William D. Haywood


With the Copper Miners of Michigan

(August 1910)


Source: From International Socialist Review, Vol. 11 No. 2, August 1910, pp. 65–68.
Transcription: Matthew Siegfried.
HTML mark-up: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists Internet Archive (2019).
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2022). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


COPPER was discovered in the upper Peninsula of Michigan in 1843 by Jim Paul and Nick Minicleer, two frontiersmen, who facing many dangers made their way in the depth of winter through the wilderness from the southern part of Wisconsin and arrived at a place now located on the map as Houghton and Keweenaw counties.

Here they discovered excavations which geologists and scientists have since determined were made by a pre-historic people who had come and gone before the Ameri can Indians inhabited this continent. The tools with which the mound builders worked the copper mines were perhaps little less crude than those of the Wisconsin prospectors who had nothing in the world except what they had carried on their backs. It is probable that in sinking the first shaft on their location, they contrived a windlass or whim for hoisting purposes. The rope may have been made from the raw hide of wild animals and their ore buckets of the skins. And they climbed down and back from their work on flimsy ladders made of saplings.

Today not far from the site of the first claims located in the copper country are the deepest shafts in the world. Number “three” shaft of the Calumet and Hecla mine is an incline 8,290 feet deep. The Tamarack mine shaft Number “four” is a vertical hole in the earth’s crust, 5,100 feet as the plumb line falls.

Here has been installed the most powerful machinery used in mining. The Tamarack hoisting engine is a marvel of mechanical ingenuity. There are two duplicate sixty-five hundred horse power Nordberg hoists, each with four thirty-six-inch-high pressure cylinders, having a seventy-two-inch stroke. The drums twenty-four feet in diameter taper to sixteen feet and carry sixty-five hundred feet, of one and one-half inch steel cable. The double decked cage and load of rock hoisted by these engines weighs twelve tons. For three quarters of a century an army of men have been employed underground until this section of Michigan is honeycombed with the workings of the miners who are robbing the treasure vaults of Nature of the metal which is so indispensable to the progress of civilization.

Here are vast deposits and veins of copper which occur in conglomerate and amygdaloids These valuable resources of the earth have come into the possession of a few individuals who have grown marvelous y rich at the expense of the underground toilers. Here is located the Calumet and Hecla property which has been the greatest dividend payer in all the mining world. Organized in 1871 since that time it has paid $107,000,000 in dividends. In 1907 every man of the several thousand employed returned to the company more than $2,000 over and above the wages received, all running expenses, improvements and development work. Of the latter it is said that six years ore supply has been blocked out, ready for extraction.

In the copper mines the contract or task system which by factory workers would be called piece work, is in vogue. The miners break the rock by the ton or fathom. Machine drills are used almost exclusively and for prospecting diamond drills are used. The wages of the miners seldom exceed $65.00 per month and there are instances on record of men who have worked a month and were in debt to the company for tool and other supplies, not including board. They have Saturday afternoon and Sunday off. In the mills and some parts of the mine, however, men are compelled to work an eleven-hour day and thirteen-hour night shift and these unseemly hours also apply to hoisting engineers upon whose vigilance the lives of the men daily depend as the engineers lower and hoist them out of the depths.

The Calumet and Hecla company has adopted a system of paternalism towards its employees, which holds the workers in a state of feudalism, very peculiar under a capitalist regime. This company owns 17 square miles or 74,841 acres of mineral lands. Upon this company land, temporarily leased, the workers have built hundreds of homes which they must vacate at short notice when they leave the company’s employ. The company owns twelve hundred dwelling houses and in these the company must receive six per cent interest on their investment and in addition, the cost of maintaining the houses. There are eight company schoolhouses where the children are taught by company teachers – a company manual training school – a company high school – there are thirty churches of different denominations all of which the company has aided to erect and helps to maintain – there are newspapers owned by the company – there is a company hotel – a company club house – a company library of approximately 30,000 volumes, books chosen by the company, newspapers in twenty different languages and these are not sufficient for the requirements of the men, as there are thirty different nationalities represented on the pay roll. There are company stores where the men are expected to trade – a company hospital where mangled men get well or die under the attendance of company doctors – on company grounds is built, an armory of the state where sons of company men are drilled in the art of murder and taught to shoot that they may protect the company’s property rights.

The dominating influence of the company in all the walks of life has bred servility on the part of the miners and creates an atmosphere entirely unlike any western mining camp. The spirit of the slave is not confined to any particular nationality, but here seems to be more pronounced in the Cornishman and Italian – the Finnish miner being decidedly more progressive. Miserable are the conditions in the copper mines but the wage slaves are awakening and organizing.

Last updated on 10 June 2022