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“Frank Spehar of the Tamarack location fell about 4,000 feet (down a mineshaft) last evening while coming to the surface from No. 3 Shaft at the North Tamarack mine, and was instantly killed. The body when recovered was in a terribly mangled condition,”

Copper Country Evening News, May 31, 1905

Life as a copper mineworker was dangerous, dirty, and sometimes deadly. In 1911, 63 men died in Copper Country mines, an average of over one per week. As early as 1906 organizers from the WFM began efforts to unionize Copper Country mines to address worker grievances. Labor disputes before 1913 were not uncommon, but had rarely united skilled and unskilled workers. This changed as mining companies began to introduce a new “one-man drill,” designed to increase production (and profit) by reducing the number of workers at each drilling site. Skilled drill operators reacted negatively to the change, fearing reduced safety when working alone, and began to join with unskilled workers in seeking help from organized labor.
one-man drill

The one-man drill was seen as a labor saving device by the company that could cut the underground workforce in half, thus reducing labor costs. Workers, however, saw the loss of men underground as a safety concern in an already dangerous, sometimes deadly job.

A safety sign posted at a C&H mine. At the time of the 1913 Strike, there was still a common assertion from companies and county mine inspectors that mine accidents were solely the fault of careless mineworkers. A safety sign posted at a C&H mine
Osceola Mine Fire Thirty underground workers lost their lives in the 1895 Osceola Mine Fire.

A nationally syndicated cartoon published in a Hancock Finnish-language labor publication. The artist leaves little doubt in regards to what he thinks mining is about: profits.

A nationally syndicated cartoon
A federal mine safety inspector with a saw and breathing apparatus on his back

A federal mine safety inspector with a saw and breathing apparatus on his back. For decades, safety improvements were left up to mining companies. This began to change in 1910 with the establishment of the National Mine Safety Administration.

A rescue crew at the C&H mines dressed in scuba-like safety gear carry a man out of the mine on a stretcher, circa 1910. It is not clear whether this was a drill or a real mining accident. A rescue crew at the C&H mines