A sepia toned, black and white postcard of the 1917 Deportation. The front caption at the top in white reads: “Marching Men to train Deportation of I.W.W’s July 12, 1917”. The postcard was unused and was published by Kodak under the AZO label. Larry Bird Collection.
On July 12th, 1917, International Workers of the World or IWW strikers and sympathizers were forcibly deported from Bisbee to New Mexico. America’s entrance into the first World War created a massive demand for material that sent the price of copper skyrocketing. Many miners loyal to the mining companies were drafted into the war and sent overseas. Their jobs taken over by miners who wanted a fairer share of the wartime bonanza. On June 27th, the seven demands of the IWW were listed in the Bisbee Daily Review: The abolition of the physical examination of workers, two men to work on the machines, two men to work together in all areas, to discontinue all blasting during the shaft, abolition of all bonus and contract work, to abolish the sliding scale-for all men underground, a minimum flat rate of $6.00 per shift and $5.50 per above ground shift, and no discrimination to be shown against members of any organization. The demands due to safety concerns were not unwarranted. On June 8th, 1917, thirty-five days before the Bisbee Deportation, a catastrophic fire in the Granite Mountain/ Speculator copper mine in Butte, Montana killed 168 miners from asphyxiation. The president of the Phelps Dodge Corporation, Walter Douglas, considered the IWW demands to be treasonous. He was quoted : “there will be no compromise, because you cannot compromise with a rattlesnake”. By June 27th, 1917, half of the miners of Bisbee were on strike. On July 11th, Sheriff Harry Wheeler met with the executives of Phelps Dodge to plan the Deportation. A posse of over 2,000 men of the Workman’s Loyalty League and others from Bisbee and Douglas were called upon at 2:00 in the morning to round up the strikers. In two and a half hours 1,300 men, mostly Southern European and Mexican, were rounded up by the armed men wearing white armbands. The posse formed a corridor to march the deportees to the Warren ballpark. While they waited in the grandstand and baseball diamond, John Greenway tried to convince them to return to work to no avail. An El Paso & Southwest train with 23 boxcars arrived at 11 AM. It was guarded by 186 armed men and a machine gun that was mounted on the roof of one of boxcars. The deportees were loaded onto the train that was nicknamed “the Wobbly Special” and taken to New Mexico. During the sixteen-hour ordeal, the deportees were mostly deprived of food and water. An Arizona politician, Rosa McKay, gathered up volunteers and raised the alarm to provide aid to the men. When the train arrived in Columbus, New Mexico the constable refused them entry, so they left for the nearby town Hermanas where the deportees were ejected. They were taken by US troops who escorted them to Columbus and put them into the stockades originally built for the refugees fleeing from Pancho Villa. The deportees stayed about two months, their numbers slowly thinned as the men returned to their families or left to find work elsewhere. By September 8th, 450 men were left and one month later the camp was disbanded. After the deportation, 272 deportees filed civil lawsuits against El Paso & Southwest railroad and the copper companies and none of which went to trial. In the end, for every striker in the deportation; $1,250 was paid to every married man with children, $1,000 to every married man without children and $500 was paid to unmarried men. (Adjusted for inflation, the amounts in 2021 would be $23,367.93, $18,694.34, and $9,347.17, respectively.)
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