Journal of Arizona History 23 (Autumn 1982): 299-316.

Gaining a Foothold In the Paradise of Capitalism

The Western Federation of Miners and The Unionization of Bisbee

By James D. McBride

THE TRANSITION FROM PLACER TO LODE MINING in the American west has been covered by general histories in great detail because of its technological importance.  Yet scant attention has been paid to the social significance on that process.  Texts and monographs are filled with romantic portrayals of keen-eyed prospectors leading their burros through pristine wilderness in search of the mother lode1.  Less common are descriptions of the working hard-rock miner who daily left the boarding houses and shanties of mining camps throughout the West to disappear into the bowels of the earth. 

                After the Civil War, most of the mining camps were controlled by outside corporations, with offices in New York, Boston, or even London.  The hard-rock miner became but an anonymous member of a faceless horde; he had no more identity or individuality than the Burleigh and Ingersoll drills used in the mines.  Willing, and at times eager, to accept the discomfort and danger of mining when working independently, the deep-rock miner was quick to recognize that disputes and grievances could be met now only by collective action2.   That action was the organization of local unions.  Although a few locals, one in Tombstone


      James McBride, whose major interest is labor in Arizona and the Southwest, holds a Ph.D. in History from Arizona State University.  He is chairman of the Social Studies Department of Corona Del Sol High School in Tempe. 


in 1884 for instance, were affiliated with national organizations such as the Knights of Labor, most of the early attempts to form unions were in individual camps and were easily defeated.  Strong corporate resistance to these early attempts at unionization clearly demonstrated the need for a wider, multi-camp union structure. 

                In 1889, four Idaho unions¾ Burke, Gem, Mullen, and Wardner ¾ formed the Coeur d’Alene Executive Miners Union.  The Mine Owners Protective Association of the Coeur d’Alenes.  Using strike breakers, local police, judges, and, finally the Idaho National Guard, the owners managed to break the unions and have their leaders arrested.  While in the Ada County jail, the union men decided they could succeed only by uniting all of the western miners’ unions.  They called for a convention in Butte, Montana, in May 1893.  During the five day meeting, more that forty representatives from mining camps throughout the West unanimously voted to form the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) .3   

                The WFM constitution only addressed actions of the federation as a whole and did not interfere with the local union constitutions except for its provision that “it shall be unlawful for any local to enter upon a strike unless when ordered by three-fourths of its resident members and on approval of the Executive Board.”  Extremely important was the provision allowing the appointment of paid organizers “who shall diligently labor to organize all non-union members.”4 Financial support was provided by an annual per capita payment of one dollar by members of the local unions into a general fund which was used to pay the fund was also used to support local strikes and to provide relief funds.  

                The WFM barely survived the next three years, but with the election of Edward Boyce as president and the appointment of James Maher to be secretary-treasurer in 1896, the WFM began a period of rapid growth.  Boyce and Maher worked well together and were able to pump life and vitality into the faltering federation.5

                The same year the WFM entered Arizona, and when the miners at Globe walked out on strike, they appealed to the or-

The Unionization of Bisbee

ganization for assistance .  Local #60 was established, and using Globe as a base, the WFM steadily and persistently spread its organization into the other mining camps of  the Territory.  Soon WFM locals were active in a number of different areas in Arizona, including such widely separated camps as Jerome, Goldroad, and Kofa.  Although unionization efforts met strong resistance from mining companies , union expansion was remarkable for its lack of violence, and despite management’s use of such techniques as the blacklist, the lock-out, physical intimidation and court injunctions, union membership was large enough by 1903 to organize Arizona State Union #3.  Not all attempts to establish locals, however, met with success.6

                Bisbee, one of the largest camps in the Territory, remained non-union, and the WFM now decided to direct its efforts toward bringing miners there into the fold.  In September, 1903, J. T. Lewis, executive board member of WFM District #1, on instructions from WFM President William D. Haywood, went to Douglas and Bisbee to organize the workers.  He remained in the area form September 22 to October 1, but had to report:

In view of the fact that the Copper Queen Mining Company has always met our organization with  united opposition, the  men that were fortunate enough to be working for them at the time absolutely refused to have anything whatever to do with a labor organization.7

In December, Lewis again tried to organize Bisbee after receiving word from an Edward Kennedy that he though it possible, but on discovering Kennedy’s interest, the company and “all of the fraternal societies” organized to resist his efforts.8

                “Brother” Kennedy’s role is a very confusing one.  According to the Bisbee Daily Review, he arrived in town the evening of December 11 to establish a WFM local.  Although Kennedy apparently had contact with WFM headquarters in Denver, Colorado, financial records do not show him his paid organizer, and Albert Ryan of  the Arizona State Union denied knowing him.  Local Newspapers persisted in labeling him “a union organizer,” but Kennedy’s position following a six day stay in Bisbee was not what one would expect from an organizer.  On December 17, in a statement made at the Bisbee Daily Review office, he called Bisbee the “most favorable to the miners of any


place in the United States,” and said the workers were “well treated, generously paid and no rules exist which would conflict with Western Federation requirements and demands.”  He concluded by saying that he had sent a letter to J. T. Lewis telling him not to come to Bisbee.

