WFM -- IWW members gather outside of Miner's Union Hall in Goldfield [large building at left] probably on "Bloody Sunday" in 1907 when labor agitator, radical firebrand and brilliant speaker Vincent St. John spoke from the balcony of the Hall. It is also interesting to note that the Miner's Union Hall is twice the size of the State Bank & Trust to it's right, and that conservative bankers like Gorham and Evan Williams were likely to rub shoulders with the likes of labor radicals Ben Donnelly and Sam Tregonning on the way to their banking premises.  

 

Troops at Goldfield in 1907

"About two weeks ago the miners at Goldfield struck because the bank troubles did not permit them to be paid in cash (coin). Since then trouble has been brewing, and on Dec 5th President Roosevelt, at the request of Governor Sparks, of Nevada, ordered troops to be sent to Goldfield to preserve order.  The prompt action of the Governor and the President is commendable.  Although there had been no noteworthy disorder up to that time, there were strong prospects that there would be, and it is far better to preserve order than to merely restore it.  The preservation order is part of the constitutional guarantee of liberty to the citizens of the United States.  The constitution would not be so often trampled upon in this respect if public officers did their duty.  Goldfield is the end of the trail of disorder that has led through Butte, the Coeur d'Alene, Cripple Creek, Leadville and Telluride."

- Opinion written by Mining and Engineering Journal of the day

In 1902 gold was discovered in the hills near Tonopah, Nevada. Soon a few tents dotted the barren hills among the Joshua trees, and the boomtown of Goldfield was born. In 1903 only 36 people lived in the new town. By 1908 Goldfield was Nevada's largest city, with over 25,000 inhabitants. Along with the influx of miners and businessmen, came the labor unions. 

On a winter day in 1907, thousands of people lined the sidewalks of Goldfield, Nevada to watch 3,000 union members march in a labor parade. The crowds cheered as radical firebrand Vincent St. John gave a rousing speech denouncing monopoly capitalism and its exploitation of the men, along with the brutal conditions enforced by the mine owners. It was a time when the unions controlled the town, ordering all mines, restaurants and saloons closed for the great event.

For many labor activists, Goldfield was the last union stronghold, the place where the Industrial Workers of the World the "One Big Union" would create a worker's commonwealth. But mine owners were also watching that day, and they had their own vision of what the working world would look like. In just a few months, only one dream would remain alive.

Author: Vincent St John from, Struggles of the IWW (1917)

"Under the I.W.W. sway in Goldfield, the minimum wage for all kinds of labor was $4.50 per day and the eight-hour day was universal. The highest point of efficiency for any labor organization was reached by the I.W.W. and W.F.M. in Goldfield Nevada. No committees were ever sent to any employers. The unions adopted wage scales and regulated hours. The secretary posted the same on a bulletin board outside of the union hall, and it was the LAW. The employers were forced to come and see the union's committees."

The United States One Hundred years later:

Covered nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

Plus, no guaranteed health benefits, no guaranteed pension benefit, no sick pay, not even the promise of Social Security for young workers; likewise enforced overtime without pay is a common practice by United States corporations, placing the United States worker squarely among the ranks of third world nation worker standards.

Gold Stealing in Nevada 1907

The year 1906 saw an increase in the practice of stealing of rich ore and Waldemar Lindgren of the US Geological Survey, in his recent report on the production of gold and silver makes this statement:

'The practice of stealing ore was carried out to a disgraceful extent during the year in the rich mines of Goldfield.  The principal mine officers estimate that ore to the value of $1,250,000 was appropriated in that camp during 1906, and state that ore worth $250,000 was recovered from the thieves. Several suits in the courts for the recovery of parcels of ore indicated that the statement was well founded.  Much rich ore is probably still secreted and will gradually reach the mints in 1907.  The conditions prevailing at Goldfield in the last months of 1906, were, however, exceptional.'

The ore produced at Goldfield is almost exclusively gold-bearing, it's silver content being insignificant. The total production of gold at Goldfield in 1906, as reported from the mines to the Geological Survey was $7,026,154.  Consequently if $1,250,000 were stolen, the thefts amounted to about 18 percent of reported production. We find it difficult to believe that these thefts attained so marvelously high a figure as estimated by the mine officials at Goldfield.  Especially does this appear improbable in view of the fact that the Mint statistics, which are based on the production of refined gold and silver, fail to indicate the the reappearance of the stolen gold in the places where it ought to show up, although as Mr. Lindgren points out, some of the stolen gold was doubtless still in hiding at the end of the year and would not reach the Mint until 1907.

-- Engineering and Mining Journal      December 1907

Panic of 1907!