs in Butte were mostly Irish. One of Idaho’s so-called copper kings, Marcus Daly, made sure that this was the case.[10] He was supportive of what would grow into a powerful Irish ‘enclave’ with its attendant associational lodges, its own union – the influential Butte Miners’ Union – and the emotional dedication to an independent Irish homeland. As historian David M. Emmons writes, “No other of Butte’s ethnic groups developed so strong an ethno-occupational awareness [as the Irish].[11] So all-powerful was the enclave that it could relegate new immigrants to lower-paying and dirtier jobs. Eventually tensions between Cornish and Irish miners were supplanted by those between English-speaking and foreign immigrants.

Butte was the blueprint for mining industry towns. It set the mould for the entrepreneurs that followed and that included the role and treatment of immigrants. It was seen as a deplorable place by some, a cesspool writhing with the filth of humanity. Historian Jerry W. Calvert describes the scene in The Gibraltar[12]: “Local government in Butte was corrupt and inefficient. Workers and working-class families lived in overcrowded, poorly ventilated housing without adequate sanitation. Most of the city’s streets were unpaved, and sidewalks were almost nonexistent.”[13] And men regularly died in mining accidents due to cheaply constructed mine shafts and other workplace deficiencies. Others saw it as a miners’ Shangri La, promising to answer immigrants’ prayers and dreams with a new home, a steady income and a place to raise their families in peace and prosperity. Historian Michael P. Malone describes the thrill corporations must have felt at the migration of cheap labour:

By the mid-1890s…the general trend of rising immigration to America from southern and eastern Europe found an accurate reflection at Butte. From overpopulated Italy and from the turbulent south-Slavic regions of the Austro-Hungarian Empire came hordes of desperately poor, often illiterate peoples. The corporations welcomed them and sometimes even brought them in on contracts because of their willingness to work for lesser pay scales.[14]

Mercier adds that “Above all else, what gave Butte its unique personality was its richly cosmopolitan population, for Butte was one of America’s most striking ‘melting pots’ of immigrant nationalities.”[15] What gave immigrants within that melting pot a shot at surviving was their unswerving allegiance to family, community, fraternal organizations and other associational groupings built along immigrant cultural lines.

In her study of mining cultures, historian Mary Murphy presents a detailed portrait of the cultural divides that existed in Butte during this period of heavy immigration to the West. As the mining industry workforce mushroomed into a United Nations of races, they brought with them their religions, leisure pleasures and everyday activities and thus began to transform mining camps into mining towns bubbling with many languages, tingling with an odd mix of cultural pastimes, and blossoming into the sounds, smells and sights of multiple ethnic neighbourhoods. New behaviours, attitudes, styles of housing, clothing, and other changes began to create a multi-cultural space. It wasn’t quite a melting pot, but the immigrants were a significant part of the changing social environment.

Murphy argues that by the late 1890s and early 1900s, hard-won shorter work days and moderately better pay meant workers had more disposable cash and more time to spend it. Hence, cultural activities became a more prominent feature of mining communities and companies were quick to take advantage of the changes. As Murphy writes, 

Underlying every interaction in the city was the relationship between the Anaconda Company and the thousands of workers who wrested ore from the earth – an arduous, dangerous occupation whose constancy was dictated by markets far from Butte. Working and play were twined in the mining city. Hard work shaped hard play. Working underground, men gambled with their lives; aboveground they gambled with their virtue.[16]

Although some immigrant mine workers would have benefitted from the slight improvements in wages and shortened work days, it is doubtful that immigrant workers would have reacted in the same way that Murphy describes. Many of them were more likely to have sent any extra money back home and they would have scrambled to work whatever overtime was on offer even if the unions tried to enforce bans on it. Still, their cultural influences would have partly shaped the western mining towns of the late nineteenth century. Many of the Butte workers were foreign born, making the boom city one of the most ethnically diverse places in the Mountain West. Murphy offers this image:

The celebration of George Washington’s birthday in 1920 graphically demonstrated that fact. The Daughters of the American Revolution welcome guests to the YMCA, where Welsh singers, the Daughters of Scotia, and Swedish, Norwegian, Slavic, Italian, and Polish musicians played and sang and then listened to speeches by representatives of thirty-three nationalities.[17]

While she focuses mostly on Butte after the First World War, Murphy’s account suggests that, “What happened in Butte during the 1920s and 1930s can offer insights into the urban development of many cities in the United States.”[18] It seems probable that such was the case in many small Canadian border towns as well. In some, if not all cases, racial and ethnic conflict was inevitable.

