Take a trip with me in nineteen thirteen
To Calumet, Michigan, in the copper country.
I’ll take you to a place called Italian Hall
Where the miners are having their big Christmas ball.
-1913 Massacre by Woody Guthrie
On Absolute Michigan we try and keep a positive and upbeat attitude, so it may seem out of character to feature the Italian Hall Massacre. It’s one of the darkest stories from Michigan’s past. In the heart of a bitter mine strike (detailed on Michigan in Pictures) 500 of the striking miners of Calumet – men, women and children – gathered for a Christmas Eve celebration on the 2nd floor of Calumet’s Italian Hall. Someone (nobody may ever know who) yelled “Fire!” and in the ensuing panic, 74 people lost their lives … most were children.
The video below is part of the 1913 Massacre Film Project. You can view their other videos including one of Arlo Guthrie performing his father Woody’s Guthrie’s song, 1913 Massacre and also learn much more about their efforts and offer financial assistance if you are so inclined. I do very much recommend that you watch this interview with survivors of the tragedy. It’s heartbreaking, but profoundly moving.