Original Document
Original Document
Henry W. Francis, Report to Harry Hopkins on the social and economic conditions of southwest Pennsylvania, November 18, 1934.

Federal Emergency Relief Administration
Walker-Johnson Building
1734 New York Avenue, NW.
Clarksburg, W.Va.,
December 1st., 1934.

Dear Mr. Hopkins:
There is one man in Western Pennsylvania who feels that he is "borrowing" from the relief administration. He is "Old Bill" House, a new settler on the mountain behind Connellsville and so rare a client hereabouts that he merits a paragraph.

In his late fifties, he is starting out to begin anew. Born on a farm and after a life spent in farming, mining and working in factories, he was reduced last summer to a job as caretaker on a mountain property near his present "home." Then he lost that but, having four dollars, he put it down as part payment on a hundred dollars' worth of tillable mountain land, cut down some trees, got them sawed at a mill on nerve or credit and, with the green lumber, built the one-room shack where he now lives.

I visited him there one day last week during a mountain snow storm. "old Bill" s snowed in, having neither rubbers nor decent shoes but two gunny sacks, bundled about his feet, permitted him to go to his home-made chicken house and care for his Wyandottes. He has sixty of them, having started with fifteen acquired in some mysterious manner to which "Old Bill" never alludes. The sale of chickens, eggs and garden produce from his carefully spaded half-acre, kept him going until a month or so ago. Then he was forced on to direct relief. But he won't be on it long, he assured me. He may get work soon "on the timber," he says, but in any case he'll be "sitting pretty" when the chickens begin to lay again.

"Old Bill" radiates optimism and self-help. He thanks God and the relief for helping him out. God's been mighty good to him and so's the relief. My, but he "sleeps warm" in those blankets they sent out. "Old Bill" just hates to ask for anything else but he thinks he'll have to "apply" for a pair of shoes. He was the first man I've heard of to "apply" for anything. All the others are "ordering" or "demanding."

"Oh, I just need a little lift for the winter," explained this Robinson Crusoe of the mountains. "When I get going again I'll pay it all back and say, I'll send you fellows some good chickens."

I believe "Old Bill" will "get going." He has the will to carry on - the true spirit of the pioneer. He has neither wife nor child but, in his need, he has "helped out" a neighbor's lad who "just can't get along with his step-father." The lad sleeps in the chicken house and shares Bill's food ration. "The boy's unfortunate," Bill House told me, "just unfortunate."

Not so "Old Bill." He's getting along fine; got plenty to be thankful for. Snow came swirling in through inch chinks in the planking and settled on us as we talked. The lumber was used "too green," said Bill, piqued a bit by my critical glance. "It was as tight as a drum when I put it up. Anyway I'm going to line the shack with them (he pointed to a pile of flattened cardboard boxes laboriously dragged up from the grocery store) when I get some tacks.

This man's courage is rare but the so-called "mountainous section" of Fayette is inhabited by a class of people inherently as self-reliant as "Old Bill." There are between 500 and 600 farmers and former farmers in the county who own farm land in quantity enough, if properly worked, to make them self-sufficient. Most of them used to live pretty well off this land until high wages offered by adjacent industry in boom times lured the men-fold from it. Now they are back on it but the neglected farms and plots now cannot be used. Equipment is lacking. Four years or more the soil has not been fertilized, limed or, in many cases, even cleared of brush. There are no tools except a few rusty, broken wrecks, no stock, no money for seed. Instead there are mortgages, back interest and back taxes. Clothes are worn out, furniture played out, stoves and pots in disrepair or done for. All these men can do is hope for a little work relief on the roads and projects are few. Only 135 families are on direct relief - you see, they still have pride.

Besides these non-farming or partly-farming farmers there is a large number of people classified as "villagers" and many of these own small plots and have farming capabilities. A third classification is that of the "mountaineer type" who hitherto have eked out a precarious existence cutting timber, working on roads, etc. Many of this class own some land and could produce something besides moonshine if helped to the acquisition of seed, stock and equipment. But now there are 504 families of the "villager" classification and 207 of the hardy mountaineer type on the relief caseload. These people are in a bad jam. All standards, except those relating to certain codes of required behavior under feud fire, are low. Living conditions are deplorable especially insofar as they affect the children. Intermarriage has weakened the stock, and depleted energy and ambition have been still further reduced by the ready accessibility of direct relief. In spite of all this those who know these people well believe that they would perk up and respond satisfactorily to any rehabilitation plan which offered the hope of renewed self-sufficiency and security. But there is no such plan in prospect. Several have found space in the crowded pigeon-holes of Harrisburg, I am told. Things have been happening so quickly, it is explained; there has not been time to work things out.