In another work on Butte, Mercier and co-editor Jaclyn Gier focus on the women of pioneer mining communities like Butte. Clearly, men proudly saw themselves as the only breadwinners in a ‘separate spheres’ society built on male dominance in the family, in the workplace and in politics. There was the odd aberration. Mary Harris Jones a.k.a. “Mother Jones” and Helen Gurley Flynn were both outspoken supporters of miners’ unions and their workplace struggles. In some cases, a strong female held sway over men in their role as boardinghouse matron or bar proprietor. There are even striking examples of how miners’ wives supported striking workers, exposing and shaming scabs and actively lobbying for a better contract.[19] But for the most part, “male miners resisted any alterations of prescribed work, family, and union roles.”[20] And yet, as Mercier and Gier point out,

Working-class women, especially ethnic working-class women, had long traditions of active participation in community and labor struggles. They understood their domestic roles in larger terms and considered their normal responsibilities to engage in direct political action and support the union activities of their men.[21]

Finally, the history of Butte is also marked by a significant battle among three capitalists, the copper kings. The scope of the so-called “Copper Wars” is the subject of several books and is too intricate to do justice to here. Suffice it to say that ironically, immigrant mine workers benefitted in some ways from this odd struggle of millionaires Daly, Heinze and William Andrews Davis. The latter two, in fact, gave their employees the eight-hour day in their rush to take advantage of, and no doubt feed, the corrupt political machine that existed in Montana and other western states at the time.[22]


From the gold rush period onward, immigrant mine workers entered a fast-changing West. The placer mines had played out and the search for the mother lode or bonanza required deeper and more technologically sophisticated methods of extraction and smelting. The gold had been plucked from the mountains making a few prospectors rich. Now it was drying up, but in its wake men found silver and the hard-rock metals that go with it like zinc, lead, and most precious copper. Men who had once worked their own claims as independent miners now worked the larger corporate claims of absentee owners. They were part of an industrial machine that stopped at nothing to get at the profitable ore that lay in the western hills of the Dakotas, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Utah and further north in British Columbia. 

In the early days Mexican miners were probably among the most coveted by mine owners since they brought with them the experience of working the mines in Spanish America at large camps like Bisbee and Cananea in the rugged territory that would become New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona. But as mining techniques changed with the adoption of new methods and new financing from the east, the Mexican mine workers quickly dropped in prestige, joining the aboriginal and Asian workers that were shunned by almost everyone.[23]

As historian Richard Lingenfelter shows in Hardrock Miners, the “animosity between the skilled Cornish miners and the initially unskilled Irish and American miners was, in fact, the most explosive internal threat to the mining labor movement in the West.[24] But these were English-speaking immigrants. The story would be different for those who came from southern and eastern Europe.

Bodnar notes some of the causes for the animosity, suggesting that many immigrant workers couldn’t get along with American workers and others entering the mining camps. They “frequently had problems with the pace of industrial production lines and did not always conform easily to new routines of work.”[25] Then there were the cultural differences. Bodnar again: “In the mills and factories throughout American cities, immigrants would seldom work on their particular religious holidays. And when industrial work proved too demanding or burdensome, immigrant laborers left their jobs for another or returned home.”[26]

Even the unions, worried that mine owners would undercut wages by hiring the cheaper immigrant labour, were against them and were willing to consort with their natural enemies. When it came to Asian immigrants taking jobs in the mines, employers were ready to take advantage of the situation. Unions responded in a racialized way, supporting laws to restrict the Asian work opportunities and limiting membership in their ranks. Although many of the European mine workers were not visible minorities, unions and others still managed to racialize the response to their arrival in mining communities. They were, in effect, made less than white and treated with disdain. Historian David Berman, in his extensive examination of radicalism in western mining communities, illuminates the situation:

Society in the sense of class consciousness came early to the new industrial communities. Worker solidarity, however, was frustrated by friction among racial, ethnic, and religious groups – divisions owners were eager to exploit. In some mining camps, thirty or more nationalities were represented. Writing about divisions in the copper camp of Bingham Canyon, Utah, for example, one observer in a leftist publication noted that, with the help of mine owners stirring things up, “The Finns dislike the Greeks, the Greeks look askance at the Slavonians, the Slavonians are distrustful of the Americans and the Americans proudly flout the whole batch of ‘ignorant foreigners’ and stand on their American birthright and supremacy.[27]

