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Highlands Ranch High School - Mr. Sedivy
Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Colorado History

- Colorado History -
Cripple Creek District Labor Strikes

The Strike of 1903 - 1904

Colorado City
The real beginning of the great strike of 1903-04 had nothing to do with the mines of Cripple Creek at all. This labor war cost the state of Colorado many lives and millions of dollars not to mention embarrassment at a national level. The strike of 1903-04 started in the ore-reducing mills in Colorado City, forty miles from Cripple Creek. These three mills were operated mostly by non-union men. In 1902, the W.F.M started organizing the men and by 1903 the union thought it was strong enough to make demands for higher wages and shorter hours.

Cripple Creek Mine Shaft
Mine workers crowd around the head of a shaft and pack into elevator cages for
the ride down to a gold mine at Cripple Creek.

What tremendous egos the W.F.M. leadership must have had when you consider that they only had a little over one-half of the men in Colorado City as union members. Men were assaulted, threats were made and the governor ordered in the troops. The W.F.M. mill strike in Colorado City was failing miserably. As a counter move the federation went to Cripple Creek and served notice upon the mine owners who were shipping ore to Colorado City that the mills were "unfair" and that such shipments must be discontinued. Those mines were shut down, their men refusing to work.

The Unfair Mill
In the beginning, only those mines shipping to the "unfair" mill; the Standard, were affected. When that measure failed, only those mines shipping ore to Colorado City were closed. But in August the call came to close, not only the mines shipping ore to the "unfair mill," but those shipping to "fair mills," as well as those treating their own ore. In fact the whole industry was paralyzed. This was a wholesale walkout, not a strike.

Cripple Creek stock certificate
Cripple Creek Placer Mining Company stock certificate from 1892.
Click the $1 share to view an enlargement.

You will hear from the W.F.M. that the sole reason for the Cripple Creek strike of 1903-04 was for three dollars of pay for an eight-hour work day. This cannot be true because as I outlined earlier, this issue was already settled in the strike of 1893-94. My view is that the the strike was socialism vs the free market system. The W.F.M. wanted to gain control of the legislature and government of the state through political action. They were in support of the doctrine of socialism.

A bit paranoid, you think? An interview with William Haywood, secretary-treasurer of the W.F.M., conducted by Walter Wellman who was a reporter with the Chicago Record-Herald, will illustrate my point. The following interview took place just after the end of the 1904 labor war:

"Why do you think the state administration and the mine owners wanted to destroy your organization?"

"They wanted to wipe us out because we had two settled purposes in view, namely: First- to secure an eight-hour law and higher wages; second- to obtain possession of the government through political action."

"Then you desire to to make yourselves masters of of the legislature and the executive government of the states which you have strength?"

"Certainly. That is one of the main chief aims of our organization. We desire to obtain control of the government that we may improve the condition of the working people generally."

William "Big Bill" Haywood
William "Big Bill" Haywood was a 6'3" Soviet Russian immigrant. Haywood apparently had developed Marxist convictions early on in 1902. As executive secretary of the W.F.M., he was headquartered in Denver. He started upending the Federations democratic structure so that he could run things from the top without ratification by the members. This enabled Haywood to call for the strike at the Standard mine in Colorado City in August 1903, and the subsequent strike in the Cripple Creek District.

Governor Peabody
The mine owners in Cripple Creek were ready this time. Anti-union forces had prevailed in the election of Governor J. H. Peabody in 1902. Peabody was a conservative Republican. Peabody, unlike Waite, sided with the mine owners, as well as the financiers who backed the owners. Governor Peabody said, "The Western Federation of Miners produced more trouble and expense than all other causes combined, including the Indian Wars." He also stated, "We made war on the W.F.M. because it first made war on our society!"

Cripple Creek Police Department in 1901
Cripple Creek Police Department in 1901

The war in the Cripple Creek District was on! For almost a year the conflict continued. From August 10, 1903 to August 1, 1904, the situation went from bad to worse. It started out with petty crime, beating of men, intimidation of women, threats to assassinate. Then it grew into actual assassinations, murder, boycotts, persecutions, and bombings.

This was followed by martial law enforced by the state militia, the absolute rule of a military dictator, imprisonment, the exile of guilty as well as innocent men by force, and the crushing of organized labor, then at last, came peace.

Cripple Creek District Labor Strikes:
| The Western Federation of Miners / State Militia |
| The 1893 - 1894 Strike | The Strike of 1903 - 1904 |
| The Mine Owners Association |
| Crimes and Military Rule in the Cripple Creek District |
| Marshall Law in Cripple Creek District / End of the Strike |

Early Cripple Creek District
| Photos, Fire, and Life in Cripple Creek |
| Other Colorful Towns in the Cripple Creek District:
Gillett - Colorado's Only Bullfight, Victor, Independence
| A Guide to the Miners' Gritty Lingo |

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- Colorado History In Depth -
Lecture Notes, Reading, and Information:

| The Cheyenne Migration to Colorado |
| The Gratlan Affair, Massacre, Fort Laramie Treaty |

The Cheyenne Social Club
| A Cheyenne War Story: Wolf Road, the Runner |
| Cheyenne Traditions and Beliefs, Sacred Stories |
| Horses, Warriors, War Pipe, Sweatlodge Ceremony |
| Cheyenne War Parties and Battle Tactics |
| The Scalp Dance and Other Cheyenne Dances |

Fort Union
| The Sante Fe Trail and Fort Union |
| Sumner - Ninth Military Department / The First Fort Union |
| Early Arrivals to Fort Union, Daily Life at Fort Union |
| Captain Grover - The New Fort Union, the Confederate Threat |
| Fort Union Arsenal, William Shoemaker, End of Fort Union |

Americans from the East
| Thomas Jefferson, the Louisiana Purchase |
| The Expedition of Zebulon Pike |
| Pikes Peak or Bust / Colorado Gold Rush |

Colorado's Role in the US Civil War
| The Civil War, Fort Wise / Fort Lyon |
| Mace's Hole, Colonel Canby, F.C.V.R. | Fort Weld |
| The Pet Lambs, John Chivington |
| General Henry Sibly, Battle of Valverde, Fort Union |

More Colorado History Information
| Bent's Fort Photos, Personalities, Plans, and More |

| What Was Easter Like at Bent's Fort? |
| Colorado Trivia, Miscellaneous Old Photos,
Western Personalities, Forts, and More

| Lullabies for Jittery Cows - Cowboy Ballads |
| Heraldry of the Branding Iron |
| Project Aims to Clear Infamous Cannibal, Alferd Packer |
Lead Gives Alferd Packer's Story More Weight |
| Legendary Colorado Love Stories: Baby Doe Tabor & More |
| Colorado Pioneer Women: Elizabeth Byers |
| Early Denver Jokes / The History of April Fools' Day |

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Highlands Ranch High School 9375 South Cresthill Lane Highlands Ranch, Colorado 80126 303-471-7000

Mr. Sedivy's History Classes
| Colorado History | American Government | Advanced Placement Modern European History | Rise of Nation State England | World History |
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