The relief authorities have undoubtedly are busy. They are so busy throwing out life-belts, it seems to me, that they have no time to summon the rescue ships. There is every disposition to keep the sinking needy afloat but nothing much, seemingly, is being done about getting him to shore. Throughout Fayette, a county which never has concerned itself very much about the under dog, one encounters the view that the said under dog is just flotsam by nature. Of course he should have work for which he is fitted - that means grubbing coal underground - but he should not be counted in on any fanciful rehabilitation scheme predicted upon self-help. He simply will not fit in - he's a miner by nature and nothing but mining at good pay will satisfy him. That's the thesis so far as the miner is concerned and few consider any other type as a real problem. And, as for him, well not much can be done. You can't do anything with the mountaineer, either; I tell you, this thing of lifting up the lowly can't be done. No so darned high. Talk about self-help; well you just don't know these people - you don't know the class of labor we have here...All you can do with 'em is give 'em work if you've got it or food if you haven't. And pretty soon they'll want food without work; they do already, many of them. This is verbatim from a man who has hired and "known" labor hereabouts for thirty-five years. I should have enjoyed taking this man with me to Belle Vernon.

Belle Vernon, a little town on the border between Fayette and Westmoreland counties, has a population of a thousand or so which depends on work at the plant of the American Window Glass company, the railroad and a few minor local industries. The big employer is the glass company and this has been shut down for many months. Last March, I believe, the shut-down came...Well, the place was seething with pent-up discontent, disorganized, despairing revolt against everything. In June the place was visited by organizers of the National Unemployed Council. A local Council was formed and for weeks spellbinders from the National group kept things hot in Belle Vernon which acquired the reputation of being "a hot bed of radicalism." Almost the entire place was on direct relief and there was the usual criticism of the local administration for "catering to such radicalism." Agitation grew, violence became a near prospect and then one day, Mrs. Mingo, the relief visitor, met some of the leaders and invited them to "talk things over." This was done - several times - the first conference being held to the back room of, well, let's call it a restaurant, and Mrs. Mingo, departing from accepted welfare technique, bought the men beer. And while they drank, she talked. What she said, I don't know but soon these idle, grousing men decided that it would be a good thing to have a Christmas Party for the kids. A group installed itself in a room in local relief headquarters and work was begun. Jack knives came into play and odds and ends of wood and cardboard were transformed into the figures of various animals. They were good enough animals but jack-knifing it was slow work and there are many children in Belle Vernon. Someone suggested Joe Thingumbob's jig-saw. It was lent to the group but for one day only. It must not be kept longer. Fred English, who was a leader from the first, suggested that instead of using the borrowed saw to cut out a stock of animals, it would be more to the point if they used the time to make a copy of the borrowed tool. Everyone set to work. An old electric motor was dug up from somewhere and repaired; a discarded automobile water pump was fitted dexterously to it to form an eccentric drive; a bench to hold it was contrived and, at the end of the day, a perfect copy of the borrowed saw stood finished. A penny collection was taken up and a dozen saw blades purchased for 25 cents.

Work on a "mass production" scale then was begun. Everyone in town was interested. The hitherto unsympathetic foreman of the glass works sent down a few planks; the hardware dealer sent up a pound or two of nails; another store supplied a can of paint; the five and ten cent store sent broken, "junked" toys to be repaired. Things positively were humming; there wasn't a minute to listen to oratory imported by the N.U.C., and eventually the group seceded from this national body and formed the Unemployed Council of Belle Vernon which in its by-laws bans "political and church arguments of all kinds." The group then made friends fast; the glass company sent more planks; the electric light and water companies contributed light and water free; a local concern sent it's truck in to the group for body repairs and a neighboring restaurant, requiring partitions installed, gave the work to the former "reds." When such work failed, toy-making proceeded. The place now is filled with them. They are well made and so ingeniously contrived. Prancing horses have checkers for wheels; the hubs of wheelbarrows are made from cotton spools, carved with jacknives and sand-papered to a glass finish. The group still has no lathe or plane.