The Western Federation of Miners, one of the more progressive-minded of the nineteenth-century unions, was as adamantly anti-Asian as any group.[28] And it would also have struggled with the cultural differences of other ethnic groups that might have played into the hands of employers. For example, the European immigrant’s dedication to family and community could be an impediment to workplace action. As Bodnar suggests, “Immigrants could be effective strikers and militant workers especially when encouraged by existing labor organizations, but they could not jeopardize the marginal foundations of their familial and communal networks for too long a period by remaining away from work.”[29]

They did resist, of course. There were the legendary labour disputes at Eureka, Nevada, Leadville, Cripple Creek and Ludlow, Colorado, and the Coeur d’Alenes in Idaho. But they did so on their own terms, contesting “the meanings of Americanism, unionism, and gender roles in daily arenas of contact, including the workplace, home, and community institutions.”[30] It was a resistance based on a different set of cultural prerogatives. As historian Milred Allen Beik expressed it in her study of a company town in the mining district of Pennsylvania, new immigrant miners were neither docile sufferers who would endure any measure of capitalistic exploitation, nor lawless rioters, incipient anarchists, or ready-made unionists. To be sure, these pragmatic, thoughtful human beings had brought their diverse cultural heritages and their own conceptions of justice with them from Europe. Neither cultures nor the rural peasant societies from which the came were static. New class formations, the ideology of rights, and the uneven development of capitalism had already made an impact on their lives. In certain circumstances, these working people were responding to dynamic changes in Europe with passivity, while in others they were rebelling and actively using their cultures as resources for change.[31]

Churches, the Salvation Army and Chambers of Commerce were all working to root out putative immigrant radicalism under the guise of protecting America from the scourge of one form of socialism or another. Berman cites Utah as one example of this. “The church was alarmed by the influx of newcomers – some of whom, it felt, were drawn to radical ideas – and depicted mining towns as sinful places, filled with liquor, gambling, violence, and prostitution.”[32] Others reveal how these institutions undermined attempts by immigrants to get a leg up by relying heavily on their religious beliefs to stifle resistance to miner owners and the politicians placed in office by those same owners.

Was there any legitimacy to the fear that immigrants would bring radical political views with them or were they cultivated as the working class was increasingly confronted with the demands of American capitalism? Mercier argues that immigrants “brought with them the traditions of labor from their home countries, traditions that often led to even more radical responses to the exploitation they encountered in their adoptive or temporary homelands.”[33] Some historians argue that European immigrants brought memories of the revolutions of 1848 with them and that they promoted socialist ideas among the ethnic minorities in western mining communities. Indeed, the Progressive movement of the early 1900s would have nurtured an immigrant membership and encouraged their ideas of social change. Yet even radicals “often carried the racial and ethnic biases common in the West.”[34] Eugene V. Debs, a leader of the famed Pullman strike of the 1890s and a perennial candidate for U.S. president, did not always see immigrant workers as his concern. His “central message was aimed at white workingmen.”[35] Later, some conventional historians seemed to say that immigrants were inferior and that their inferiority could lead to undemocratic behaviour. Historian John R. Commons, for example, argued that “the peasants of Europe, especially of Southern and Eastern Europe, have been reduced to the qualities similar to those of an inferior race that favor despotism and oligarchy rather than democracy.”[36]

Did the new immigrants incite violence in the mining communities? Some argue that they did. The anarchist movement was seen as a largely foreign import, and pre-communist hysteria was fed by images of eastern or southern European anarchists wielding bombs intended to destroy capitalism and the American way of life. The drawn-out trials of Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in the early 1920s were just the culmination of such attitudes toward radicals of this ilk. Yes, immigrant miners may have been involved in violent actions against employers and they would have defied soldiers sanctioned by governments to use violence against strikers and others. But for Lingenfelter, “In the early disputes, when law enforcement was least effective, the miners acted with the greatest restraint. Only as the law grew stronger and the owners began to manipulate it as a tool of repression, and only as the freedom of the frontier faded, did the miners in their frustration turn to violence.”[37]

Although some socialist candidates won office in some mining states in the early 1900s, voting patterns in those years do not always translate to strong support for socialist candidates among immigrants. Bodnar concludes that, “centers of Socialist activity could be found to varying degrees in nearly every immigrant concentration. Yet, seldom were Socialist organizers able to capture more than a fraction of the immigrant working class.”[38] Berman adds this view: “The contributions of the Populists, Socialists, and radical labor unions rested largely in building the agenda for change and, perhaps most of all, in frightening the powers that be into making reforms that helped democratize the political system, increase public control of corporations, and further protection of the working people.”[39]

