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Lyr Add: 1913 Massacre (Woody Guthrie)


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(origins) Origins: 1913 Massacre (Woody Guthrie) (18)
Lyr Req: 1913 Massacre (Woody Guthrie) (28)
(origins) 1913 Massacre - Historical Background? (35)
Lyr/Chords Req: 1913 massacre (4) (closed)
Guthrie's 1913 Massacre (5) (closed)
Lyr Req: 1913 Massacre (Woody Guthrie) (7)
Lyr/Chords Req: 1913 Massacre (Woody Guthrie) (7)

14 Jan 00 - 01:16 AM
northfolk/al cholger 14 Jan 00 - 06:59 PM
Big Mick 15 Jan 00 - 09:52 PM
Art Thieme 26 Feb 01 - 01:39 AM
Rick Fielding 27 Feb 01 - 12:45 AM
Big Mick 27 Feb 01 - 01:18 AM
SINSULL 27 Feb 01 - 09:23 AM
catspaw49 27 Feb 01 - 11:01 AM
Art Thieme 27 Feb 01 - 01:37 PM
Art Thieme 27 Feb 01 - 01:41 PM
mkebenn 27 Feb 01 - 02:15 PM
MAG (inactive) 27 Feb 01 - 02:35 PM
Walking Eagle 16 May 01 - 11:40 AM
Walking Eagle 16 May 01 - 11:42 AM
Irish sergeant 16 May 01 - 09:44 PM
Jim Dixon 09 Nov 11 - 10:05 AM
GUEST 04 Apr 13 - 11:24 AM
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Subject: Lyr Add: THE 1913 MASSACRE (Woody Guthrie)
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 01:16 AM

(Woody Guthrie)

Take a trip with me in nineteen thirteen
To Calumet, Michigan, in the copper country.
I'll take you to a place called Italian Hall
And the miners are having their big Christmas ball.

I'll take you in a door, and up a high stairs.
Singing and dancing is heard everywhere.
I'll let you shake hands with the people you see
And watch the kids dance round the big Christmas tree.

You ask about work and you ask about pay.
They'll tell you they make less than a dollar a day,
Working the copper claims, risking their lives,
So it's fun to spend Christmas with children and wives.

There's talking and laughing and songs in the air,
And the spirit of Christmas is there everywhere.
Before you know it, you're friends with us all
And you're dancing around and around in the hall.

Well, a little girl sits down by the Christmas tree lights
To play the piano, so you gotta keep quiet.
To hear all this fun you would not realize
That the copper-boss thug-men are milling outside.

The copper-boss thugs stuck their heads in the door.
One of them yelled and he screamed, "There's a fire!"
A lady, she hollered, "There's no such a thing!
Keep on with your party, there's no such a thing."

A few people rushed, and it was only a few.
"It's just the thugs and the scabs fooling you."
A man grabbed his daughter and he carried her down
But the thugs held the door and he could not get out.

And then others followed, a hundred or more,
But most everybody remained on the floor.
The gun-thugs they laughed at their murderous joke,
While the children were smothered on the stairs by the door.

Such a terrible sight I never did see.
We carried our children back up to their tree.
The scabs outside still laughed at their spree,
And the children that died there were seventy-three.

The piano played a slow funeral tune
And the town was lit up by a cold Christmas moon.
The parents they cried and the miners they moaned,
"See what your greed for money has done."

Note: In Calumet, Michigan, in 1913 hired copper company thugs broke up a striker's Christmas party by shouting "fire", and then barring the door. In the panic hat ensued, 73 children were smothered to death. (According to Woody) There seems to be no doubt that the tragedy occurred, but the question of responsibility is undecided.
@union @work @death @Xmas

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: northfolk/al cholger
Date: 14 Jan 00 - 06:59 PM


This event did in fact happen at the Italian Hall in Calumet, and is well documented in photo and journal. It has been a few years but I recall having seen photos of Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood and other Labor Leaders of historical distinction who attended the funeral cortege of what I also recall to have actually been 72 children.

Again the facts are sketchy, but it is reported that an agent of the copper company shouted into the hall that there was a fire. Panic ensued and as children ran down the stairway to the front door, which opened in and not out as is now the law for public egress, they were trapped, and were crushed and suffocated. There was no fire.

For a number of years there was a campaign to Save Italian Hall, which failed.

