Saturday, January 11, 2014

Death's Door

The centennial of the Copper Miners’ Strike of 1913 has been observed this past year in the Keweenaw Peninsula. This labor strike lasted from July 1913 to April 1914, and to a large extent shut down or drastically curtailed copper mining in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. One of the most notable events of the strike was the Italian Hall Tragedy where 73 people, the majority of them children, lost their lives on Christmas Eve.
        The events of that fateful day are chronicled in an expanded edition of Death’s Door by Steve Lehto. No stranger to Copper Country, Lehto first explored this disaster in the original version of the book which was named a Michigan Notable Book in 2006. Since that time, he has collected new material and photos and doubled the size of the book. He has also served as an expert for two film documentaries about the strike and Italian Hall Tragedy.
        Lehto has also written Shortcut-the Seeberville Murders and the Dark Side of the American Dream. This book details the tragic events surrounding mine security harassment of immigrant miners near Seeberville. When the harassment escalates, two innocent people are left dead.
        Film makers Louis Galdieri and Ken Ross were introduced to the Copper Miners’ Strike by the Woody Guthrie ballad "1913 Massacre." The two spent almost ten years filming and researching background for the film by the same name. What was created is a film that looks at the impact of the Italian Hall tragedy on Calumet and the Keweenaw Peninsula using personal interviews of several of the event’s survivors and local residents. The song, sung by Arlo Guthrie, provides a haunting backdrop to the film.

~Pam Christensen

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