|William L. Clements Library
The University of Michigan
Photographs Division, F.8.22-24
Jerome (Ariz.) Mining Collection
In the long history of conflict between labor and capital in the Arizona copper mines, few incidents were as dramatic as the "deportation" of over 1,100 workers from Jerome on July 12, 1917. A small town situated in the heart of the copper district 100 miles north of Phoenix, Jerome was typical of many mining towns in the west. Named for Eugene Jerome, a New York attorney who staked the claim that founded the town, Jerome was dominated by the interests of eastern capital for decades prior to the First World War, and for many years after.
The American declaration of war in April, 1917, set in motion a dynamic that culminated in the deportation. The years of struggle between workers and management reached a crisis when the war-time demand for copper sent prices skyrocketing and the unions responded by demanding higher wages and formal recognition for the union. The most radical faction of the union movement allied under the banner of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) -- the Wobblies -- who embraced an anarchist-socialist philosophy and an exceptionally confrontational stance. The copper companies organized a counter-offensive under the leadership of Walter Douglas.
Widely loathed in middle-class America, the Wobblies were feared and despised at the outbreak of the war, suspected for the foreign origins of many of their most visible operatives, their overt socialism and activism, and for the threat they posed to social and industrial order. In Arizona they labored under the additional stigma of being easterners -- like the capitalists -- intervening in the affairs of the west. By May, 1917, their recruitment activities had produced strikes at all of the mines in the Jerome area, and by late June, the strike had spread statewide.
The high water mark of the strike in June, however, was followed by a rapid ebbing of fortunes. The IWW activism had produced serious friction with their competing unions, the AFL's Mine Mill and Smelter Workers (MMSW) and the Liga Protectura Latina, which organized about 500 Mexican miners, and on July 7th, the local members of the MMSW voted resoundingly to refuse to enlist in the IWW strike. Within two days, hundreds of miners -- many union members -- banded together as "emergency volunteers" and in a secret meeting at the high school, concocted a plan to rid the town of "Wobblies" and anyone suspected of Wobblie sympathies. The owners of the United Verde Copper Company, of course, eagerly abetted the citizens' resistance by supplying two cattle cars to transport the "Wobblies" into the desert. Arming themselves with shotguns, rifles, cudgels, and (significantly) miners' tools, the citizen-vigilantes tied white kerchiefs around their arms to identify themselves, and at 4 AM on July 10, they descended on every place in town suspected of harboring Wobblies, and arrested them. Each detainee was given a "trial" -- and some were acquitted -- but 75 men were loaded into the cattle cars and shipped off, with the majority released near Kingman, Ariz., with instructions never to return to Jerome. Few did.
Arising out a long, starkly polarized struggle, the Jerome deportation fed off of war time fears fanned by rivalries within the union movement, local resistance to the message of the IWW, and the manipulations of the copper companies. Defended locally as a necessary step under the exigencies of a war time economy, the deportation marked a low point in labor-management relations in the copper mines, and for many years, poisoned attitudes on both sides.
Scope and contents:
The photographs of the deportation of mine workers from Jerome, Ariz., document an infamous event in the labor history of the southwest, suggesting both the possibilities of efforts to organize the working classes and the limits. Powerful images of an infamous incident, most of the photographs were taken by an unidentified amateur photographer who, from comments added on the margins of many of the images, may have been associated with a Philadelphia contracting firm, Charles A. Sims & Co., hired by the United Verde Mine (see F.8.22.1, F.8.24.16). The comments clearly indicate an understanding of the events transpiring in Jerome, and suggest a tacit acquiescence to the actions of the "citizens" in expelling the strikers.
For all the drama of the incident, the most remarkable aspect of the eight images (F.8.24.2-9) of the strike and deportation itself is their utter banality. In most of the images, the citizens appear nonchalant, and were it not for the presence of weapons and the captions provided by the photographer, it would be easy to mistake the images as representing a popular meeting, rather than a popular action.
The remaining images in the collection consist primarily of views of the town of Jerome (see esp. F.8.22.11-14), the camps of the United Verde Extension Mine, and local scenery. There is an understandable emphasis on the mining and smelting operations in Jerome, with most images consisting of long shots and panoramas of the town, mining camps, and mines. At least five images were taken near present-day Tonto Basin, Ariz., north of the Theodore Roosevelt Dam. Three of these (F.8.24.16-18) fit together to create a panorama of Tonto Basin; the fourth (F.8.24.20) is a fine image of stages preparing to leave Roosevelt. These may represent another project on which the contracting firm was employed: the dam does not appear in the images, however the photographer wrote that the area depicted was to be inundated. Since the dam was constructed by the U.S. Reclamation Service between 1903 and 1911, these images may be somewhat older than those taken in Jerome.
Among the more touristic images are several views of burros, three of Indian women; two of the cliff dwelling known as "Montezuma's Castle," and a photograph of a nearby cavern. Fourteen of the images (F.8.22.11; F.8.22.15; F.8.23.1-5; F.8.23.7; F.8.23.13; F.8.23.15-19) are realphoto postcards produced locally by Fotoplace and Areldson Studio.
Byrkit, James. Forging the copper collar : Arizona's labor management war of 1901-1921 (Tucson, 1982).
cat. 6/98 rsc
Inventory of the Jerome (Ariz.) Mining Collection
[ Books ][ Manuscripts ][ Maps ][ Music ][ Photographs ][ Prints ][ Reader info ][ Women's History ]