Historical Markers
The 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike (Shenandoah) Historical Marker
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The 1902 Anthracite Coal Strike (Shenandoah)

Valleys of the Susquehanna


Marker Location:
Intersection of Centre and Emerich Streets, Shenandoah

Dedication Date:
October 25, 2002

Behind the Marker

Group photograph of men and boys standing along a hillside.
United Mine Workers of America, Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902.
As the months of the strike wore on, the workers remained steadfast, remembering the hard lessons of lost strikes and broken solidarity in the past.  Intense pressures, however, challenged their resolve to stay out of the mines, including homelessness, as companies evicted them; threats from armed men who guarded the bony piles, which strikers picked through for fuel; and hunger, as meager resources gave out.

The coal companies also distributed anti-UMWA propaganda to divide and conquer the ethnically diverse strikers: Who is going to take care of you? they asked.  "Who gives your friends and relatives good chambers? Are they your countrymen? No, all Irish. Do John Mitchell [and others] work for you? No, for themselves and their own class, the Irish... The men who own the mines and pay you are better friends to you than those who lied to you and are still lying. 

The relative peacefulness of the region ended on Wednesday, July 30, when some 5,000 strikers rioted as the deputy sheriff escorted three "scabs"-- nonunion miners from the Philadelphia and Reading's colliery hired by the coal operators to break the strike-- to Shenandoah's train station. When the deputy's brother tried to get ammunition to the station, the rioters beat him so severely that he later died from his injuries.

Pennsylvania governor markerWilliam Stone sent in the state national guard. Following the riot, the newspaper reported, "There was considerable discussion to-day as to who appealed to the Governor for the troops. There are said to be twenty names of business men attached to the appeal, but it is believed not one of them are residents of Shenandoah."

Group photograph of miners.
United Mine Workers of America. Anthracite Coal Strike of 1902
Three regiments arrived, set up camp, drilled, and rode through Shenandoah and nearby towns on horseback. A picture of violence was far from what trooper Stuart Culin described:

...[w]e entered the outskirts of the town, a long street lined with frame houses, in front of which were little groups of men with clean hands and faces, neatly dressed in black. These were the striking miners, Poles and Lithuanians. They were quiet and undemonstrative, but they watched us covertly, with an expression that seemed to but half conceal a sneer. With them were women, barefooted in calico dresses, some with babes at their breasts, half grown girls and swarms of young children that played about with absolute freedom and unconcern."

In the late 1800s, Pennsylvania governors had helped companies break strikes by sending troops at the owners' request. In 1902, however, the presence of the Pennsylvania National Guard had little impact. To end this strike, which threatened the nation's railroad industry, President Theodore Roosevelt called for a commission to investigate the interests of the union and companies. Once the Anthracite Strike Commission was formed, the workers returned to the mines and awaited its findings.

To learn more about the 1902 Anthracite Strike,  markerclick here.
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