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The Ludlow Massacre: A Photograph Album from Colorado’s Coalfield War

Wallace Stegner wrote that it was “one of the bleakest and blackest episodes of American labor history” (1991:xvii).  Howard Zinn described it as “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history” (1990:79).  The event we know today as the Ludlow Massacre, which pitted a tent colony of striking coal workers and their families against both the hired gunmen of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company and the Colorado National Guard, unfolded on April 20, 1914.  By day’s end no fewer than 19 people lay dead: one guardsmen, five miners, and thirteen women and children, most of whom had suffocated as they hid in makeshift cellar pits while National Guard troops set their tents afire.  Over the next week-and-a-half, in what came to be called the Ten Days War, another three dozen or more men were killed in heavy fighting between the strikers and the guardsmen and militia–fighting that would have continued much longer had President Woodrow Wilson not used federal troops to put an end to the violence.  Ludlow and the Ten Days War would prove the crescendo of the Colorado Coalfield War, generally recognized as America’s most violent labor conflict.

Primary source materials pertaining to any aspect of the labor uprising, particularly Ludlow itself, are extremely rare.  This photograph album, compiled by a member of the Colorado National Guard’s signal corps, is thus of the utmost significance for the study of American labor movements in the early 20th century.  Annotated throughout, it contains more than 135 photographs that document the period from October 1913 through April 1914 and the immediate aftermath of the massacre.  It appears to be the only surviving record of its kind.

For more details, see Item 25 in Catalogue 6.

[Colorado–Ludlow Massacre]: [ALBUM COMPILED BY A MEMBER OF THE COLORADO NATIONAL GUARD SIGNAL CORPS CONTAINING 137 PHOTOGRAPHS OF THE COAL STRIKE AT LUDLOW, COLORADO, FROM OCTOBER 1913 TO APRIL 1914]. [Ludlow and Trinidad, Colorado, October 29, 1913, to April 20, 1914 ].  137 silver gelatin photographs, most measuring 5 x 3 or 3 x 2 inches; most images captioned in white ink on album page or labelled in the negative.  Album measures 9 1/2 x 7 in. (24 x 18 cm).  Album spine perished but pages holding well, edge wear to front and rear covers.  Front cover  titled “WAR!”  Some images lightly faded but otherwise in excellent condition.  Overall about very good.