Friday, December 13, 2013

100th Anniversary of the Calumet Italian Hall Disaster

[editor's note: The Clarke Historical Library will be on winter recess from Friday, December 20 at 5:00 pm until Monday, January 6 at 8:00 am. See you in 2014!]

by Christa Clare

December 24, 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the Italian Hall Disaster in Calumet, Michigan (sometimes referred to as the 1913 Massacre). Seventy-three men, women, and children, mostly striking mine workers and their families, were crushed to death in a stampede when someone falsely yelled “Fire” at a crowded Christmas party.

The Calumet and Hecla Mining Company (“C&H”) was the largest copper mining companies in the copper country in the Keweenaw Peninsula of northwest Michigan. One of the longest strikes in copper country took place in 1913 and included all the C & H Mines. The Western Federation of Miners was first established in 1908. In July 1913, with as many as 9000 members, the Federation decided to strike in an effort to adjust wages, hours, and working conditions in the copper district of Michigan.

On Christmas Eve, many of the striking miners and their families gathered for a Christmas party sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary of the Western Federation of Miners. It was held on the second floor of the Calumet Italian Hall and as many as 400 people attended. The tragedy began when someone in the room yelled “Fire” and there was none. People panicked and ran for the stairs and seventy-three people, including fifty-nine children, were trampled and killed.

The Clarke Historical Library recently acquired two books on the copper country tragedy to add to those already in our collections. The first is Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913-14 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Disaster by Gary Kaunonen and Aaron Goings. The second book, written by Lyndon Comstock, is Annie Clemenc & the Great Keweenaw Copper Strike. Stop in and take a look at these interesting books and learn about this Michigan tragedy to mark the century that has passed since it occurred.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Lt. Kelso and Sadie

by Bryan Whitledge

Recently, the Clarke was contacted by a researcher asking about Lieutenant Maxwell R. Kelso. Lt. Kelso was head of Central Michigan’s V-12 U. S. Navy College Training Program installation from 1943-45. As a result of this inquiry, the staff at the Clarke unearthed some interesting information about campus life for those charged with educating young men who were training for combat in World War II.

1945 CMCE Yearbook, p. 16
Central was one of approximately 130 colleges and universities that hosted a V-12 training program between 1943 and 1946. The goal of the V-12 program was to prepare Naval Officers through an accelerated college education program. Nationally, over 100,000 cadets went through the V-12 program. At CMU, 2,632 men were educated under the command of Lt. Kelso between July 1943, when the program started, and November 1945, when it was decommissioned. Among the records on file in the Clarke is a copy of a termination report documenting the cost of everything associated with the V-12 program, including housing and mess for all of the students – for instance, in July 1945, over 21,000 meals were supplied to students and employees of the program at an average cost $1.35 per ration.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Warriner Chimes

by Casey Gamble and Bryan Whitledge

There is nothing quite like strolling down a snow covered sidewalk on your way to the Library and being serenaded with music coming from the tower of Warriner Hall. You might hear the CMU Fight Song or musical numbers from The Sound of Music and the King and I. These bells have become a cherished part of the atmosphere that students, faculty, and staff love, giving a cheerful beginning to each new hour of the day.

Warriner Hall at Night
1939 CMU yearbook, page 2
Some of you may be aware that the music emanating from Warriner Hall is not created by a set of bells, but by amplifiers and speakers that play a selection of digital audio recordings. This system has come a long way in the nearly 75 years since the original installation, back in 1939 (see link, CS Life 5/17/1939, p. 1). At that time, a set of 21 chimes was given to Central as a gift from the student council and faculty. These chimes were housed in the organ chamber of the Warriner Auditorium and connected to an amplifier located in the Warriner tower. They could be played by hand on a keyboard or automatically with timed clocks. At first, they were set to play every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day until a nearby resident complained that she couldn’t sleep. From then on, the chimes were played from 7 am to 11 pm.

In 1968, there was concern because the chimes were not working due to a clock malfunction. The original system had simply become too old to function properly. For four years, the chimes did not sound. But thanks to the “homemade gadget” of Jim Webb, a CMU Audio Visual technician, a new tape recording system began ringing on the quarter hour in January of 1972. In 1986, the old tape system was replaced with a new electronic system, although many students didn’t favor the gloomy, mourning tone of the new “chimes.” (see link, CM Life 3/19/1986, p. 10)

Again in 2010, CMU updated the system, this time including a larger selection of songs to play for everyone walking on campus, which were more uplifting and cheerful. So even though there isn’t a romantic scene of a chimesmaster tugging on ropes and moving oversized wooden levers in the tower of Warriner Hall, remember that there is quite a lot of history behind the chimes that sing to Central students, faculty, and staff every day.