I’ve been to Ludlow. To the east, the Colorado prairie stretches to the sunrise. To the west, the foothills of the Spanish Peaks rise up. Beneath them lies the black rock, coal. Coal that fueled the industrial revolution. Coal that made rich men richer. Coal that made the miners poorer. Coal that killed them.
In the southern Colorado coal fields during the latter part of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, miners died at twice the national mortality rate.
The companies owned the coal. They owned the houses that the miners and their families lived in. They owned the stores where the miners bought food and supplies with the script the mine owners issued as pay for the workers’ labor—not money that could be used elsewhere. The companies owned the miners, body and soul.
In September of 1913, 12,000 miners went out on strike.
The mine companies kicked them out of their houses. The United Mine Workers of America erected tent colonies on the plains at the mouths of the canyons. Ludlow was the biggest tent colony, housing 1,200 striking miners and their families.
The mine owners hired the Baldwin-Felts Detective agency to break the strike. They bought the local law enforcement to help, too.
But the striking miners refused to give in.
Violence between the striking miners and the mine companies reached the point where the Governor of Colorado sent in the National Guard to act as peace keepers. However, it wasn’t long before the National Guard aligned with the mine owners. Tension and violence rapidly escalated, heading to an inevitable conclusion: