Cases for Comparison: Two Other Sites of Labor Conflict

Last week I wrote about the Battle of Homestead, and the Waterfront shopping mall that now occupies the site, but not all locations of class warfare are reused in such an extreme fashion.  As two examples, I propose the cases of Pullman, Chicago and Ludlow, Colorado, where I plan to do my dissertation research this summer.


George M. Pullman built the Pullman neighborhood of Chicago as a model town for workers in his train car factory.  He believed that with cutting edge homes, his workers would have elevated status from workers in other companies and that this would encourage moral behavior and strong work ethic.  The so-called utopia of Pullman was spatially separated from the city of Chicago.  To this end, housing was organized by class, where executives and “skilled” workers lived closest to main attractions, and “unskilled” workers’ homes were placed on the outskirts.  In addition to model
housing, Pullman residents enjoyed markets, banks, libraries, and parks, as long as they signed a lease, agreeing to the regulation of their behavior.

In 1894, workers in the Pullman train car factory went on strike due to a wage cut. While their pay decreased, rent in their company houses remained the same. The American Railway Union joined the cause and refused to operate trains carrying Pullman cars. At the height of the strike, over 250,000 workers were involved effectively shutting down train transportation in the Western United States (Baxter and Bullen, 2011).

Historic Pullman

Today, the Pullman district of Chicago is now a Chicago City Landmark and National Historic Landmark. It’s factory and the Hotel Florence are Illinois State Historic Sites.  Former President Barack Obama declared the district a National Monument in 2015.   The visitors center features exhibits, and serves as the starting point for self-guided and monthly guided walking tours.  Worker housing is preserved as an example of the historic architecture, and some are even available for rent on websites like airbnb.


Ludlow, Colorado, the site of the Ludlow Massacre is my final example.  During the Colorado Coalfield War of 1913-914, miners at Ludlow were striking for union recognition, an eight-hour day, and pay for dead work, among other demands. Colorado National Guard troops attacked striking miners in their tent colony with machine guns. After the workers ran out of ammunition and fled, the guardsmen entered and set their tent colony on fire, killing twenty pLudlow Monument (via Mining History Association)eople, two of whom were women, and ten children.  The miners rebelled against these killings by destroying mines and company towns and killing company employees until President Wilson sent in federal troops to restore order ten days later (McGuire and Larkin 2009, McGuire 2008).

Since the massacre, Ludlow has remained sacred ground for mineworkers.  The United Mine Workers of America own the site, and constructed a monument there in 1918.   Members of both the familial and working descendant community keep the memory alive by holding annual ceremonies at the monument. However, few people outside of these circles even know about the Ludlow massacre, and the site is primarily an open field, except for the lone monument (McGuire 2008:210, Saitta 2007).

In my next and final post, I will compare the reuse at sites, as well as the Authorized Heritage Discourse that unites them. Stick with me!


Baxter, Jane Eva and Andrew H. Bullen

2011 ‘The world’s most perfect town’ reconsidered: Negotiating class, labour and heritage in the Pullman community of Chicago. In Heritage, Labour and the Working Classes, edited by Laurajane Smith, Paul A. Shackel and Gary Campbell, pp. 49-265. Routledge, New York.

McGuire, Randall

2008 Archaeology as Political Action. University of California Press, Berkeley.

McGuire, Randall and Karin Larkin

2009 The Archaeology of Class War: The Colorado Coalfield Strike  of 1913-1914. University Press of Colorado, Boulder.

Saitta, Dean

2007 The Archaeology of Collective Action. University Press of Florida, Gainesville.

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