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Encyclopedia > Ludlow Massacre
Ludlow massacre monument
Ludlow massacre monument

The Ludlow massacre was the death of about 20 people during an attack by the Colorado National Guard on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families, at Ludlow, Colorado on April 20, 1914. This attack was the culmination of a day-long fight between strikers and the militia in which 17 strikers or their family members, three Guardsmen and one bystander were killed. Download high resolution version (727x716, 397 KB)photo by Einar Einarsson Kvaran Ludlow Massacre File links The following pages link to this file: Ludlow Massacre Ludlow Monument Categories: GFDL images ... Download high resolution version (727x716, 397 KB)photo by Einar Einarsson Kvaran Ludlow Massacre File links The following pages link to this file: Ludlow Massacre Ludlow Monument Categories: GFDL images ... It has been suggested that National Guard Bureau be merged into this article or section. ... Ludlow is a ghost town located in Colorado. ... April 20 is the 110th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (111th in leap years). ...

This was the bloodiest event in the 14-month Colorado Coal Strike of 1913-1914. The strike was organized by the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) against the Rockefeller-owned Colorado Fuel & Iron Company as well as the Rocky Mountain Fuel Company (RMF) and the Victor-American Fuel Company (VAF). Ludlow, located 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Trinidad, Colorado, is now a ghost town. The massacre site is now owned by the UMWA, which erected a granite monument in memory of the striking miners and their families who died that day. United Mine Workers of America seal The United Mine Workers (UMW or UMWA) is a United States labor union that represents workers in mining. ... Colorado Fuel and Iron (CFI or CF&I) operated a steel mill in Pueblo, Colorado together with supporting facilities such as coal and iron mines in the region. ... Trinidad is a city located in Las Animas County, Colorado. ... A street corner in the ghost town of Bodie, California. ... Quarrying granite for the Mormon Temple, Utah Territory. ... The Taj Mahal, commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, as a mausoleum for his wife, Arjumand Banu Begum. ...



Mining firms had long been able to attract low-skill labor despite modest wages and stiff cost-cutting policies designed to maintain profits in a competitive industry. This made conditions in the mines very difficult, and often dangerous, for the workers, making this sector a ripe target for union organizers. Colorado miners had attempted to unionize periodically since the state's first strike in 1883. The Western Federation of Miners was involved in often violent organizing activities throughout the 1890s. Beginning in 1900, the UMWA began organizing mines in the western states including southern Colorado. By 1913, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company's (CF&I) operations was a particularly good target for union organizers because of their harsh management tactics under the conservative and distant Rockefellers and other investors. As part of their campaign to break or prevent strikes, the coal companies had lured immigrants, primarily from southern and eastern Europe; people who considered the U.S. mines an attractive opportunity. CF&I's management purposely mixed immigrants of different nationalities in the mines to discourage communication that might lead to organization. 1883 (MDCCCLXXXIII) was a common year starting on Monday (see link for calendar). ... Western Federation of Miners famous flyer entitled Is Colorado in America? The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) was a radical labor union that gained a reputation for militancy in the mine fields of the western United States. ...

As was typical in the industry of that day, miners were paid by tons of coal mined and not reimbursed for "dead work," i.e., laying rails, timbering, and shoring the mines to make them operable. Given the intense pressure to produce, mine safety was often given short shrift. Over 1,700 miners died in Colorado from 1884 to 1912, twice the rate of the national average. Furthermore, the miners felt they were being short-changed on the weight of the coal they mined, arguing that the scales used for paying them were different from those used for coal customers. Miners challenging the weights risked being fired.[citation needed]

Most miners also lived in "company towns" where homes, schools, doctors, clergy, and law enforcement were provided by the company, as well as stores offering a full range of goods that could be paid for in company scrip. However, this became an oppressive environment in which law focused on enforcement of increasing prohibitions on speech or assembly by the miners to discourage union-building activity. Also, under pressure to maintain profitability, the mining companies steadily reduced their investment in the town and its amenities while increasing prices at the company store so that miners and their families experienced worsening conditions and higher costs.[citation needed] Colorado's legislature had passed certain laws to improve the condition of the mines and towns, including the outlawing of the use of scrip, but these laws were poorly enforced. Scrip is any substitute for currency which is not legal tender. ...

