Hard Times in Illinois, 1930–1940
A Selection of Documents from the Illinois State Archives

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October 5, 1933


Throughout most of the 1930s the United Mine Workers of America and the rival Progressive Mine Workers of America were competing to represent Illinois coal miners (see also document 24). The colorful and powerful John L. Lewis ran the United Mine Workers with an iron hand. He recognized that times were hard and was willing to work with mine operators so as to assure his members employment. The Progressive Mine Workers believed in local autonomy and were much more inclined to confront owners concerning wages and working conditions.

Peabody Coal Company mine number 43 near Harrisburg, the county seat of Saline County, was the main location of the violence identified in this document. Harrisburg was a stronghold of the Progressive Mine Workers. Peabody mine number 43 had negotiated a contract to employ exclusively United Mine Workers members. Word got out on October 4 that when it came time to change the shift at number 43 that United Mine Workers from neighboring Williamson County would be arriving to report for work. An estimated 1,500 Progressive miners surrounded mine number 43 and blocked all entry and exit. Newspapers reported 5,000 shots being fired by the Progressives into the mine property. Thirteen United Mine Workers and three bystanders were wounded. The nearly twenty-four-hour siege was lifted on the evening of October 5 when six companies of National Guardsmen arrived and restored order with fixed bayonets.

Points to Consider

What was Governor Horner instructing the adjutant general to do?

What is an "executive order"?

Locate Saline County on a map.

Describe the "public disorder and danger" which took place in Saline County in early October 1933.

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