                Lewis, however, reported meeting with Kennedy in Bisbee on December 16.  After learning that company pressure had reduced the number of miners willing to start a local to only twenty-five, Lewis decided not to attempt organizing at that time, leaving on December 18.  The Engineering and Mining Journal of March 31, 1904, in reporting union activity in Bisbee, spoke of organizers visiting the camp “repeatedly” but to no avail.  It further stated that “the last one was given to understand forcibly that unionism was not wanted.”9

                In some ways Bisbee was an ideal camp.  The Copper Queen, owned by Phelps Dodge Company, was the largest mining concern in town.  Under the guidance of Copper Queen President James Douglas, the parent corporation had initiated a number of programs for Bisbee miners.  Libraries, hospitals, a YMCA and YWCA were established.  The company store was supposed to sell items at a fair price and apparently did so, although it consistently showed a profit.  Wages were up to union scale and remained the highest in the Territory.10

                The Bisbee ore body had a number of rich veins, and the Copper Queen produced approximately sixty-three percent of the ore mined in the Warren District.  Next in volume of production was the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company.  Founded in 1899, it gradually gained control of several smaller mines and accounted for thirty-one percent of the ore mined in the camp.  The only other company of any consequence was the Shattuck-Denn, reporting about four percent of Bisbee’s production.11  The Copper Queen, however, clearly dominated the district, the other owners generally following Douglas’ lead, and local businesses realized that their prosperity was tied to the Copper Queen’s production, with few merchants willing to do anything that might disturb the company.

                Despite the efforts to improve living conditions, Bisbee was still a rough mining camp in the first decade of the twentieth century.  Water had to be carried in by wagon or burro.  The town

The Unionization of Bisbee

had no sewers or water disposal system, and when it rained, Brewery Gulch directed a torrent of water into the center of town.  Working conditions were bad enough that James Douglas had to admit when writing in opposition to the eight-hour law, the he could “understand it at Bisbee.”12

                At the same time, he was unalterably opposed to labor unions.  Douglas believed that “co-operation under corporate control would solve the legitimate grievances of labor.”  How strongly opposed to unions was Phelps Dodge management is indicated by the statement of Walter Douglas, son of James Douglas and General manager of the Copper Queen, that “… the Western Federation of Miners should never organize at Bisbee, and rather that see such a calamity occur the mines would shut down.”  With the exception of a brief visit by WFM organizer Marion W. Moor in September of 1905, nothing further was done to unite Bisbee workers until January of 1906.13

                The ethnic composition of the camp made it an attractive target for union organization.  Most of the miners in Bisbee were white.  Chinese workers were not permitted to remain in town.  Mexicans could live in their own area but they were not allowed to work underground and therefore could be used as strikebreakers.14  The mining companies, however, had other means of blocking  unionization which went far beyond the forcible ejection of organizers.

                In November, 1905, at a meeting in Prescott, Moor made arrangements for John B. Clark of Globe Local #60 to organize a union-at-large.  He met Clark in Bisbee on January 14, 1906, and gave him the instructions of the WFM Executive Board and Arizona State Union concerning the establishment of a local in Bisbee.  Clark slipped into town and quietly began to sign up miners. 

                Although apparently unaware of Clark’s identity, the company controlled Bisbee Daily Review began a series of articles extolling the lack of friction in Bisbee and giving the credit for harmonious conditions to managers of the major mining companies, especially Phelps Dodge.  In its January 9, 1906, issue the Review said, “…whatever could be done for the comfort and convenience of the men who work in the mines has been done by the companies.”  Subsequent issues carried the same message,


urging miners to refuse to assist organizers, and warning of strife and unrest if the WFM activists remain in camp.  The same issues carried thinly veiled threats of harm to the organizers if they insisted on remaining in Bisbee, saying they would find Bisbee “lonesome, dull, and unhealthy as well.”  As the opposition to union recruitment became more active, Moor returned to Bisbee on January 25, 1906, and spent the next sixteen days helping Clark and others sign up members.15

