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ILLINOIS STATE ARCHIVES


Hard Times in Illinois, 1930–1940

A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives


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DOCUMENT 24
TELEGRAM CONCERNING VIOLENCE COMMITTED AGAINST THE PROGRESSIVE MINERS OF AMERICA
February 2, 1934



Explanation

Since the spring of 1933 Taylorville and most of Christian County had comprised a war zone with the combatants being the United Mine Workers of America and the breakaway Progressive Mine Workers of America (see also document 19). The National Guard was called up for months on end to occupy Taylorville in particular and thereby prevent pitched gun battles. If someone knocked on a miner's door after dark, interior lights would be extinguished and a firearm acquired before that door was opened. Men had been shot and killed while taking out their garbage.

John L. Lewis of the United Mine Workers had worked out an agreement with the Peabody Coal Company whereby United Workers only would work the company's mines in Christian County. They were to be paid a reduced wage of five dollars a day. The Progressive Miners, who demanded local autonomy and a higher wage, were squeezed out and left to subsist on the produce from their backyard gardens.

Although Governor Horner had some sympathies for the Progressive Miners his hands largely were tied. John L. Lewis was able to forge strong ties with the Roosevelt administration and as time passed the Progressive Miners increasingly became influenced by communist interests. These factors made the Progressive Miners political liabilities. In response to this telegram the governor sent a copy to the Illinois attorney general's office.

Points to Consider

What was the "Committee Womens Auxiliary of the Progressive Miners" asking Governor Horner to do?

Locate Taylorville on a map.

Who were the Progressive Miners and why might city officials have refused their women protection?

Why might this telegram have been sent at 12:59 in the morning on Friday, February 2, 1934?


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