To-day all the talk in Belle Vernon is about the coming Christmas Party. Everybody is cooperating. The Burgess, Mr. Stanley, is lending a Borough truck to the men so that they may go to the mountain and cut a "man's size" Christmas tree. It will be set up in the center of town. The Fire Dept. is lending electric lights for the tree and the power company is giving the current. The local theater has offered space in case of bad weather. So everything is going famously and Belle Vernon which never had a community tree - no, not even in its prosperous days - is to have one this year - a gift from the unemployed...Every child in town will receive a toy and, if rumor is to be credited, a box of candy from the local Post of the American Legion, the members of which a few months ago were loud in their denunciation of "local reds who are trying to tear down the flag."

It's not just a game; it's real self-help. One man is making bed quilts, pains-taking hand-sewn patchwork patterns; others turn out good tables, stools and benches. But the prize "something from nothing" industry is that of Anthony Cuppola who is making carved paperknives and really-inspired Blue Eagle ornaments out of rib and shin beef bones which he gets from the local butcher. These things, polished to perfection with Mrs. Cuppola's kitchen Sapolio, are in excellent taste. Thanks to Mrs. Mingo they are finding a sale and if business keeps up the Cuppolas soon will go off relief - saved by beef bones.

Of course all this does no mean that the men are relying upon their new industry to support them indefinitely. They all say that when the glass works reopens - or when any other work offers - they'll jump at it. The glass works expects to reopen soon. The tank is filled. When orders come to light it there is going to be the biggest celebration in Belle Vernon's history.

I think this is a good sample of what can be done to "turn away wrath" and achieve constructive results through disguised guidance. There is "wrath" to be turned away in this region. At South Brownsville, a dozen or so miles from Belle Vernon, Victor Kemenovick, an organizer of the National Unemployed Council, is stirring up plenty. In this he is aided by his wife, Agnes Snear, who ran for the State Legislature, I believe, in the recent election and who has been active in Chicago and elsewhere. Both are very intelligent, active and effective. They live with Ivan Kemenovich and his family, at 1311 Second Street, So. Brownsville. Ivan is Victor's brother. He has a barber's shop in Brownsville and also works in a distillery, Steve, a third brother, is a miner employed at [illegible], across the river in Green County. I called an appointment to see Victor at the So. Brownsville address but he broke two appointments. Ivan shook his head. Victor always was late and so was Agnes. Just "up in the air" all the time. Ivan says that he doesn't approve of Victor's politics. But he'll give him a home as long as he has one. He has a good home - spotlessly clean - and cheerful. The Kemenoviches are Croatians. came to this county as children and Victor worked in the mines when he was fifteen years old. "He's had plenty of trouble," said Ivan, "but Victor's a fine fellow - just a bit too much talk, that's all.

Victor is talking quite effectively to the growing embarrassment of the local relief administration. Visitors report growing discontent which shows itself, at times, in abuse. Miss Silverman, Case Supervisor, told me that visitors have reported to her that they cannot enter certain homes because of the abusive attitude of the clients. One street in Uniontown proper is not being visited for this reason, I was told.

Across the river from Brownsville, in Greene County, Dr. George W. Teagarden, a country doctor in the little town of Carmichaels, Pa., is fomenting discontent with results similar to those effected by Kemenovich and his aides. Dr. Teagarden comes from a long line of M. D.'s. A sister, Dr. Florence Teagarden, practices in Philadelphia. The doctor has a social welfare background. He taught sociology at Waynesburg College at one time but that was long ago for he has practiced medicine in Greene County for more than forty years, during which he has come to "know all there is to know about the miner, the region and the crooks who have been exploiting both." The doctor, "always sympathetic with the miner and a fighter against the intolerable condition under which they have worked," realized a year or more ago that the men were "victims of conditions just as unjust and intolerable" as a result of "corruption in the administration of relief." To fight this "rotten state of affairs" he organized the General Relief committee of the U.M.W.A., of which he is Chairman and which, he says, represents 5,178 members of the union. This and which, he says, represents 5,178 members of the union. This Committee which meets frequently at the doctor's home and at Waynesburg, has, as it's principal objective, it seems, the overthrowing of the Greene county Relief director and "the crooks under him who, like him, are company men. The wildest possible charges against these men are made by Dr. Teagarden and believed by his followers. Evidence, affidavits, etc., are offered to prove the charges. The result of all this, the Doctor says, is that relief is being "wilfully denied" to certain persons and "given freely to those who stand in." There are also charges of inefficiency and waste. The doctor's feeling against the relief administration is intensified by the refusal of the S.E.R.B. at Harrisburg to pay him a sum of $1300 due to him for medical visits, the bill not having been approved by the Greene County Medical Advisory Committee, a body which, according to the doctor, is "company owned and against me because I helped the union." The Doctor also has been taken off the list of participating physicians by Dr. Miller, State Director of the Emergency Medical Relief board. The "burns him up." He has not yet heard about a move to disbar him from practice but I have information that this is so.

