1913 : Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet Claims 72 Lives

December 24, 2021 all-day

The Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, Michigan occurred during the copper mine strikes on Christmas Eve in 1913. It was a benefit Christmas party for the children of striking miners in Calumet. The program was in the upstairs of the Italian Hall. During the program a man, or men, opened the doors at the bottom of the stairs leading outside and yelled “Fire”. The participants of the party, mostly children, rushed down the stairs and tried to get out. There was no fire. Some of the first children fleeing down the stairs either fell and were trampled or were crushed against the doors which opened inward. More and more came down the stairs. It was believed that strike breakers, hired by the mine captains who did this, but no one was ever found nor convicted. All that died, died of suffocation. Nearly whole families were killed this way. The Italian Hall was torn down a few years ago, but they left the doorway standing with a plaque in remembrance of this tragedy

Sources :

For historical photos, visit Copper County Digital Archives, created and shared by Michigan Tech University through MeL Michigania.

Historical Society of Michigan

Pasty Central Day in History : December 24

Aaron Goings and Gary Kaunonen, “Strike : New Perspectives 100 Years Later”, Michigan History, May/June 2013, pp. 22-27.

Italian Hall Disaster of 1913 via YouTube

Watch the new PBS documentary “Red Metal: The Copper Country Strike of 1913”. Available for loan from the MSU and other libraries.

For more information, see

Community in conflict : a working-class history of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy / Gary Kaunonen and Aaron Goings.

Death’s door : the truth behind Michigan’s largest mass murder / Steve Lehto. Troy, MI : Momentum Books, 2006. Also see a presentation about Death’s door : the truth behind Michigan’s largest mass murder courtesy of the Bayliss Public Library.

Woody Guthrie Sings about the Italian Hall Massacre, 1913 Calumet, Michigan and Words to the 1913 Massacre Song

The Cooper Strike plays an important backdrop in the novel Red jacket : a Lute Bapcat mystery / Joseph Heywood. Guilford, Conn. : Lyons Press, c2012.

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