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Calumet in Houghton County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)
 

The Italian Hall / Italian Hall Tragedy

 
 
The Italian Hall Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
1. The Italian Hall Marker
Inscription. Side A
The Italian Hall
The building that stood on this site was called the Italian Hall, and was home to the Societa Mutua Beneficenza Italiana, which aided immigrants and others in need. Built in 1908, the hall housed a saloon and an Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company store on the first floor. A main hall with a dining room, a barroom, and a stage were on the second floor. The hall was the site of one of Michigan's worst tragedies. On Christmas Eve 1913, seventy-three people died due to false alarm of "Fire!" When the building was razed in 1984, the archway from its main entrance was saved. In 1989, the Village of Calumet, with the help of Operating Engineers Local 324 and the Friends of Italian Hall, created this park dedicated to those who died in 1913.

Side B
Italian Hall Tragedy

By December 1913, thousands of area copper miners had been on strike for five months. They were fighting for union recognition, safer working conditions, shorter work days and better pay. On Christmas Eve hundreds gathered on the second floor of the Italian Hall to attend a holiday party for strikers' families. As the children filed to the stage to receive presents, someone yelled "Fire!" People panicked and rushed toward the exit. There was no fire. Many were trampled on the stairs. Officially, seventy-three
Italian Hall Tragedy Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
2. Italian Hall Tragedy Marker
people died; more than half were children under ten. Despite a Congressional hearing and a coroner's inquest, the person who yelled fire was never identified.
 
Erected 2012 by Michigan Historical Commission-Michigan Historical Center. (Marker Number 1337.)
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Michigan Historical Commission marker series.
 
Location. 47° 14.906′ N, 88° 27.33′ W. Marker is in Calumet, Michigan, in Houghton County. Marker is at the intersection of Seventh Street and Elm Street, on the right when traveling south on Seventh Street. Touch for map. This is National Historic Site. Marker is in this post office area: Calumet MI 49913, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 7 other markers are within 14 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Calumet Theater (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); St. Paul the Apostle Church (about 700 feet away); Float Copper (approx. 0.6 miles away); The Amphidrome / The Birth of Professional Hockey (approx. 10.1 miles away); Historic Houghton (approx. 10.1 miles away); Trinity Episcopal Church (approx. 10.4 miles away); Lake Shore Drive Bridge / Eagle River (approx. 13.6 miles away).
 
Also see . . .  Wikipedia article about the Italian Hall Tragedy
The Italian Hall Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
3. The Italian Hall Marker
. (Submitted on August 16, 2014, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.)
 
Categories. DisastersLabor Unions
 
Italian Hall Tragedy Marker image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
4. Italian Hall Tragedy Marker
The Italian Hall NPS sign image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
5. The Italian Hall NPS sign
A Divisive Time, A Divided Place image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
6. A Divisive Time, A Divided Place
Interpretive sign
A Devisive Time, A Divided Place image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
7. A Devisive Time, A Divided Place
panel 1
This park marks the site of Italian Hall, the meeting place for the Societa Mutua Beneficenza Italiana-the Italian Mutual Benefit Society
Ethnic societies and halls were important in immigrant communities like Calumet. They offered men and women the opportunity to meet others from their homeland, speak their native language, and maintain cultural traditions while adjusting to an unfamiliar country and new customs. In addition to being a gathering place for Calumet's Italian community, the Italian Hall hosted meetings of the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) during a copper miners' strike in 1913-1914. On Christmas Eve, 1913, it was the location of a party for striking workers and their families.
A Devisive Time, A Divided Place image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
8. A Devisive Time, A Divided Place
panel 2
The Christmas party was organized Anna Klobuchar Clemenc, a local labor leader and president of the Women's Auxiliary Local No. 15 of the WFM.
Clemenc was well versed in the politics of the day; both her father and husband were miners. In July when the strike began, she led parades throught town, past mine management offices. She rallied strikers behind a large American flag, uniting them in common cause with other struggling workers across the country.

By Christmas, the strike was in its fifth month and mine managers had still refused to negotiate with union leaders. Strike funds were low, and with families feeling the pinch of winter, Clemenc organized a party to help lift spirits and improve morale. Hundreds of parents and children attended to take part in the holiday cheer.
A Divisive Time, A Divided Place image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
9. A Divisive Time, A Divided Place
panel 3
Cheer turned to grief
The party was disrupted, which led to the death of more than 70 people, most of them children. With strike funds depleted, disenchantment grew on all sides, and the strike ended by vote in April, 1914. Many people left Calumet to start anew in cities like Chicago or Detroit. Some went to find work in western mines. Others stayed, turned in their union cards, and returned to work along side those who had remained on the companies' side.

Italian Hall continued to host events for decades, yet its condition deteriorated. When it was demolished in 1984, people collected chairs, bricks, steps, and other reminders of the building and its history.

People gather at this site each Christmas Eve to remember the victims and those who had to navigate a divisive time and a divided place.
Italian Hall Disaster plaque image. Click for full size.
By Mike Wintermantel, August 13, 2014
10. Italian Hall Disaster plaque
In memory of the people who perished in the Italian Hall Disaster December 24, 1913
Houghton County Board of Commissioners
1989
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on August 16, 2014, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This page has been viewed 281 times since then and 43 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. submitted on August 16, 2014, by Mike Wintermantel of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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