The Doctor is pugnacious, energetic, and animated by a great sense of duty. He disregards the Greene County relief administration but keeps the Washington County wire hot with complaints. Some of them have been found to be justified and the doctor is of service because he gets the first new of real need. He has the support, he says, of the Pennsylvania Security League whose 60,000 members drawn from recognized social groups, "back him to the last ditch." Representatives of the Civil Liberties' League have been present at this meetings.

He told me that "it was a crime the way relief is being administered in Greene county; that families were left without food by case visitors who were "company men" and that children could not go to school for lack of clothing so denied. There was only one case of this kind of which Dr. Teagarden could think off-hand. But he promised a list for the morrow. I investigated the one case and found it to be incorrectly represented by Dr. Teagarden. Members of the U.M.W. local who also were on the Doctor's relief committee admitted that the case was not an emergency. The case visitor, worried to death under this constant pressure, had nevertheless issued an emergency order for food and clothing for this family and for four others which she said "were not really emergency cases" but which she had satisfied as a result of pressure.

I bear in mind that we are not particularly interested in mal-administration as such. But charges such as those of Dr. Teagarden and activities of the Kemenovich order are affecting mental states. Not only of clients but also of the relief workers, themselves. Many are harassed and discouraged. It is significant, I think, that a workers' protective organization has sprung up within the body of the Fayette County Relief Administration. Workers told me that this had been made necessary by injustices done to certain of them. In Washington county there is no "relief workers' union" but there is much dissatisfaction in the ranks based on too long hours at too small pay.

Failure to receive clothing as ordered is responsible for 80 per cent. of the complaints received from protest groups. Forty per cent. of supervisor time in Washington County, I was told, was spent in following through mistakes either in ordering or filling orders. Friction with Harrisburg is blamed for the shortage of clothing which remains serious. On Nov. 10th., the Fayette County organization was entirely out of the following articles:

Women's winter union suits, vests, bloomers. Misses' winter union suits, hose, slips. Children's suits, 3 to 6 years; winter suits, 2 to 6 years; hose; layettes. Men's hose, pants, dress shirts, work shirts. Boy's hose, long pants, dress shirts, work shirts. Youth's dress shirts.

On the same date it had 72 women's sweaters on hand but in 2 sizes out of 7. Sizes 20, 22, 24 and 26 in misses' sweaters were out. There were only 29 pairs of infants' high shoes in stock. Out of 125 pairs of men's work shoes in stock six sizes were lacking. There were 1700 men's winter union suits but only 6 size 34. Of 660 pairs of youth's shoes, 596 were in three sizes. Only 23 pairs of youth's high shoes were in stock.

A report on Washington County discloses similar shortage. The first need is for a better clothing supply; the second for a better system of distribution. The present one is too slow. The shoe department now is more than 7,000 pairs behind its orders. Good weather helps. Severe weather would bring trouble. Ernest Cole, Regional Supervisor, says: "The situation in Fayette is ready to boil over; there's the basis here for a conflagration."

Things were "boiling hot" last week at the Bertha Consumers' mine near Eldersville, in Washington County. Here on this blackened "patch" of desolate shacks I heard a story typical of the worst type of commercial "shoestring" operation. This mine has changed hands and receivers several times during the last six years and each change has resulted in a loss of from four to six weeks' pay by the workers. The last attempt to operate at Bertha was made by one. J. C. Cook who had leased the mine on a royalty basis from the Crown Coal Company, of Pittsburgh, J. H. Jones, president and principal owner. The mine operated under cook for a few months and then missed a payroll. that was on October 13th. The men walked out and another pay which had been fully worked out in the meantime was missed. So the men lost the product of one month's work. They lost more than that. Back in July, Cook, needing money, told the men that they would have to assist him by purchasing stock in the mine and paying for it out of their wages. Nearly every one of the 150 odd men was sold a hundred dollars' worth of stock and this was to be paid in as much as $61 on stock; the average was around $30. All men hired were required to purchase stock in consideration of a job. Then Cook failed to turn into the U.M.W. union treasury moneys representing dues collected from the men by Cook, or rather, moneys withheld from their wages. This almost precipitated a strike and feeling was bad when Cook broke the camel's back by missing a pay.