Despite all attempts to suppress union activity secret organizing continued by the UMWA in the years leading up to 1913. Once everything had been laid out according to their plan, the UMWA presented, on behalf of coal miners, a list of seven demands:

  1. Recognition of the union as bargaining agent
  2. An increase in tonnage rates (equivalent to a 10% wage increase)
  3. Enforcement of the eight-hour work day law
  4. Payment for "dead work" (laying track, timbering, handling impurities, etc.)
  5. Weight-checkmen elected by the workers (to keep company weightmen honest)
  6. The right to use any store, and choose their boarding houses and doctors
  7. Strict enforcement of Colorado's laws (i.e., mine safety rules, abolition of scrip), and an end to the dreaded company guard system

The major coal companies rejected the demands and in September 1913, the UMWA called a strike. The strike was joined by 90% of the coal miners. Those who struck were promptly evicted from their company homes, and they relocated to various tent villages prepared by the UMWA, with tents built on wood platforms and furnished with cast iron stoves on land leased by the union in preparation for a strike. Most of the strikers believed that the strike would not last more than a week or two, but it stretched into the winter.

A group of Ludlow strikers in front of their tent colony
A group of Ludlow strikers in front of their tent colony

In leasing the tent village sites, the union had strategically selected locations near the mouths of the canyons which led to the coal camps for the purpose of monitoring traffic and harassing replacement workers.[citation needed] Confrontations between striking miners and replacement workers, referred to as "scabs" by the union, often got out of control, resulting in deaths. The company hired the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to help break the strike by protecting the replacement workers and otherwise making life as difficult as possible for the strikers. Baldwin-Felts had a reputation for aggressive strike breaking. They shined searchlights on the tent villages at night and randomly fired into the tents, occasionally killing and maiming people with apparent impunity. They used an improvised armored car mounted with a machine gun that the union called the "Death Special" to patrol the camp's perimeters. The steel covered car was built in the CF&I plant in Pueblo from the chassis of a large touring sedan. Because of frequent sniping on the tent colonies, miners dug protective pits beneath the tents where they and their families could seek shelter. Image File history File links Ludlow_teny_colony_group_shot. ... Image File history File links Ludlow_teny_colony_group_shot. ... Scab can refer to the following: The crust covering a healing wound as a result of coagulation. ... Baldwin-Felts was a private detective agency in the United States, founded in 1900 by William Gibboney Baldwin and Thomas Lafayette Felts and based in Bluefield, West Virginia. ... Strike breaking is the practice of using intimidation, coercion and even murder to break the support for a union strike. ...

Armored car, known as "Death Special"
Armored car, known as "Death Special"

As strike-related violence mounted, Colorado governor Elias M. Ammons, on October 28, called in the Colorado State Militia. (State militias would be renamed the "National Guard" in 1916). At first the militia's appearance calmed the situation. But the sympathies of the militia leaders were quickly seen by the strikers to lie with company management. Militia commander General John Chase had experienced the violent Cripple Creek strike ten years earlier, and imposed a harsh regime on the new situation. On March 10, 1914, the body of a replacement worker was found on the railroad tracks near Forbes. The militia believed that the man had been murdered by the strikers. General Chase ordered the Forbes tent colony destroyed in retaliation. The attack was carried out while the Forbes colony inhabitants were attending a funeral of infants who had died a few days earlier. The attack was witnessed by a young photographer, Lou Dold, whose images of the destruction appear often in accounts of the strike. Image File history File links Ludlow_Death_Car. ... Image File history File links Ludlow_Death_Car. ... The Governor of Colorado is the chief executive of the U.S. state of Colorado. ... Elias Milton Ammons (July 28, 1860 – May 20, 1925) was the Republican governor of Colorado from 1913 to 1915. ... 1628 - The Siege of La Rochelle, which had been ongoing for 14 months, ends with Huguenot surrender 1664 - The Duke of York and Albanys Maritime Regiment of Foot later to be known as the Royal Marines is established. ... Cripple Creek, is a city in Teller County, Colorado; it is the county seat. ... March 10 is the 69th day of the year in the Gregorian Calendar (70th in leap years). ... 1914 (MCMXIV) was a common year starting on Thursday. ...

The strikers persevered until the Spring of 1914. By then, the state had run out of money to maintain the Guard, and was forced to recall them. The Governor and the mining companies, fearing a breakdown in order, agreed to allow the companies to finance a residual militia, which consisted largely of CF&I camp guards now appearing in National Guard uniform.

