Beautifully engraved Certificate from the famous Parrot Silver and Copper Company issued
in 1900. This historic document has an
ornate border around it with a vignettes of a parrot and an arm and hammer. This item is hand
signed by the company's president and is
over 100 years old.
Below is some history referring to the mines in Butte Montana:
It is impossible to ignore history in Butte. And Butte's history is largely about
working and the struggle for decent wages and dignity and safety in a
Butte has the second largest National Historic Landmark District in the country.
More than 2,200 National Historic Landmark sites have been officially
recognized by the U.S. National Park Service. Now, Butte is being recognized
for its labor heritage and may receive recognition as a National Labor History
According to Lysa Wegman-French of the U.S. National Park Service, "Such a
designation would provide an additional honor for Butte which is already a
National Historic Landmark District. Butte achieved that designation based on
its mining past but it may be equally significant for its role in labor history."
History though is like the toxic dirt that has covered much of the ground in
Butte after a century of mining for gold, silver, and copper. Whether a person
recognizes its depths or dangers, or they simply deny its effects until they
discover it unexpectedly while digging for something else, it remains an
important factor that influences the present and the future as well.
The Great Shutdown: A New World Order
From the beginning, unions worked closely with mine owners who sparred
among themselves for power and prestige and for the allegiance of the miners.
In 1899, Standard Oil bought the interests of previous owners and entered the fray
with the Amalgamated Copper Company. "The Company," as it was to be known,
became omnipotent on the Hill when they crushed their last independent competitor,
F. Augustus Heinze in 1903 with a brutal tactic known as The Great Shutdown.
The Company found itself frustrated in the local courts by judges who were biased
for Heinze. Judge William D. Clancy, for example, was a big bushy bearded,
tobacco-chewing magistrate who would nod off on the bench only to wake up and
proclaim "The court finds for Mr. Heinze." At that time there was no change of
venue law that would allow a new judge if a party to a lawsuit felt that the judge
was biased against them.
The Amalgamated Copper Company shut down all of its operations in the state
putting 20,000 Montanans out of work and then demanded that the state call a
special session of the legislature to pass a change of venue law.
When the state gave in, this forced Heinze to sell out and spelled the end of an
era of cooperation between mine owners and their workers for their mutual
benefit. In a speech delivered on October 26th on the steps of the County
Courthouse before 10,000 angry suddenly unemployed miners, Heinze delivered a
prophetic eulogy for that era at the same time that he probably delivered his
own neck from a noose.
He said, "If they crush me today they will crush you tomorrow. They will cut your
wages and raise the tariff in the company stores on every bite you eat and every
rag you wear. They will force you to dwell in Standard Oil houses while you live
and they will bury you in Standard Oil coffins when you die."
In March 1912, The Company fired 500 miners whom they labeled as Socialists.
Then, that December, they imposed a blacklist system to screen workers by
requiring miners to fill out cards and answer questions about their union and
political affiliations. Those deemed agitators were simply not called for work.
Pinkerton and Thiel agency detectives were hired to infiltrate, identify
troublemakers, and even provoke violence themselves if possible
to weaken the unions from within.
Labor Timeline for Butte
June 13, 1878 -- Butte Workingmen's Union forms during a strike over wage cut from
$3.50 to $3 a day at Alice and Lexington silver mines.
February, 1882 -- First Miner's Union Hall collapses.
March, 1885 -- Butte Miner's Union forms and limits membership to miners only. The
second Miner's Union Hall is completed.
January 2, 1886 -- Knights of Labor joins with Butte Miners, Tailors, and
Typographical unions to form the Silver Bow Trades and Labor Assembly.
May 5th to 9th, 1886 - Strike by Utah and Northern railroad brakemen
shuts down the Anaconda mine and smelter.
June 13th, 1887 -- Bluebird Incident brings closed shop in Butte that will last for 27
May 6, 1890 -- strike against wage reduction to $2.50 a day by surface
workers prompts strikers to form Butte Laborer's Union. The new union changes its
name to Butte Workingmen's Union in honor of Butte's first union.
May 15, 1893 -- Western Federation of Miners founded in Butte. Butte Miner's Union
designated as Local Number One.
July 7th to 23rd, 1894 -- Railroad strike of BA&P and Pullman workers closes
Anaconda, Syndicate, and Parrot mines.
January 6th, 1896 -- school strike by Butte Teacher's Union.
January 13, 1897 -- Silver Bow Labor Trades and labor Assembly announces
boycott against Chinese and Japanese businesses, blaming them for bad economic
April 15, 1897 -- Several Chinese businessmen sue to recover $500,000 in damages
caused by union boycott. They receive an injunction and win the suit in 1898, and
collect court costs, $1,705.05, but no damages.
