Always on Strike: Frank Little and the Western Wobblies

Frank Little (unionist)
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It looks a lot like the material used in quartz countertops to me. Shortly after Frank had arrived in and delivered a fiery speech, police chief Jere Murphy met with gunmen, likely from Anaconda Mining Company, city officials, and other law enforcement downstairs in the Finlen. I was certain that the topic of their conversation had been Frank.

We pulled into the parking lot to the side of the Finlen and checked in quickly. Unfortunately, the hotel was remodeling portions of the downstairs area where Murphy held his meeting, but its former elegance was still evident. Still, without even unpacking, I had only one thing on my mind. I wanted to meet Frank, finally. In , Butte, Montana, was rumored to have more residents occupying its cemeteries than living on its streets.

It is true that many men in their prime succumbed to mine-related accidents and illnesses, mostly lung diseases. Silicosis, from breathing an accumulation of rock dust, and pneumonia, also caused by sandpapered lungs, abounded. Tuberculosis stealthily invaded poor neighborhoods, causing both old and young to die. I have firsthand experience with the latter since my grandmother and aunt both died from tuberculosis at ages thirty-four and twenty-six, respectively.

My dad always tested positive. Oil camps were not that much different from mining camps. I only had the old photograph that my father had taken years ago. On June 9, , the Granite shaft of the Speculator mine had accidentally caught fire, burning and asphyxiating miners. The city had been mired in protests and blame, with most union families denunciating mine management. It took weeks for all the bodies to be brought to the top, so the city was still mourning its dead when my uncle arrived to assist a new union about five weeks later.

To this day, the accident is recorded as the worst mining calamity in American history. My research told me that the cemetery would be full of men who lived short lives. I recall gazing beyond the memorial to a prairie-like field with purple mountains looming behind, and there I could make out one larger, solitary granite tombstone, with a black fence edging the grave.

Surrounding it was a lake of rusty stakes and a few smaller headstones. How fitting it was that he had been buried among poor, working class men.

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My eyes watered. This had been a journey, indeed, uncovering his life, and I felt like I knew him intimately. Because of its constant visitors, someone, perhaps the IWW, had protected the gravesite. All sorts of items were scattered within the ironwork. I was dismayed at first to see an odd assortment of broken glass, plastic flowers, baby pacifiers, a liquor bottle, etc.

Visitors had evidently left some part of themselves to honor Frank. Others had simply toasted his life.

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Always on Strike: Frank Little and the Western Wobblies [Arnold Stead] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. “[The governor] asked me what. Editorial Reviews. Review. "Today, Frank Little gets remembered as another Wobbly martyr, overshadowed by folksinger and labor organizer Joe Hill. But as.

I decided that I would return to clean up at least the broken glass and trash outside of the grave before I left Butte. Now I was ready to begin my research in Butte, Montana.

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Above Butte is a viewing area and tribute to the Speculator dead from the June 9, , mining catastrophe. After the accident, Frank had pushed for eliminating carbide lanterns in mines. I am uncertain as to how he would have remedied lighting, but when he worked as miner, he used candles, clipped onto holders that could be stuck into the ribs of a stope or tunnel. Both methods of illumination seem dangerous to me.

The former open-mining pit consumed miles of copper-rich tunnels and the poor neighborhoods atop them when Anaconda Copper Mining Company determined a more efficient way to mine copper ore. I had heard that the water was so toxic that mine workers used sound to dissuade migrating Canadian geese from landing in the water.

Just recently, an article appeared on the BBC network reporting geese deaths from the toxic waters. Why the pit has not been cleaned up is unknown to me, but I am certain remediation would entail enormous expense. In the meantime, the Berkeley Pit awaits a proper resolution.

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Poisonville, toxic because of factors beyond mining, was based on Butte. No union workers labored at the edge of the Butte pit at the time of our visit. Today, high above sparse trees and low yellow hills, atop the pine-fringed Continental Divide, stands a ninety-foot-tall white statue. Our Lady of the Rockies spreads her arms over a city that was ripped apart by both unions and copper mining corporations. After visiting the memorial, we drove the surviving neighborhoods where miners and their families had lived. Afterwards we returned to Mountain View Cemetery and wandered among graves, some certainly belonging to the same miners who labored around and in the pit area, their faded names marked by rusty sign holders.

Then I placed red carnations on his grave, certainly not the first red flowers left behind, and said goodbye. All rights reserved. Post 26 I had previously contacted Richard I. Montana Research. The Last of the Hippies. Penny Rimbaud. Yours For Industrial Freedom.

Always on Strike

Eric Chester. Frank Little and the IWW. Jane Little Botkin. The Social Benefits of Education. Jere R. Time Present, Time Past.

Primary Sources

The Phelps Dodge Mining company and its stooge sheriff deputized over 2, men. Book Review pursuing Ralph V. By becoming a regular part of immigrant community life, the IWW earned itself the loyalty of the brutally exploited newly arrived transplants. Phil Gasper. It Happened in the Old West. When allowed to live and work for the community, he is subjected to constant humiliation, injustice and discrimination. At the Check of the power, most of you will remarry on including a space.

Bill Bradley. Transnational Trade Unionism. Peter Fairbrother.

Forgotten History. Bill Haywood and the IWW

Heir to the Empire City. Edward P. Southern Insurgency. Immanuel Ness. John F. Kennedy in Quotations. David B. Anxious Decades: America in Prosperity and Depression, Michael E. Wobblies of the World. Peter Cole. Social Entrepreneurship. Ryszard Praszkier.