The massacre

National Guard posing in destroyed tent colony
National Guard posing in destroyed tent colony

On the morning of April 20, the day after Greek Easter celebrated by the many Greek immigrants at Ludlow, three militia men appeared at the camp ordering the release of a man they claimed was being held against his will. This request prompted the camp leader, Louis Tikas, to meet with a local militia commander at the train station in Ludlow village, a half mile (0.8 km) from the colony. While this meeting was progressing two companies of militia installed a machine gun on a ridge near the camp and took a position along a rail route about 800 yards (732 m) south of Ludlow. Anticipating trouble, Tikas ran back to the camp. The miners, fearing for the safety of their families, set out to flank the militia positions. A firefight soon broke out. Image File history File links Ludlow_national_guard_destroyed_camp. ... Image File history File links Ludlow_national_guard_destroyed_camp. ... April 20 is the 110th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar (111th in leap years). ... This article is about the Christian festival. ...

The fighting raged for the entire day. The militia was reinforced by non-uniformed mine guards later in the afternoon. At dusk, a passing freight train stopped on the tracks in front of the Guards' machine gun placements, allowing many of the miners and their families to escape to an outcrop of hills to the east called the "Black Hills." By 7:00 pm, the camp was in flames, and the militia descended on it and began to search and loot the camp. Louis Tikas, the Ludlow camp's main organizer, had remained in the camp the entire day and was still there when the fire started. Tikas and two other men were captured by the militia. Tikas and Lt. Karl Linderfelt, commander of one of two Guard companies had confronted each other several times in the previous months. While 2 militiamen held Tikas, Linderfelt broke a rifle butt over his head. Tikas and the other two captured miners were later found shot dead. Their bodies lay along the Colorado and Southern tracks for three days in full view of passing trains. The militia officers refused to allow them to be moved until a local of a railway union demanded the bodies be taken away for burial.

During the battle, four women and eleven children had been hiding in a pit beneath one tent where they were trapped when the tent above them caught fire. Two of the women and all of the children suffocated. These deaths became a rallying cry for the UMWA, who called the incident the "Ludlow Massacre".

In addition to the fire victims, Louis Tikas and the other men shot dead, there were another half dozen strikers, three company guards, and one militiaman killed in that day's fighting.


Coffins are marched through Trinidad, Colorado, at the funeral for victims of the Ludlow massacre
Coffins are marched through Trinidad, Colorado, at the funeral for victims of the Ludlow massacre

When they got news of what happened at Ludlow, the other camps broke out into rioting. For the next seven days they destroyed mine property and attacked the towns and guards with killing on both sides. This conflict, called the Colorado Coalfield War, was the most violent labor conflict in US history; the reported death toll ranged from 69, in the Colorado government report, to 199 in the investigation ordered by John D. Rockefeller Jr.. Governor Ammons sent a plea to President Wilson, who dispatched federal troops to restore order. They disarmed both sides (displacing, and often arresting, the militia in the process) and reported directly to Washington. Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... Wikipedia does not have an article with this exact name. ... The presidential seal was used by President Hayes in 1880 and last modified in 1959 by adding the 50th star for Hawaii. ... Thomas Woodrow Wilson (December 28, 1856 – February 3, 1924) was the 28th President of the United States (1913–1921). ...

The UMWA finally ran out of money, and called off the strike on December 10, 1914. December 10 is the 344th day (345th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ...

In the end, the strikers failed to obtain their demands, the union did not obtain recognition, and many striking workers were replaced by new workers. Over 400 strikers were arrested, 332 of whom were indicted for murder. Only one man, John Lawson, leader of the strike, was convicted for murder, and that verdict was eventually overturned by the Colorado Supreme Court. Twenty-two National Guardsmen, including 10 officers, were court-martialed. Only Lt. Linderfelt was found guilty of assault for his attack on Louis Tikas, and was given only a light reprimand.


Although the UMWA failed to win recognition by the company, the strike had a lasting impact both on conditions at the Colorado mines and on labor relations nationally. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. engaged labor relations expert and future Canadian Prime Minister W. L. Mackenzie King to help him develop reforms for the mines and towns, which included paved roads and recreational facilities as well as worker representation on committees dealing with working conditions, safety, health, and recreation. There was to be no discrimination of workers who had belonged to unions, and the establishment of a company union. The Rockefeller plan was accepted by the miners in a vote. John D. Rockefeller Jr. ... William Lyon Mackenzie King, PC, LL.B, Ph. ...

A United States Commission on Industrial Relations (CIR), headed by labor lawyer and Democratic activist Frank Walsh, conducted hearings in Washington, collecting information and taking testimony from all the principals, including Rockefeller. The commission's 1,200 page report suggested many reforms sought by the unions, and provided support for bills establishing a national eight-hour work day and a ban on child labor.

