Monday, July 21, 2014

Manuscript Monday—Labor unrest in the Mother Lode

Newly cataloged are the records of the Kennedy Mining and Milling Company, which operated the Kennedy Mine near Jackson in Amador County, Calif. By the 1890s, the Kennedy Mine was the most productive gold mine in California, with a vertical shaft of 5,912 feet, the deepest in the United States. The records provide an extraordinarily detailed account of the daily operations of the mine—including mining shaft dimensions, ore quality and yields, expenses, and supply needs—but they are as fascinating for what they leave out as for what they so thoroughly document. In the superintendent's correspondence and reports, there is little mention of the miners themselves and of the conditions of their work.

The documents below are the exception. They refer to a 1916 injunction issued by the United States District court against twenty-nine men, barring them:

... from preventing or attempting to prevent the employees of plaintiff [Kennedy Mining and Milling Company] from free and peaceful access to the mining property of plaintiff described in the complaint herein, by means of any violence or threats of violence, or hostile demonstrations, or any other acts calculated to injure or frighten or intimidate said employees, or by in any way obstructing or blocking the free passage of plaintiff's employees over the roads and trails and other means of access to plaintiff's said premises.

In 1916, the Amador County mines were rocked by labor strikes that lasted for almost two months. Many mines were shut down, but this injunction suggests that the Kennedy Mining and Milling Company pursued an aggressive legal strategy in order to stay in business. The names of men are interesting, too: Italian, Spanish, and Slavic, they point to the ethnic diversity of the miners and union organizers who challenged some of the largest mining companies in the West.

Metson, Drew & MacKenzie letter to Kennedy Mining and Milling Company, 1916 November 11, Kennedy Mining and Milling Company records, MS 49, courtesy, California Historical Society

Injunction, 1916, Kennedy Mining and Milling Company records, MS 49, Courtesy, California Historical Society
Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian
California Historical Society
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