There also was a nice little Labor Museum in Rock Michigan, halfway between Escanaba and Calumet, which housed much of that local lore. It was privately maintained and when the owners could no longer maintain it, they auctioned the memoribilia.

Most people in Michigan have a lower peninsula chauvinism, and don't realize that the U P was more the center of finance and industry in the state, and at one time Calumet was considered to become the state capitol.

and yes I am a troll, but am in recovery!

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: Big Mick
Date: 15 Jan 00 - 09:52 PM

Right on, Brother Al. The incident expressed in this song is indeed true. When Italian Hall was torn down, many of us got bricks from it. One of those now hangs on a plaque in the vestibule of The Michigan State AFL-CIO. Every time I walk by it, I kiss my fingers and touch the brick. And I say the last line of Woody's song. "See what your greed for money has done". I am working out of that building right now, so that stone is getting a lot of attention.

Big Mick

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: Art Thieme
Date: 26 Feb 01 - 01:39 AM


Here's an article I picked up in 1982 when I was up in the U.P. to do a concert in Ironwood, Michigan. It was in the Daily Mining Gazette newspaper out of Calumet, Mich.

by R.C. Peterson and Carl Peterson (Gazette writers)

Tuesday, March 16, 1982

CALUMET--Was it just a couple of drunken men out on the town and looking for fun, who were responsible for the deaths of 72 people on Christmas Eve of 1913 at the Italian Hall in Calumet?

According to Leslie Chapman of Calument that's exactly what one of the two men told him in a hotel lobby in Butte, Montana 58 years ago.
The Italian Hall tragedy is one of the saddest chapters in the history of the Copper Country, written at the height of a bitter copper mining strike on the Keweenaw Peninsula. The popular opinion then and for years afterward was that the strikebreakers had falsely yelled fire at the crowded hall as a heinous act of vengence against the union.

Men women and children ran to the stairwell leading down and out of the hall, which still stands on 7th Street in Calument. The doors opened inward. The first people that reached the bottom of the stairs tried to push their way out and it wasn't long before the stairwell was filled with bodies---men, women and children---all people who had been suffocated to death.

Chapman recently told the story of the confession to Lawrence Westola of Calumet, whose father, John, was a victim of the tragedy. Westola said he ran into Chapman downtown. While the two were talking, Westola happened to mention that his father had died at the hall that Christmas Eve. Chapman then told him of the hotel encounter in Butte, Westola said.

Chapman, who will be 88 next Sunday, confirmed the story this week.
He said he was in Butte in 1924---11 years after the tragedy---for a trial in which a Copper Country man was suing the Anaconda Copper Co. At the time, Chapman was a security officer for the Calumet and Hecla Mining Co.
News of the trial had appeared in the Butte newspaper and it was mentioned that several persons from Michigan's Copper Country would be in town. Chapman said that a sickly looking man "in his 50s or 60s" came up to him as he sat in the hotel lobby.
"This fella got to talking to me and he asked me if I was from the Copper Country. I said that I was and he said, "I've got a confession to make. Do you remember the tragedy they had in 1913 in Calumet, where all those people died? Well, I was there at the time with my partner. We were both single men and drunk and thought we'd have some fun. As we walked by the hall, we decided to yell "fire" and watch the people come down. We didn't know it would turn out bad. We both left town afterward.----My doctor told me I have a few weeks to live as I have tuberculosis and I want to get that out of my mind."
Chapman said he asked the man his name, but the man told him it didn't make any difference.
"People have wondered why it happened and I wanted to relieve my mind," the man said, according to Chapman.
Chapman said he may have mentioned the man's story to a few friends when he returned to Copper Country about a week later, he said, but he didn't make any kind of an announcement, he said.
"I was too busy with other things those days," Chapman said. Anyway, I don't like notoriety."
Chapman said the man also told him his partner had been killed in a mining accident about a year earlier in Butte.

(Art Thieme)

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: Rick Fielding
Date: 27 Feb 01 - 12:45 AM

This is fascinating. Thanks guys. Sometimes when you're busy with real life it's easy to miss the good 'uns here. Any more information on the Hall or the incident?


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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: Big Mick
Date: 27 Feb 01 - 01:18 AM

Damn, Bro Art. If this bears out, it certainly casts a whole new light on the song and the incident. I am going to be busy tracking the story. Going to check it out with some folks I know. Thanks for sharing, my friend.