I am told by the men that upwards of $4,000 was paid by them to Cook for stock. In addition he owes $6,000 back wages. He also owes money to the concern which, under contract, ran the company store. As a result the store closed down the mine. All went on relief. Conditions are the worst a this camp. There is no doctor on or near the patch. Morale is down.

The owners of the Bulger Block Coal Co., at Smith Township, who once "took a fling" at Bertha are willing to take another one if they can come to terms with Cook concerning his "rights" in the lease. The men have voted to work for Bulger and forget their back pay. Now it seems that there will be delay over the lease. The men say that "it's a bad law which keeps us from work" and their opinion of the due processes of law was fortified when the Bituminous Coal Labor Board wrote their secretary that the Board could do nothing about getting them their dues from Cook. And here's the strange thing - the men all believe that Coke is honest. Jones, they say, is behind all their troubles.

A similar case, now in litigation, concerns another "shoestring" mine operated until recently by the Valda Coal Co., now in receivership. Valda closed down after 2 pays had been missed. That was on Oct. 4th. The store also closed, money being owed from the company on food for which the miners already had paid through wage check-offs. Electric light and water also were cut off for non-payment of bills. The owner of the mine, a Mrs. Bergwyn, who leased it to Valda and who has $300,000 in royalties due to her, came to the rescue of the patch and paid back bills for light and water and these were restored. There are about forty families on this patch. Of them the case visitor says: "The are reasonable and fair. They need clothes and coal, there being no more coal on the dump. In fact, they need everything we have." What such people really need is a little Russian back country justice. It is a pity they have no Small Claims' Court.

Both of these mines just referred to are in Washington county where as of Nov. 15th., the case load is around 6,500 on direct and 790 on work relief. In a previous report I estimated that the load would reach 9,000 of both cases this winter. This estimate is conservative. It is based on the assumption that the relief load at North Charleroi, Dunlevy and other nearby river towns will be no more than tripled. The Pittsburgh Steel Company has plants at these places and your investigator covering steel operations in this field undoubtedly will be able to correct this estimate if necessary. I have not visited these steel towns but am relying on the Home Visitor figures concerning relief prospects there. He reports 140 families on relief in five towns and estimates work prospects to be so good that this number may not be more than tripled. I am informed that these places can be more conveniently covered from Westmoreland county and when I am in that county I will take stock of the situation in the steel towns thereabouts unless advised that is not required.

Washington county mines and other operations not hitherto reported on include:

PITTSBURGH and WASHINGTON mine. Avelia, Washington Co. This is operated by the Pittsburgh Terminal Coal corp., and is a mine of the commercial type working the Lake trade. About 750 men still are working there three days a week but prospects are for two days weekly during the winter. A typhoid epidemic broke out on this patch last September. A contaminated well was blown up by the men and the company spent $2,000 cleaning up the camp. The visitor says: "The company is quite out of sympathy with the relief work."

JEFFERSON COAL and COKE CORP. Penowa mine, near Penowa Jefferson Co. This is a commercial mine employing 450 men and depending principally on the Lake trade. It has been working 3 and 4 days a week since Sept. 1 and will continue for awhile on railroad orders. One or two days a week is the prospect for the winter.

CEDAR GROVE mine. Owned by Carnegie Coal Co., at Studa, PA. Commercial mine? Lake trade. Been operating 3 and 4 days a week. Prospects one or two days weekly beginning in December. 450 men employed.

AMERICAN ZINC and CHEMICAL CO., Langeloth, PA. Operates coal mine and uses most of the coal at the zinc plant. Eight hundred men now employed in all at plant and mine. Plant prospects are for three or four days a week. Coal prospects 2 and 3 days through the winter. Fifty families on relief at present. Fifty per cent increase looked for.

WASHINGTON TINPLATE CO., near Washington, PA. This concern makes a better class of tin container used for packing toilet preparations, talcum powder, etc. It employs between 400 and 500 men and has worked up to one hundred per cent. capacity all through the depression and expects to continue to do so.