                Clark’s efforts were soon exposed, although he did manage to get several hundred names before the opposition was able to react.  The opposition was centered on the Bisbee Daily Review office and included not only company officials but also the Reverend Harvey M. Shields, minister of her Episcopal Church; Billy Brophy, manager of the company store; Mike Cunningham, manager of the company-owned Bank of Bisbee; and Bob Lyons, an imported gunhand from Cananea, Mexico.  Immediate action was taken to form a citizens alliance which included all merchants except restaurateur and socialist Joseph D. Cannon and ex-circulation solicitor for The Evening Miner, J. A. Mallory, who was described as a National Socialist Party speaker of some note.16

                Despite company efforts to control Bisbee, the town was a microcosmic example of regional and national political development, and recognition of Mallory’s ability as a socialist speaker was not unusual.  Articles extolling the benefits of socialism were a common feature in the pages of the Miners’ Magazine, the official WFM Journal.  IN 1903, Harry A. McKee, a National Socialist, spoke before an enthusiastic crowd of 250 people in Bisbee and organized a Socialist local.  Although their numbers in Bisbee remained small, they were well led and they played an active role the economic and political life of the community.  (One leader was Cannon, whose restaurant was on Main Street in Bisbee.)17

                On February 26, 1906, a conference of leading miners from throughout the district decided to hold a mass meeting for discussion of the union question.  The following day they distributed a circular, signed by seventeen prominent miners , calling all workers to a mass meeting  that night at the Opera House at 7:30 p.m.  The circular stated that the meeting would be an occasion for all to speak¾union or non-union¾the topic to be,

The Unionization of Bisbee

“Whether or not the miners at present working in Bisbee desire a union instituted in this camp.”18  The  Bisbee Daily Review gave the meeting front-page coverage in its February 28 issue, publishing an editorial condemning the action of the WFM and calling on the workers to keep the camp non-union.  Early on the afternoon of the 26th, crowds began gathering near Main Street and Brewery Gulch to discuss the anticipated meeting.  At three o’clock the day shift joined the restless throngs.  Groups began to gather around speakers advocating one or the other position.  Especially effective was the Reverend Harvey M. Shields, the popular religious leader.  Speaking form the steps of the library, Shields urged miners to go to the meeting and express themselves.  He further warned them that if the union reorganized, “ the mines would be closed.”  When the companies released their night shifts to attend the meeting, the streets were jammed with approximately 3000 men, all headed toward the Opera House.  By 7:30 p.m.  the auditorium was packed and over a thousand people had been turned away.19

                Lewis Hunt, a long-time and highly respected member of the community, was unanimously elected chairman of the meeting.  Hunt’s place of employment was not revealed, but records identify him as a former member of the city council and at the time of the meeting a Republican delegate from Bisbee’s  Second Ward.20  He was an excellent choice as chairman , for despite the intensity of the feelings at the meeting, he was able to conduct an orderly program.  Hunt began by giving a brief overview of the history of the Copper Queen Company and its policy toward employees.  He promised that everyone desiring to speak would be allowed to do so and appealed for order throughout the evening. 

                 A number of speakers on each side of the issue presented their views.  The socialists in Bisbee, led, by Cannon and Mallory, were especially well prepared.  Despite some objection to a non-miner being allowed to address the gathering, Cannon was permitted to speak for the union’s position.  He characterized the struggle not as one between the Copper Queen and the union, but as one between labor and capital.  Ha said that the peace existing in Bisbee “…was the peace and harmony that exists between the lion and the lamb.”21

                A number of those who spoke against organizing the camp admitted having been WFM members but accused the union of


not knowing  hoe conditions were in Bisbee.  Several charged the union with playing politics.  When all had been given the opportunity to speak, a motion was passed that called for an Australian vote on March 5, 1906.  Every man currently employed would be allowed to cast a secret ballot for a union to a non-union camp.  To insure an honest election, each of the three elements involved in the meeting (the committee that called the meeting, the chairman of the meeting, and the unions supporters) would choose the man to supervise the election.  Picked were James F. Rehling (of Calumet and Arizona), Robert Lyons, and J. H. Mitchell.  Mitchell, the union member, was picked by a committee of thirteen, whose membership remained unidentified except for Clark and Cannon.22 

                Those opposing the WFM brought pressure to beat on the miners who were to vote.  Citizens’ committees warned of the camp closing if the union came in.  Many pro-union miners were fired.  In all, four hundred men were dismissed and another hundred quit and left the camp.  Clark was warned to leave town and was said to have barricaded himself in his hotel room.  He believed the idea to run him out of town originated with Brophy.  The Bisbee Daily Review increased its editorial attack and reported the opposition of Bisbee businessmen, who urged the miners to “let well enough alone.”23

