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Union-Busting at Cripple Creek

While many assume that workers in the nineteenth-century American West enjoyed easily available land and a fluid social structure, the region’s history of radical unionism at the turn of the century suggests otherwise. In 1902, corporate mining interests in Colorado decided to crush the Western Federation of Miners (WFM). By the following year, civil war erupted in Cripple Creek, Colorado, as state and local officials and local businessmen joined with the large corporations against the miners. Before it was over, thirty men had been killed in numerous gun battles. Documents gathered as part of a 1905 federal investigation included a “yellow dog” (anti-union) contract that prospective mining employees were required to sign. The documents also included a letter from mine owners asking landlords not to lease property to union sympathizers; a resolution by the Denver Citizen’s Alliance attacking the WFM; orders directing Colorado National Guard troops to deport 73 striking miners and their leaders to Kansas; and finally a plea by a Colorado union official to the Red Cross for the organization’s aid.

Yellow Dog Contract:

Mine No._______ Office No._______



_______ 190_.

Name, _______ _______.

Age, ____. Married? _____. Nationality, _____.

Residence, _____.

Occupation, _____.

Where last employed? _____.

For how long? _____.

In what capacity? _____.

Did you quit voluntarily, or were you discharged? _____.

If discharged, for what reason? _____.

How much experience have you had as _____? _____.

Where employed before coming to Cripple Creek district? _____.

Are you a member of the Western Federation of Miners? _____.

Have you ever been a member of the Western Federation of Miners? _____.

If so, when did you sever your connection with same? _____.

Do you belong to any labor organization; and if so, what? _____.

References: _____ _____.



Remarks: _____

New Leasing Arrangements.


April 20, 1904

DEAR SIR: We have from time to time urged that no leases be made in the Cripple Creek district to persons not in sympathy with the purposes of our association, and to this end we suggest the following:

1. That no lease be let to any person unless the applicant shall have a recommendation card from the association.

2. That the following provision shall be inserted in all leases:

“The party of the second part agrees that he will employ no person to work on, in, or about the premises above demised unless the person so employed shall have and present a recommendation card from the Cripple creek District Mine Owners‘ and Operators’ Association; that he will comply with all the rules and regulations of said association relating to the employment and discharge of labor; that he will furnish to the secretary of said association at any time on request a full list of all men employed by him as aforesaid, and that he will promptly discharge any man so employed at the request of the party of the first part.”

A strict compliance with these suggestions will do much to further the work of the association.

Truly, yours.


C. C. Hamlin, Secretary.

Resolutions of the Citizens' Alliance of Denver, 1903–1904:

The sources of all strife in the Cripple Creek district have been the Western Federation of Miners and the Trades Assembly which they dominated and through which they carried out their boycotts, etc.

There is no room in Teller County for these two organizations and their existence will no longer be tolerated. The citizens and taxpayers are determined to have peace, law and order in Teller County, and while they have no wish to work hardship on any person simply because of his membership in a labor union, nevertheless drastic measures must be and will be adopted to preserve peace. Crafts of the various classes already organized will not be interfered with as to their local or international affiliation, provided the Trades Assembly be forthwith disbanded and no similar boycotting agency be organized: provided, further, that such unions of the local crafts have not for their national or international affiliation the Western Federation of Miners, the American Labor Union, the State Federation of Labor or any kindred organization.

We declare against all agitators and walking delegates. We declare against strikes, boycotts and walkouts.

Resolved, That we, as a body, urge upon the Denver Advertisers' Association the importance of cooperating with us in this effort and request such association to so place its advertising matter as to assist in upbuilding, instead of tearing down, business interests, to the end that a just and conservative policy may be adopted and advocated by the daily press.

The deportation of 73 miners to Kansas, June 10, 1904:



SPECIAL ORDER No. 6 Victor, Colo., June 10, 1904

To Colonel Leo W. Kennedy:

You will proceed by the Colorado Springs and Cripple Creek District Railway to Colorado Springs; thence via the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway to the east line of the State of Colorado, taking with you the parties on list herewith attached, and there deposit them without the State of Colorado, returning at once to these headquarters and make due report to me.

By command of

Sherman M. Bell,

Brig. Gen., Comdg. Teller County Military District

A Plea for Aid from the Red Cross Society by H. B. Waters, Secretary-Treasurer, Colorado State Federation of Labor, June 18, 1904

Now, since they have resorted to this method, which was entirely uncalled for, and which we believe was done for the sole purpose of breaking the spirit of the fathers through the suffering of their wives and children, we do not feel justified in trusting the matter of relief to the military, feeling satisfied that owing to the hatred they have shown to our people they would not faithfully carry out this great trust.

Now, therefore, we, knowing it to be the mission of the Red Cross Society, of which you are the official head, to take charge of and as much as possible eliminate suffering caused by the cruelties of war, we earnestly appeal to you to arrange to have your noble organization take charge of the distribution of food and clothing to the families of deported citizens of Teller County. We will furnish all necessary supplies, and only ask that your organization take charge of the distribution of same.

Source: U.S. Congress, A Report on Labor Disturbances in Colorado from 1880 to 1904, Inclusive (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1905), 278–280.

See Also:Gompers Calls for Action Over Cripple Creek
Playing for the Press: Strike Coverage by the Media
Ideas in Conflict: Opposing Views of the Cripple Creek Strike