The UMWA eventually bought the site of the Ludlow tent colony in 1916. Two years later, they erected the Ludlow Monument to commemorate those who died during the strike. The monument was damaged in May 2003 by unknown vandals. The repaired monument was unveiled on June 5, 2005 with slightly altered faces on the statues.[1] Ludlow Massacre Monument The Ludlow Monument is a granite monument erected at Ludlow, Colorado in 1918 to honor the victims of the Ludlow Massacre. ... 2003 (MMIII) was a common year starting on Wednesday of the Gregorian calendar. ...

Popular American folk singer Woody Guthrie wrote the song "Ludlow Massacre" about the events. The incident is also mentioned by name in the song "Bread and Roses" by folk singer Jon Sirkis, from his album "Songs for Kelly". Woody Guthrie with Guitar Woodrow Wilson Guthrie (July 14, 1912–October 3, 1967), known as Woody Guthrie was an influential and prolific American folk musician noted for his identification with the common man, the poor and the downtrodden, and for his abhorrence of fascism and exploitation. ...

Victims of the massacre

The following individuals died in the massacre, as listed on the Ludlow Monument:

Cellar hole where women and children were trapped during the fire
Cellar hole where women and children were trapped during the fire
  • Louis Tikas. Age: 30 Yrs.
  • James Fyler. Age: 43 Yrs.
  • John Bartolotti. Age: 45 Yrs.
  • Charlie Costa. Age: 31 Yrs.
  • Fedelina Costa. Age: 27 Yrs.
  • Onafrio Costa. Age: 4 Yrs.
  • Frank Rubino. Age: 23 Yrs.
  • Patria Valdez. Age: 37 Yrs.
  • Eulala Valdez. Age: 8 Yrs.
  • Mary Valdez. Age: 7 Yrs.
  • Elvira Valdez. Age: 3 Mo.
  • Joe Petrucci. Age: 4½ Yrs.
  • Lucy Petrucci. Age: 2½ Yrs.
  • Frank Petrucci. Age: 4 Mo.
  • William Snyder Jr.. Age: 11 Yrs.
  • Rodgerlo Pedregone. Age: 6 Yrs.
  • Cloriva Pedregone. Age: 4 Yrs.

Image File history File links Ludlow_strike_cellar_hole. ... Image File history File links Ludlow_strike_cellar_hole. ...