                On March 1, twenty-five members of the Bisbee Merchants’ Association met and drew up a resolution attacking the union attempt to change conditions in Bisbee.  Five thousand copies were mailed to Bisbee residents.  The document charged “that the present conditions, of prosperity, good credit and business activity may not be changed or interfered with by the introduction of these new conditions, which will necessarily cause business depression for…it will curtail our credit…and we in turn will be forced…to extend no further credit to our customers.”24

                That same evening seventy-seven Bisbee businessmen met at Library Hall to discuss the crisis.  That meeting drafted two resolutions, one to the miners and a second one to the mining companies.  While the one sent to the miners appealed for no disruption of the “happy and prosperous” conditions in Bisbee, the resolution sent to the managers spoke of endorsing the companies’ policies and deploring the efforts of the union “to jeopardize” those policies.25

The Unionization of Bisbee

At 1:20 on the morning of March 4th, Clark called the Bisbee Daily Review office and asked that they print the following announcement: “The advisory board of the Western Federation of Miners had held a meeting and authorizes me to state that they have decided not to recognize the election to be held in Bisbee on Monday, and will take no part in it.”26  The Bisbee Daily Review, in its front page article on the announcement, stated that the opposition encountered in the mass meeting forced the WFM to with-draw its support of the election.  Other sources reported, however, that Clark said the reason behind the board’s withdrawal and Mitchell’s resignation was that they had learned “the election was not to be held in the square.”  He did reveal the source of that information. 

                In any event, the election was held as scheduled.  The vote was 2288 against the union and 428 votes in favor of the union.  The defeat received wide attention in the Tucson Arizona Daily Star, which called it “an important decision” and expressed the hope that the question was settled once and for all.  The Copper Era of Clifton added its voice to the chorus in an editorial that congratulated the miners on their decision.  Moor, meeting with Clark in Globe, viewed the vote not as a failure but as a clear example to Bisbee miners of the class struggle that the WFM was waging.27

                WFM interest in Bisbee continued.  In November, Moor, now on the union executive board representing WFM District #1, received word that WFM acting President C. E. Mahoney would be in Arizona the next week.  Moor met Mahoney at Jerome on November 13th and they visited several of the locals in the Territory.  Included in their tour was a visit to Bisbee.28

                In January, 1907, the WFM initiated another attempt to establish a branch in Bisbee.  Letters from Hugh Kennedy, a WFM member working as a miner in Bisbee, were sent to Jerome, Globe, and Denver.  These, together with the pressure from Albert Ryan of Arizona State Union #3, got a promise from WFM President Mahoney of union support as soon as the Arizona locals took action.  That action began in late January with the arrival in Bisbee of WFM organizers ED Crough and Percy C. Rwalings.29

                Crough and Rawlings “found things in good shape for organization” and wired supplies and a charter.  Despite opposition from some of the miners who believed that the Copper Queen


“animosity” toward him would destroy his effectiveness, they also asked that Joseph D. Cannon, the former restaurant owner who was now a full-time WFM organizer, be sent to assist them.  Cannon arrive on February 6th, and on February 9th they opened an office in the Schmidt-Shattuck Building in Brewery Gulch.  WFM Local #106 was in operation in Bisbee.  The miners quickly responded and, according to Crough, “men poured in in large numbers.”30

                The companies immediately reacted with a double-barreled attack employing both propaganda and direct action.  Using the editorial page of the Bisbee Daily Review, they attempted to build up the image of Bisbee as an idea camp in which to work and live.  The editorials portrayed the WFM as a selfish organization willing to destroy that idyllic existence simply to establish a union.  The companies were assisted in this phase of the attack by the business and religious leaders of Bisbee.  The same editorials stated, moreover, that the policy of the companies was an “open camp” and renewed attempts by the WFM to establish a union would result in a “shutdown.”  The February 13th editorial concluded with the statement, “Bisbee will never be a closed camp.”31

                The companies next put the direct action phase of their plan into effect.  Spotters were placed in front of the union office to report the names of all visitors.  Everyone so identified was summarily fired and blacklisted.  When that failed to stop the WFM organizers, the companies resorted to more drastic action and began to fire all miners who were thought to be pro-union.  When the night shift came off duty on February 12th, large numbers of men were dismissed.  The stated reason was the “need for repair work and a shortage of fuel,” but the opinion in Bisbee was that the entrance of the WFM was the real reason.32  By February 14th, 800 miners had been laid off¾500 by Copper Queen, 200 by the Calumet and Arizona, and 100 by the Shattuck and Arizona.  Union organizing continued, however, as the federation began to provide the promised support.

