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a Finnish immigrant response to industrial America in Michigan’s copper country

Gary Kaunonen

Publication Year: 2010

The copper mines of Michigan's Copper Country, in the Upper Peninsula, were active for 150 years, from 1845 until 1995. Many of the mine workers attempted to unionize, in order to obtain better working conditions, wages, and hours.
     The Michigan miners were unsuccessful in their struggles with mine owners, which came to a climax in the 1913-14 Copper Country Strike. This nine-month battle between workers represented by the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) and the three major mining companies in the region took a particularly nasty turn on Christmas Eve, 1913, at a party for strikers and their families organized by the WFM. As many as 500 people were in the Italian Benevolent Society hall in Calumet, Michigan, when someone reportedly shouted "fire." There was no fire, but it is estimated that 73-79 people, more than 60 of them children, died in the stampede for the exit.
     Against this dramatic backdrop, Gary Kaunonen tells the story of Finnish immigrants to Copper Country. By examining the written record and material culture of Finnish immigrant proletarians-analyzing buildings, cultural institutions, and publications of the socialist-unionist media-Kaunonen adds a new depth to our understanding of the time and place, the events and a people.

Published by: Michigan State University Press


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pp. v-vi

Diagrams, Drawing,and Maps

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Labor history . . . for many the term almost immediately conjures up images of “Commies” infiltrating American unions, or Joseph McCarthy shouting blistering accusations into an HUAC microphone. With all the implications and stigma about labor and the American “Left” that became a part of the American consciousness throughout the Cold War, it is often difficult for...

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pp. xi-xiii

As a general note, this book comes out of thesis work done in the Industrial Archaeology program at Michigan Technological University. With the help of the original manuscript readers and the editors and staff at Michigan State University Press, I have hopefully made the contents more readable from the thesis work and more agreeable to book form. An undertaking such as this has a number of people and places that I...

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pp. xv-xxv

Ina Karna, a Finnish immigrant and the person who made the above statement, was at the Italian Hall Christmas Eve party for striking mineworkers’ families in Red Jacket or Calumet, Michigan, that day in 1913. She was one of hundreds of Finnish immigrants who were attending the multiethnic Christmas party for the children of striking Michigan copper workers. So was Charles Olson, who had just come to the Italian Hall from a funeral...

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Chapter 1. Finnish Immigration and Settlement in a Hancock, Michigan, Neighborhood

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pp. 1-16

Finnish immigrant socialist-unionists found life in Michigan’s Copper Country much like the existence they had left in Finland, but laced with expensive machinery, sometimes pitiful working conditions, and a distinct out-group status. In this chapter, we will examine an author-defined historic neighborhood in Hancock, Michigan, circa 1910. In doing so, we will establish...

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Chapter 2. Finnish Immigrant Cultural Organizations and the “Finn Hall”

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pp. 17-48

As throngs of Finnish immigrants entered the United States, they looked for familiar or recognizable social activities to supplement their mundane work lives. While they most often sought a new life in the New World, they also sought to maintain cultural identity, possibly to ease the transition to life in America. Finnish immigrants founded cultural organizations that nurtured...

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Chapter 3. Finnish Immigrant Socialist-Unionists in Hancock

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pp. 49-65

In the quest to disseminate the socialist-unionist message, we can hypothesize that Hancock’s Kansankoti Hall, built in 1910 and located in the Finnish Transitional Neighborhood, was on the same course of class-conscious organization as Virginia’s Socialist Opera House. It is important to understand that the Finnish immigrants’ socialist-unionist movement organized from the...

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Chapter 4. The Early Existence of the Työmies Publishing Company, 1904–1909

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pp. 67-87

As an aspect of Finnish immigrant cultural organizations, publishing associations played a major role in transmitting ideology and disseminating information to members via the printed word. Socialist-unionist newspapers spread the political and organized labor message to those who could not physically walk through the doors of socialist and workers’ halls or attend party and union...

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Chapter 5. The Työmies Publishing Company Reaches Maturity,1910–1913

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pp. 89-104

To the benefit of the TPC, even with the occasional “hobo” running operations, the constant growth in subscriptions from 1905 onward necessitated another move to a larger publishing facility in 1910. In 1910, the Polk’s Directory for Hancock listed two locations for the TPC: at the Michigan Street address, and after May 10, at 203 Franklin Street. The Franklin Street location encompassed...

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Chapter 6. The 1913–14 Copper Country Strike [includes image plates]

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pp. 105-134

The 1913–14 Strike was the culmination of all previous socialist-unionist Finnish immigrant activities, and in a way Finnish immigrant socialist-unionists were spoiling for a confrontation with the mining companies. While the strike became a district-wide action throughout the Copper Country, strike organizers focused attempts on confronting the paternalism and oligarchy...

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Chapter 7. Gun Hounds, Scabs,and Tragedy

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pp. 135-168

With each passing week, the strike seemed to multiply in intensity. Great fits of passion spilled over from the pages of Työmies and the Miners’ Bulletin into the streets of Copper Country towns, locations, and villages. Tension was palpable on both sides. For every step-up in rhetoric by the WFM, the mining companies counteroffered. For every WFM strike parade,...

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pp. 169-179

In April 1914, after nearly 265 days of striking, the Copper Strike was over. In the days, weeks, and months following the strike, the proverbial wheels began to come off for the Finnish immigrant socialist-unionists. Much like the cold winter currents of Lake Superior that begin to rise with the heating of the big lake in spring, the undertow of animosity and division present within...

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pp. 181-185

So, what became of some other major “players” in the Finnish immigrant socialist-unionist saga? It can be deduced that the vestiges of the Finnish immigrant socialists and the members of the Finnish-American labor movement in Hancock continued to congregate at the Kansankoti Hall, though likely on a smaller organizational scale and certainly never as unified as when...

Appendix 1. Ty

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pp. 187-192

Appendix 2. Ty

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pp. 193-197

Appendix 3. Copper Territory Strikers’ March, 1913

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pp. 199-200

Appendix 4. Työmies Publishing Company’s Composite List of Italian Hall Deceased, 1913

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pp. 201-203


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pp. 205-237


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pp. 239-248


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pp. 249-255

E-ISBN-13: 9781609172084
Print-ISBN-13: 9780870138737

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 774285411
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Challenge accepted

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hancock (Mich.) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Finnish Americans -- Michigan -- Hancock -- Social conditions.
  • Working class -- Michigan -- Hancock -- History.
  • Labor unions -- Michigan -- Hancock -- History.
  • Finnish Americans -- Michigan -- Hancock -- Social life and customs.
  • Immigrants -- Michigan -- Hancock -- History.
  • Hancock (Mich.) -- History.
  • Finnish Americans -- Michigan -- Hancock -- History.
  • Hancock (Mich.) -- Social conditions.
  • Työmies Publishing Company -- History.
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