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An Interior Ellis Island, Ethnic Diversity and the Peopling of Michigan's Copper Country



UNION MEETINGS! Speeches by WFM Organizers in many Languages Wednesday, August 20, Palestra, Laurium

Guy Miller: English
Joseph Cannon: English
Yanco Terzich: Croatian
Mor Oppman: Hungarian
Frank Aaltonen: Finnish
Ben Goggins: Italian
William Holowatsky: Polish

Miners’ Bulletin, August 14, 1913

The Copper Country was an incredible mix of people from dozens of nations. A simple walk down the streets of Calumet, Hancock or South Range transported a person to any number of countries in Europe. Social halls and churches represented the most numerous ethnic groups: Croatians, Cornishmen, Finns, Germans, Irishmen, Italians, Poles, and Slovenes to name just a few. Boarding houses operated by wives of mineworkers contained dense concentrations of men from the same country, often from the same towns or regions. It is no surprise, then, that one of the WFM’s most important tasks in organizing Copper Country workers was to communicate with workers who spoke different languages. To overcome this barrier, the WFM employed organizers from backgrounds that matched the Copper Country’s rich mix of ethnicities.
A title page from Il Minatore Italiano

A title page from Il Minatore Italiano, or the Italian Miner, printed in Laurium. This newspaper was a connection between Old Country and New World for Copper Country Italians.

Labeled on this 1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance map as a “Tenement,” the Butler Row House provided non-company housing for area immigrants 1908 Sanborn Fire Insurance map
1910 census A snippet from the 1910 census shows the Butler Row House in Calumet contained a large number of Croatian and Hungarian residents, 80 in all, squeezed into just 5,000 sq. ft.

The Sons of St. George were a fraternal organization which helped to preserve the culture of immigrants from the mining region in Cornwall, England. The Cornish were early to arrive in the Copper Country and brought skills and experience in hard rock mining. This was in stark contrast to Finnish, Italian, and other European immigrants who came to the Copper Country later with fewer skills in mining occupations.

The Sons of St. George
Croatian Church in Calumet

Turn of the century image of a Croatian Church in Calumet, where many immigrants attended the Catholic services. At this time, congregations were often based on ethnic affiliations.

This nationally syndicated cartoon warned immigrants of mistreatment in America. Copper Country mines depended greatly on immigrants for labor, but treated ethnic groups differently. nationally syndicated cartoon