HAZEL ATLAS GLASS CO., near Washington, PA. Employs 2,100 men on glass containers. Is working well and expects to continue. None of the company's people on relief, it is said. Work would have been better still but for the drought in the Middle West. As a result of it the pickle crop failed and pickle bottles enjoy no demand.
Greene County

Mining is the principal industry in this county with farming and sheep raising following. In addition to Greene County mines already reported on, I have visited:

MATHER mine. Owned by Pickands-Mather Coal Co., Cleveland, Ohio. This is a captive mine employing 1,024 workers and sending its coal to the Steel Company of Canada, Hamilton, Ont., the Interlake Iron Co., Erie, PA., and the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co., Cleveland. Most of the coal has been going to Hamilton. The mine has been working five days a week since May 1 but it is scheduled to go down on November 23rd., cutting its production to 15,000 tons a month. Part of this will be stocked at the mine but not much as facilities are lacking. The rest will be shipped to Erie and Cleveland by river. The company hopes to work out a plan whereby all the men can be given two days' work a week. Even at this 350 families will need some help. This mine is in Dr. Teagarden's immediate bailiwick and mine officials are indignant over his activities. "He upsets the company doctor every day in the week."

CRUCIBLE mine. Owned by Crucible Steel Co., of America. This mine, employing 750 men was down from December 1933 to May 1934. It worked three days a week in September last, the same number in October and so far has worked 4 days a week in November. Ninety per cent of the coal is shipped on the river to the Crucible plant at Middletown, PA. Prospects are good unless "Washington upsets things again." Heavily-surcharged Republican atmosphere at this mine.

The Greene county caseload, according to last figures, totals 1,274 cases on direct relief and 406 on work relief. The prospects are that this relief load will be increased thirty per cent during the next month and 100 per cent this winter.

LABOR. The efforts of the U.M.W.A. to bring about a better understanding of its members' need by the county relief organizations continue unabated. Meetings have been held and resolutions passed concerning the need for a liaison officer to serve as a go-between and handle difficulties which arise between the union and the relief organizations. The question as to who should pay the salary and expenses of this officer has arisen.

I talked with William J. Hynes, Pres., Dist. 4, U.M.W.A., C.C. Boner, Secretary, and Michael Honus, International Organizer. They again pointed out injustice done to their membership by too rigid eligibility rules, discrimination and injustice. They deplored corruption and politics within the relief organizations. They said they were working with Dr. Teagarden to "put and end to this sort of thing."

Of a total membership of from 16,000 to 17,000 only 8,000 are working, I was told, and these only 2 or 3 days a week. These figures include U.M.W. local, Dist. 5, which includes the Pittsburgh area. The men who do not earn a minimum of 5 days' pay a month are exhausted from paying dues. Conditions of living of the membership as a whole were said to be "very bad - worse than they were." Relief is doing good when it gets to the right people but men want something more than relief. They want work. They will never be satisfied with anything else than work under good conditions. Present conditions are not good enough even at best. The men were very dissatisfied. That is why so many of them were joining the Unemployed Councils. The gentlemen present regretted this. This men joined the U.C. without understanding that such Councils were communistic. That was not their understanding of it.

"What is your understanding of it, gentlemen?"

By Mr. Hines: "We know it to be thoroughly communistic. It's game is to destroy Americanism as all true Americans understand it. It's game is to destroy the U.M.W.A. and to tear it apart. It is a bad influence on our men and their women. Agnes Snear has been organizing these women into U.C. auxiliaries. I don't know how much success she's having with the women but the men are taking it up. Thousands are joining."

"Why is that?"

By Mr. Boner: "I'll tell you why - it's because we are failing them - "

By Mr. Hynes: "The men do feel that the U.C. is doing them a service by helping them to get adequate relief. I agree that this is true. We feel that we should have some machinery of our own to get justice for our membership. We must supply this machinery. We are working on it and Mr. Cole (Regional Supervisor F.E.R.A.) has agreed to cooperate with us. We can't get these U.C. organizations get hold of our men in this way."

By Mr. Honus: "You know that these Unemployed Councils are being handled by the same men who formerly were in the National Miners' Union - "

By Mr. Hynes: "Certainly. Everyone knows that."

"Are the Brotherhoods' men equally impressed with the advantages of belonging to a U.C.?"

By Mr. Hynes: "They don't have to be protested. The companies take care of them."

By Mr. Honus: "Why should they join up? Are any of them being evicted?"