                On February 20, Mary “Mother” Jones arrived in Bisbee.  A colorful zealot, “Mother” Jones had taken up labor’s cause in Chicago during the violent Haymarket ere, but she soon adopted the struggle of America’s miners as her special crusade.  The fervor and oratorical skill of the fiery little Irishwoman quickly won


the hearts of the miners as she urged them to “pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living!”  She spoke to the Bisbee workers that night in an open-air street meeting in her customary dynamic manner, a speech powerful enough to elicit praise even from the anti-union Bisbee Daily Review.33

By the end of April, the local had enrolled 1224 members, 700 of them joining for the first time and the remaining 524 either old or reinstated members.  The mines continued to fire men and by March 5 the Bisbee Daily Review reprinted an article from El Paso Times in which Dr. Robert Ferguson, the assistant surgeon of the Copper Queen hospital, reported that only enough men were working to keep the shafts from being ruined.  The Copper Queen was said to have enough ore on ground to keep its Douglas smelter running for three months and ended by stating, “The company will never recognize the WFM.”34

                On March 3, the Bisbee Industrial Association  was formed.  While refusing to disclose the names of its officers or how many members it had, the new organization did state that it was composed entirely of miners and that its goal was “to re-establish conditions as they were prior to the entrance of the WFM.”   The Association also denied union charges that it was formed at the direction of the Copper Queen Mining Company and reiterated that it existed solely “to protect the best interests of citizens of this community.”35

                Union Organizers were equally determined that the Bisbee Industrial Association would fail in its effort to reclaim those earlier relations.  Rawlings, in an article published in the March 7, 1907, Miners’ Magazine, said that the “Bisbee Miners’ Union is an established fact… The Western Federation has gained a foothold in the paradise of capitalism.” After praising the work of Cannon, “Mother” Jones, Crough, and others, Rawlings concluded that article with the declaration, “We are here to stay.”36

                        The Bisbee press continued to insist that the union was not making any headway, adding that approximately 1200 to 1500 men had been laid off and business was very dull in Bisbee.  That ore production was being affected seems likely.  The Bisbee Daily Review reported that while the smelter was still in full operation, ore could be shipped in from Cananea if needed and concluded with the refrain that they would not recognize the WFM even if

The Unionization of Bisbee

they were forced to shut down the entire district.   By March 17, the number of men dismissed was more than 1500, with the laborers leaving camp as soon as they were paid off. 37

                That the union was having some impact was demonstrated by company recruiting of miners from outside Bisbee.  Joseph Curry, chief clerk for the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company, was sent to recruit miners from Cripple Creek, Colorado.38 Also, March 17 the six major companies in the Warren Mining District announced the wage increase effective April, 1 1907.  The rate for miners went from $3.75 to $4.00 per shift.  The announced reason for the raise was the increased price of copper, and the Bisbee Daily Review pointed out that the raise was made freely and was completely voluntary on the part of the company.  The last raise had been November 7, 1906.  The raise plus the recruiting apparently had some impact, for by April 7 business was improving and men in search of work were beginning to come to the Warren Mining District. 39

                        Realizing that any further delay was only putting off the inevitable fight, the union held a meeting at Medigovich Hall on April 8 and voted unanimously to present their demands to the mine managers.  A committee headed by Rawlings attempted to present demands that the companies stop discrimination and blacklisting or a strike would be called.  At each company, however, the committee received a flat refusal to discuss their demands.  As a Result, a walkout was called for April 10, 1907.

                The reports of how many responded to the strike call vary, with the companies reporting seventy percent at work, the union saying sixty-five percent were out on strike, while the rumors about town said no more than forty to fifty percent were out.  On April 12, the mechanics at the mines voted not to support the miners’ effort. While very important, it is difficult to call it the crucial point in the strike as did the Bisbee Daily Review of April 14.40

                        The strike continued through April, and while the company may not have been on the run as Union Bulletin #2 said, claiming “immediate victory in sight,” the bulletin did not reflect the broadened views the local held when Cannon Wrote, “We gain the right to assemblage, the right of organization, and the right to think for ourselves.” The local continued to gain member-


ship.  On April 16th, 680 men marched from a rally at the skating rink in Tombstone Canyon, Down Main Street and then to the corner of Main and Brewery Avenues.  On the same day 750 men from Warren joined the union.41

                When the strike carried on into the summer, Cannon and Rawlings went to the WFM convention in Denver to appeal for increased assistance.  There Cannon made and eloquent plea for more aid.  Emphasizing the importance of the Bisbee strike to the future of the federation in Arizona, he said:

