Italian Hall

This page features multi-media content in regards to the tragic events in Calumet, Michigan, Italian Hall, December 24, 1913:
(We invite you to check often for updates)

Preview of Violence


This letter from a director at the National Erectors Association, a fervently anti-union organization, presages an act of coming violence against striking workers. Dated December 22, 1913, this letter states that a female labor spy will not be called upon to do anything "unwomanly" in the thwarting of "a group of criminal and lawless labor agitators." Just two days before events at Italian Hall, this was a good indication that events at Italian Hall were no accident. Along with a host of other documents presented in the book, we argue that the tragic events of Italian Hall were a terrible climax in a December campaign of intimidation and violence undertaken by the Citizen's Alliance, Houghton County law enforcement, and area mining management to scare and sometimes beat the WFM out of the Copper Country.

The Doors at Italian Hall

The doors at Italian Hall...there is a great deal of mythology surrounding the event and the night of December 24, 1913, the night of the terrible Italian Hall tragedy. Woody Guthrie memorialized the event from an account in Mother Bloor'sautobiograhy -We Are Many-. Guthrie's version of events are captured in the song "1913 Massacre." A version of the song is on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oz7oguguIZE

Perhaps one of the most enduring inaccuracies about the night, and the building, is whether the doors opened inward or outward. We are here to write that the exterior double doors opened outward according to a 1908 Calumet News article. The Calumet News wrote glowingly of the Italian Hall, and included details about the Hall's architecture including specifying that "All doors open outward."

This written, the fateful doors that are portrayed in many images are just part of the Italian Hall tragedy's entire story. The Hall's first floor vestibule, or entrance area, actually had three sets of doors. First, there was the more commonly known set of outward opening double doors that led from the building to Calumet's 7th Street. Second, there was an interior door or set of doors leading from Vairo's saloon to the first floor vestibule. Lastly, there was another set of interior doors, which an architectural historian, local historians, and a Keweenaw National Park Service ranger have determined is a folding double door. 

Historic images of the time, support this finding and Community in Conflict includes their research on the Italian Hall as a physical structure. Thank you to Jeremiah Mason of the Keweenaw National Historical Park for sharing this information.

From this image, taken after the tragic events at Italian Hall, it is clear that the second set of doors just in front of the stairs, is in fact a folding double-door. The more commonly known set of double-doors leading from the building to the street, open outward. While one section of the interior folding double-door is seen slightly to the right of the left exterior door. When looking at the image, it is clear that there is no interior door on the right, and that there are hinges on the interior door at the left. This indicates that the interior door, just before Italian Hall's fateful stairway, was a folding double door. Image courtesy of Michigan Technological University's Copper Country Historical Collections.


Line drawing of the Italian Halll's first floor vestibule. From Keweenaw National Historical Park Archivist Jeremiah Mason's hand-drawn image. Mason, Architectural Historian Kim Hoagland, Keweenaw National Historical Park Historian Jo Urion, and Scott See a graduate of Michigan Technological University's Industrial Archaeology Program, examined historic photographs to determine that the interior door lead to the Italian Hall's stairway was most likely a folding door.


An image from the Finnish immigrant press after events at Italian Hall left little question about who union folks thought had perpetrated the terrible events of that 1913 Christmas Eve.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Post a Comment