Newspaper ads serve as community economic indicators | News, Sports, Jobs


Many historians agree that the strike of 1913 was the most traumatic event suffered by the Copper District of Michigan. If this is true, it deserves to be looked at from other angles than simply “us and them.”

In April 1914, local elections included many members of the Western Miners’ Federation running for various positions on the socialist ticket. None of them won. In April, the Copper Country entered its ninth month in the grip of the strike, and advertisements and advertisements in local newspapers suggest how much the communities had suffered economically and socially.

The strike not only paralyzed the mining companies, but also the communities. The mines were the foundation of the economic stability of the communities.

The mines being inactive, the stamp mills and the foundries were also. Towns like Ahmeek, Calumet, Houghton and Hancock, Lake Linden, Hubbell, Redridge, Freda and, to a lesser extent, Ontonagon, were all economically devastated by the strike, which was supposed to target mining companies. Without ore or product to transport, the railroads suffered as much as independent private foundries that relied on stamp mills and mines for contracts, such as making stamp shoes and machinery parts. Leisure activities, such as the theater, were practically inactive.

In addition to the strangulation of cash flow in the communities, thousands of non-mining employees in the region, who had nothing to do with the mines or the Western Federation of Miners, were caught in the crossfire.

For Copper Country workers whose jobs weren’t cut or cut, the average wage was still between $1.85 and $2.10 a day. Mining company officials, of course, stayed in their desks and were therefore paid whether their mines were working or not.

Between low-income wage earners and salaried mining officials there remained income gaps that were reflected in companies that advertised in local newspapers, which they did advertise, as well as companies that continued to s ‘hang on, but did not advertise.

While there were occasional advertisements placed by car dealerships selling luxury cars in the $750 price range, the predominance of advertisements came from clothing and haberdashery stores, grocery stores and markets then, like now, listed items and their prices.

Opal’s Store in Lake Linden, for example, listed 98-pound bags of Gold Medal flour for $2.50, more than a day’s wages. Corn was selling for 0.95 cents a bushel, while 25-pound bags of sugar were selling for $1.15 and light brown sugar for $1 for 20 pounds.

Perhaps due to transportation costs from the Torch Lake docks, Vertin’s department store in Calumet charged higher prices than Opal’s. At Vertin’s, a 98-pound bag of Parisian, Pillsbury, or Cremo flour sold for $2.70, or a 49-pound bag for $1.35.

The Fair Store, in Hancock, offered the same products at the same prices as Vertin’s, but with the added appeal of a 49-pound bag of flour for $1 with orders of $10 or more.

At the same time, Miller’s department store in Houghton offered men’s trousers at $1.25 and $1.50 for 85 cents; $2.00 pants for $1.25 and 50-60 cent men’s work shirts for 39 cents.

$3 boys’ costumes, ages 3-7, for $1.75; $5 suits for boys ages 8-17, for $2.98, with a free German silver double-bladed pocket knife with the sale of each suit.

After the union vote calling off the strike was announced on April 11, no more Miller’s advertisements appeared offering such sales on men’s clothing.

Besides clothing and grocery stores, the most frequent ads came from local banks. Occasionally, a movie house would run a 1×1 inch advertisement for a movie.

On April 8, just six days before the strike was called off, a classified ad appeared in the Daily Mining Gazette: The Amphridome in Houghton was offering open roller-skating on Monday and Wednesday evenings, with music from the Quincy Group, almost certainly a thinly veiled statement that entertainment venues and mining companies still recognize each other as members of the same community.

Three days later, on April 11, something appeared that hadn’t been seen in months: an expensive 2×10-inch advertisement for a play placed by the Kerredge Theater in Hancock. This was no ordinary play for the curator Copper Country. In fact, it was aimed at a mature, mostly female audience. “Traffic” was a play written by a woman for women, and was an exhibit on white slavery and its nationwide investigations. Ticket prices were $1 to $1.50, more than half a day’s pay. The Copper Country was, after all, a metropolitan area with a population of just under 100,000 in Houghton County, it was a community in need of enlightenment.

It is unclear whether this was an advertising campaign launched by the Gazette, but April 11 seems to have marked a turning point in newspaper advertisements or a turning point in the attitude of the people of Copper Country. While today’s edition contained the usual clothing and dry goods store advertisements, pages 10 and 11 were entirely theater and entertainment spaces, including film and play reviews and commercials. from almost any location in the tri-county area. It was to be a weekly ad-supported entertainment section.

However, the theater was not the only source of entertainment during the strike, and the population consisted of more than just striking men and protesting wives.

Redridge and Beacon Hill, two mill communities far from the nearest towns offering entertainment, were vibrant, independent communities. Redridge Congregational Church gave a musical and literary program on the evening of March 28, 1914.

An odd organization for its time and place, the Ladies Industrial Society of the Congregational Church of Beacon Hill discussed the upcoming April 16 church fair at its regular meeting in late March.

Although entertainment venues such as theaters and cinemas started advertising regularly in April, that doesn’t necessarily mean they weren’t in business during the months of the strike.

Although the news was mostly about the strike, the mining companies were by no means the only employers in the area. For example, the villages still employed street teams and maintained staffed services; logging companies, which sold much of their timber to other areas such as Chicago, continued operations. The number of card-carrying union member strikers was also found to be greatly exaggerated by Western Federation of Miner leaders, by some estimates as high as 3,000. Many of them, once the strike was called off, turned quickly went to the mine offices to ask for work.

While the Daily Mining Gazette of April 14 claims that “The stampede of strikers began long before the vote even started”, was a biased editorial, his statement in the same article was factual:

“The rejoicing was evident among all categories of people, the strikers in particular, as it is well known that the majority of them have always wanted only the opportunity to express their desire to return to work.

This assessment was essentially consistent with Quincy mine manager Charles Lawton’s annual report for 1913, in which he wrote:

“The vicious activity of the strikers, however, induced large numbers of naturally well-disposed men to stay away from the mine, and later to join the strike.” It was reasonable that men like these would later join the union in order to receive strike pay as a form of compensation for not being allowed to work.

As spring shifted into summer and businesses could once again afford to advertise, few noticed that a cultural transformation in copper country had begun, even as the strike hampered seriously businesses.



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