|Date(s):||June 26, 1917 to July 12, 1917|
|Tag(s):||Protests, Deportation, Strike|
|Course:||“US History 1867 to the present,” University of Toronto Scarborough|
From the eye of a non-historian, this photo which shows hundreds of people marching
from a small town to what looks like a rural area, would look pretty unusual. A large string of
people being escorted by other men to an open area, whilst a factory seems to be running in the
far background from the big crowd of people. Some questions would arise, such as, “Where are
those people heading to? Why are there hundreds of people going in the same direction?”.
These questions can be answered if the time and place in which the photograph has been taken
Bisbee, Arizona was the home to many large copper mining companies in the early
1900’s, and during the First World War, the price of copper increased greatly and the copper
companies received large profits. With high price and high demand of copper, it made Bisbee
very wealthy. But with such high demand came harder labour for the miners. Even though the
companies were getting more and more wealthy; they did not increase the salaries for the miners.
In addition, the working conditions were harsh and dangerous for the miners. Eventually the
workers became more upset with the labour, so they joined The Industrial Workers of the World
(I.W.W.) and on June 24, 1917, the I.W.W. presented the copper companies of Bisbee with a list
of demands. These demands included better and safer working conditions, and the stoppage of
unequal treatment towards the immigrant workers. The copper companies then refused all the
demands that were given from the I.W.W., which then resulted into a strike. Nearly half of the
miners in Bisbee were on strike, which was a major set back for the copper companies in Bisbee.
Another reason why the strike happened was because the relationship between the I.W.W. and
law enforcement was not good. The law enforcement didn’t seem to care too much about labour
conditions and needs, and organizations such as the I.W.W. During this time, the conflict of
labour relations in the U.S. became more and more severe. The law enforcement denied the
accommodations of immigrant labour which overall aggravated all immigrants. This constant
unnecessary hardship for the immigrants gave them no choice but to fight back, which resulted in
the strike. But the photo did not capture a moment from the strike, instead it captured a moment
which resulted from the strike.
As the strike was in session, the state of Arizona needed a way to get the people of the
strike back to work. Instead of accommodating the demands of the I.W.W., a different route was
taken. 2000 deputies in Arizona came together under Sheriff Harry Wheeler, and planned on
taking matters in their own hands. In the morning of July 12, 1917, the deputies went to Bisbee
to locate and capture all I.W.W. members and even supporters of the movement. They ended up
capturing over 1000 people and escorted them from Bisbee, through Lowell, and to a train so it
can later bring them to Hermanas, New Mexico where they were left abandoned.
This photo captured the moment where the deputies were escorting the workers to the
train so they can be deported. The photo shows the deportees walking from their towns for the
last time. In the background shows smoke arising from a factory as workers are being deported
just miles from it. The factory in the background shows a bit of irony considering half of
Bisbee’s miners were on their way to another life. This event became significant in later
American life because it shows the importance of the worker and the injustices that they may
experience from the workplace.