1913-1914 Copper Strike And Italian Hall Disaster

Finnish American Historical Archive | Finlandia University

Työmies Newspaper, Christmas Day, 1913

Special, extra edition of Työmies printed on Christmas Day, announcing
the tragedy and 80 dead at the Italian Hall, December 25, 1913.
Courtesy of the Finnish American Historical Archive.

The English language version of the article read:

The most appalling disaster in the history of Michigan occurred last evening at the Italian Hall in Calumet where hundreds of men, women and children had gathered to witness Christmas exercises for the strikers children. The program which was quite lengthy had just begun when a strange man ascended the stairway, yelled “fire” and quickly made his escape to the street. Several persons who stood near the entrance where this man appeared, state the he had his cap pulled down over his eyes, and that pinned to the lapel of his coat was a Citizen’s Alliance button. At the cry of fire the great crowd arose as one and made a mad rush for the exit in the front of the building. In the rush down the stairway many fell and being unable to regain their feet were trampled to death, their bodies acting as stumbling blocks for others who followed, until the hallway was entirely blocked by the dead and dying. The fire alarm was soon sounded and those responding were forced to gain entrance to the hall by ladders at the front windows. Firemen entered the building in this manner and stopped the panic stricken crowd from further crowding into the hallway upon the dead bodies of their friends in a frantic effort to escape. The bodies in the hallway were so tightly packed that they could not be released from below, and firemen were compelled to remove the dead from the top of the stairway carrying the dead and dying back up into the hall before the stairs could be cleared.

At the time the cry of fire was sounded in the hall Mrs. Annie Clemenc was making a talk to the little ones present who naturally were crowded as near the stage as possible, their little faces beaming with happiness, their hearts bounding with Christmas cheer. In less than three minutes afterward fifty of their frail little bodies were fammed and crushed in the hallway being used as a roadway over which their companions were vainly endeavoring to escape. The scene was a horrible one, and will never be effaced from the minds of those who witnessed the terrible tragedy.

The bodies of the dead were taken to a temporary morgue established in the town hall as soon as they were removed from the building. As soon as identifications were made, the bodies were removed to their homes. In some homes the mother and all the children lie cold in death, the husband and father crazed with grief. In others the mother being the only one spared has been plunged into despair and sorrow that yet dazes her, the full truth not yet dawning upon her terrified brain.

Työmies, December 26, 1913
The original death toll was thought to be 83.
Courtesy of the Finnish American Historical Archive.

Työmies, Työmies Publishing Company: Hancock, Michigan, December 25, 1913.

Return to the February 2008 Oral History Digitization Project, 1913-1914 Copper Strike page.