The Colorado Coalfield War, 1913–14

Beneath the serene landscape of southern Colorado’s arid foothill country are the remnants of two forgotten worlds. Far beneath it all are the remains of prehistoric plants and animals, decayed and crushed to form rich, accessible coal deposits. Simultaneously, in the blackness of now-abandoned mine shafts, remain the buried dreams of the miners who first extracted the sooty treasure. These mines and the surrounding communities were once the sites of America’s deadliest labor conflict, an eight-month struggle that culminated in the death of dozens of people. Ultimately, the strike ended in stalemate for the Colorado Fuel & Iron Company (CFI) and the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). The most tragic chapter of the strike, the Ludlow Massacre, continues to inspire activists and artists alike. For union members around the world, Ludlow has remained an important symbol of their shared heritage and a reminder of why their organizations exist. A monument erected by the UMWA in 1918 still stands just off Interstate 25, where it receives thousands of visitors every year.

Conditions at the CFI Mines of the Colorado Coalfields

In 1913, the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company (CFI) tightly controlled the coalfields of southern Colorado and the miners who worked there. The early 1900s were a dangerous time to be employed by the CFI—their miners had the highest mortality rate in…

The Colorado Coalfield Strike of 1913-1914

Animosity between union organizers and mining operators hit a boiling point in August 1913 after the callous murder of union organizer Gerald Lippiatt by mine guards. The Colorado Fuel & Mining Company (CFI) did not acknowledge the murder and…

Women and the Colorado Coalfield Strike

When the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) strike was called in September, women enthusiastically joined the cause of their male family members. They harassed strikebreaking miners—“scabs”—and beat one scab, tracklayer John Hale, so badly that…

The 1914 Ludlow Massacre

At nearly 9:00 that morning, Mary Thomas O’Neal and her children finished their breakfast of oatmeal within the flaps of one of the many union-issued tents at the Ludlow tent colony. The seven-month coal miners’ strike against the Colorado Fuel and…