October 22, 1903 -- The Great Shutdown. The Company closes down all operations
putting 20,000 out of work until a special session of the legislature
is called to ensure a change of venue if a plaintiff believes a trial judge is prejudiced.
June 27, 1905 -- Industrial Workers of the World forms at meeting of labor activists
in Chicago. One founder, William D. "Big Bill" Haywood, Jr., calls it "Socialism with its
working clothes on."
September 12th, 1907 to February 29th, 1908 -- Citing a slump in the copper
market, The Company reduces its work force by half on September 12th, and then
shuts down almost all of the mines on the Hill on December 7th. Full
production doesn't resume until the next year.
December 1, 1912 -- Rustling card system put in place by The Company.
"Agitators" identified by spies are refused cards and therefore work.
June 12, 1914 -- Incident at Speculator mine when Muckie McDonald
encourages fellow workers to refuse to show their union cards. Evening
shift workers at Speculator and Black Rock stay out in support of protesting
workers. Walkout stills 1,200 workers and starts week of big trouble.
June 13, 1914 -- riot breaks out at Miner's Union Day parade and spreads to
union hall. During the riot, the hall is looted and safe is stolen and dynamited.
Acting mayor Frank Curran is pushed out of second-story window.
June 23, 1914 -- Miner's Union Hall is demolished with dynamite.
July 3, 1914 -- Mayor Lewis Duncan is attacked and stabbed in his office.
Duncan shoots his attacker in self defense.
August 20, 1914 -- Rustling office at Parrot mine is dynamited.
September 9, 1914 -- The Company declares an open shop, renouncing the
Western Federation of Miners.
June 8, 1917 -- Granite Mountain Fire kills 168 men in worst disaster in metal
June 5 to December 28, 1917 -- The Metal Mine Workers Union initially formed
to protest the draft for World War I and the rustling card system on June 5th.
After the Granite Mountain disaster, the new union forms in earnest and a strike is
called on the 11th. Smelter workers return to work and mining resumes on September
16th. By December 28th, the MMWU quits the strike.
September 12, 1918 -- A crackdown by local authorities and federal troops
prevents a general strike to protest the conviction of I.W.W. leaders. Omar
Bradley leads federal troops to shut down The Daily Bulletin and I.W.W.
members in Butte and Anaconda are arrested, including William F. Dunne,
editor of The Daily Bulletin.
February 6 to 17, 1919 -- Strike is called over wage cuts of $1 a day in copper
slump after World War I. Governor breaks strike by calling in three companies of the
44th U.S. Infantry. The soldiers bayonet nine strikers on February 10th.
April 19 to May 12, 1920 -- I.W.W. calls a strike that leads to "Bloody Wednesday"
massacre on Anaconda Road on April 21st. Federal troops arrive on the 22nd, and
500 miners return to work on the 23rd.
May 12th, 1920 - The Company bans I.W.W. members from mines. Posted signs
read "No member of I.W.W. will be employed at this property."
April 1921 to January 1922 -- Citing depressed copper prices, The Company shuts
down their mines.
June 20 to July 4, 1927 -- A newspaper strike stops publication of The Butte Miner,
Anaconda Standard, and Butte Daily Post.
May 8 to September 20, 1934 -- Fourth longest strike results in closed shop again
for the first time since 1914.
April 9 to 19, 1946 - Short, bitter strike turns ugly when Company has
salaried employees cross picket lines to keep mines operating during strike. Mobs
roam Butte neighborhoods destroying homes and property of Company "scabs."
Carpenter's Union refuses to allow members to repair damages.
August 27 to September 6, 1951 -- A national strike is curtailed when a
Denver court grants injunction sought by President Harry Truman to force miners and
smeltermen to return to work.
August 19, 1959 to February 15, 1960 -- second longest strike lasts 181 days.
July 15, 1967 to March 30, 1968 -- Longest strike in Butte's history lasts eight
and a half months.
November 5, 1974 -- Anaconda Company announces the closure of the few
remaining underground mines in Butte.
July 1 to August 1, 1977 - Month-long strike national strike of non-ferrous
June 17 to November 21, 1980 -- Third longest strike lasts four and a half months.
September 29, 1980 -- Anaconda Smelter closes.
April 23, 1982 -- Berkeley Pit shuts down.
June 30, 1983 -- Anaconda suspends all operations in Butte.
July 16, 1986 -- Open pit mining resumes with 188 non-union workers.
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