1913 Massacre

by admin on October 13, 2012

The documentary film on the Italian Hall disaster of 1913 is finally complete. The movie is called “1913 Massacre” and it is produced and directed by Ken Ross and Louis V. Galdieri. The film reconstructs the events surrounding the disaster through residents’ memories, songs and stories. Nice to see the film finally making the rounds (at least in a few venues). I’m looking forward to seeing it. The event and its aftermath was the inspiration for my song “Ghost Of Calumet”…

The details of the incident are still shrouded in a bit of mystery, but what is known is that the copper miners in the Calumet Michigan area had been on a protracted strike. In support of the families of the miners, a Christmas party was held on the second floor of the Italian Hall in Calumet. In the middle of the party, from downstairs, someone yelled “fire!”. In the ensuing panic and rush down the stairs, 74 people were killed, 59 of them children, smothered on the staircase where bodies piled upon bodies because the doors could not be opened. Some believe it was instigated by thugs hired by the mining bosses and that the doors were held shut.

Woody Guthrie wrote the song “1913 Massacre” in 1941 after reading about the incident in Mother Bloor’s autobiography “We Are Many” (1940).

My great grandfather, Uldrich, was one of the striking miners. My great uncle Ivar, a young boy at the time, was at the party and escaped by jumping out a second story window.

I believe it was in the 1980’s when the town had the building destroyed. The building was apparently structurally sound but a faction of the residents were, I believe, tired of living with the memory of such a horrific tragedy. One resident told me that when they brought in the wrecking ball, when it first swung against the wall, it didn’t even move. He said it was as if the building itself did not want to come down.

“And the ghost of Calumet
Still stands silent in the night
A dark dreadful memory
Of the struggle to unite
And every father’s heart
And every mother’s groan
Lie sealed within her walls
Entombed within her stones”

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