Did their resistance to the forces that were challenging their work, family and communal lives make a difference? Beik offers an answer that may apply to the mining communities of the West:

The behavior of southern and eastern European immigrants in unionizing and striking in 1906 [in Windber, Pennsylvania] shows not only that new immigrants could be organized under certain circumstances, but also that their original motivation – to work, save money, and return to Europe – was not the single, overriding obstacle to unionization that some labor historians have noted. Their challenges to autocratic rule were not dependent on the arrival of World War I or their decisions to take up permanent residency.[40]


Through the historical maze of racism, reluctant unions, manipulative employers, church interference, political maneouvrings, charges of anarchist terrorism, cultural differences, and traditional male attitudes towards work, families, communities and women, immigrant miners survived and influenced American life. However, the resulting clash of cultures, workplace conflicts, government collusion with employers, and an overall backlash against anything seen to be anti-American would take their toll. 

Mercier argues that in the case of Butte/Anaconda, the abandonment or loss of a sense of community unionism – unions winning the full support of the community – was what nailed the coffin shut on any possibility of a worker-influenced company and a worker-controlled community. Others may shrug and argue that it was the inevitable road to progress in a capitalist world that spelled the failure of unions to win more workers’ rights, more protections and more say. Still others suggest that a political solution to the way workers and employers deal with their problems lies in electing socialists at the ballot box, something that seems more distant than ever in the North American context. Some might even suggest that it was immigrant foreignness that stopped the workers’ revolution in the minefields of western North America from reaching its full potential.

Interestingly, the western mining situation described above had an influence on British Columbia. Immigrant mine workers, either laid off or fed up with mine employers and racist unions or both, migrated north to mining communities in the Kootenays where they found many of their expatriate mining co-workers and many of the same attitudes towards foreigners. Historical geographer Cole Harris provides this snapshot of the immigrant community.

In the early 1890s, most men came from the United States, but probably not more than one-third of them were native-born Americans. Many were Cornishmen (cousin Jacks), expert miners driven from closing Cornish mines, and many others were Irish. There were Scandinavians, Germans, and Italians; and perhaps 10 per cent of the miners who came into the Slocan from the United States had been born in eastern Canada.[41]

What is to be learned from studying the role of immigrants in the mining boomtowns if the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? Mining is still a key to economic development in many parts of the world. There is evidence that the modern companies who pursue the riches underground in African or South American countries are operating very much as the Butte copper kings and their counterparts did in the American West. A look back at what happened in those mining towns, bursting with immigrant workers and their families, offers some insights into how to avoid the mistakes of the past. Sadly, it doesn’t appear that much has been learned about improving social relations over the past century or more of mining history.


Beik, Mildred Allen. The Miners of Windber: The Struggles of New Immigrants for Unionization, 1890s-1930s (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996).  

Berman, David R. Radicalism in the Mountain West, 1890-1920: Socialists, Populists, Miners and Wobblies (Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2007).

Bodnar, John. The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c1985).

Calvert, Jerry W. The Gibraltar: Socialism and Labor in Butte, Montana, 1895-1920 (Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 1993).

Emmons, David M. The Butte Irish: Class and Ethnicity in an American Mining Town, 1875-1925 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1989).  

Harris, Cole. The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change (Vancouver: UBC Press, c1997).

Jensen, Vernon H. Heritage of Conflict: Labor Relations in the Nonferrous Metals Industry up to 1930 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1950).  

Lingenfelter, Richard. The Hardrock Miners: A History of the Mining Labor Movement in the American West, 1863-1893 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974).

Malone, Michael P. The Battle for Butte: Mining and Politics on the Northern Frontier, 1864-1906 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985).

McNelis, Sarah. Copper King at War: The Biography of F. Augustus Heinze (Missoula: University of Montana Press, 1969).

Mercier, Laurie. “‘We Are Women Irish’:  Gender, Class, Religious, and Ethnic Identity in Anaconda, Montana” in Montana, the Magazine of Western History 44 (Winter 1994): 28-41.

Mercier, Laurie. Anaconda: Labor, Community, and Culture in Montana’s Smelter City (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001).

Mercier, Laurie and Gier, Jaclyn, eds. Mining Women: Gender in the Development of a Global Industry, 1670 to 2005 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, c2006).

Morse, Kathryn. The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003).  

Murphy, Mary. Mining Cultures:  Men, Women, and Leisure in Butte, 1914-1941 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997).

