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The Italian Hall Tragedy, 100 Years Later

by on December 24, 2013

The centennial of the 1913 Italian Hall Tragedy will be commemorated today at the Italian Hall heritage site. At 3:30 today the Village of Calumet and other community partners welcome surviving family members and the public to a centennial ceremony at the site and a gathering afterward.

The CLK Rotary club will be illuminating the site with 73 luminaries, which has been a tradition for several years. Rev. Laura Eaton of Christ Episcopal Church will also offer thoughts and hymns. The highlight of the ceremony will be a reading of the victims’ names.  A holiday wreath adorned with 73 white roses will be on the site, with the roses being offered to surviving family members attending the event.

The tragedy was not only the key tragedy in the 1913 copper strike, but it was also a nationally significant event, with news of the tragedy gracing front pages across the country.  In an effort to lighten spirits and provide a Christmas for striking miners’ children, the Western Federation of Miners Women’s Auxiliary hosted a festive gathering on the second floor of the Italian Hall building. Midway through the party, the cheerful gathering turned deadly after a calamitous rush for the stairway exit precipitated by a false cry of “Fire!”  73 people, mostly children, died in the stairwell slaughter. The tragedy remains a source of community grief, contested social memory, and scholarly research. The tragedy has not only been discussed in various historical texts, but it has also been the subject of songs, plays, films, museum exhibits, symphonies, and stage performances.

For more information about today’s ceremony please don’t hesitate to contact the Village of Calumet at (906) 337-1713. You can also visit the website of Keweenaw National Historical Park at www.nps.gov/kewe for more information about the Italian Hall Site in general.

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