I want to impress upon you if possible what is at stake in the Bisbee strike.  There is more at stake than [in] any other strike the Western Federation of Miners ever participated in this is the culmination of a twenty-seven year effort to put an organization in Bisbee…In looking to the end of this strike, we cannot look for anything but success, for we cannot afford to lose.  If those companies are ready to fight us for years, we must be ready to fight them back for years. In other words, we will fight them back until we win in Bisbee… and if the Western Federation of Miners…should fail to come to our rescue, we will fight it ourselves…If we lose in Bisbee we lose in Arizona. 42

                        He then spoke of the organization, Bisbee and what was needed by the strikers.  When queried about the purpose of the walkout, he replied, “The strike is not to get rid of the open shop; it is to establish it.” Following the debate a motion was passed “that the Executive Board be instructed [to] render such assistance and support as may be in out power to the Bisbee strikers.”43

                Monetary assistance was provided immediately.  WFM expenditures for 1907 show a total of $6181.25 sent to Bisbee strikers. Four thousand dollars of that amount was sent in June and July for that year.  In addition, Bisbee was receiving financial aid from Arizona State Union #3 and was promised aid from WFM Local #1 at Butte Montana.  There is, however, no record of any help form Butte.

                Although the company-controlled newspapers continued to insist that production and conditions in the Western Mining District were normal, they were also forced to admit that pickets were still present.  Bisbee papers carried accounts of now workers coming into the district and company of recruiting as

The Unionization of Bisbee

far away as Missouri, Colorado, and even Cleator Moor, England.  The mines were also using unskilled miners and reports of accidents and cave-ins increased.44 The union effort to keep out scabs was not successful and tension mounted as tempers grew short.  To forestall violence, Captain Harry Wheeler and five Arizona Rangers were sent to Bisbee.  Although the local law officials were pro-company, Wheeler and his men were completely fair and were able to maintain order.  The strike was remarkable in that throughout the long struggle no extreme incidents of violence were initiated by either side. 

                In July the companies tried a new tactic to get rid of the troublesome pickets when they began to arrest them on charged of unlawful assembly.  On July 16, Judge Fletcher M. Doan, Associate Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court presiding in District Two, issued an injunction that prohibited the union from picketing on railroad rights-of-way, station grounds, in the station, or on cars or trains of El Paso and Southwestern Railroad. 45   The union moved quickly to have the injunction set aside.  While those efforts failed, they were able to get modified.  WFM officials hired an ex-Arizona Supreme Court Justice, Albert C. Baker, along with two local attorneys, W. B. Cleary and E.J. Flannigan, to represent the local.  E.E.  Ellinwood, also of Bisbee, represented the El Paso and Southwestern railroad.  ON Saturday \, July 29, the two sides met in Judge Doan’s chambers in Tombstone.  Baker opened the argument for the miners and was followed by Cleary.  Ellinwood then concluded the morning session with his presentation of the railroad’s case.  Following their arguments, Judge Doan modified the injunction so that it only applied to trains or rights-of-way, and prevented the WFM form passing out circulars on the train.46

                Possibly the greatest factor in the struggle between the union and Phelps Dodge was occurring not in southeastern Arizona but in the banks and trust companies of the East.  Unsettled financial conditions throughout most of 1907, culminating in the panic in October and November of that year, did more to aid the


 large copper corporations than any direct action taken by the companies.  As the Supply of money tightened, the price of copper began to fall.  By October copper had fallen from its March high of twenty-five cents to thirteen cents per pound.  In November wages were cut to $3.50 per shift and the companies began to lay off men.  The Engineering and Mining Journal, quoting the Graham County Advocate  (a pro-union newspaper), said “The copper mining business in the southwest was paralyzed generally”.47

                Early in December the managers of the Shattuck-Arizona and the Denn-Arizona announced they were shutting down their mines for and indefinite period.  The reason given was the drop in copper consumption and price, but the union claimed the credit for forcing the shutdown.  Whatever the cause, it was the final blow for the strike supporters.  On December 24th, union members held a three-hour meeting with Robert Randall, WFM Executive Board Member for District #1, and voted twenty-four to twenty-three to call off the strike.48

                That action, however was not a failure of the union effort.  The WFM was established in Bisbee and Local #106 remained active.  Membership dropped to 100 in April, 1908, and then began a steady climb.  By April, 1909, #106 had 380 members.  More important, Bisbee labor leaders began to take an active part in territorial labor and political activities.  Bisbee provided much of the initial labor impetus for forming the Labor Party of Arizona and provided the leaders in labor’s efforts to secure the initiative and referendum provisions of the state constititution.49


1 George G. Daniels, ed., The Miners, The Old West (Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, Inc., 1976). passim.

