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Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection: Colorado Mine Strike, 1927-1928

Interpretive exhibit examining the historical and cultural context of the the Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection at the Labor Archives of Washington, University of Washington Libraries Special Collections.

The Story

In 1925, Colorado mine owners responded to an economic downturn by reducing wages. As the harsh winter of 1927-1928 set in, coal miners initiated a strike, demanding better wages and improved working conditions. The IWW, known for its history in organizing miners during previous mining conflicts, played a pivotal role in supporting the striking workers. However, mine owners took an aggressive stance and hired armed men to assault the IWW's Trinidad, Colorado union hall and Walsenburg branch halls. This attack in Walsenburg resulted in a shooting incident, leaving its mark on the unfolding events.

Within the IWW Photograph Collection, there are images of the victims of these confrontations. The captions written on the back of these photographs provide poignant insights into the gravity of the situation, conveying the struggles and sacrifices faced by those involved in this pivotal labor dispute.

Wolsenburg IWW Hall Shooting Victims

Caption: "Murdered by Colorado State Police, Columbine Mine, Colorado 1927"

Caption: "Murdered by Colorado State Police, Columbine Mine, November 21st, 1927 Colorado"


Primary Sources

Industrial Workers of the World Seattle Joint Branches Records, 1905-1950

Manuscript collection of IWW materials housed within UW Special Collections.

Of particular interest, please explore the following:

  • Box/Folder
    • 4/3-4/8: Documents related to the Colorado Mine Strike.
    • 4 /3: Clippings
    • 4/5: Correspondence, reports, and minutes from the Industrial Commission of Colorado
    • 4/6-4/7: Court papers
    • 4/8: Reports and general correspondence

Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection


For additional resources, consider referring to the following article:

Bayard, Charles J. 1963. "The 1927-1928 Colorado Coal Strike". The Pacific Historical Review. 32 (3): 235-250.



The Telling Captions

Captions from the back of the photographs offer a chilling glimpse into the events:

  1. "Walsenburg striking coal miners gathered in front of their hall following the tragic shooting on January 12th, 1928. The single-story building marks the location of Chavaz's murder. The adjacent structure houses the strike committee, with the upper half being the site where State police claimed Chavaz was killed. The stairway leading to the upper floors was also riddled with bullets from a machine gun. - THE SPECTATOR"

  2. "The lifeless bodies of Celestino Martinez, aged 15 (front), and Klementi Chavaz, aged 41, victims of a brutal murder on January 12th, 1928, in Walsenburg, Colorado. Martinez was shot in the back, with the bullet exiting at mid-rib. He was shot a block away from the hall. Chavaz sustained a grievous injury, with the upper left portion of his head blown off. - THE SPECTATOR"

  3. "The image portrays the lifeless body of K. Chavaz, lying in a pool of blood at Walsenburg hall on January 12, 1928. This is the man whom State Police claim was shot in the upper story of an adjoining hall and dragged to this spot. Notice the visible brain matter and the marks where it skidded from his head. There's also a club nearby. THE SPECTATOR knelt beside this man not more than five minutes after he was shot, right at the same spot where the club now rests, only to be forcibly removed by three armed assailants with rifles and shotguns."

Victims of Shooting

Bodies of Salastino Martinez and Klementz Chavez, Walsenburg, Colorado, 1928

Body of K. Chavaz, Walsenburg, Colorado, 1928