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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

Colorado mine owners decreased wages in 1925 during an economic downturn. During the winter of 1927-1928 coal miners went on strike for increased wages and improvements to working conditions. The IWW was a powerful organizing force for miners with a history in other mining conflicts and came to the aid of the strikers. Mine owers hired armed men to attack the IWW's Trinidad hall and Walsenburg branch halls.  In Walsenburg, the raid resulted in a shooting.  There are photographs of victims in the IWW Photograph Collection. The captions writing on the back are most telling of the situation.

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

A manuscript collection of IWW materials in UW Special Collections.

See in particular:

Colorado Mine Strike
4/5       Industrial Commission of Colorado correspondence, reports, minutes   
4/6-4/7 Court papers     
Reports, general correspondence      


Industrial Workers of the World Photograph Collection

Bayard, Charles J. 1963. "The 1927-1928 Colorado Coal Strike". The Pacific Historical Review. 32 (3): 235-250. [Link leads to a UW-only full text article on JSTOR database)

The Telling Captions

Captions from the back of the photographs:

"Walsenburg striking coal miners assembled in front of their hall after shooting of January 12th, 1928. Single story building is where Chavaz was murdered. Other BLDG. houses strike committee upper half is where State police claim Chavaz [sic] was killed. Stairway leading up stairs was also riddled with bullets from machine gun. THE SPECTATOR"

"Bodies of Celestino [sic] Martinez age 15 (first) and Klementi [sic] Chavaz age 41 murdered Jan. 12th 1928 Walsenburg Colorado. Martinez was shot in back, bullet leaving body at mid rib. Was shot one block distant from hall. Chevas [sic] had entire upper left portion of head blown off THE SPECTATOR"

"Body of K. Chavaz [sic] lying in own gore[.] Walsenburg hall Jan. 12 1928. This is man whom State Police say was shot in upper story of adjoining hall and dragged here. Note brains and marks where they skidded from head. Also club. The SPECTATOR knelt beside this man not later than 5 minutes after he was shot, in the very spot where club lies, and was driven from body by three thugs with rifles and shotguns."

Victims of Shooting

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

Body of K. Chavaz, Walsenburg, Colorado, 1928