Paul, Rodman Wilson. Mining Frontiers of the Far West, 1848-1880 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963).  

Scaturro, Frank. Ulysses S. Grant Interpretive Outline (Duluth, MN: The Ulysses S. Grant Information Center, 2009). http://faculty.css.edu/mkelsey/usgrant/granthist4.html

 White, Richard. The Organic Machine (New York: Hill and Wang, c1995).


[1] Richard. Lingenfelter, The Hardrock Miners: A History of the Mining Labor Movement in the American West, 1863-1893 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 19: “When the smoke and the dust had cleared, the shoveler, or mucker, came in to remove the rock brought down by the blasts….When a rock was too large for the mucker to handle, a miner known as a blackholer was called in to put a hole in it and blast it.”

[2] Kathryn Morse, The Nature of Gold: An Environmental History of the Klondike Gold Rush (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2003), 115-116.

[3] Morse, 125.

[4] Frank Scaturro, Ulysses S. Grant Interpretive Outline (Duluth, MN: The Ulysses S. Grant Information Center, 2009).

[5] John Bodnar, The Transplanted: A History of Immigrants in Urban America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, c1985), 12.

[6] The richest bonanza of the times was named after “a gaunt Canadian fraud,” named Henry T.P. Comstock a.k.a. “Old Pancake,” according to Rodman Wilson Paul in his study of mining towns in the American west. Paul, Rodman W. Mining Frontiers of the Far West, 1848-1880 (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1963) 58.  

[7] Vernon H Jensen, Heritage of Conflict: Labor Relations in the Nonferrous Metals Industry up to 1930 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1950), 4.

[8] Jensen, 9.

[9] Laurie Mercier, Anaconda: Labor, Community, and Culture in Montana’s Smelter City (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), 1.

[10] In her fawning biography of another of the copper kings, Fritz Augustus Heinze, Sarah McNelis, Copper King at War: The Biography of F. Augustus Heinze (Missoula: University of Montana Press, 1969), delivers a portrait of someone who was perhaps adored as much by the non-Irish immigrant workforce as Daly was of the Irish one.

[11] David M. Emmons, The Butte Irish: Class and Ethnicity in an American Mining Town, 1875-1925 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, c1989), 155.

[12] The book title refers to Butte’s nickname as the “Gibraltar of Unionism”.

[13] Jerry W. Calvert, The Gibraltar: Socialism and Labor in Butte, Montana, 1895-1920 (Helena: Montana Historical Society Press, 1993), 4.

[14] Malone, Michael P. The Battle for Butte: Mining and Politics on the Northern Frontier, 1864-1906 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1985), 69.

[15] Mercier, 63.

[16] Mary Murphy, Mining Cultures:  Men, Women, and Leisure in Butte, 1914-1941 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997), xviii.

[17] Murphy, 9.

[18] Murphy, viv.

[19] Laurie Mercier and Jaclyn Gier, eds. Mining Women: Gender in the Development of a Global Industry, 1670 to 2005 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, c2006), 173, note that [In Britain] “Miners’ wives and daughters followed the rural traditions of “white shirting” scab laborers, challenging their manhood with embarrassing catcalls, and sometimes even going so far as pulling the trousers off the men enroute to work.”

[20] Mercier and Gier, 177.

[21] Mercier and Gier, 234.

[22] Several of the titles listed in my References section give detailed accounts of the Copper Wars.

[23] David R. Berman, Radicalism in the Mountain West, 1890-1920: Socialists, Populists, Miners and Wobblies ((Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2007), 22, makes this point.

[24] Richard Lingenfelter, The Hardrock Miners: A History of the Mining Labor Movement in the American West, 1863-1893 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 6.

[25] Bodnar, 96.

[26] Bodnar, 97.

[27] Berman, 21.

[28] Berman, 123, makes this point.

[29] Bodnar, 104,

[30] Mercier, Anaconda, 2.

[31] Mildred Allen Beik, The Miners of Windber: The Struggles of New Immigrants for Unionization, 1890s-1930s (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), 344-345.

[32] Berman, 55.

[33] Mercier and Gier, 173.

[34] Berman, 12.

[35] Berman, 13.

[36] Mercier and Gier, 201.

[37] Lingenfelter, 227.

[38] Bodnar, 108.

[39] Berman, 294-295.

[40] Beik, 345.

[41] Cole Harris, The Resettlement of British Columbia: Essays on Colonialism and Geographical Change (Vancouver: UBC Press, c1997), 201.

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