H/T The Smithsonian.
A dark and bloody era for coal miners.
The mountains of southern West Virginia are riddled with coal—and bullets
Child coal miners with mules in Gary, West Virginia in 1908. Working conditions were brutal for coal miners, and unionization was violently suppressed. (Library of Congress)
The gunfight in downtown Matewan on May 19, 1920, had all the elements of a high-noon showdown: on one side, the heroes, a pro-union sheriff and mayor; on the other, the dastardly henchmen of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Within 15 minutes, ten people were dead—seven detectives, two miners and the mayor. Three months later, the conflict in the West Virginia coal town had escalated to the point where martial law was declared and federal troops had to intervene. The showdown may sound almost cinematic, but the reality of the coal miners’ armed standoffs throughout the early 20th century was much darker and…
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