"1913 Massacre" --- A Woody Guthrie Ballad, a Little-Known American Tragedy, and a New Documentary

Jul 9, 2012

"1913 Massacre" is the name of a song that Woody Guthrie wrote circa 1941; it recounts an early-20th-century tragedy that happened at the Italian Hall building in Calumet, Michigan, on Christmas Eve of 1913, when hundreds of miners, along with their families and friends, had gathered for a party. At that time, Calumet was at the heart of Michigan's then-lucrative copper-mining activity. The mine-workers gathered at the Italian Hall were on strike --- it was a bitter dispute that had been raging for months --- and at some point during the party, someone (to this day, no one knows who) falsely cried out “fire.” A panic-driven stampede ensued. Seventy-three people were crushed to death; the dead were mostly striking miners and their families. Fifty-nine of the dead were children. Now comes a new documentary film about this event --- and about the small town, and the various mysteries, connected with it. The film is also called "1913 Massacre." Our guest on this installment of ST is one of the film's co-director/producers: Louis V. Galdieri. As part of the 15th Annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, "1913 Massacre" will be screened at the Crystal Theater in Okemah, Oklahoma --- Woody's hometown, of course --- on Thursday of this week, the 12th, with showings at noon, 1:30pm, and 3pm. (More details about this film, and about its screening in Okemah, can be found here.)