2Richard E. Lingenfelter, The Hardrock Miners: A history of the Mining Labor Movement in the American West, 1863-1893  (Berkley: University of California Press, 1974), pp. 3-4.

3Ibisd., 199-221; Vernon H. Jenson,  Heritage of Conflict: Labor Relations in the Nonferrous Metals Industry up to 1930 ( Ithaca, New York : Cornell University Press, 1950), pp.25-37, 54-55.

4 Lingenfelter, The Hardrock Miners, pp. 223-224.

5 Jenson,  Heritage of Conflict, pp. 56-57.

6 Jenson, Heritage of Conflict; James Wary Byrkit, “Life and Labor in Arizona, 1901-1921: With Particular Reference to the Deportations of 1917” (Unpublished Ph.D. Disserta-

The Unionization of Bisbee

tion, Claremont Graduate School, 1972), pp. 87-88, 356-357; Western Federation of Miners,  Proceedings of the Thirteenth Annual

 Convention (Salt Lake City, Utah, 1905), p. 253.

7 Western Federation of Miners, Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Convention (Denver, Colorado, 1904), pp.22-23.

8Ibid., p. 25; (Globe) Arizona Silver Belt,, December 17, 1903.

9Bisbee Daily Review, December 12, 13,17, 1903; Western Federation of Miners, Proceedings of the Twelfth Annual Convention, pp.25, 64-107; Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 76 (March 31, 1904), p.510.

10Robert Glass Cleland,   A History of Phelps-Dodge, 1834-1950 ( New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1952), pp.110-111, 114-128, 165-168; Frances E. Quebbeman,  Medicine in Territorial Arizona (Phoenix: Arizona Historical Foundation, 1966), pp. 181-182, 284-286; Jenson,  Heritage of Conflict, p.357.

11Charles H. Dunning,  Rock to Riches ( Phoenix, Arizona: Southwest Publishing Company, Inc., 1959),p. 172; Thomas R. Navin,  Copper Mining and Management ( Tucson, Arizona: University of Arizona Press, 1978), p.232.

12Letter, James Douglas to Phelps-Dodge, June 11, 1903, Lewis W. Douglas Collection, Folder 5, Box 42, Special Collections, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona; interview, Louis Currie, October 17, 1981, Phoenix, Arizona.

13Cleland, Phelps-Dodge, p.169; Arizona Labor Journal, August 21, 1913, p.46.

14Arthur A. Wendt, “The Southwest Copper Mines,” Transactions of the American Institute of Mining Engineers, Vol. 15 (February, 1887), p.58; Frank W. Wentworth, Bisbee With a Big B (Iowa City, Iowa: Mercer Printing Company, 1938), p..174-177; Louis Currie, October 17, 1981, Phoenix, Arizona; interview tape, Dr. N.C. Bledsoe, courtesy of Harwood Hinton, University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona.

15 Western Federation of Miners, Proceedings of the Fourteenth Annual Convention (Denver, Colorado, 1906), pp.220-221;  Bisbee Daily Review, January 9, 24, 27, 1906; (Tucson)  Arizona Daily Star,  January 12, 26, 1906;  Miner’s Magazine,  September 13, 1906; Jenson,  Heritage of Conflict, p.357.

16 Miner’s Magazine,  May 10, 1906; Bisbee Daily Review, February 11, 1906.

17Bisbee Daily Review, October 28, 1903.  In the 1906 campaign to elect Arizona’s delegate to Congress, Cannon, running as a Socialist, received over eleven percent of the votes cast in Cochise County; twenty percent of the votes cast in Gila County; and an impressive 8.6 percent of the territorial votes overall.  The 2078 votes cast for Cannon across Arizona showed a Socialist gain of 2.5 percent over the 1904 election and more than six percent more than the 1902 election.  (Returns, with other official data, as compiled by the Secretary of the Territory from the records of his office.)

18 Bisbee Daily Review,  February 27, 1906.

19 Arizona Daily Star, March 3, 1906;  Bisbee Daily Review, February 28, March 1, 1906.

20 Bisbee Daily Review, February 28, 1906; Frank W. Wentworth, Bisbee With a Big B, p.316.

21Bisbee Daily Review, March 1, 1906.

22 Ibid.

23Miner’s Magazine, May 10, 1906, p.9; Jenson, Heritage of Conflict, p.357; Bisbee Daily Review, March 2, 1906.

