Today in History

Today in History: October 3

Anthracite Coal Strike

Breaker Boy
Breaker Boy,
Kingston, Pennsylvania,
[between 1890 and 1910].
Touring Turn-of-the-Century America: Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920

On October 3, 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt met with miners and coalfield operators from the anthracite coalfields in Pennsylvania in an attempt to settle the strike, then in its fifth month. The country relied on coal to power commerce and industry and anthracite or "hard coal" was essential for domestic heating. The miners had left the anthracite fields on May 12, demanding wage increases, union recognition, and a shorter workday. As winter approached, public anxiety about fuel shortages and the rising cost of all coal pushed Roosevelt to take unprecedented action.

When he met with miners and coalfield operators in Washington, Roosevelt became the first president to personally intervene in a labor dispute. Presenting himself as a representative of the millions of people affected by the strike, he urged both parties to resolve their differences and the miners to return to work.

Theodore Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt,
By Popular Demand: Portraits of the Presidents and First Ladies, 1789-Present

Although United Mine Workers of America President John Mitchell agreed to negotiate, the coalfield operators reiterated their opposition to the miners' demands generally and to the union specifically and resisted dealing with the workers' union representatives. Finally, in order to avert what he saw as a national catastrophe, Roosevelt threatened to send military forces to operate the Pennsylvania mines.

On October 23, 1902, the miners returned to work after both sides agreed to settle the strike based on the recommendations of the Anthracite Coal Commission, a body appointed by the president. Ultimately, the miners won a ten percent increase in pay and a nine-hour workday. The United Mine Workers of America, however, did not win recognition from the mine operators. The commission also failed to address the problems of child labor and hazardous working conditions.

President Roosevelt's efforts to end the dispute met with public approval—especially important in an election year. Urging a crowd of New Yorkers to return a Republican majority to Congress that November, Secretary of War Elihu Root declared:

When our President, in his brave and direct way, acting out of his deep feeling for the needs of his people, undertook to get coal for them against the coming winter by urging the substitution of peace for war in the anthracite region, Mr. Hill in New York and Mr. Olney in Boston condemned him, but I have an idea that the people of the country do not agree with them; and I have an idea also that his action will prove in the end to have resulted, not merely in getting the coal, but in making a valuable contribution to the peaceful and reasonable process of development I have been describing.

Speech of Hon. Elihu Root, Secretary of War, at Cooper Union, New York, October 30, 1902.
African American Perspectives: Pamphlets from the Daniel A. P. Murray Collection, 1818-1907

Twelve Years Later: Ludlow

view of low buildings and people in the Ludlow, Colorado landscape
Ludlow Tent Colony,
[1913 or 1914].
History of the American West, 1860-1920: Photographs from the Collection of the Denver Public Library

In 1913, the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA or UMW) attempted to organize the coal miners of John D. Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation in Ludlow, Colorado. An ethnically diverse group which had been galvanized by the murder of labor organizer Gerry Lippiatt, the miners overcame barriers of language and culture and voted to strike.  Their demands included recognition of the UMW, a ten percent increase in wages on the tonnage rates, an eight-hour workday, and the right both to buy provisions outside of company stores and live outside company housing. Evicted from company housing, the miners spent a harsh Colorado winter in tent colonies set up by the UMW. Throughout that winter and into the spring, they remained near the mines, warding off strikebreakers and the armed assaults of the Baldwin-Felts Company. Even after the Colorado National Guard appeared on the scene, lending weight to the company's hired guns, the miners refused to admit defeat. On April 20, 1914, guardsmen began firing on the tent colony. That evening, eleven children and two women died in a fire set by the National Guard. In the wake of the Ludlow Massacre, mine management began to avoid direct confrontation with strikers in favor of negotiated settlements.

Unidentified Coal Miner During UMW Strike Against CA&I, in Ludlow, Colorado.
1913 or 1914.
History of the American West, 1860-1920: Photographs from the Collection of the Denver Public Library

The American Memory collections contain a variety of documents, photographs, and films illuminating the labor situation at the turn of the century.

Chief John Ross

John Ross
John Ross, a Cherokee Chief,
McKenney & Hall, History of the Indian Tribes of North America,
Philadelphia: Daniel Rice & James G. Clark, 1843.
Prints & Photographs Online Catalog

John Ross, long-time leader of the Cherokee Nation, was born on October 3, 1790, in Cherokee territory now part of Alabama. He grew up near Lookout Mountain on the Tennessee-Georgia border. Ross served as president of the Cherokee's National Committee (their legislature) from 1819 to 1826, as delegate to the Cherokee constitutional convention in 1827, as principal chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1828 to 1839, and finally as principal chief of the United Cherokee Nation from 1839 until his death in 1866. In these roles, he successfully led the Cherokee people through some of their most difficult circumstances.

Although his father was Scottish and his mother was of mixed descent, John Ross grew up as a full-fledged member of the Cherokee community. Known as Tsan Usdi (Little John) in his youth, he acquired the Cherokee name Kooweskoowe at adulthood. His parents also provided him with a European-based education, at first through a private tutor at home and later at an academy in South West Point (now Kingston), Tennessee. Thus Ross learned to function fully in white society while maintaining strong Cherokee ties. He later used his knowledge of both cultures to his peoples' advantage during repeated negotiations with the U.S. government.

By 1816 when he entered politics as a Cherokee delegate to Washington, D.C., John Ross was a successful merchant with a wife and several children. Having fought with Andrew Jackson in the Creek War of 1813-14, he went on to establish a ferry and warehouse for his trading firm at Ross' Landing, now Chattanooga, on the Tennessee River. Ross also inherited a family home at Rossville, now in Georgia, where he increasingly took on the role of a southern planter. By the time that he moved to Head of Coosa (now Rome, Georgia) in 1827, Ross owned nearly 200 acres of farmland worked by slaves and was one of the Cherokee Nation's wealthiest men.