Post-restoration images


  • Adams, G., The Age of Industrial Violence, 1910-1915: The Activities and Findings of the U.S. Commission on Industrial Relations. Columbia University Press, New York, 1966.
  • Beshoar, Barron B., Out of the Depths: The Story of John R. Lawson, a Labor Leader. Colorado Historical Commission and Denver Trades and Labor Assembly, Denver, 1957.
  • Boughton, Major Edward J., Capt. William C. Danks, and Capt. Philip S. Van Cise, Ludlow: Being the Report of the Special Board of Officers Appointed by the Governor of Colorado to Investigate and Determine the Facts with Reference to the Armed Conflict Between the Colorado National Guard and Certain Persons Engaged in the Coal Mining Strike at Ludlow, Colo., April 20, 1914.
  • Chernow, R., Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr., Random House, New York, 1998.
  • Clyne, R., Coal People: Life in Southern Colorado’s Company Towns, 1890-1930. Colorado Historical Society, Denver, 1999.
  • Coal --The Kingdom Below, Trinidad Printing, Trinidad, Colorado, 1992
  • Cronin, W., G. Miles, and J. Gitlin, Becoming West: Toward a New Meaning for Western History, Under an Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past, edited by W. Cronin, G. Miles, and J. Gitlin, W.W. Norton and Company, New York, 1992.
  • Downing, Sybil, Fire in the Hole. University Press of Colorado, Niwot, Colorado, 1996.
  • Farrar, Frederick, Papers of the Colorado Attorney General, Western History/Genealogy Department, Denver Public Library, including Testimony by Capt. Philip S. Van Cise in the Transcript of the Court of Inquiry Ordered by Gov. Carlson in 1915.
  • Foner, Philip S., History of the Labor Movement in the United States, Volume V: The AFL in the Progressive Era, 1910-1915. International Publishers, New York, 1980.
  • Foote, K., Shadowed Ground: America’s Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy. University of Texas Press, Austin, 1997.
  • Fox, M., United We Stand: The United Mine Workers of America, 1890-1990. International Union, United Mine Workers of America, Washington, 1990.
  • Gitelman, H., Legacy of the Ludlow Massacre: A Chapter in American Industrial Relations. University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1988.
  • Long, Priscilla, Where the Sun Never Shines: A History of America's Bloody Coal Industry. Paragon Books, New York, 1991.
  • Mahan, Bill, "The Ludlow Massacre: An Audio History. Water Tank Hill Productions, 1994.
  • Margolis, Eric, Western Coal Mining as a Way of Life: An Oral History of the Colorado Coal Miners to 1914. Journal of the West 24(3), 1985.
  • McGovern, George S., and Leonard F. Guttridge, The Great Coalfield War. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1972.
  • McGuire, R. and P. Reckner, The Unromantic West: Labor, Capital, and Struggle. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology, Salt Lake City, 1998.
  • Memorial Day at Ludlow, United Mine Workers Journal, June 6, 1918.
  • Nankivell, Major John H., History of the Military Organizations of the State of Colorado 1860-1935, Infantry U.S. Army (Senior Instructor, Colorado National Guard), obtained from the Colorado Historical Society, 1935.
  • Papanikolas, Zeese, Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1982.
  • Roth, L., Company Towns in the Western United States, The Company Town: Architecture and Society in the Early Industrial Age, edited by John S. Garner. Oxford University Press, New York, 1992.
  • Saitta, D., R. McGuire, and P. Duke, Working and Striking in Southern Colorado, 1913-1914. Presented at the Society for Historical Archaeology annual meeting, Salt Lake City, 1999
  • Scamehorn, H. Lee, Mill & Mine: The CF&I in the Twentieth Century. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1992.
  • Seligman, E., Colorado’s Civil War and Its Lessons. Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly Newspaper, November 5, 1914.
  • Sinclair, Upton, King Coal. The MacMillan Company, New York, 1917.
  • Sunieseri, A., The Ludlow Massacre: A Study in the Mis-Employment of the National Guard. Salvadore Books, Waterloo, Iowa, 1972.
  • The Coal War. Colorado Associated University Press, Boulder, 1976.
  • The Crisis in Colorado. The Annalist, May 4, 1914.
  • Transcript of the Court Martial of Sgt. P.M. Cullen and Privates Mason and Pacheco, among others, Testimony of Lt. K.M. Linderfelt, Sgt. P. Cullen, and Ray W. Benedict, State of Colorado Archives.
  • Transcript from the Court Martial of Capt. Edwin F. Carson, Testimony of Sgt. Cullen, State of Colorado Archives.
  • The Denver Post: May 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 24, 26, 28, and 30 and June 3, 1914
  • The Trinidad Free Press: April 24 and 29, 1914, and May 9, 1914
  • United Mine Workers of America , An Answer to 'The Report of the Commanding General to the Governor for the Use of the Congressional Committee on the Military Occupation of the Coal Strike Zone by the Colorado National Guard during 1913-1914,’ State of Colorado Archives
  • Vallejo, M. E., Recollections of the Colorado Coal Strike, 1913-1914, La Gente: Hispano History and Life in Colorado, edited by V. De Baca. Colorado Historical Society, Denver, 1998.
  • Walker, M., The Ludlow Massacre: Labor Struggle and Historical Memory in Southern Colorado. Paper presented at the North American Labor History Conference, Detroit, Michigan, 1999.
  • Yellen, S., American Labor Struggles. Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York, 1936.
  • Zinn, H., The Politics of History. Beacon Press, Boston, 1970.
  • Zinn, H., Dana Frank, and Robin D. G. Kelley, Three Strikes: The Fighting Spirit of Labor's Last Century ISBN 0-8070-5013-X

External links

  • The Colorado Coal Field War Project An account of the strike and the assault by the Colorado State National Guard, published by University of Denver's Anthropology department.
  • Phelps-Dodge Mine explosion, 1913. During the time of the Colorado Coalfields Strike (which included Ludlow) this mine in New Mexico exploded, killing 263 men, the 2nd deadliest mine disaster in US history. It was owned by Rockefeller-in-law M. Hartley-Dodge, owner of Remington Arms.[2]
  • Ludlow Massacre - Historical Background Background material prepared by the Colorado Bar for the 2003 Colorado Mock Trial program
  • The Ludlow Massacre on libcom.org/history
  • The lyrics to Woodie Guthrie's Ludlow Massacre are here [3] and the lyrics to Guthrie's closely related 1913 song about copper miners in Calumet, Michigan are here. [4]

See also



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