24 Bisbee Daily Review, March 2, 1906.

25 Ibid.

26 Bisbee Daily Review, March 4, 1906.

27 Bisbee Daily Review, March 4, 1906.; Jenson,  Heritage of Conflict, p.358; Arizona Daily Star, March  7 ,13, 1906; (Clifton)  Copper Era, March 6, 1906; The Morenci Leader, March 6, 1906; Byrkit, “Life and Labor in Arizona,” p.93; Engineering and Mining Journal, March 24, 1906, p.570; Western Federation of Miners,  Proceedings of the Fourteenth Annual Convention, 1906, p.221.


28 Western Federation of Miners, Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Convention (Denver, Colorado, 1907), p.148.

29Ibid.,  pp. 194-195; Miner’s Magazine,  September 5, 1907,; Byrkit, “Life and Labor in Arizona,” pp.93-94; Arizona Labor Journal, August 21, 1913, p.46; Edward Crough Diary, 1907, ms. in possession of William Crough, Phoenix.

30 Crough Diary, 1907; Byrkit, “Life and Labor in Arizona,” pp.93-94.

31 Bisbee Daily Review, February 13, 1907, p.4; February 14, 1907, p.4.

32 Crough Diary, 1907; Bisbee Daily Review, February 13, 14, 1907; Byrkit, “Life and Labor in Arizona,” p.94.

33 Mary E. Jones,  Autobiography of Mother Jones,  edited by Mary Field Parton (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr and Company, 1925), p. 41; Bisbee Daily Review, February 21, 1907.

35 Bisbee Daily Review, March 6, 1907; Miner’s Magazine, March 28, 1907, p.4.

36 Miner’s Magazine, March 7, 1907, p.9.

37 Bisbee Daily Review, March 10, 1907, p.9.; Copper Era, February 28, 1907.

38 Interview, Louis Currie, October 17, 1981, Phoenix, Arizona.

39 Bisbee Daily Review, March 17, April 7, 1907, p.9.

40 Western Federation of Miners, Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Convention, 1907, p.194; Bisbee Daily Review April 10, 11, 12, 14, 1907; Jenson, Heritage of Conflict, p.359;Arizona Labor Journal,  August 21, 1913; Miner’s Magazine, April 25, 1907, pp. 14-15; Crough Diary.

41 Bisbee Daily Review April 16, 18, 20, 21, 24, 1907; Bisbee Evening Miner, April 15, 22, 1907; Miner’s Magazine, April 25, 1907, pp. 1-4; Crough Diary.

42 Western Federation of Miners, Proceedings of the Fifteenth Annual Convention, 1907, pp.193-203.


44 Miners’  Magazine, June 8, 1907, pp.1, 13, 14, June 20, 1907, p.5, June 27, 1907, p.12, August 1, 1907, p.6; Bisbee Evening Miner, June 25, 1907; Bisbee Daily Review, April 28, 1907.

45 Miners’ Magazine, June 8, 1907,p. 1, July 25, 1907,p.5; Bisbee Daily Review, July 6, 10, 14, 16, 1907; Arizona Labor Journal, August 21, 1907, p. 46; Byrkit, “ Life and Labor in Arizona,” p. 95

46Bisbee Daily Review, July 30, 1907; Bisbee Evening Miner, July 29, 1907; (Phoenix) The Arizona Republican, July 31, 1907.

47Engineering and Mining Journal, November 16, 1907, p.944, December 28, 1907, p.1242; Miners Magazine, October 3, 1907, pp. 12, 13, November 21, 1907, p.1 December 5, 1907,p. 13; Bisbee Daily Review, August 16, 1907; Robert Sobel, Panic on Wall Street: A History of America’s Financial Disasters (New York: Collier Books, 1968).pp.297-321. Several sources frequently quoted the Graham County Advocate which declared itself to be “ one of two pro- union papers in the territory that was telling the truth of conditions in Bisbee.” However, this writer was unable to locate any extant files or individual copies of that paper, nor any reference to its ever having existed in any of the standard sources for Arizona newspapers. 

48 Bisbee Daily Review, December 25, 27, 1907.

49 Western Federation of Miners, Proceedings of the Sixteenth Annual Convention (Denver, Colorado, 1908), p. 218; Proceedings Of the Seventeenth Annual Convention (Denver, Colorado, 1909), p. 203; Arizona Labor Journal, August 21, 1913, p. 46.

Credits¾ the photo on page 309 (top) is from the Henry;; and Albert Buehman Collection, Arizona Historical Society, Tucson; on 309 (bottom), from the general collection, AHS, Tucson.