1913 Massacre follows singer/songwriter Arlo Guthrie to the town of Calumet, a once-thriving mining town on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula still haunted by the tragic events that inspired Woody Guthrie’s ballad, ‘1913 Massacre.’
On December 24, 1913, the striking copper miners of Calumet were gathered with their wives and children for a holiday party at the Italian Hall. After the festivities had begun, someone — to this day, no one knows who — yelled Fire!
Despite efforts to keep the Hall under control, panic took hold of the crowd. The miners, their wives and children made a mad rush for the stairs. In the ensuing chaos, seventy-four people were crushed and suffocated to death on the stairway. Fifty-nine of the dead were children. There was no fire.
In the version of events that found its way into Woody Guthrie’s song, the “copper-boss thug-men” had plotted to yell Fire! and were holding the door of Italian Hall shut, so that the miners and their families could not escape.
The town itself is still divided over exactly what happened. And no one can explain why they tore down the Italian Hall in 1984.
Dreamland Pictures, 2011
DVD, 65 minutes, Color