All the best,

Big Mick

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
Date: 27 Feb 01 - 09:23 AM

I believe Ivan sang this as part of his concert. He thanked Mick for teaching it to him. It was one of the more moving moments that night.

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: catspaw49
Date: 27 Feb 01 - 11:01 AM

Interesting story. I've been reading what I could find on the net and most sites state that no one was ever found and the crime remains unsolved. Several also make allusion to both the story Woody told and also the story Art has passed on from the paper. The story that a couple of "drunken revelers" is mentioned several times. Either way, at the time it was generally acknowledged that the perpetrators were "company men" though some witnesses said they could not ID them. Thanks Art, for bringing this one up for investigation. I'll be looking forward to hearing from Mick.........Gawd, I do love the song though. Here are a few web sites:

Italian Hall Disaster

Italian Hall Story

Another account with an Adobe Link to the newspaper story

Historical Society Marker

Pictures from the Calumet Library

Michigan Historical Museum Info on Copper Mining


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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: Art Thieme
Date: 27 Feb 01 - 01:37 PM

Before the place was levelled I took several great photos of the old Italian Hall. Charlie Maguire, a topical singer of folksongs, "entered" the place once back in the 80s through a boarded up window if I remember right. Found fascinating stuff stll just laying around there.

Mark Ross, a modern Wobbly from Butte, Montana, called me yesterday after seeing this and said he doubted the tale. Mark said pretty much, Ninety year old guys are coming out of the woodwork all the time to give their spin on things just to make waves before they kick the bucket.

Well, my brother interviews people who "say" they were abducted by aliens. Generally it seems a certain percentage of the folks REALLY had some kind a of a traumatic experience that they must tell someone---anyone---about before they die. Nobody they tried to tell before would take them seriously on any level at all.

Could be that, in this case of the Italian Hall, it'd be like goring a treasured and politically correct oxen to even entertain the notion that the newer take might be accurate.

I like the old story too---'cause I like the song (as done by Ramblin' Jack Elliott-- but the truth is as elusive as a greased pig or a greased football. Both are pork but they are swines of a different color.

Art Thieme

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: Art Thieme
Date: 27 Feb 01 - 01:41 PM

Whatever that meant ;-)


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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: mkebenn
Date: 27 Feb 01 - 02:15 PM

Art, write the book Mike

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: MAG (inactive)
Date: 27 Feb 01 - 02:35 PM

It's also possible that the old guy was kicking up dust, seeing as how there was a lawsuit in progress even as he spoke. The reporter was company security: unless you know him personally, I question his motives too. -MA

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 16 May 01 - 11:40 AM

Anybody know the chord arrangement for this song? I would greatly appreciate learning how to play it.


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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: Walking Eagle
Date: 16 May 01 - 11:42 AM

OOPS! I forgot to say guitar chords. WE

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Subject: RE: 1913 Massacre
From: Irish sergeant
Date: 16 May 01 - 09:44 PM

A fascinating bit of history. Check the old dodger's story though and then write the book!!! Kindest reguards, Neil

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 1913 Massacre (Woody Guthrie)
From: Jim Dixon
Date: 09 Nov 11 - 10:05 AM

Pop Wagner, a folksinger and friend of mine, told me he has a brick from Italian Hall—an odd thing to keep as a souvenir, it seems to me, since you can't prove it's from Italian Hall.

I don't remember the details of how he got it, but I'll bet it had something to do with Charlie Maguire; I know they are friends and have performed together; in fact, they recently recorded an album of Woody Guthrie songs together, along with Tony Glover.

He also told me there were Christmas decorations still in the building right up until it was torn down. Apparently it had been closed up the whole time. Maybe he heard that from Charlie.

It's a shame the building wasn't preserved as a monument or museum. I think it's typical, though, especially in small towns, that when something awful like this happens, the local residents feel it's a stain on their reputation, and they'd rather have it be forgotten.

Keeping a brick makes a little more sense to me if you think of it as a protest against the fact that the building wasn't preserved.

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Subject: RE: Lyr Add: 1913 Massacre (Woody Guthrie)
Date: 04 Apr 13 - 11:24 AM

Read Steve Lehto's book, Death's Door. He provides convincing evidence that the doors opened outward, giving credence to Woody Guthrie's version of the events.

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