"Are any of your men being evicted?"

By Mr. Hynes: "Our men are being unmercifully treated by the Frick company. We have spent upwards of $5,000 in the last three months moving and paying rent for our members who have been evicted by the Frick company?"

"Are any facing eviction today?"

By Mr. Hynes: "Yes, sir; many of them."

"How many?"

By Mr. Hynes: "Wait a minute. I'll find out what I can."

Mr. Hynes then telephoned the Sheriff's office and took down the names of seven men for whose eviction orders had been issued. He gave me these names. All were former workers at Colonial 4, a Frick mine.

By Mr. Boner: "Here are two bills for moving two other families from Colonial 4, I just paid them." (He showed bills)

"I have been told by Mr. Areford (a leading real estate operator) that it is practically impossible to get eviction orders to-day in Fayette County."

By Mr. Boner: "It's not impossible for the Frick company."

By Mr. Hynes: "Mr. Francis. That court house over there is a company court house. Frick can get anything they want from it."

Speaking of the Brotherhoods, Mr. Hynes said:

"They probably have about 6,500 men in the Workmen's Brotherhood and the Miners' Independent Brotherhood. The two cooperate - they really are the same organization. If one plant closes down they send their man to another and these men, already enrolled in one, automatically are added to the membership of the particular brotherhood which is holding forth at that mine. They juggle the men around in this fashion so much that it is quite impossible to know just what the real membership is. And don't think that only miners belong. Eight hundred Frick pensioners and their sons are in it and so are the machine bosses, the clerks, and office workers. Why, they even enrolled some of the cleaning women."

By Mr. Boner: "It's the company plan all over again. There's no difference whatever."

By Mr. Honus: "Financially supported by the companies and run by them."

"But I have repeatedly been told by company men that the Brotherhoods were just as bad as the U.M.W."

By Mr. Hynes: "That's camouflage; that's what they give out. There's nothing to that."

There is evidence of financial support given to the Workmen's Brotherhood by those near to the operators. I have seen receipts for contributions made to this organization by former coal operators who are closely allied to the Frick company. One former coal operator gave sums of $100 up to the W.B. in the names of friends to whom receipts were sent. These friends were told in substance: "You ought to be in on this - I'm putting you down for so much. Don't worry about the money - just take care of the receipt when you get it." This was given to me in confidence; receipts were shown. If you ask me for proof of this I shall be unable to supply it and shall take refuge in newspaper men's privilege to respect confidence. But you may rely upon its truth.

O.L. Snyder, District Chairman of the Workmen's Brotherhood, received me in his office at New Salem, PA. He said that there was nothing in the Brotherhood by-laws to prevent contributions being received from the coal companies but that no such contributions ever had been received nor would they be accepted. He denied that the companies sustained the organization in any way. He said that the W.B., organized on Sept. 23, 1933, now numbers 5,800 members. The policy was to bring in "only men who had past affiliations with the coal companies with which we now have relations."

"What relations?"

"I mean contracts."

The W. B., Mr. Snyder continued, now was working on membership at plants operated by the Frick Co., the Youngstown Sheet and Tube Co., at Mercer, Mercer County. The policy was to keep the "riff-raff" out. New members must agree to apply for first naturalization papers within one year of admittance to the organization which "stands for Americanism."

"What is the difference in platform between the W.B. and the M.I.B.?"

"That's a leading question. If I answered that they'd have me by the neck."

"If a man belongs to the M.I.B. - "

"We don't bother him. That would be interfering with a man's right to choose his organization. We are not operating at Colonial at all. The M.I.B has that."

"Do you function anywhere where the M.I.B. is active?"

"We don't go after their membership."

"Do you function where the U.M.W. have a set-up?"

"Yes; but we don't go after their membership either."

"What is the companies' attitude towards your organization?"

"It is hard to find out. They ought to like us for we impress our men to be fair. We do all we can to avoid hasty decisions by the men. Our whole policy is to wean them away from this thing of 'demanding'."


"Well, we know that we cannot get any benefits unless those benefits are accorded to every worker in the mining industry."