Despite the encroachment of white settlers and extensive cessions of their territory, by the early nineteenth century the Cherokee people still held a sizeable tract of land spanning parts of southern Tennessee, northern Alabama, northern Georgia, and western North Carolina. Following the acquisition of the Louisiana Territory by the U.S. in 1803, many Americans—not the least of them President Thomas Jefferson—sought to move the Cherokees along with other eastern tribes to unincorporated land west of the Mississippi River. The Cherokees' adoption of agricultural practices, a written alphabet, and a constitutional form of government all were intended to accommodate Europeans and forestall relocation. By 1830, however, discovery of gold on Cherokee land, paired with Georgia's attempts at legislative annexation and the U.S. Indian Removal Act, made that relocation look increasingly inevitable.

Map of the Former Territorial Limits of the Cherokee "Nation of" Indians,
C. C. Royce, 1884.
Map Collections

John Ross led a bold attempt to resist forced removal through legal proceedings in Washington. In two Supreme Court cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832), the Cherokees challenged Georgia laws intended to expel them from their land. While the court first ruled that Indian tribes were "domestic dependent nations" over which it had no legal jurisdiction, it later reversed itself, writing that the Cherokee Nation "is a distinct community…in which the laws of Georgia can have no force…The whole intercourse between the United States and this nation is, by our Constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United States." Yet, the Supreme Court had no way to enforce its stand and President Andrew Jackson was sympathetic to the cause of removal.

Factionalism within the Cherokee community also grew. Late in 1835, a small group of Cherokees, led by members of the Watie and Ridge families, signed a treaty in Ross' absence ceding all tribal land to the U.S. government in exchange for money and territory further west. Though Ross protested these events in a petition to Congress, the treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate with a one-vote margin in May 1836. This gave the Cherokees just two years to get off their land.

By the summer of 1838, Ross found himself leading  his people through the harrowing process of military eviction from their ancestral homes. U.S. government logistics were poor: there were three to five deaths a day from illness and drought among the first groups departing by boat. For the majority who waited until autumn, the journey, now organized by Ross, became a challenging thousand-mile march through freezing winter weather. An estimated 4,000 Cherokees died on the journey—more than one-fifth of the total population—including John Ross' wife Quatie, who succumbed to pneumonia at Little Rock. Now known as the Trail of Tears, this Cherokee experience of removal is remembered as a tragic low point in U.S.-tribal relations.

While a small group of Cherokees remained in Georgia, the majority of the tribe, with Ross as their leader, began life anew in what is now Oklahoma. There, Ross helped craft the 1839 Constitution of the United Cherokee Nation, with its capital established at Tahlequah in 1841. Ross again was elected principal chief. He married Mary Brian Stapler, a young Quaker woman, in 1844. By the 1850s, the Oklahoma Cherokees had a national press, a free public school program, and a unified political system.

During the Civil War, Ross called for the Cherokee Nation to maintain neutrality, but reluctantly agreed to sign a treaty with the Confederacy due to pressure from bordering states. He soon traveled with his family to Washington, however, and remained there for the rest of the war. In September 1862, John Ross met with President Lincoln to explain that he was coerced into signing the treaty with the Confederates.

manuscript letter
John Ross to Abraham Lincoln [detail],
letter requesting passports for his relatives,
September 7, 1862.
Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress

The divisive sentiments of the Civil War again threatened to split the Cherokee tribe, but John Ross worked to reunite them and protect their land. Just days before his death he learned that the Treaty of 1866 would secure permanent land rights for his people at last.

On the Reservation, Cherokee, NC
On the Indian Reservation, Cherokee, N. C.,
H. W. Pelton, 1909.
Taking the Long View: Panoramic Photographs, 1851-1991

Land of the South Slavs

John Botica playing the svirala, portrait, photograph
John Botch Playing the Svirala,
between 1938-1939.
California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell, 1938-1940

The Kingdom of Yugoslavia, "Land of the South Slavs," was formed on October 3, 1929. It included the regions of Serbia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia. Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia declared their independence from Yugoslavia in 1991; Bosnia and Herzegovina did so the following year. The republics of Serbia and Montenegro declared a new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in April 1992; Montenegro and Serbia became separate independent nations in June and October 2006, respectively.

In 1938 and 1939, folklorist Sidney Robertson Cowell made several sound recordings and photographs of Croatian-American singers and performers in Woodside, San Mateo, and Mountain View, California. The sound recordings include Dalmatian dance music, Serb-Croatian oral epic songs, and instrumental selections on the gusle, the misnice, the svirala, the lirica, and the dvorgrle.

two Slavic musical instruments
Misnice and dvorgrle,
Photograph, [1939].
California Gold: Northern California Folk Music from the Thirties Collected by Sidney Robertson Cowell

  • To listen to Cowell's recordings, browse the list of items under the heading Croatian. Photographs of the musicians and their instruments also are available.
  • View a Glossary of Musical Instruments to learn more about the instruments played in Cowell's ethnographic field collection. Visit the Dayton C. Miller Flute Collection and search on Yugoslavia to see images of the svirala and dvoynice.
  • Learn more about the history of the former Yugoslavia and the countries that were a part of it in Yugoslavia (former): a country study (December 1990), one of about 100 studies available as part of the Library of Congress Country Studies program.
  • See an award-winning quilt representing the former Yugoslav city of Dubrovnik before damage was incurred during Croatia's 1991 struggle for independence. The artist sought to make a statement about wartime destruction of beautiful architecture.
  • Search on Yugoslavia and Croatia in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog for numerous images relating to those terms—including people, buildings, and cartoons.