Speaking of the origin of the W.B. and harking back to the labor difficulties of August, 1933, Mr. Snyder said that conditions in commercial mines then were intolerable. The unions were quite right in defending those workers, principally at commercial mines, who were being imposed upon. But the unions was quite wrong in interfering with men who were satisfied and had no desire to affiliate with the union. Such men felt very strongly about this. They took no action, however, until the latter part of September when the W.B. was formed. Membership in the W.B. was growing at the rate of about 50 new members a month. Twenty-three hundred families of members are on the relief rolls. All of these would prefer work. The morale, but no the real character of the men was being unfavorably affected by the idleness relief. The Brotherhood recognized the need for relief and was cooperating with the relief authorities. It has recommended at undeserving cases within the membership be taken off relief and such cases had been taken off. Clothes were badly needed. They should be rushed to the families before winter set in. There was some dissatisfaction among those who were working. The codes had helped workers, it was true, but the cost of living had reduced the benefits. Mr. Snyder felt that the present standard of living of the miner even on full time would not be sufficiently high to make for contentment. It would not be what Mr. Snyder thought he was fighting for in France. Many of the W.B. men had fought too and felt precisely as he did.

I made repeated attempts to contact Alfred Engle, President of the M.I.B. On four occasions I found his Uniontown headquarters locked. No one had been there for days, I was told. The telephone had been discontinued. At his home in Smock it was said that Mr. Engle's whereabouts were not known and that no one else could speak authoritatively for the M.I.B.

But to get back to conditions generally in Fayette County. Outside of coal mining there are only 14 industries in the county which employ 100 or more workers. Here they are:

Plant Nature Employees Prospects
Bennet and Co pants factory 237 good
Berkowitz Co shirts 350 "
Connellsville Silk Co silk 168 doubtful
Richmond Co. radiators 237 may shut
Richmond Enamel enamel ware 251 "
B. and O. R.R. railroad 235 static
Monongahela R.R. " 341 "
P'gh and L. Erie R.R. " 290 "
Gen Chem. Co. chemicals 134 good
Capstan Glass Co. bottles 510 "
Am. Window Glass Co. glass 372 shut
Quartinmont Glass Co. " 144 shaky
Houze Convex Glass Co. " 233 doubtful
Penn. Wire Glass Co. " 143 good

It will be seen that life in Fayette County depends almost solely upon coal mining. There is some agriculture but the condition of this has been noted. As I said in my last letter less than 50 our of more than 150 coal and coke plants are operating. It is admitted that a large proportion of those shut down never will reopen; many of those now operating have only a few years' coal ahead of them. Coal is "going back" on the County; what was once a rich empire is almost ready to be dumped by its rulers; it has been bled white both above and below ground. Populations have been left stranded not only without work but without prospects of ever being re-employed in coal mining. What are they to do? Are they to remain indefinitely on direct relief? Will they have to move into other communities for possible absorption into other industries? Are they to be placed on homestead projects? What is going to happen to them? Every thoughtful person in Fayette is asking this question all discussion concerning relief ends at this point. When I ask people for their impressions of the effect of relief they all take the short view. Perhaps the truth is that, so far as present relief is concerned, no other view can be taken - perhaps, so far as long range results are concerned, relief is having very little effect at all. It is helping the children. Malnutrition, which always has been the bane of child life on these depressing patches were for forty years bare existence has been so pitiably sustained, is being reduced for the children are getting more milk from relief than they ever did from the best pay envelopes. That is something but it is not enough for the future of these youngsters under the present circumstances is hardly brighter than that of the parents.

I do not know what the answer is. I have found no one who does. But, as [I] left Pennsylvania, one great need seemed to stand out clearly - the need for an intensive study of all these people - a careful survey by trained people of all these mining town populations, of the hill folk and of the areas harboring those stranded workers who have nothing in the present and even less in the future to contemplate. Possibly such a study would suggest a way out. I do not know; again I have found no one who does. These is nothing very hopeful or constructive in the mass of public opinion contacted in Western Pennsylvania. One hears that miners can do nothing but mine coal. I used to think so myself but down here in W. Virginia I find people who believe the contrary. The West Virginia miner, I am told, is doing things which prove his adaptability. May not these coal diggers a few miles north have "hidden resources," too, in mind and spirit? Would it not be well to take stock of the Pennsylvania miner? He can't do it himself. He sees no way out - wants no way out other than work in the same old mine at living pay. But he's not going to get it in Fayette County. He'll float along if you keep him supplied with life belts without ever dreaming of getting to shore. But I suspect that once on stable ground he might find himself and for the first time be happy.
Very truly yours,

Henry W. Francis

Credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hopkins Papers, Box 66.
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